Business Headlines

courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- For 20 straight weeks, the number of Americans who have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance has topped one million.

This unprecedented streak of weekly jobless claims has shattered all historical records.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the previous record for weekly unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982. In the last week of March, that was smashed by nearly tenfold as 6.9 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance in a single week.

Gary Burtless, an economist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News that the U.S. has never seen anything like the current unemployment crisis historically, especially considering the speed with which the new filings exploded.

"It's far more serious than anything we’ve ever experienced to my knowledge, in the suddenness of the rise in unemployment," he said, noting how in February the nation had a historically low unemployment rate of 3.5%. "Nothing compares with the suddenness."

According to most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate shot up to 11% in June -- though economists warned this figure might not capture the full extent of layoffs that entrenched the country later in the month as many states were forced to rollback reopening plans amid rises in COVID-19 cases.

The magnitude of this crisis in terms of new weekly unemployment filings has also already dwarfed the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009, which saw a much more gradual increase in layoffs versus the sudden job losses seen now.

In an attempt to ease the burden on the unemployed, Congress expanded the amount of workers who could apply for unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 crisis to include freelancers, self-employed and other categories previously not included. Burtless said this may have contributed to the current, skyrocketing data.

Comparing the current crisis to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' previous worst period for weekly unemployment filings, during a recession in the early 1980s, also shows how this current situation is already in a completely different ballpark.

Burtless added that there is no data on weekly jobless claims from the Great Depression as the unemployment insurance program did not exist then, but it's estimated that at its peak approximately a quarter of the workforce was unemployed and seeking a job.

The suffering of many Americans during the Great Depression was also heightened as a result of there not being any unemployment insurance relief, according to Burtless. While the current unemployment benefits program has been riddled with problems and many have reported long lags before receiving any aid, Burtless said the amount of funds being paid out is "historically generous."

For the millions of workers pushed into unemployment by the crisis, the bolstered pandemic aid of an extra $600 a week proved a lifeline. That aid expired at the end of July, but the streak of elevated unemployment filings continues to roll in.

As of last week, some 17 million Americans were still receiving unemployment benefits. And as the weeks turned to months, Burtless said that further agony looms as many people who thought they were on temporary furlough will likely be permanently laid off.

"A lot of people did not think that they were permanently unemployed, they thought they were on furlough, they thought the job they had would reappear and it would come back, whether a month, three months or six months," he said. "But I think now people are reassessing whether they will be recalled to their last job."

Ultimately, full economic recovery remains contingent on a vaccine or effective treatment for the coronavirus, according to Burtless.

"The primary thing that has been driving the statistics is just the public health emergency, the fact that if you leave your home, if you go to work, if you go to shop, you face a higher risk of becoming infected than if you just stay at home," he said. "And that is the driver of a weak economy, people aren’t shopping for things, people aren’t leaving their homes, they’re not as willing to go risk their lives by going to work."

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ABC Photo Illustration / Photo Courtesy Amanda WilliamsBy JOEL LYONS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Amanda Williams is the founder and owner of Debt Free in Sunny CA, where she helps guide others to debt-free living by sharing tips and fostering an in-person and online community. She and her husband, Josh, celebrated paying off more than $133,000 in debt in less than four years on July 5, 2018.

Below, Williams explains in her own words how she was able to overcome her debt:

How Amanda’s student loan debt began

I took out private student loans to go to school for massage therapy. After graduating, I worked on several cruise ships massaging clients for eight to 10 hours a day. The repetitive strain led to carpal tunnel and I was not able to return to massage therapy. At 22, I went back to school for computer science and used student loans to pay my tuition. While in school, I worked full time to pay my rent and bills.

At the time, I was working a minimum wage job, which doesn't get you much in California. There was no way I was going to be able to save up to pay for school, so I took out loans because that's what you do when you're going to school -- or so I thought.

I would have done more research on my school and the actual cost of it instead of saying, "Oh, that's fine, I'll pay it back later," not realizing how much money and interest I'm actually going to be paying. If I had done my research, I could have saved a lot of money by going to a different school at the beginning.

Living with debt

Right after I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I was in the six-month grace period, where you don't have to pay on your student loans. I was having fun the first few months, and then I got down to business and was like, "OK, these payments are coming. In a few months, I’ll have this $433 car payment and this expensive student loan balance coming." I wasn't making enough to pay both of them.

There was no big fat raise when I finished school and received my degree. That's when panic set in.

It felt like there was a dark cloud over my head. I looked at this giant number and thought how am I going to pay that off on what I make now? It's going to take me forever. It was not a good mental state to be in—kind of depressing.

Picking a plan, paying up and getting ahead

My first idea was to follow Dave Ramsey's "Total Money Makeover" because I liked how he lays out the baby steps. What really helped was getting on a budget and actually saying, "OK, I’m going to spend this much on groceries, this much on gas," etc. It was hard at first because in the past, I just used a card, bought what I needed and then paid it off. But that's paying for the past. Switching to "this is what I'm going to spend," and then figuring out how to adjust it and make it work made a huge difference. Once I had the budget dialed in, anything extra went towards the smallest balance loan. That was the game plan going in.

I was able to get an internship while in school that paid $14 an hour. From that experience, I jumped over to a large company that offers education reimbursement. The rest of my bachelor's degree and all of my master’s degree was covered by my company.

I reached out to other people online who are doing the same thing -- budgeting and paying off their debt. Having people online that are going through the same thing really helped keep me motivated.

I started using my personal Instagram profile to search hashtags like "debt free" or "Dave Ramsey" to find other people. There weren't a whole lot of people posting about getting out of debt, so that's when I created my own profile and started the hashtag. Then it just blew up. There are tons of people now sharing their journey of getting out of debt on Instagram.

I sold the Prius that I could not afford, and it was a tough pill to swallow because I was upside down on the loan. It was one bad mistake after another. I took out the full value of a previous car to "pay off" my private student loans. When I traded the car in for a Prius, I rolled the negative equity into the car loan. I was upside down by $7,000. It took me eight months to make the decision on if I should sell or keep the car.

You have to make big sacrifices to get out of debt.

It was a noticeable transition that really hit me when I thought about what I wanted. Did I want a nice car and to be in debt for longer or did I want to drive around in a not-so-nice car and be debt-free much faster? It was a mindset shift for what I wanted for my life.

The Big Payoff

The years of hard work to get to this point -- you're just kind of numb, like, "Oh my gosh, we did it!" It took us three years and four months to pay off all of our debt -- together, we had over $133,000 worth of debt.

To celebrate, we took the day off work and went to brunch. We met up with friends for dinner to celebrate.

Now we're completing our emergency fund and saving up as much as we can for our first baby. Our emergency fund will be six months of our expenses, which works out to be $15,000 to $20,000.

We just paid for a new-to-me car in cash and have plans to start investing in real estate.

Her message to you

I suggest getting an internship in your field as soon as possible and trying to find a company that provides education reimbursement.

The budget is the key to getting out of debt because if you're not budgeting, then you're just sitting there swiping your card, blindly spending all your money. When you set a budget, you have the freedom to decide what you want to do with your money.

Also, you need to have an emergency fund. That way you're not reliant on credit cards and, when something comes up, it's not a catastrophe. You're relaxed, you've got the money and you can take care of it.

My debt free journey has taught me delayed gratification. If there’s something I want to buy, I save up and pay cash for it.

I want to emphasize that I started with a low income. Through my education and getting an internship early, I was able to get my foot in the door and work my way up to the salary I make now. A lot of people focus on the ending salary and think that they can't do it. I want to give hope to people that if they put in the hard work, they will get there, too.

If, along the way, your finances have been affected by COVID-19, reach out to your providers and ask what assistance they can offer. Waived late fees and deferred payment plans are common options. Also, cut any unnecessary expenses to help stretch your budget.


You can follow Amanda’s continuing journey and get more tips on living a debt-free life by following her on Instagram at Debt Free in Sunny CA.

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Cheetos/Frito LayBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Cheetos fans will have to step out of the snack aisle and stroll down to the pasta section to get a taste of the brand's new mac 'n' cheese products.

The cheesy, crunchy snack has been reinvented as another beloved food -- macaroni and cheese -- although this variety uses spiral-shaped pasta in lieu of the traditional elbow macaroni.

The brand said in its announcement Wednesday it went with corkscrew noodles "inspired by Chester's cheetah tail."

The boxed carton boasts "the same bold and intense flavor experience of regular Cheetos" and comes in three flavors: Bold & Cheesy, Flamin' Hot and Cheesy Jalapeño, each made with Cheetos seasoning.

The cheesy and easy-to-cook pantry staple will be available at Walmart stores or online Aug. 8 in single box or cup format for a suggested retail price of 98 cents.

Rachel Ferdinando, SVP, CMO of Frito-Lay North America, said it took a page from its fans' "incredible culinary creativity," using Cheetos as ingredients in recipes both in restaurants and at home.

"Cheetos Mac 'n Cheese borrows that culinary inspiration to provide a mischievous mashup of an ordinary fan favorite. We're putting our orange-dusted fingerprints on an at-home staple at a time when home mealtime occasions are on the rise," Ferdinando said.

Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods North America are no stranger to the boxed pasta game, with the Pasta Roni brand already among its products.

The product will roll out nationwide in 2021.

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monkeybusinessimages/iStockBy the GMA TEAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Know a young girl with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math?

Then she'll want to tune into "Awesome Girls: Engineer Your World," a “Show and Tell” collaborative discussion with Mary Barra, chairwoman and CEO of General Motors, and Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, moderated by Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts.

During the livestream, Barra and Acevedo will show photos and videos and share other resources that tell their stories of becoming successful engineers and leaders in traditionally male-dominated fields.

They’ll also tell girls how they can follow in their footsteps by earning the new Automotive Engineering three-badge series for Daisies (grades K-1), Brownies (grades 2-3) and Juniors (grades 4-5), made possible through support from GM.

The event will wrap up with a live Q&A where girls can ask questions about how to be succeed in STEM fields and beyond.

Tune in Wednesday, Aug. 5, from 2-2:30 p.m. ET. You can register for the event here or you can watch the livestream of the conversation on GoodMorningAmerica.com.

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4x6/iStockBy ANTHONY KANE, SUZANNE YEO AND ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- If you walk into stores looking for disinfectant wipes, the likelihood of finding any are slim. And today, Clorox is saying that you might have to wait until next year to get your hands on the coveted cleaning product.

In an earnings call earlier this week, Clorox company President and CEO-elect Linda Rendle announced the company might not be able to restock the product in stores until next year.

"Given the fact cold and flu (season) sits in the middle of the (fiscal) year, and we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need to be at," Rendle said Monday during the call.

When the pandemic first hit in March, wipes vanished from store shelves with many scrambling across the country to get their hands on any they could find. Then, as stores ran out, they were prioritized for hospitals and caregivers, which left many consumers like Stacie Wright turning to sales of the sought after cleaning product elsewhere online or to making their own.

"I've just been using, like a diluted mix of an antibacterial," said Stacie Wright, owner of E11even salon in New Jersey. "The shelves still seem to be as bare as they were in the end of March and beginning -- you know -- April. Which is kind of surprising to me."

And although Clorox ramped up production, it could not keep up to the dramatic demand.

But it's not just Clorox, Lysol has also gone missing on shelves too.

"This demand is clearly having an impact on our retailers' inventory levels," the Reckitt Benckiser Group, the maker of Lysol, said in a statement to USA Today in April.

Part of the problem is that many companies make wipes using polyester spunlace, a key ingredient also used for personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and medical gowns, which is now in short supply.

While the wait continues for the return of Clorox disinfectant wipes, the company has promised instead a huge increase in some of its other cleaning products, like liquid bleach, in the coming months.

Some stores like Walmart are also offering an alert system that you can sign up for to see when wipes are available in stores.

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Kimbal Musk, CEO and co-founder of The Kitchen Restaurant Group. (ABC News)By TAYLOR DUNN, KATIE MULDOWNEY and HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In a time of social distancing and contactless encounters, businesses are turning to technology to adapt.

Kimbal Musk, CEO and co-founder of The Kitchen Restaurant Group, had closed his restaurants for months after the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States. Now, as they begin to reopen -- he said about half have done so already -- guests will be having a completely reinvented, contactless dining experience, via a new app called Next Door On Demand.

The app, named for one of his restaurants in Boulder, Colorado, allows restaurant-goers to have a nearly contactless experience with the ability to order and pay via their smartphones.

“I've always loved the idea of ordering from your iPhone and I've been thinking about it for years,” Musk told ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis on Nightline. “When COVID hit and I dealt with the question of safety for our team, I thought to myself, ‘Well, this is a time to build it.’”

Building the app during the COVID-19 pandemic presented its own challenges. Musk worked with a team of software designers from around the world, mostly through the videoconferencing platform Zoom, to develop the technology.

“It was actually awesome. We were trying to figure out time zones, to figure out who'd have to stay up the latest. But it was fun. I mean, we had fun doing it and knowing that we didn't have any else to do. So let's innovate.” Musk said.

He’s not alone in that innovation. With millions of Americans out of work and new COVID-19 cases rising in 15 states, more and more businesses are betting on technology to encourage employees and customers to return, changing everything from the way people work to the way they live and communicate.

“There is definitely a lot of, to put it lightly, a lot of changes happening all around us and specifically when we look at technology...there is certainly going to be a lot of change in innovation, resetting the industries that were affected negatively,” Christine Tsai, CEO and founding partner of venture capital firm 500 Startups, told Nightline.

But as innovation solves the most pressing problems today, it begs the question of whether it will also create problems for the future. Musk says the hardest part of creating the app was considering the user experience at a restaurant.

“We want our guests to feel that they are connected to people. Restaurants are about restoring yourself and going in and meeting, connecting with a server. Getting to know your family or friends or whoever you're with, and so we really wanted to ensure that hospitality stayed in the restaurant experience,” he said.

Musk is the younger brother of Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, both for which he serves on the board. The pair was born and raised in South Africa but eventually made their way to California’s Silicon Valley, where they co-founded the software company Zip2, which was later acquired by Compaq in the late 90s. Kimbal Musk says his older brother has always been a sounding board throughout his life.

“[Elon has] helped me all my life. And in 2008, the car industry essentially collapsed and I helped my brother get through Tesla's survival there. And I'm now I'm getting advice from him on how to get through the restaurant industry… Our version of a nuclear bomb just went off in our industry,” Kimbal Musk said. “How do you get through it? He's a good cheerleader for me.”

Kimbal Musk hopes other restaurants will utilize similar technology, and said he plans to scale his new app technology for other independent restaurants that want to make their own app.

“We're working with a partnership with a young startup out of Silicon Valley that'll focus entirely on independent restaurants to build technology like this for them in a very cost effective way,” said Musk.

Since the pandemic began in March, over 100,000 small businesses have permanently shut down, according to researchers from Harvard Business School. Eighty-five percent of independent restaurants are at risk of closing by the end of the year, according to the Independent Restaurant Association. Many have turned to services like Doordash and Seamless to stay afloat.

Angie Mar, executive chef and owner of The Beatrice Inn in New York City, had to completely shift her business model in the midst of the pandemic.

“We had to completely do a 180,” she recently told Nightline. “We pivoted to take out and delivery, which we had never done before… Our takeout business is doing well, but, regardless, it's a fraction of the amount of money that we were making before.”

Like restaurants, other industries have also been forced to embrace technology. The travel industry, which counts itself among the hardest industries, saw U.S. airline passenger volumes drop 75% compared to this time last year, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Hotels, another crucial aspect of the travel industry, have felt the impact as well.

Earlier this year, Marriott, one of the largest hotel chains in the world, had closed roughly 2,000 of its global locations. Although over 90% of the company’s hotels are back open today, during the peak of the pandemic in April, the company saw revenue per room drop 90%.

With New York City in the fourth phase of its reopening plan, the hotel giant is using its Brooklyn Bridge location as an early adopter of its mobile technology. Via the Marriott Bonvoy app guests can check-in, check-out, order room service and toiletries and even open their room with a digital key.

“Well, obviously we are in the teeth of the [pandemic] still and we're obviously wrestling with it in different parts of the world," Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, told ABC News’s Rebecca Jarvis on Nightline. “So, what we've done quickly is say, ‘Let's make sure we're getting the safety, cleanliness protocols in place that are essential in a time of a pandemic like this,’ which means more intensive guest room cleaning between guests, social distancing in the public spaces, shields and the like in the public spaces -- probably less food and beverage service.”

As many of these industries implement new technologies to adjust to the “new normal”, there is still the looming question of whether or not jobs will return. Over 50 million people have filed for unemployment in the last six months and some wonder if technology will replace jobs lost during the pandemic.

As uncertainty continues to surround the trajectory of the virus and the timeline of a potential vaccine, industry experts are cautiously preparing to accept the new normal.

“There is no going back to pre-COVID because that doesn't exist,” Tsai said. “We'll have already gone through this experience of being in this global pandemic and a lot of the challenges in society and technology in these industries are now exposed.”

“The guests are really happy with On Demand kind of experiences,” Musk said. “What you don’t want to do is turn this into a fast casual experience or a fast food experience. … This is not fast food. So, I think balancing that is important. But from a guest convenience and guest happiness perspective, and from a team safety perspective, it’s pretty hard to imagine going back.”

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JuSun/iStock(LYON, France) -- As COVID-19 cases around the United States continue to rise, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), says that governments are seeing an "alarming" rate of cyberattacks aimed at major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.

A new report released by the organization says that malicious actors have switched focus from "individuals and small businesses to government agencies and the healthcare sector, where higher financial demands can be made."

“With organizations and businesses rapidly deploying remote systems and networks to support staff working from home, criminals are also taking advantage of increased security vulnerabilities to steal data, generate profits and cause disruption,” the organization's news release says.

Of global cyber-scams, 59% are coming in the form of spear phishing, which according to the technology group Trend Micro, "is a potent variant of phishing, a malicious tactic which uses emails, social media, instant messaging, and other platforms to get users to divulge personal information or perform actions that cause network compromise, data loss, or financial loss."

"By deploying COVID-19 themed phishing emails, often impersonating government and health authorities, cybercriminals entice victims into providing their personal data and downloading malicious content," the statement says.

The agency says some of the top COVID-19 spear phishing tactics include scammers using emails immitating national or global health experts, government orders and financial support initiatives, payment requests, vaccine offers, COVID-19 tracking apps, stock tips and COVID-19 charity donations.

Interpol says that 36% of the cyberthreats come from malware and ransomware, which is defined by the technology group Forcepoint as software that "typically consists of code developed by cyber-attackers, designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network."

According to Interpol, the organization identified and analyzed 200,000 malicious domains affecting more than 80 member countries. Forty-eight out of the 194 member countries participated in survey, conducted in April and May of 2020, with 42% participation coming from Europe. Nearly 22% of the countries surveyed reported malicious domains with the keyword "Corona" or "COVID" as key words.

The report also said an increasing amount of misinformation has been spreading rapidly and includes "unverified information, inadequately understood threats, and conspiracy theories [that] have contributed to anxiety in communities and in some cases facilitated the execution of cyberattacks."

Interpol offers recommendations such as up-to-date information sharing between countries and an increase in public/private partnerships to combat the threat of cyberattacks.

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Anatoliy Sizov/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has changed his tune on TikTok -- somewhat.

Backing away from an immediate ban, Trump said on Monday if Microsoft or another "secure" and "very American" company doesn't buy the U.S. leg of the Chinese-owned operation by Sept. 15, the wildly-popular video app will cease operating in the U.S.

"I set a date of around Sept. 15, at which point it's going to be out of business," Trump told White House reporters. "But if somebody, and whether it's Microsoft or somebody else, buys it, that'll be interesting."

Adding that the brand name is "hot" right now, Trump said, "It's a great asset, but it's not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States. So it'll close down on Sept. 15, unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal."

"TikTok is loved by 100 million Americans because it is a home for entertainment, self-expression, and connection," a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement Monday night. "We're motivated by their passion and creativity, and committed to continuing to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform as we build TikTok for the long term. TikTok will be here for many years to come."

The president had threatened to ban the app through executive authority amid security concerns with its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, but his softened position Monday followed a call with Microsoft's CEO as the company enters talks to purchase TikTok in the U.S.

After Microsoft disclosed the news in a blog post Sunday, Trump confirmed he spoke to its CEO, Satya Nadella, over the weekend on the potential acquisition and called their conversation "great."

"He called me to see whether or not -- how I felt about it and I said, 'Look, it can't be controlled for security reasons by China. Too big, too invasive and it can't be,'" Trump said, adding he recommended Microsoft buy the entire company as opposed to one leg of it, which Trump said can get complicated.

In the earlier statement, Microsoft, on track to benefit from an increased social media app presence, confirmed its interest.

"Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President's concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury," the statement read.

The company said it and ByteDance have provided formal notice of their intent to explore a deal to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which would result in Microsoft owning and operating TikTok services in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Amid concerns about security and censorship surrounding the potential acquisition, Microsoft went on to say it would ensure that all private data of TikTok's American users is transferred to the U.S. and that if any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the country, Microsoft would ensure it's deleted after transfer.

The statement ended with a warning that "discussions are preliminary and there can be no assurance that a transaction which involves Microsoft will proceed."

Trump on Monday appeared to suggest Microsoft would have to pay the U.S. government in order to complete the deal and compared the relationship of the app in the U.S. to that of a landlord and tenant, saying, "Without a lease, the tenant has nothing."

"A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States. Because we're making it possible for this deal to happen," Trump said. "Right now they don't have any rights, unless we give it to them. So if we're going to give them the rights, it has to come into this country."

It's unclear under which federal authority Trump is speaking to as the U.S. government does not take cuts of the deals it approves.

The video app has an estimated 65-80 million active monthly users in the U.S., who share short videos with quick edits, music and filters.

It has become the subject of intense scrutiny with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo casting the app as a national security threat.

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PPAMPicture/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Independent Restaurant Coalition tapped one of the most recognizable voices in entertainment to capture America's attention and help shine a spotlight on the dark reality of what's at stake for bars and restaurants in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman narrates a new television ad released by the IRC on Monday that calls for help from Congress and the public as restaurants are "facing extinction."

His track lines begin over restaurant sounds diners used to hear regularly -- laughs, clinking glasses, line cooks calling orders, music -- juxtaposed with images of restaurants that have shuttered during shutdowns across the country due to coronavirus.

Thank you @Morgan_Freeman and @AndrewZimmern for helping to spread the word about my #RESTAURANTSAct.

Time is running out to save our independent restaurants. We need to act NOW! #SaveRestaurants. pic.twitter.com/XXDqrCc1uX

— Earl Blumenauer (@repblumenauer) August 3, 2020

The video, produced by Emmy Award-winning chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern's production company, Intuitive Content, concisely details how the pandemic has disproportionately decimated independent bars and restaurants.

Throughout the 58-second clip, Freeman talks about the 16 million people employed by independent restaurants who face uncertain employment prospects as the pandemic enters its sixth month.

"The COVID-19 crisis threatens to permanently close 85% of independent restaurants -- 16 million people risk losing their jobs -- disproportionately impacting people of color and single mothers," Freeman says over a video of workers from all walks of life, from farmers to wait staff, in masks. "One in four people who lost their jobs during the pandemic were restaurant workers."

"Without your help, our favorite places to eat will be gone forever," Freeman continues before urging viewers to "tell Congress to pass the RESTAURANTS Act now."

The latest public appeal to Congress comes as H.R. 7197 the RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 gains momentum in both the U.S. House and the Senate.

The legislation -- which was first introduced in June by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., alongside Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. (3rd Congressional District), and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Ps. (1st Congressional District) -- would create a $120,000,000,000 Restaurant Revitalization Fund "to provide structured relief to food service or drinking establishments" through the end of the year. The funds would also prioritize grants to marginalized and underrepresented communities and businesses that make less than $1.5 million a year.

Over 165 members of Congress have co-sponsored the bill that would ultimately protect 16 million people employed by independent restaurants.

"Restaurants have lost more jobs and revenue than any other economic sector because of COVID-19," Sen. Wicker wrote on Twitter in his post with the new ad.

Chefs and members of the food service industry have repeatedly raised their voices amid the ongoing pandemic to amplify calls for government help in order to support their small businesses.

José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, Rick Bayless, Camilla Marcus and Tom Colicchio are among a long list of top leaders in the chef community who shared the video on Monday with their hundreds of thousands of combined followers.

Co-sponsors of the bill, along with food columnists, cookbook authors and an array of food industry partners have shared the campaign to get people to join the coalition on saverestaurants.com, to notify state representatives and ask for support.

Once a person fills in their place of residence, an automated prompt will fill in a letterform to be sent to that constituent's representatives.

"500,000 independent restaurants and 11 million jobs are on the brink of going away forever if they don't receive this critical support," the message reads. "Unlike most businesses that can just turn their lights on, restaurants across the country are restricted from reopening their dining rooms, and will have capacity restrictions when they do. In order for restaurants to serve communities again and assist in reigniting the economy, they need this critical support from the federal government."

The ad featuring Freeman will be featured throughout the week online and on-air in several markets across the country, the Independent Restaurant Coalition announced.

The spot comes on the heels of new data from restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates, first reported by Bloomberg News on Friday, that projects one in three U.S. restaurants could close permanently in 2020.

"As many as 231,000 of the nation's roughly 660,000 eateries will likely shut down this year," Bloomberg reported from the consulting group's estimate. "This will bring the industry's steady growth to a halt and mark the first time in two decades that U.S. restaurant counts don't climb. Restaurants have already shed millions of jobs this year, economic data show."

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RiverNorthPhotography/iStockBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Just in time for back to school, DSW is honoring teachers in a beautiful way.

The retailer announced it will be giving free shoes for a year and $10,000 to deserving teachers who have stepped up during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest campaign aims to serve as a "thank you" and aid to educators for the upcoming school year.

Between now and Aug. 12, customers are being asked to nominate their favorite teachers for a chance to win.

"We know how difficult the pandemic has been on everyone, especially teachers who are navigating this new wave of education and parents who are at home with their children, working double-duty." said DSW CMO Amy Stevenson. "We wanted to show appreciation for these unsung heroes and hopefully make an upcoming and unusual school year a little easier."

United States teachers can be nominated by emailing teachersweeps@dsw.com along with the following:

  • Nominee's full name, email address, phone number
  • School name and school district
  • Why your nominee deserves to win
  • Your name and email

Ten of the winners will receive $10,000 to go towards virtual learning and updating classrooms to be COVID-safe. It also is being given to help under-privileged students who might not have access to necessary resources. Winners will also receive a $650 DSW gift card equalling out to about a year's worth of shoes.

There will be 50 winners who receive $1,000 to help with the new school year and a $100 DSW gift card, and all winners will be announced on Aug. 19.

The shoe retailer is also offering 20% off exclusively to teachers throughout August.

DSW will additionally be launching a parent recognition contest starting on Aug. 17 where 50 parents will receive free shoes for their entire family. To win, parents are being encouraged to post their favorite or funniest memory of teaching during stay-at-home orders amid COVID-19.

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raw206/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Lord & Taylor has become the latest retailer to file for bankruptcy as the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on retail chains and sales around the country.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in the Eastern Court of Virginia on Sunday.

"Today, we announced or search for a new owner who believes in our legacy and values," the company said in a statement on its website. "Part of our announcement also includes filing for Chapter 11 protection to overcome the unprecedented strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our business."

Just last year Lord & Taylor sold its flagship building on New York City's Fifth Avenue after more than a century in the 11-story building.

"Thank you for your support, now more than ever," the statement continued. "Our mission is to continue to serve you, your family and your community for generations to come."

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DenisTangneyJr/iStockBY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- It's not often Harvard and Yale students come to an agreement, but during the annual football game last November students and alumni came together to urge their respective universities to divest from fossil fuels.

A group of about 250 protested on the field at the Yale Bowl, delaying the game for about an hour before the start of the second half. Eventually, around 2 dozen people were arrested. 

Despite the pressure from students neither school has announced any decisions to divest. 

The divestment movement started in the mid-2000s by students at Swarthmore College. Divestment has a simple premise, if it's wrong to cause climate change, then it's wrong to profit off of causing climate change. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, several schools both large and small have decided to divest in the past few months. One of the latest is the University of Vermont, who announced the decision on July 14. 

Suresh Garimella, Vermont’s President, told ABC News’ ‘Perspective’ podcast, the decision to divest is in line with the university’s commitment to the environment and sustainability. 

“This decision to divest from fossil fuels extends the tradition of significant and decisive steps that, I think set the University of Vermont apart, because we have led not only on academic programming but also in research, facilities, the way we do transportation on campus and campus programs,” Garimella said. 

In the announcement, Vermont said they have already ended new investments into fossil fuels, will allow pre-existing private investments to end without renewal and plan to be fully divested from public investments by July 2023. 


May Boeve, an executive director at 350.org, an environmental group looking to end the use of fossil fuels, told ‘Perspective’ Vermont’s timeline is more aggressive than usual.

“The main demand has been to divest over five years. This three-year commitment is really ambitious and really should be celebrated. It's important to understand when the campaign [to divest] was picking up steam, we didn't know as much as we know now about just how quickly these changes have to happen. It's great that the students at UVM really pushed for this to happen faster,” Boeve said.

She says to date over 1200 institutions have either divested or committed to divest from fossil fuels. 

Ron Lumbra, the Chairman of the Board Trustees at UVM, tells ABC News students deserve credit for their research into divesting.

“They were studious, thoughtful, balanced in their approach, and thinking about the elements around sustainability and divestment. [They] really looked at the complexity of it. It's a very complicated situation when you're looking at managing an endowment and university portfolio with a 100-plus year time horizon in mind. These are not the type of situations that you take lightly,” Lumbra said.

He says normally the board wouldn't let societal issues dictate what they did with the endowment, but divesting from fossil fuels is different.

“What allowed this to come together is that the environment is so much a key to our mission at the University of Vermont, our focus on the environment and the programs we offer an environment. This particular issue is different than other societal issues and that's the thing that got the board really focused. This is a place where we can tie our investment decisions together with our mission and our brand,” Lumbra said.

In his view, fossil fuels aren't the best investment long term.

“I think folks will come to the perspective that it's becoming a decreasingly attractive investment with a long term horizon in mind given the opportunity for green investments, the greening of our economy, and the focus on renewables,” Lumbra said.

Boeve says the economic argument isn't enough to swing people since oil and gas are still profitable right now, that’s why she has a different approach. 

“We focus on the fact that it's the right thing to do and no matter what the price of oil is at any given day, we know it's very volatile, it's still important to divest because we have to fight the climate crisis now,” Boeve said. 

For other schools thinking about divesting Lumbra says they can learn from what Vermont has done.

“I would encourage [schools] to understand the world has changed.  If you look at the investment ecosystem, the focus on ESG [Environmental, social and corporate governance], is only increasing in the investment management world outside of academia. There's a lot to learn about what professional investors are doing in terms of sustainability and wise, prudent investments,” Lumbra said.

350.org wants to see all universities divest, but for the organization, there is one school that would make the biggest impact, Harvard.

“They have a huge endowment, they have been very resistant to divestment and their students have waged a campaign for many, many years,” Boeve said.

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courtneyk/iStockBy TRISH TURNER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Unemployment benefits expire as Congress is deadlocked on new potential stimulus plan.

As federal pandemic unemployment benefits officially expire on Friday, Congress and the Trump administration are no closer to a deal that would salvage any portion of a $600-per-week check that, as of last weekend, would affect some 30 million Americans.

A last-ditch effort was mounted by Senate Republicans Thursday evening, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulling back members -- many had already left for home for the weekend -- to vote on a plan that would cut the weekly federal benefit to $200, or two-thirds of lost wages. Democrats unanimously opposed the measure, authored by GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Indiana's Mike Braun, saying the effort was merely a cynical political stunt after the majority dithered for months.

Democrats also refused to accept a seven-day extension of jobless benefits, saying any such extension would be pointless given that no deal is in the offing.

"What is a one-week extension good for? A one-week extension is good if you have a bill and you're working it out -- the details, the writing of it, legislative counsel ... that's what a one-week extension is about. That is, it's worthless. It's worthless unless you are using it for this purpose," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after a late-night meeting between herself, Senate counterpart Chuck Schumer of New York, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

House Democrats passed a bill more than two months ago that would keep the jobless benefits at the current rate through the end of the year, part of a $3 trillion bill that would provide funding to front-line workers, the health care industry, schools and state and local governments.

Republicans have argued that businesses haven't been able to rehire workers who now may be taking in more from unemployment benefits than they would from returning to jobs.

Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion package this week that contains a liability shield to protect businesses, schools and other institutions from coronavirus-related lawsuits; gives $105 billion to schools, with two-thirds going to those that reopen; distributes another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to lower-income Americans; provides money for COVID-19 testing and to health care agencies at the center of the pandemic fight; and provides tax credits to hard-hit businesses.

But a number of Republicans rejected that proposal, leaving GOP leadership in the difficult position of needing a sizable number of Democrats to pass that. Republicans also have had to contend with bipartisan blowback from a number of extraneous, White House-requested spending measures unrelated to the pandemic -- $1.8 billion for a new FBI headquarters and $377 million for long-sought West Wing renovations.

The stalemate on a single issue -- jobless benefits -- foreshadowed a steep climb to any overall coronavirus relief bill as the sides remain far apart on many issues. Republicans and the White House also are not in agreement on how to move forward, creating a difficult environment in which to form a compromise.

Meadows on Friday sought to blame Democrats for the impasse.

"The Democrats have made zero offers -- zero," Meadows said. "We're going in the wrong direction."

But Thursday night, Schumer said it was the White House and Republicans who were out of touch.

"We just don't think they understand the gravity of the problem," the senator told reporters. "The bottom line is, this is the most serious health problem and economic problem we've had in a century and 75 years, and it takes really, good, strong bold action. And they don't quite get that."

Both administration officials and the two top congressional Democrats are expected to resume negotiations Friday by phone with a possible in-person meeting over the weekend.

All of this comes as House Democrats allow members to leave on a month-long recess, with their leadership warning them to be ready to return should a potential compromise emerge.

It's a sign of what many on both sides already know: That no deal is likely to emerge for weeks, if at all.

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JohnFScott/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Starbucks has been dynamic in its changes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is set to roll out a new blend of hybrid storefronts.

As more locations cater to curbside takeaway, drive-thru and mobile-only orders with coffee shop dinning spaces sealed off, the company announced on its earnings call that it will accelerate the rollout of new pick-up stores.

"In urban core markets where drive-thru and curbside aren't feasible, we will begin to reposition our store formats," CEO Kevin Johnson said Tuesday. "These stores are built in a smaller footprint and create a familiar and convenient walk-through experience that is very relevant to customers in urban markets."

The team explained that the new store concepts will "ideally be located within a three to five minute walk from a traditional Starbucks store" to give customers flexibility to enjoy beverage in our store or on the go.

"We plan to accelerate the development of over 50 of these stores over the next 12 to 18 months with a view to have several hundred in the U.S. over the next three to five years," the team added.

The director of the coffee company explained that data from their third quarter earnings which showed "customers are adapting their routines" ultimately prompted Starbucks' decision to start "accelerating innovative store formats."

The company plans to leverage its various store formats "to create a network of stores in a community," Johnson added. "Think of this as blending highly complementary store formats throughout a community that collectively better serves the expanding and shifting need states of customers in that community."

Additionally, Starbucks announced that it will introduce "a simple handheld device to further increase throughput and improve the customer experience."

There will also be a new curbside pick-up experience available in 700 to 1,000 locations by the end of this quarter to enable incremental customer visits.

"Our near-term focus is to recover sales safely and responsibly," Johnson said, adding that they have seen firsthand "the power of integrating physical and digital customer touchpoints to meet customers' growing need for convenience."

This fall, the brand will also enhance it's app-based loyalty program, Starbucks Rewards, with a new pay-as-you-go option for members in the U.S. and Canada.

Finally, Johnson reiterated that the businesses' "recovery strategy is working" and that Starbucks has "future-proofed" their model with strategic initiatives for long-term growth in the face of the pandemic.

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tortoon/iStockBy GMA TEAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus pandemic is an uncertain time for everyone, whether you have a job or are looking for one.

The unemployment rate in the United States has reached new heights, workers are adapting to the longer-term reality of working from home and many companies are slowing down hiring and promotions.

The unprecedented times have forced even career coaches to change the way they help workers.

Edith Cooper and Jordan Taylor are a mother-daughter duo who run Medley, a life and career coaching service. When the pandemic hit, they had to pivot their business from in-person coaching to virtual, so they know what people are going through.

Even with the uncertainty, Cooper and Taylor say people should not lose hope about either getting back into the workforce or advancing their careers.

"Prepare yourself to get comfortable taking the risks, putting yourself out there in conversations, pursuing opportunities," Cooper said in an interview which aired Thursday on Good Morning America. "That could lead to exciting things."

Here are Cooper and Taylor's three tips for keeping your career moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Ace a video interview.


With more job interviews done virtually rather than in-person, Taylor said to make sure to put yourself in the best light.

"I would definitely encourage anybody who is interviewing online to make sure that they have light in front of them so that way, their face is well-lit and you can see them," she said.

For workers adapting to virtual meetings in their workplace, Taylor and Cooper also said to plan ahead so your voice is heard. For instance, if you know you have something to say in an upcoming meeting, reach out to your boss and ask to be thrown to during the virtual meeting so that you are sure to speak up.

2. Learn how to network from home.


Both Taylor and Cooper say to be direct when reaching out to potential employers and people in your field with whom you want to be connected.

"I have seen and been on the other side of a lot of really effective, cold, crisp emails that are able to get people's attention just by simply stating, 'Here's why I'm really excited about this business. Here's what I can bring to the table,'" said Taylor.

Cooper said to also not be afraid to reach out even if a job is not currently on the table.

"At times the ask may not be, 'I'd like to interview for a job,'" she said. "It may be, 'I'd like to learn about X with respect to your experiences and to opportunities that you think might exist in the future."

While you wait for a job opportunity to arise, Cooper and Taylor said to utilize the virtual networking site Linkedin, making sure your profile is updated and includes a photo.

3. Don't be afraid to voice your career intentions.


Even though your company may not be offering raises or promotions right now amid the pandemic, don't be afraid to speak up, advised Cooper.

"Unemployment is high and a lot of organizations are going through cost-cutting, but that does not suggest that you should not be having a conversation about where you stand and your career and what it will take for you to continue to advance," she said.

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WJTN News Headlines for Aug. 6, 2020

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