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President Bush signs $168 billion economic stimulus bill

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON Still feeling some of the effects of a slower-than-normal holiday period, retailers got another boost Wednesday as Pres. George W. Bush signed into law a $168 billion economic stimulus bill.

“I know a lot of Americans are concerned about our economic future,” Bush said at a White House bill-signing ceremony. “Congress passed a really good piece of legislation.”

The measure, crafted largely by treasury secretary Henry Paulson and leaders of the House of Representatives, includes approximately $117 billion in rebate checks, tax breaks for businesses and measures aimed at easing the current mortgage market issues, according to published reports.

The president also voiced his appreciation for the members of both houses for their restraint regarding the temptation to add extra measures to the bill. “Members resisted the temptation to load up this bill with unrelated programs or unnecessary spending, and I appreciate that,” Bush said.

Last week, the National Retail Federation applauded Congress when the Senate approved their version of the House bill—with a few changes, including the addition of rebates for more than 20 million senior citizens and disabled veterans. “Expanding the rebate checks to include retirees and disabled veterans is a win-win strategy,” NRF senior vice president for government relations Steve Pfister said. “Retirees and veterans not only deserve a check, but are also among those most likely to spend the rebates so that this money gets put to work in the economy right away.”

Under the plan, individuals will receive $300 to $600, while couples will get $1,200. The full rebate, however, is limited to individuals earning $75,000 or less and families making up to $150,000. The rebates are expected to begin showing up in consumers’ mailboxes in May.

An unexpected boost in retail sales last month pushed stocks higher Wednesday and fueled hopes that the economy may avoid a recession, Dow Jones reported. The stimulus is expected to give a big push to consumption, greatly benefitting the retail sector. “Timeliness is essential, and we agree with economists who say the fastest way for stimulus to enter the economy is through the consumer,” Pfister said.

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CVS celebrates record-breaking Downtown 5K fundraising effort

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark celebrated the record-breaking funds raised by the 2007 CVS Caremark Downtown 5K at a special dinner held Tuesday evening at the CVS Caremark Customer Support Center.

A group of about 125 youths and adults joined CVS Caremark executives and staff for dinner and a presentation of checks to their respective schools and organizations. The 2007 race—which turned out more than 7,000 registered runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes and raised $160,000—brought the tally of funds raised during the retailer’s eight-year sponsorship of the Downtown 5K to $800,000.

“We are pleased to be recognizing so many positives this evening as we celebrate yet another banner year for the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K and set the pace for continued success in upcoming years,” stated Larry Merlo, executive vice president of CVS Caremark and president of CVS/pharmacy. “Through this great race, the largest in Rhode Island, the spirit of volunteerism comes alive, health and fitness are embraced and nonprofit organizations get an extra financial boost to help them fulfill their important missions.”

Representatives from the following nonprofit groups were honored and presented with checks at the dinner: All Children’s Theater, Amos House, Best Buddies of Rhode Island, Meeting Street, National Braille Press, PARI (People Actively Reaching Independence), Perkins School for the Blind, The Groden Center and The Providence Center.

CVS Caremark also awarded $500 grants to 10 schools that won random drawings. And Merlo acknowledged the children with special needs who participated in the All Kids Can Inspirational segment of the 2007 race.

The 2008 CVS Caremark Downtown 5K is scheduled for Sept. 21.

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CVS Caremark receives Pioneer Award for employer-assisted housing

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON Homes for Working Families, a national nonprofit organization focused on improving home affordability, has announced that CVS Caremark was one of 14 award recipients of the 2008 Pioneer Awards for leadership in employer-assisted housing.

CVS Caremark was recognized for its employer-assisted housing program Prescriptions for Homeownership launched in Washington in 2005, and in Los Angeles in 2007. So far, it has helped more than 50 employees close on their homes. The company plans to expand the program to Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit this year.

“We’re proud to be able to help our employees take their first big steps toward homeownership,” stated Steve Wing, director of workforce initiatives for CVS Caremark. “Innovative programs such as Prescriptions for Homeownership provide us the opportunity to support our workforce, promote employee recruitment and retention, and improve the communities in which we do business.”

Immediately following the Feb. 11 award event on Capitol Hill, representatives from CVS Caremark and Harley-Davidson Motor Co., another award recipient, participated in a congressional staff briefing hosted by the National Housing Conference titled “Employer-Assisted Housing: Expanding Opportunities for Homeownership, Business and Community Development.” The briefing provided insights into employer programs and local implementations, as well as information on pending federal legislation that would provide federal tax credits to employers offering EAH programs.

Other recipients of the 2008 Pioneer Awards included the City of Seattle, John Hopkins University, The Schwan Food Co., and the University of Chicago and University of Chicago Medical Center.

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