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The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is resuming the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that provides free tax assistance for low-income residents.

The program was temporarily suspended in an effort to limit face-to-face interaction amid COVID-19 concerns. Taxpayers are now able to drop off documents at one of two sites to be completed by volunteers and returned to them. Taxpayers must have an appointment, which may be scheduled by phone at (423) 805-2926.

The new process will begin Thursday at the Urban League at 730 M.L. King Boulevard and at the Old National Guard Armory at 107 E. 10th Street with appointments available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

Through VITA, the Urban League and volunteers are able to assist qualified citizens and help them navigate the process at no charge. Last year, Urban League completed over 15,000 VITA returns for individuals throughout the area, collectively saving the taxpayers more than $5 million.

 

Charter ups minimum hourly pay to $20

The cable TV giant Charter Communications is raising its minimum wage to $20 per hour over the next two years for all employees.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said the initial $1.50 an hour increase will be implemented immediately for frontline field technicians and customer service call center employees. In March 2021, another $1.50 an hour raise will be provided and Charter has committed to achieving the $20 an hour rate for all employees by 2022.

"Because of the important work we do, there will continue to be crises we will face, including hurricanes, floods, tornados, fires, and ice storms for as long as we are in business," Rutledge said in an email to employees. "We keep people connected no matter what."

Charter serves about 30 million households and businesses in the United States.

 

Plant Vogtle worker has COVID-19 virus

The novel coronavirus has hit Georgia Power's massive nuclear expansion project at Plant Vogtle, which logged its first worker to test positive for COVID-19.

There are about 9,000 workers assigned to the multibillion-dollar project, which Georgia Power has described as the largest construction project in the state.

About 128 workers are self-isolating because they were in close proximity to either the worker with COVID-19 or with any of 14 other workers who were tested for it but have yet to receive results, Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft said.

An additional 56 workers on the project south of Augusta were tested and got negative results for the virus, Kraft said.

"We have been taking immediate precautionary actions with each person tested and treating every test for COVID-19 as a possible confirmed test," he said.

 

Federal Reserve will buy business loans

The Federal Reserve said in a brief announcement that it would support the government's $349 billion small business lending program, which had a rocky start Friday.

The Fed said Monday that it will purchase loans that banks make to small businesses as part of the program, which is carried out by banks and the Small Business Administration and was set up under the $2.2 trillion economic relief package. The loans can be forgiven if they are spent on payroll, to encourage firms to keep paying their employees or rehire workers they may have recently laid off.

By purchasing the loans, the Fed would create an incentive for the banks to engage in more lending. Buying the loans should free up more cash for banks to lend. Otherwise, when banks make a loan, they are typically required to hold some cash in reserve in the case of default.

The Fed's two-sentence announcement said that further details will be provided this week.

Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, an advisory firm that works with medium-sized companies, said the Fed's move is intended to encourage more banks to participate because many are reluctant to lend to small companies.

"This should help ... reverse risk aversion among potential lenders to provide bridge financing for small firms that otherwise would likely not survive the first phase of the crisis," Brusuelas said.

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