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Eye on Retail: Walmart to allow access to wages before pay day

BY Marianne Wilson

The nation’s largest private employer on Wednesday unveiled financial wellness tools for its employees created in collaboration with two Silicon Valley start-ups.

The centerpiece of Walmart’s new offering is on-demand access to earned wages, which will allow its 1.4 million-strong U.S. workforce to draw on their salary ahead of payday. Instead of waiting two weeks between paychecks, Walmart employees can now use the “Instapay” feature on an app to access a portion of wages for hours they have already worked. The goal is to help workers avoid costly payday loans and other debt traps.

Walmart’s new financial program was created in collaboration with financial technology startups Even and PayActiv. Associates will access Instapay and other tools through the Even app, which securely connects to an associate’s checking account, prepaid account or Walmart Associate Paycard, and links to Walmart’s payroll systems.

“Every American worker faces unexpected and stressful between-paychecks expenses,” said Safwan Shah, founder and CEO of PayActiv, whose financial wellness platform allows employees to get on-demand access to earned but unpaid wages. “With on-demand access to earned wages, Walmart associates will be able to save more, avoid the financial traps that reduce their take-home pay, and get a level of stability that few service sector employers provide.”

The Even app can also help Walmart employees manage their finances by pinpointing the exact amount they can safely spend before their next paycheck. Walmart will cover the entire cost of Even’s automated financial management tool for both hourly and salaried associates, and will ensure associates can use Instapay up to eight times per year for free. Should associates need to use the Instapay feature more frequently, Walmart will subsidize the additional subscription required to do so.

The financial management and Instapay features will be available to all Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walmart eCommerce associates.

“Traditional approaches to workforce well-being often focus solely on physical health, but we know from listening to our associates that financial well-being is just as important,” said Jacqui Canney, Walmart’s chief people officer. “We’re investing to give our people financial tools that help provide more stability in their lives, which we believe will empower them to be all they can be when they are at work serving our customers.”

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NLBMDA provides softwood lumber dispute update

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) gave its update regarding the softwood lumber dispute between the United States and Canada.

Ben Gann, NLBMDA vp of legislative and political affairs, presented the following about the situation:

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on December 7 upheld the antidumping duties (AD) and countervailing duties (CVD) placed on softwood lumber imported from Canada to the U.S. The decision by the ITC follows the Department of Commerce’s announcement last month finalizing AD and CVD on Canadian softwood lumber.

Most Canadian firms will pay a combined AD/CVD rate of 20.83 percent. For the five companies (Canfor, J.D. Irving, Resolute, Tolko, and West Fraser) directly involved in the investigation, they will pay a combined rate that is different. Canfor will pay 22.13 percent, J.D. Irving will pay 9.92 percent, Resolute will pay 17.9 percent, Tolko will pay 22.07 percent, and West Fraser will pay 23.76 percent. Duties will not apply to softwood lumber harvested in the Atlantic Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edwards Island.

The Canadian government has responded on two fronts in the ongoing softwood lumber dispute. First, it challenged the countervailing duties (CVD) under Chapter 19 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on November 14. Second, Canada opened a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against the U.S. regarding the duties on November 28.

NAFTA Chapter 19 panels decide if an antidumping or countervailing duty determination is in accordance with the applicable national law, rather than with NAFTA obligations. Thus, Chapter 19 panels principally serve a judicial function, rather than a NAFTA dispute settlement function. As part of the NAFTA renegotiation, the U.S. has proposed eliminating Chapter 19 and relying on domestic courts to hear disputes, a position Canada strongly opposes.

Canada’s case against the U.S under the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement system is different from the NAFTA process. Here, the Canadian government complaint focuses on the method used by the Commerce Department to calculate duty rates. The Commerce Department used a method known as “zeroing” that disregards negative dumping margins in calculations and increases the duty rates. The WTO has historically found the practice of zeroing to be a violation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Unlike with the NAFTA Chapter 19 case, the WTO case is a purely government-to-government dispute regarding the application of international trade agreement obligations, rather than a dispute involving private parties regarding the application of U.S. law.[1]

The litigation does not preclude the two countries coming together and reaching a new agreement. However, the last agreement reached in 2006 occurred four years after antidumping and countervailing duties were first imposed and litigation on those determinations had begun. In discussions with U.S. and Canadian trade officials, NLBMDA has stated that duties are a poor substitute for a long-term agreement that provides predictability and stability for softwood lumber supply and prices.

Lumber prices have increased over the past year in part because of the duties placed on Canadian softwood lumber imported to the U.S. The Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite price is now $434 per thousand board feet, an increase of 21 percent over the past year, and the Random Lengths Structural Panel Composite price is now $427 per thousand board feet, an increase of 17 percent over the past year.

In 2016, imports of softwood lumber from Canada into the U.S. were valued at an estimated $5.66 billion. The Trump Administration has initiated 79 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations this year – a 65 percent increase from 48 in the previous year.

NLBMDA will continue to engage with the Department of Commerce, Canadian government officials, and Congress on the softwood lumber dispute in hopes of reaching a new agreement that does not put American lumber producers at a competitive disadvantage, unnecessarily restrict the availability of products, or increase the cost of housing to the detriment of prospective homebuyers and consumers.

 

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A celebrity before-and-after

BY HBSDealer Staff

HGTV Celebrity Builders, the BroLaws, and Regal ideas joined forces to create the winning entry at the 2017 Remodeling Show for “Best Before and After project.”

The winning backyard transformation showcased an example of converting a typical residential yard into something special with materials readily available at any local home improvement retailer.

“This recognition is especially meaningful to us because it was an audience-voted award,” said Ernie Couillard, executive VP for Regal ideas Inc. “Recognition was given by the contractors and builders that represent one of our largest target audiences.” “Being able to work with the Brolaws on such an incredible backyard transformation, and to see how our brands brought this project together, was very inspirational.”

The BroLaws installed 11 sections of tempered glass railing in less than an hour. The BroLaws are brothers-in-law Joey Fletcher and David Kenny, whose remodeling work appears on home improvement shows such as “Decked Out,” “Deck Wars” and “Home to Win.”

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