Shake Shack has returned a $10M government loan that was meant to help small businesses
via Robert S / Flickr

New York-based burger joint Shake Shack came under fire recently for gobbling up $10 million of the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program. The $349 billion program was designed to help small businesses pay their workers and keep operations going during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The program ran out of money after just two weeks, leaving many small businesses without any funding options and their workers without paychecks.

Shake Shack was able to get the loan because the program covers any company with fewer than 500 workers at a single location. Shake Shack has 8,000 people at its 189 locations.


"Few, if any restaurants in America employ more than 500 people per location," Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti wrote in a statement. "That meant that Shake Shack — with roughly 45 employees per restaurant — could and should apply to protect as many of our employees' jobs as possible."

Shake Shack currently has over $104 million in cash and liquid assets.

Ruth's Chris Steak House ($20 million), Potbelly Sandwich Shop ($10 million), and Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc ($10 million), the owners of Taco Cabana, have also been criticized for taking up large chunks of money intended for small businesses.

The public pressure caused Shake Shack to give back the $10 million dollar loan. In a statement posted to LinkedIn, Shake Shack noted that small businesses were shut out of the program and that was the fault of the government.

"Late last week, when it was announced that funding for the PPP had been exhausted, businesses across the country were understandably up in arms," Garutti wrote. "If this act were written for small businesses, how is it possible that so many independent restaurants whose employees needed just as much help were unable to receive funding?"

It then announced it had received alternative funding and will return the $10 million to the Small Business Administration.

"We're thankful for that and we've decided to immediately return the entire $10 million PPP loan we received last week to the SBA so that those restaurants who need it most can get it now," Garutti continued.

via Lukas Richarz / Flickr

Garutti ended the statement by suggesting some positive steps that Congress can take to help all restaurants across the country.

"We urge Congress to ensure that all restaurants no matter their size have equal ability to get back on their feet and hire back their teams," he wrote. "We are an industry of 660,000 restaurants with nearly 16 million employees."

The lockdown has put a lot of America's businesses in peril. So it's our job as consumers to try and support those businesses as best we can to help them get through the crisis. Americans should take note of which ones are being ethical during the pandemic and support them as best they can.

It may have been wrong for Shake Shack to take funding that could have helped countless businesses make it through the crisis, but at least they're owning up to their decision. Hopefully other businesses who've been criticized will follow suit.








Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Most of us did some tumbling moves as kids, from somersaults to cartwheels. A chosen few could pull off more impressive moves, like handsprings and backflips. But guaranteed, no kid that any of us knew could do anything close to the feats 5-year-old Li Jiamin can do.

A video of Li doing 80 back handsprings in under a minute (some people counted 82—it's really hard to keep track without making yourself dizzy) has gone viral, with more than a million views on Twitter alone.

At first, you might assume it's a looped video (I know I did). But watch the way the wrinkles build up in the side and top of the mattress. If there's a loop in there somewhere, it doesn't account for most of the flips, and when you see what else Li can do, the feat becomes a whole lot more believable.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.