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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: Goldman Sachs; Chart: Axios Visuals

The positive news about a possible coronavirus vaccine could prove to be a negative for many struggling small business owners, as economists worry that it could reduce the urgency for Congress to pass a new fiscal relief package.

Why it matters: A new survey from Goldman Sachs through its 10,000 Small Businesses program provided first to Axios finds that more than half of small business owners (52%) have stopped paying themselves in a bid to keep their businesses afloat and four in 10 (42%) already have begun laying off employees or cutting worker pay.

  • 33% have dipped into personal savings to stay operational.
  • 28% say the legislative uncertainty has caused them to consider closing their business.

What's next: Moving forward, 38% of those surveyed said they will have to lay off more employees or cut employee compensation and 20% said they will not be able to pay their commercial rent through the end of the year without additional help from Congress.

.The big picture: The number of businesses that say they are unsure whether or not they will be able to survive reached its highest level in November since the survey began.

Watch this space: 59% of business owners surveyed say their revenue has been negatively impacted.

  • 86.5% of those whose revenue has been negatively impacted attribute it to changing customer behavior, while 44% say the decline in revenue is due to more restrictive state and local regulations.

Black business owners have struggled even more mightily, with 61% saying they have forgone paying themselves as a result of congressional inaction and 57% saying that less than half of their pre-COVID revenue has returned.

What we're hearing: "The economy is dependent on fiscal support to sustain momentum in the near term and to generate reflation in the longer term," Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein, said in an email detailing his expectations for the U.S. after this month's elections.

  • "This electoral outcome is the one that most jeopardizes the prospect of fiscal stimulus over both time horizons and therefore is the one that is most threatening to the economic outlook."
  • "With monetary policy largely bled dry, fiscal policy is the only game in town when it comes to managing the economy.  That means that fiscal stimulus is critical to the economic outlook."

Go deeper

Wall Street pencils in virus variants as latest economic risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wall Street is pinning its bets of an economic rebound this year on mass vaccinations and a virus brought under control, but new coronavirus strains threaten that sunny outlook, a number of firms are warning.

Why it matters: None downgraded growth forecasts because of the variants, but they’re acknowledging there’s a new asterisk to the anticipated economic recovery.

FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

29 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

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