News from Washington this morning says that congressional leaders and Bush administration officials have reached a deal on an economic stimulus package that would send checks to most taxpayers in an effort to keep the economy from falling into recession.

That's good news for businesses, big and small, who may be understandably nervous about a widespread business slow down stemming from the housing and credit crisis, the high cost of oil, and the decreasing value of the U.S. dollar.

The rumor from D.C. is that Americans earning $75,000 or more or couples earning at least $150,000 will be excluded from the rebates.

In addition, CNN is reporting that the deal would pay taxpayers $600 and two-wage-earner households as much as $1,200. A per-child credit of $300 is reportedly in the cards
The stimulus plan will also include tax breaks for businesses to encourage them to buy equipment. The total price tag of the package is expected to be at least $150 billion, which is equal to about 1 percent of the nation's economic activity for a year.

Even so, business owners are already showing signs of cutting back and looking top-to-bottom for ways to slash operating costs. One way they're doing so, according to a recent article from Forbes is to decrease business travel. The Forbes articles cites David Ulevitch, CEO of Open DNS, a networking services start-up, who stays at a friend's house when he travels on business from San Francisco to New York City.

"I never tell people they can't stay at a hotel," Ulevitch, 25, tells the magazine. But he does keep them abreast of the company's financial situation, operating under the assumption that if employees know where a company's money is going, they'll pay closer attention to expenses now in anticipation of a bigger payoff later.

Ulevitch might be on to something. Even is a slowing economy, business travel costs are on the rise.

According to American Express Business Travel, the average cost of a domestic roundtrip plane ticket rose 7 percent last year (from $216 to $231), while the average international roundtrip fare rose 5 percent (from $1,614 to $1,707).

In addition, hotel and car rental rates are on the rise, according to American Express. Car rentals charges climbed 4.5 percent last year, and the average price for a night's stay in an American hotel room jumped from $182 to $200.

One way companies can save money on travel costs is to - that's right
- spend more money.

"If you can spare the extra dough to hire a dedicated travel manager, full or part time, to handle these details, there's a good chance this will save you money in the long run," says Forbes. The magazine also advises that business owners opt for a deal with a mid-sized room rate plan over a stay at a budget chain. "You'll pay a bit more, but they often offer better security and complimentary amenities like breakfast and gym access. With average stays at budget rentals jumping 19.3 percent last year, this is a no-brainer.

"And don’t be afraid to reward employees who show they are conscious of the bottom line. If they opt to stay with a friend while on business, send them off with permission to take their host to dinner."
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