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Lumber Liquidators Stands Behind Products as Stock Plunges

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TOANO, Va. (AP) — Lumber Liquidators is refuting a “60 Minutes” report that raised health concerns about some of its laminate flooring products and pushed its stock price to its lowest level in more than two years.

In a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lumber Liquidators said all of its laminate flooring meets the safety standards set by regulators throughout the U.S. The defense came the day after “60 Minutes” aired findings that some of Lumber Liquidators’ flooring made in China had high levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

The tests by three certified labs concluded the amounts of formaldehyde failed to meet California’s emissions standards.

Lumber Liquidators’ stock plunged $13.03, or 25 percent, to close at $38.83. Earlier in the session, the shares fell to $38.19, the lowest since July 2012.

The Toano, Virginia, company asserted that the doubts being raised by its products are being fueled by “short sellers” — investors that make money by placing bets that specific stocks will drop in value.

The “60 Minutes” report included interviews with Denny Larson, executive director of nonprofit group Global Community Monitor, and environmental attorney Richard Drury. Larson and Drury purchased boxes of laminate flooring from several retailers with stores in California, including Lumber Liquidators. They sent the products to the labs for testing.

While Lumber Liquidators’ flooring made in the U.S. met California’s emissions standards, every sample manufactured in China failed.

Lumber Liquidators said random testing of its six laminate flooring suppliers in China determined the products were “safe and compliant.”

“We stand by every single plank of wood and laminate we sell all around the country,” the company said in its SEC filing.

Lumber Liquidators has 354 stores in the U.S. and Canada, including 37 in California. The company earned $63 million on sales of $1.05 billion last year.

The “60 Minutes” report is the second damaging blow to Lumber Liquidators in less than week.

In a separate SEC filing last Wednesday, the company disclosed the U.S. Justice Department may seek criminal charges against it under the Lacey Act, which is a U.S. law that includes a ban on illegally sourced wood products.

Lumber Liquidators’ stock has plummeted by 44 percent since last Wednesday’s filing.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Coming Soon to California: A ‘Zero-Fee’ Public Banking Option

Proponents of public banking in California say Wall Street banks have failed low-income communities, particularly people of color. They also say the public banks will provide easier access to capital that will be critical to helping small businesses and neighborhoods rebound after the pandemic.

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A woman sits at her dining room table with laptop and financial reports doing her monthly budget. She is smiling at the ease of use as she works on her smart phone banking app to do monthly finances, pay taxes and save money for the future.

On October 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation paving the way for a new public banking system in California.

AB 1177, known as the ‘California Public Banking Option Act,’ creates a zero-penalty, zero-fee, and zero-minimum-balance platform for basic financial services.

These services include direct deposit from employers and public benefits, automatic bill pay to registered payees, recurring payments and donations to account holders’ organizations or charities of choice, and an infrastructure to support account holders in building credit.

“AB 1177 will help Californians stay protected from overdraft fees and penalties and give them an opportunity to save money and build wealth while fighting the racial wealth gap,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), lead author of the bill.

“California is leading the nation’s public banking movement and we must keep working to provide no-fee banking services to all Californians,” he added.

Santiago wrote the bill with the intention to help close the financial services gap that leaves 1 in 4 Californians unbanked or underbanked. Modeled after the state’s public retirement program CalSavers, the bill forms a commission of representatives from the Treasurer’s office, the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, financial access experts and community members to oversee market analysis on how the program should be implemented.

Proponents of public banking in California say Wall Street banks have failed low-income communities, particularly people of color. They also say the public banks will provide easier access to capital that will be critical to helping small businesses and neighborhoods rebound after the pandemic.

“Financial exclusion and scarcity have been a tool for oppression, discrimination and systemic inequity for too long. Public banking options such as BankCal, along with new technology that allows for free exchange over the internet, are urgently needed to decentralize power, privilege and financial control,” said Briana Marbury, executive director of the Interledger Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for standards and technologies that support an open and integrated global financial system.

Opponents of the bill believe that government-owned banks open the door for corruption and that the cost of any mismanagement of funds will come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

A 2015 article published by the Cato Institute critiques past public banking projects, highlighting shortcomings and failures.

Mark A. Calabria, who was chief economist to former Vice President Mike Pence and former director of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency authored the article.

He cites devastating losses Germany’s public banks suffered during the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008.

Calabria also points to public banking failures closer to home.

“The recent history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, quasi‐ public banks at the federal level, illustrates that mismanagement and corruption are alive and well at the intersection of the public and private,” he wrote.

However, Trinity Tran, co-founder of the California Public Banking Alliance, argues instead that AB1177 does not create a new bank but “creates a statewide retail banking option through which every California worker can access zero-cost services.”

While California is known for its groundbreaking legislation, it will not be the first state with a banking system like this. North Dakota’s public banking system was founded back in 1919.

Marbury believes that the bill is only the first step toward a broader initiative that would revolutionize accessibility to financial growth and equality.

“This is an exciting development, but not far-reaching enough. Public banking initiatives should be introduced in other states across the U.S. to ensure equal access to financial services for the most vulnerable sectors of our population while elevating the economic health of society as a whole,” she said.

In addition, global financial inclusion should encompass both “brick and mortar” bank access for everyone and a more inclusive internet,” she added.

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Gov. Newsom Signs Package of Laws Supporting Restaurants, Bars

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a COVID-19 recovery package Friday supporting small hospitality establishments around the state, including restaurants and bars.

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Oakland, CA, USA February 21, 2011 Folks enjoy a sunny day with al fresco dining at the historic Last Chance Saloon, made famous by author Jack London, in Oakland, California/ iStock

California Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a COVID-19 recovery package Friday supporting small hospitality establishments around the state, including restaurants and bars. 

Signed at a restaurant in Oakland, the legislative package includes Assembly Bill (AB) 61, Senate Bill (SB) 314 and SB 389 – bills that, among other provisions, extend COVID-19 special permissions like outdoor dining and to-go licenses for alcoholic beverages. 

Funding for the package will come out of the governor’s California Comeback Plan which allots $10.2 billion in small business support. So far, the state has spent $4 billion on an emergency grant program and $6.2 billion in tax relief for small businesses. 

“These innovative strategies have been a lifeline for hard-hit restaurants during the pandemic and today, we’re keeping the entrepreneurial spirit going so that businesses can continue to create exciting new opportunities and support vibrant neighborhoods across the state,” said Newsom. 

The state support comes at a time when many Black-owned small businesses in California, including restaurants, are struggling to recover after being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) research, 13 % of Black-owned businesses have had to close down due to the pandemic, compared to 8% of White-owned ones. For Latino-owned businesses that number is even higher at 18 %. 

Due to the pandemic, Black businesses have experienced higher revenue loss, more layoffs of employees and less success in getting government funded relief like assistance from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. 

“We have all seen the fallout from the pandemic and recession and the effect on BIPOC people and BIPOC small businesses owners has been devastating,” said Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate. She was speaking at an IGS event last week titled “Diversity and Entrepreneurship in California: An Undergraduate Research Symposium.”

“These are problems that have to be addressed. Access to capital continues to be a challenge,” Gray continued. “We are seeing bankers like Wells Fargo, Citi and JP Morgan Chase making significant investments in BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) small businesses, communities and individuals. That is a trend I would like to continue to see.”

Gray pointed out there are a number of state programs like the Small Business COVID-19 relief funds that prioritize providing relief funding to underserved businesses in the state. 

Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) respectively, AB 61 and SB 314 establish a one-year regulatory grace period for businesses operating under temporary COVID-19 licenses to get permanent expanded licenses, such as outdoor dining authorization.

The one-year grace period will begin once the pandemic emergency declaration has expired. 

“Outdoor dining has been a critical lifeline that has helped these establishments keep their doors open during these challenging times,” said Gabriel.

 “AB 61 provides important flexibility so that restaurants can safely expand outdoor dining and continue to serve the communities they call home. I applaud Governor Newsom for his thoughtful leadership in protecting both public health and small businesses as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gabriel continued.

Wiener also stressed the importance of pandemic protocols for small businesses in California.

“SB 314 ensures the public can continue to enjoy outdoor dining with alcohol and that our small neighborhood businesses can continue to benefit from this change. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and it’s important we make changes to modernize our entertainment and hospitality laws to allow them more flexibility and more ways to safely serve customers,” he said.  

SB 389 allows restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars that sell food to continue to sell to-go alcoholic beverages through Dec. 31, 2026.

“This is an important step toward helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” said Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), SB 389’s author. 

“It will ensure their recovery, protecting jobs and our economy. I thank Gov. Newsom for supporting this new law,” he continued.

 

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City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

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Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88527652491 or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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