Business Briefs: Chattanooga's First Horizon donates $2.5 million for COVID-19 relief

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / First Horizon Bank, formerly First Tennessee Bank, is seen on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The charitable arm of Chattanooga's biggest bank is donating $2.5 million in support of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts to nonprofit organizations throughout its five-state footprint.

First Horizon Foundation, which is funded by First Horizon Bank, announced Tuesday that it will distribute money to select organizations that provide meal, educational and emergency assistance relief in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

"In these unprecedented times, it is important that we do all we can to take care of each other," said Jay Dale, the Chattanooga market president for First Horizon Bank. "Chattanooga and the cities across our footprint have long supported us, so we want to do all we can to make sure these communities are given the tools to succeed even through the hardest of times."

The foundation will collaborate with the First Horizon Bank market presidents across its footprint to identify and coordinate with the organizations that will receive expedited grants. The special COVID-19 relief funds being provided are in addition to the Foundation's annual charitable giving grants that supported 650 organizations in 2019.

Consumer confidence falls to three-year low

U.S. consumer confidence tumbled last month to its lowest level in nearly three years as the effects of the coronavirus on the economy began to be felt.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its confidence index dropped to a reading of 120 in March from February's 132.6. It was the lowest reading since the index was at 117.3 in June 2017. Both a sub-index the covers consumers' view of current business and job market conditions, and another sub-index that covers expectations of future conditions, fell in March.

The steep decline in the index last month reflected rising worries about the coronavirus during the survey period of March 1-18. Confidence is sure to fall further as the virus' impact takes a bigger toll on the economy.

"The intensification of Covid-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs," said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

Airlines will apply for $12 billion in U.S. aid

The Treasury Department wants airlines to say how they will compensate the government for $25 billion in grants used to keep employees on the payroll during the coronavirus outbreak.

The economic-relief bill passed last week gives the Treasury Secretary the power to take an equity stake in airlines that get taxpayer help.

The law provides money for grants and another $25 billion in loans or loan guarantees for passenger airlines hurt by the severe drop in travel from the outbreak. The number of people going through security checkpoints at U.S. airports has plunged more than 90% from a year ago, and airlines have suspended nearly all of their international flights.

The Treasury Department warned airlines in a document posted Monday night to apply for aid by late Friday or face delays in processing their requests. If they fail to apply by April 27, they could be shut out.

American Airlines said it will seek $12 billion. Other major carriers did not immediately indicate their plans, although the industry lobbied Congress and the White House for the grant money, which must be spent on payroll expenses that avoid the need for layoffs.