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Economics in Brief: Dollar General Is Expanding Into Health Care

Biden discharges (a little bit more) student debt, and more.

A Dollar General store in Connecticut

(Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0)

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Dollar General Expanding Into Health Care

Dollar General is planning to offer telemedicine and prescription pick-ups, a move that could make healthcare more accessible to people living in rural areas but which activists worry could cut into grocery stores and local pharmacies’ bottom lines, NBC reports.

The company says it plans to end “health care deserts” by offering services at its 17,000 stores; three-quarters of Americans live within 5 miles of a Dollar General, the company says.

“I don’t want to get in front of our skis, but it could be a really big deal not only for our top line and bottom line at Dollar General, but even more so, making that box even more relevant to those consumers in rural America that have to drive now 30-40 minutes … even to see the doctor,” CEO Todd Vasos said during an earnings call. “I’m pretty excited about it, but the journey is just beginning.”

Dollar General is the fastest growing chain in America when measured by new store openings; the company planned to open more than 1,000 stores this year, Next City previously reported. Taken with competitors Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, almost half of all new store openings this year are expected to be dollar stores.

Biden Has Cancelled $9 Billion In Student Debt, Or Less Than 1% Of All Student Debt

The Dept. of Education has cancelled more than $9 billion in student loans since Biden took office, The Hill reports. It reached this milestone after canceling $1.1 billion in debt for more than 100,000 borrowers that took classes at the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute. The education department said that ITT had “lured” students into taking out private loans with “misleading and unaffordable terms.”

$9 billion represents less than 1% of the $1.73 trillion in student loan debt held by borrowers across the country. Biden has not, thus far, signaled interest in mass student loan cancellations. According to Fortune, at a CNBC town hall on Feb. 17, 2021, Biden was asked: “We need student loan forgiveness beyond the $10,000 your administration has proposed—we need at least a $50,000 minimum. What will you do to make that happen?”

“I will not make that happen,” Biden responded.

Pandemic Recovery Still Uneven

An analysis of the U.S. economic recovery shows no clear patterns, according to Bloomberg News, which compared unemployment rates by race and ethnicity in major cities from 2019 to 2021. Which communities are recovering seems to depend on location and demographic.

For example, the unemployment rate for Black Atlantans has fallen since 2019, and is now below the national average. But in Chicago, the unemployment rate for Black workers is at 15%, almost three times the national average.

Hispanic workers living in Phoenix, Arizona have also seen unemployment fall, while in Las Vegas, the unemployment rate for white people is above 10 percent. And in San Francisco, the only city in which Bloomberg tracked the jobless rate among Asian Americans, the unemployment rate is two to four times higher than it was in 2019.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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Tags: jobscovid-19healthcarestudent debtdollar stores

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