Black Friday looks different for Pittsburgh-area shoppers this year

Black Friday looks different in Pittsburgh this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were fewer Black Friday shoppers early in the morning and less lines, though some did venture out in search of deals.

Malls and stores made changes to their hours this year, opening later or staying closed on Thanksgiving.

Many are also offering more sales online to encourage consumers to do shopping from home.

Source: Black Friday looks different for Pittsburgh-area shoppers this year

Investigation finds more than a half-million Pennsylvanians denied unemployment

NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. — Channel 4 Action News Investigates has learned more than a half-million Pennsylvanians who applied for unemployment during the pandemic have still not been able to get it.For some, long waits for benefits have become long waits to appeal the denial of benefit

John Roman of North Versailles was laid off from his job as a school bus driver in March.Action News Investigates first told his story in April, when he was struggling to get benefits.”You can’t get through. Keep getting busy signals. I tried like four or five hours in one day,” Roman said at the time.

Eventually, the checks started coming. But in June, his case took a twist.The state Department of Labor and Industry sent him a letter saying he was ineligible for benefits and ordering him to pay back $3,000.The reason? The state said Roman took a leave of absence.But medical records show he was hospitalized for acute illness — pneumonia and COPD.So Roman filed an appeal, saying the state decision was incorrect. That was five months ago.

Asked what happened since then, Roman said: “Nothing. Nothing at all.”He’s called the state unemployment office repeatedly. He contacted his state legislator.”Mine’s at the bottom of the pile, I guess,” Roman said.In August, he finally got a callback from the state unemployment office.

An official left a voicemail message saying: “We have received the appeal information however it was not under review so that was a mistake on our part. You should receive information from us soon as again I have escalated this matter to a supervisor.”But Roman did not get a hearing until Monday, nearly three months after he received that voicemail message.”It’s wrong,” Roman said.In yet another twist, Roman was approved for unemployment after first being denied. But the state has been deducting the money he allegedly owes from the amount he is supposed to be collecting, leaving him with virtually nothing.”I could never understand their system,” Roman said.

Top state unemployment officials would not discuss specifics of Roman’s case but they were surprised when Action News Investigates told them how long he’s been waiting for his appeal.

“I do know the appeals office is still on time with everything so depending on the timing of when that was requested and what the actual circumstances are, that probably has a lot to do with it,” said Susan Dickinson, director of unemployment policy.

“John is emblematic of so many people who are so frustrated with the system and don’t know where to turn for help,” said Barney Oursler of the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee.

Oursler reached out to help Roman after seeing his initial story. He said the state made a mistake and Roman deserves to be paid.But even Oursler, who helped thousands of unemployed steelworkers in the 1980s, has hit a wall with Harrisburg.

“The system is failing people and that’s the frustration people have,” Oursler said.State officials said 32% of all Pennsylvanians filing unemployment claims during the pandemic — about 600,000 people — have been rejected.

There have been about 43,000 appeals filed.Five months after filing his appeal, Roman said he hopes he can finally get an answer.”It’s been very frustrating. There’s times I just lay down and close my eyes, is it a dream or is it reality? I’m finding out it’s reality,” Roman said.

Source: Investigation finds more than a half-million Pennsylvanians denied unemployment

Hiring push is on at 84 Lumber, Pittsburgh agency tapped to create recruitment program

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh-based BLD Marketing on Thursday said it has created and launched a recruitment marketing program for 84 Lumber Co.

The nation’s largest privately held building materials supplier, 84 Lumber operates about 250 stores, plants, custom millwork and door shops and engineered wood product centers in more than 30 states. It is hiring for various positions due to increased residential construction and, as of Thursday, listed 478 open positions from labor to management on its website.

The Business Times recently reported that 84 Lumber said it topped $4 billion in annual sales for the first time in its history with projections to reach more than $4.5 billion by year-end. Expansion is underway into Detroit; Stockton, California; and Boise, Idaho, with new stores scheduled to open in early 2021.

 

Source: Hiring push is on at 84 Lumber, Pittsburgh agency tapped to create recruitment program

Dow futures rise 300 points after Biden wins presidency as post-election rally continues

All three major averages notched their best weekly performance since April last week.

Stocks were set to continue their big post-election rally as futures rose in overnight trading on Sunday. The gains came as Democrat Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential race to become president elect, according to NBC projections.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 319 points, implying an opening gain of about 300 points on Monday. S&P 500 futures climbed 1.1% and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 1.4%.

The former vice president won after his projected victory in Pennsylvania as well as Nevada, according to NBC News projections on Saturday. The call came four days after Election Day and amid close counts in several battleground states.

Wall Street hoped the call would reduce the odds of a drawn-out election fight, even as Trump refused to concede. Many traders had put on bets for market volatility in November and were unwinding those positions, helping fuel a rally.

Source: Dow futures rise 300 points after Biden wins presidency as post-election rally continues

Turkey replaces central bank head as lira sees record lows

Former Finance Minister Naci Agbal was brought in to replace Murat Uysal, according to a presidential decree announced in the Official Gazette.

  • Former Finance Minister Naci Agbal was brought in to replace Murat Uysal, according to a presidential decree announced in the Official Gazette.
  • The decision came after the lira lost nearly a third of its value since the start of the year — hitting a record low of 8.58 against the U.S. dollar on Friday — and annual inflation stood at 11.89%.

Source: Turkey replaces central bank head as lira sees record lows

Westmoreland commissioner claims county pay raises result of political threat | TribLIVE.com

Acting as the county’s salary board, Republican commissioners Sean Kertes and Doug Chew, along with Republican Controller Jeff Balzer, approved the financial package for the auditors. It’s a move Balzer said was needed to retain a quality staff and was recommended by the county’s human resources department.

Gina Cerilli, a second-term Democrat, claimed Balzer threatened to shutter his auditing department and hire outside staff to complete those mandated functions should the proposed raises be rejected.

Balzer denied that a threat was made but conceded that during a private meeting last week he suggested that the hiring of an outside firm to perform the county’s routine auditing would be costly.

“It was a talking point and I don’t have the authority to do that,” Balzer said. “Once again, she’s exposed her inexperience in government and claims she knows everything.”

Kertes and Chew, first-term Republicans, supported the raises and said they were cheaper than hiring private auditors.

Source: Westmoreland commissioner claims county pay raises result of political threat | TribLIVE.com

Surge in COVID-19 cases creates another roadblock for office workers | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

By Mark Belko

It’s 15 minutes past noon on a sunny October weekday — typically a bustling time for the food court at Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown.

But with the pandemic still raging and much of the city’s office staff working from home, the lunch counters are dark — and it’s eerily quiet.

Instead of the chattering din of a crowd, the only sound that can be heard is the whirring of the escalators rotating in a ghostly, endless loop. A sign declaring “Line Starts Here” at the end of a retractable rope at the shuttered Rosso Pizzeria stands as a mocking reminder of normal times.

Just outside, despite the unusually warm weather, the sidewalks are sparsely peppered with pedestrians.

Let’s talk: High office vacancies forcing landlords to wheel and deal, report finds

Across the street, there are no lines at McDonald’s, while the swanky Eddie Merlot’s restaurant is closed except for takeout until dinnertime. Down the street at the Sly Fox Taphouse, just two outdoor tables are occupied. There are no customers inside.

During these unsettling times, parking garages sit nearly empty, and many restaurants and businesses that rely on the regular swarm of office workers into town have been forced to close, at least temporarily.

Amid a fall surge in COVID-19 cases and with the governor’s mandate to work remotely still in force, the scene is unlikely to change any time soon.

Image Description
“Closed until further notice” sign posted in a store window in the deserted Fifth Avenue Place on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Downtown.(Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette)

One of Pittsburgh’s signature skyscrapers, Fifth Avenue Place is the headquarters for health care giant Highmark Health, which occupies 26 floors in the now largely empty 31-story building.

“We continue to plan for a safe, phased and gradual return to work for our non-clinical employees after Jan. 1, subject to re-evaluation … as we draw closer to that date,” spokeswoman Janice Maszle said recently in an email. “The health and safety of our employees remain paramount.”

Source: Surge in COVID-19 cases creates another roadblock for office workers | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

‘Rent erosion’ hits DC’s apartment market | WTOP

Apartment rents in the D.C. area remain some of the highest in the nation — but they’re slowly coming down as landlords seek to lure tenants as people move out during the pandemic.

As it stands now, D.C. ranks seventh highest among big cities for rent — averaging just over $2,100 a month across all apartment sizes in September. However, that is down 1.6% from the average rent a year ago.

Real estate firm Zillow reports that reflects what is happening in mostly large, expensive cities across the nation. Rent erosion has landlords responding to a drop in demand and rising vacancies by lowering rental rates.

Source: ‘Rent erosion’ hits DC’s apartment market | WTOP

Grocery stores are preparing for a second wave of panic buying — you should, too

The hoarding began slowly in spring as forward-thinking shoppers snapped up masks and hand sanitizer. But once Americans realized the pandemic was serious, they emptied stores of just about everything, from toilet paper to canned soup.

With an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases this fall, panic buying could return as worries of a second lockdown spread. Retailers say they’re already seeing the signs and are hopeful they’ll be ready.

Source: Grocery stores are preparing for a second wave of panic buying — you should, too

What’s the status of a second $1,200 stimulus check? – CBS News

Stocks tumbled on Monday amid dimming hopes for a stimulus bill and rising coronavirus cases.

The White House and Democrats have failed to agree on a new aid package. White House economics adviser Larry Kudlow on Monday told reporters that talks were continuing, but declined to say whether he was optimistic or pessimistic about a deal.

Shares fell on Monday as investor hopes faded that lawmakers would deliver more emergency financial support for the economy anytime soon. Rising coronavirus cases added concerns about headwinds for the U.S. economy, sending the Dow down more than 650 points, or 2.3%.

Source: What’s the status of a second $1,200 stimulus check? – CBS News