Speed Reads

The rich

Breaking: The rich are faring well in the COVID-19 pandemic

You may look at your 401(k) or IRA, then the stock market, and assume that the wealthy — who own the lion's share of stock — have taken a huge hit. You would be wrong, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank. Between March 18, when Forbes decided to catalog the wealth of the wealthiest, and April 10, "the combined wealth of America's billionaires increased by $282 billion," topping their 2019 levels, the report found.

The gist of Forbes' article on the world's super-rich "was, 'Hey, the pandemic is really affecting even the billionaires; their wealth is down from last year globally and in terms of the U.S.,'" study co-author Chuck Collins tells Fast Company. "What we found was, wait three weeks and they've now surpassed last year's collective wealth and now they're surging to new heights." Meanwhile, more than 26 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past 5 weeks and small businesses are teetering on the edge or closing up shop.

Congress expanded unemployment benefits, helping those workers able to successfully file claims with their states, and tried to help out small businesses, but many of the businesses that applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans never even got a call back from their bank before the initial $349 billion dried up. Many "small" businesses with enough money to use the private and commercial arms of major banks got "concierge treatment" from bank employees who guided their PPP applications to the front of the line, The New York Times reports, citing half a dozen bank employees and executives.

"Some of the nation's biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, and U.S. Bank, prioritized the applications of their wealthiest clients before turning to other loan seekers," the Times reports. "Other business owners were left empty-handed, and many had struggled from the start" with "flaky online portals or backed-up queues." Read more about the two-tiered system at The New York Times.