Business Headlines


(NEW YORK) — Saturday was a big win for the restaurant industry when the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that increased a grant program for restaurants to $28.6 billion.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, modeled after last year's Restaurants Act, was backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer and championed by leaders with the Independent Restaurant Coalition, an organization composed of hundreds of bar and restaurant owners who have fought for government assistance since April 2020.

One of the group's co-founders, Tom Colicchio, owner of Crafted Hospitality in New York, hailed the latest progress as a light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel for the industry.

"One year ago, independent restaurants and bars didn’t have a seat at the table in Washington. Today we are more organized than ever and delivered the first ever grant relief program for the industry," he said. "This relief fund gives hope to the entire independent restaurant and bar community -- line cooks, managers, bartenders, and operators from coffee shops, food trucks, bakeries and bistros can rest a bit more soundly tonight knowing help is on the way.”

"With Biden’s signature, local restaurants and bars will soon have access to grants they've needed for a long time, not loans like PPP, that failed to prevent the loss of 2 million jobs from the industry," the IRC said in a statement.

Erika Polmar, executive director of the IRC, added, “Independent restaurants and bars came together at the beginning of the pandemic with the hope that by working together for the first time, our industry could make a big impact -- and that’s what we did.”

Other leaders who have pushed for rescue plans, including Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said the passage of dedicated direct relief is "incredibly hopeful."

New York City’s restaurants and bars "will now receive direct grants to help pay rent, payroll, vendors expenses and more," Rigie said. "The passage of the American Rescue Plan will save countless small businesses and jobs, and serve as a critical milestone on the path to recovery. We thank Senate Majority Leader Schumer for his partnership and exceptional leadership, and our New York congressional delegation for fighting for this crucial restaurant industry support."

The relief bill passed with all Senate Democrats supporting and all Republicans opposing.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas service workers converged outside the Capitol building in Austin on Monday to request vaccine access and demand that the state's mask mandate stay in place until that happens.

On March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced an end to the state's mask order starting March 10. Businesses can reopen at full capacity, he said.

Monday afternoon's rally was hosted by the Restaurant Organizing Project, Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee, Austin Mutual Aid and Texas Amplified Sound Coalition, which claim that Abbott's insistence on ending the mask order shows that he's willing to sacrifice the lives of restaurant workers, grocery workers and other essential service employees.

"In addition to us now facing an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, we now face increased risk of violence and abuse from customers who will not adhere to our store policies to continue mask policies until the CDC advises us they are no longer needed," the groups said in a statement Monday.

The advocates want 70% of essential service workers, from bartenders to delivery drivers to hotel workers, to be vaccinated before Texas fully opens and the mask mandate is dropped, Crystal Maher, a rally organizer, told ABC News before the event.

Maher, a server and cashier at an Austin pizza shop, said she hopes the rally empowers essential workers to stand up for their health and employment rights.

Texas politicians are "not doing one thing to help us get back to work safely and efficiently," Maher said. "They're just trying to get open, get money."

"We're replaceable to them," she said. "We've had enough."

One sign at the rally said: "We won't die to serve you."

"Service workers in Texas have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one," Liz, an Austin service worker who did not give her last name, told the crowd at the rally. "We have endured hazardous work environments with no compensation for the risk that we have taken. And those that are meant to serve us, our politicians, have shown us that they are not willing to take profit losses, even if means saving our lives.”

"Greg Abbott has decided to reopen the Texas economy without the consent of those that carry it on their backs," she said.

Abbott told ABC Houston station KTRK-TV last week that "all the metrics are moving in the right direction" and "the numbers are adequate for people to be able to go back to work, open up and get back to a sense of normalcy.”

Abbott added, "If businesses don't feel safe opening, they should not be required to."

Maher told ABC News, "We currently have a petition that is going around that we need signed because we need to put pressure on the [state's] Vaccine Allocation Panel to actually reclassify us to get us even eligible to receive a vaccine."

Service worker Karen Hamilton said at the rally that she was forced to quit her job because the business is "opening up 100%" and she has a heart condition and an auto-immune disease that makes her more susceptible COVID-19. Though she qualifies for a vaccine, Hamilton said she hasn't been able to schedule an appointment yet.

Texans currently eligible for vaccines are: front-line health care workers, long-term care residents, school and child care personnel, people 65 and older and people under 65 with specific health conditions.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The classic milk chocolate candy bar swapped its usual packaging to honor females for International Women's Day.

The brand's "Celebrate HerSHEy's" bars highlight the word at the center of the logo to "honor all the women and girls out there" the company announced in a press release.

On Monday, the first 1,000 visitors at each of the Hershey’s Chocolate World locations -- Hershey, Pennsylvania, New York City Times Square and Las Vegas -- will receive one of the limited-edition bars to celebrate a woman in their life.

"Thousands of people walk through our doors at Hershey’s Chocolate World every day and create lifelong memories," vice president of The Hershey Experience, Suzanne Jones, said in a statement. "We couldn’t think of a better place to put a smile on a face through the simple gesture of ‘Celebrating SHE’ and honoring all the women in our lives by giving out these limited-edition chocolate bars."

The brand also created a short inspirational film that features an eclectic group of women whose achievements have impacted and inspired the world, including Gloria Steinem, Gilda Radner, Marsai Martin and Katherine Johnson.

To the iconic women who lead us, inspire us, and define a new world before us – we celebrate you. Join us in our celebration of ‘SHE’ throughout the month of March. Share a woman you are celebrating with #CelebrateSHE

— HERSHEY'S (@Hersheys) March 5, 2021

Hershey’s also kicked off a social media campaign for followers to share a photo of a woman they celebrate with the hashtag #CelebrateSHE. Photos will be reposted on the company's channels.

“We want to encourage everyone to share some extra goodness and take a moment to celebrate the ‘SHEs’; the women and girls who have inspired us, motivated us and have made a positive change in our lives," Veronica Villasenor, a Hershey company vice president, said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ridofranz/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine expands across the country, experts tell ABC News that employers in high-risk industries have begun to wrestle with a new and vexing question: Can a company require its employees to be vaccinated?

Some employees have already begun to push back on the idea. First responders in New Mexico have sued after a county official ordered firefighters, corrections officers and other first responders to receive injections. And at the 120-bed Rock Haven Nursing Home in Wisconsin, 21 employees quit after nursing home administrators and county officials issued a vaccine mandate for the staff.

Michael Anderson, an attorney who is representing 15 Rock Haven staff members who are threatening legal action, said his clients objected to being forced into "a cold mental calculation." He said the choice they faced was, "Do I quit or do I do something I really don't want?"

"They have risked their lives for more than a year," Anderson said. "A few of my clients took the vaccine, but they felt coerced to do that."

Anderson said he has filed notice of his clients' intent to sue, but a suit has not yet been filed.

Rock Haven County Administrator Josh Smith said that the decision to require mandatory shots was done to boost the safety of the facility's vulnerable residents.

In an examination of long-term care facilities across the country, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 62% of nursing home workers are refusing the vaccine. At the same time, medical experts say the vaccines are extremely effective and overwhelmingly safe, with a recent CDC report showing an extremely low rate of serious adverse reactions.

Experts said that, broadly speaking, nursing homes face a difficult choice.

The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in nursing homes is believed to be behind a significant decline in deaths and hospitalizations, after state and federal health officials made vaccinating nursing homes one of their top priorities. Each of the three currently available vaccines -- made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson -- has been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in response to the pandemic.

But none of the vaccines has been formally approved yet -- and many experts say that, while mandatory vaccinations in the workplace are not new, it's unusual for employers to mandate a vaccine that hasn't been granted full FDA approval.

"I believe at the present time that it is unethical to require a treatment that was approved under an emergency authorization," Mike Wasserman, a member of the California's Vaccine Advisory Committee, told ABC News.

However, said Wasserman, there's nothing wrong with laying out the benefits and risks of getting vaccinated.

"It behooves us to take the time and energy to respect, honor and value those who have put their lives on the line for the past year, and do everything in our power to help them make the best decision for them as individuals," he said.

Nelson Goodin, who represents the local New Mexico official who was sued for issuing a vaccine mandate for first responders, said there are legitimate reasons to require vaccinations.

"When you have a detention center, particularly where there's potential for severe spread of COVID-19, we have to keep our firefighters who are emergency medical responders and our correctional officers safe," said Goodin, whose client directed all detention center officers, firefighters and first responders in Doña Ana County to be vaccinated.

Under the directive, employees faced termination if they did not show proof that they had either received a shot or had registered with the state's COVID-19 vaccine registry.

The detention officer who filed the suit against the official did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Jennifer Miller, a bioethicist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, told ABC News that because COVID-19 is a critical and pressing health issue, the emergency use authorization would justify mandating a vaccine.

"We all have an ethical obligation to try and pursue behaviors that will not expose others to COVID risks," Miller said. "So that means we have responsibilities as individuals to wear masks, to isolate if we are infected, and, arguably, to get vaccinated."

Officials at DaySpring Senior Living, a nursing home in Florida, decided to require that staff members be vaccinated because they considered it the fastest way to get life at the facility back to normal, said administrator Douglas Adkins. For now, he said, the staff has responded favorably; only one employee resigned after the mandate was issued.

"Making the vaccine mandatory was absolutely without question the right decision," Adkins said, calling it a "clear solution" to the challenges of a long and exhausting year.

Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, is researching legal and policy issues related to vaccines. She told ABC News that given the risks of the virus spreading in congregate settings like nursing homes and correctional facilities, it's reasonable for employers to require employees to get a coronavirus vaccination.

"The staff have a duty to do everything they can to avoid bringing COVID into the workplace," Reiss said.

At the same time, said Reiss, "we also have to remember that those who are refusing the vaccine are not anti-vaccine activists; they are people who have been under enormous pressure for over a year, and they are just scared."

That was the situation with 34-year-old Bonnie Jacobson, who was fired last month from her New York waitressing job after expressing concerns about getting the vaccine before research on its effects on fertility has been completed.

"I want to make it clear: I'm not an anti-vaxxer," Jacobson, who is considering starting a family, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I just need more research to come out."

But attorney Matt Murphy, an ABC News contributor, said employers are within their right to mandate the vaccine for employees.

"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as long as they're not requesting information from an employee, it's legal to require the vaccine," he said.

Nevertheless, said Murphy, "I think we're going to see endless litigation over this issue."

"Everything COVID-related is messy," he said. "I think this is going to go on for years."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — It's the dilemma every automaker is frantically trying to solve: Convincing Americans to give up gas-powered cars for electric vehicles.

The barriers are diverse. There's range anxiety. A lack of nationwide chargers. Steep prices. A general bewilderedness of what an electric vehicle is and how it works.

Tesla, of course, has dominated the burgeoning electric vehicle market since its curvy, high-tech Model S sedan launched in June 2012.

Even with the introduction of EVs from European and from mainstream brands -- General Motors, Nissan, Audi, Jaguar, Audi, Hyundai -- Tesla continues to outsell the competition. In fact, four of the five bestselling EVs in the U.S. are Teslas.

"Tesla is clearly the most successful EV company -- ever," Karl Brauer, executive publisher of the website CarExpert, told ABC News.

Teslas are not inexpensive. The rear-wheel drive base Model 3 starts at $36,990. The Model S in "Plaid " trim -- Tesla's most powerful model with an alarmingly fast 0-60 mph time of 1.99 seconds -- sets buyers back at least $134,490. Tesla showed consumers are "willing to pay up" for EVs, noted Brauer.

Many automakers, however, are deciding to build snappy EVs that offer solid range at attractive prices -- a strategy that could pump up sales and market share -- of EVs this year. The average transaction price of an EV in 2020 was $54,206 vs. an industry average of $39,251 -- an increase of 38.1%, according to Edmunds.

Take GM for example. The redesigned 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV, available this summer, has an MSRP of $31,995 -- a saving of more than $5,000 from the 2021 model. The compact EV gets an estimated 259 miles on a full charge. Both the Bolt EV and the all-new Bolt EUV, similar in design to the EV but slightly larger and more SUV-like with an estimated range of 250 miles, are fitted with 65 kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery packs. The single-motor drive unit in the Bolts deliver a peppy 200 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft. of torque -- plenty fine for daily drives and routine errands.

GM is so committed to its electrified future (30 new EVs globally by 2035) that the company will cover standard installation of Level 2 charging capability for customers who purchase or lease a 2022 Bolt EUV or Bolt EV.

"We want customers for life," Jesse Ortega, architectural chief engineer of the Chevrolet Bolt, told reporters in February. "We have a golden opportunity here. EVs are now more attainable to a whole lot more customers with the lower price point.”

The most affordable EV on the market currently belongs to British marque MINI Cooper. The quirky automaker unveiled its hardtop two-door SE last March. Roughly 1,200 units of the $29,995 hatchback have been sold in the U.S. and more than 80% of SE buyers are new to the brand, according to Andrew Cutler, a MINI spokesperson.

What the SE lacks in range -- an estimated 110 miles -- it makes up for in retro styling and performance, with go-kart handling, instant torque and smooth acceleration. Cutler pointed out that a majority of Americans commute an average of 40 miles round-trip per day, well below the SE's industry-maligned range.

"You plug-in at night, unplug in the morning and drive all day," he said. "The SE is a fun, electric escape pod."

Volkswagen's battery-powered ID.4 goes for the jugular of non-electric rivals like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. The rear electric motor in the ID.4 ($39,995 for the entry-level Pro model and $43,995 for the 1st Edition, which, according to VW, is completely sold out) puts out 201 hp and 229 lb.-ft. of torque and the 82kWh battery allows the sporty EV to travel 250 miles between charges.

The ride style depends on the owner. Newbies to one-pedal driving will likely prefer the default mode, which allows the ID.4 to coast whenever the driver's foot is off the accelerator or brake pedal, mimicking how a traditional internal combustion engine operates. Either way, VW promises its first all-electric SUV and the brand's first global EV will be an engaging experience. Plus, the Volkswagen ID.4 comes with three years of unlimited public DC fast charging on the Electrify America network -- a move by VW to win over more customers.

"We are at a tipping point with EVs," Dustin Krause, Volkswagen's director of e-mobility, told ABC News. "Curiosity is strong for the ID.4. This is an opportunity for people to get reacquainted with the brand.”

Ivan Drury, a senior manager at Edmunds, said an EV's range may actually be more important than price for consumers debating whether to join the electric car revolution.

"Higher ranger is definitely helping to persuade people to give up their ICE vehicles," he told ABC News. "Range is so critical and it's increasing every model year -- 250 to 300 miles is the sweet spot."

Drury noted that owners of gas, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles put more miles on the odometer than EV buyers. If range anxiety fades away, EVs can go from being an "experiment" to a daily conveyance, he said.

Electrics will grow on Americans when a large selection of battery-powered trucks and SUVs are available, according to Brauer. He does like the $37,390 Hyundai all-electric KONA SUV, which offers 258 miles of range and is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit -- along with most EVs, except Bolts and Teslas.

"Fear and apprehension are keeping a lot of people from buying EVs," Brauer said, adding, "Tesla has created an EV following that's not based on natural consumer behavior. It's based on a personality, a cult.”

Brauer and Drury agree that Ford's trumpeted Mustang Mach-E -- starting price $42,895 -- may be the EV that truly woos undecided motorists and helps end the nation's fascination with giant gas-guzzlers. The slinky SUV boasts an estimated range of up to 300 miles and the more pricey GT version posts a 0-60 mph sprint of 3.8 seconds, faster than some conventional Mustangs on the road today.

"Ford has taken a product every American is fully aware of -- the Mustang -- and has done something controversial," Drury said. "Can it convert Tesla owners to becoming Ford owners? That would be a paradigm shift.”

According to Darren Palmer, global director of battery electric vehicles at Ford, the sexy SUV has already persuaded existing EV owners to swap their vehicles for the Mach-E and 65% of people who put deposits down were Ford neophytes. Like VW, Ford is sweetening the deal for new owners of a Mach-E, giving 250 kilowatt hours of free charging through FordPass Rewards at Electrify America fast-charging stations. The Dearborn automaker expects global sales of the Mach-E to reach 50,000 units in its first 12 months of production.

"Americans are not quite ready for EVs," Palmer told ABC News. "This vehicle shows them what's possible.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate for February down by a fraction of a percentage point to 6.2%, the Department of Labor said Friday.

Friday's jobs report highlights how the pace of the labor market's recovery remains hampered by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The pre-pandemic unemployment rate in the U.S. was 3.5%.

Notable job gains last month occurred in leisure and hospitality (which saw an uptick of 355,000) that the DOL linked to easing pandemic-related restrictions. Employment declined last month in state and local government education (which saw a loss of 69,000 jobs) and construction (which shed 61,000 jobs).

"The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," the DOL said.

Julia Pollak, a labor economist for the jobs site ZipRecruiter, told ABC News ahead of the report's release that hiring figures last month remain "disappointing" and "not consistent with a robust recovery."

"I think in the winter it was really just hard for the economy to recover much, given the fact that it's now so sensitive to weather with outdoor services beings the only show in town," she said.

"We also had this winter surge in COVID cases that led to renewed restrictions," Pollak added. "So it was a difficult time for employers to get back to business at full steam."

The DOL said in its release Friday that "severe winter weather across much of the country may have held down employment in construction," which saw some of the highest job losses last month.

Still, Pollak said that she holds some optimism for the labor market going forward, citing recent falling case counts across the country and a vaccine rollout that is "finally accelerating."

While it may not be captured in February's jobs report, Pollak said employers "really started expanding capacity and posting jobs in February, and that will translate into hiring in March."

Friday's data also highlighted the uneven recoveries for workers when broken down by racial groups. The unemployment rate last month for Black workers was 9.9% and for Hispanic workers was 8.5%. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for white workers was 5.6%.

Pollak also noted that the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women in the workforce, who have borne the brunt of child care responsibilities amid school closures and remote learning.

"For all the progress that women have made in the labor force in the last few years, it's often mothers who have to stay home and are forced out of their careers," she said.

Citing Census Current Population Survey data, she added, "It's women with children who had the largest decline in labor force participation."

Pollak said some threats to the recovery still lurk, including the concerning spread of new COVID-19 variants even amid the vaccine rollout.

"We can't possibly know what what's going to happen in the future; there's still tremendous uncertainty," she said. "But the news right now is overwhelmingly positive on the vaccine front and on the decline in cases."

And at a time when "the economy's never been so tied to the weather," Pollak added, the coming of spring also offers a bright spot for restaurants and other industries.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- With summer just three months away and people eager to start booking travel, one cruise line is offering a way for people to do so amid the pandemic.

Royal Caribbean said this week its newest ship is set to hit the seas in May from Israel -- and all passengers must be vaccinated.

The news and interest in safely planning summer travel as first reported by the Washington Post, comes as President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May.

According to Hayley Berg, the head of air intelligence at Hopper, a travel booking app, there's been an increase in demand for summer travel.

"We're seeing a huge surge in demand specifically for spring and summer travel in the last two weeks alone," Berg told ABC News' Good Morning America. "We've seen more than 100% increase in searches."

But is traveling this summer safe? Several infectious disease experts who spoke with GMA are optimistic about it on the condition that cases continue to come down and everyone who is traveling is vaccinated.

Dr. Natalie Dean, a biostatistician specializing in infectious diseases with the University of Florida, said she's planning on traveling with her husband and two young children this year. While her kids won't be vaccinated, she plans on taking precautions. Children can spread the disease, but severe cases are less common among young children and only 2% of child COVID-19 cases result in hospitalization, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"These vaccines are highly effective against the disease, particularly severe disease," said Dean. "And so that really changes the math about what we're willing to do."

Like Dean, Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said he's feeling hopeful about traveling to see family this summer.

"My mother has fully received her vaccinations and feels safer," said Rubin. "And with declining transmission, that opportunity is open not just for my family, but for many families out there as we encourage our loved ones to get the vaccination."

Of the six experts who spoke with Good Morning America, all of them agreed that being vaccinated is the main factor for safe travel. And they all said they would feel safe traveling by plane while vaccinated and wearing a mask.

If you do plan on traveling this summer, they also suggested looking for direct flights to limit how much time you spend traveling in and out of airports.

Book early

Across the country, travel experts say that Americans are gearing up for the summer ahead by already making plans. The most popular plan of them all amid the pandemic? Camping.

According to Gary Garth, contributing outdoor columnist for USA Today, more than 50 million Americans are expected to hit the road and pop a tent or park their RV this summer. And according to, an outdoor site reservation service, bookings for 2021 are up 39% compared to the same time in 2020.

"One of the reasons why I think camping is so popular, it's a very safe activity," Garth told GMA. "Particularly, if you're in a developed campground, a state park campground or national park."

While it may not be on top of peoples' minds, it's important to make camping reservations ahead of time. And reservations typically go fast.

For example, with Memorial Day just two months away, campsites like the Great Smokies Cades Cove Campground, a popular campsite in Townsend, Tennessee, has only 12 spots out of over 150 left for the weekend.

"If you're hoping for a Memorial Day weekend spot, you may already be out of luck," said Heather Greenwood Davis, contributing editor at National Geographic. "While national parks have always been a really popular option this year, you may need to get a little more creative."

"We're looking at a summer that's going to be hard to get a site and is going to demand some action on your part if you actually want to make sure you secure one," Davis added.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still advising Americans not to travel. It's unclear if that will change by summer with more Americans vaccinated, but experts say even with vaccinations, it's critical that people watch the numbers and keep doing the simple things like wearing masks, washing hands and doing activities outside if possible.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


andresr/iStockBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Asian American communities have experienced a rise in hate incidents since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and with a resurgence in reports of racist behavior, restaurants, food industry professionals and policy leaders are sending a resounding message: "Stop Asian Hate."

Some restaurant owners have gone to great lengths to protect their workers. Jason Wang changed his operating hours to ensure a safe commute home for his cooks and staff who could potentially be targeted.

"We had decided to close earlier than restaurants usually do because employees' safety had always been a top priority for us," the Xian Famous Foods CEO told ABC News' Good Morning America. "We closed on Sundays and at 8:30 p.m. to avoid employees from getting home too late while people are still out and about."

Despite a loss in sales, Wang said "money can be regained."

"We have a significant number of Asian employees, and even during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, there were incidents of hate crimes circulating, before this recent wave," he said.

The CEO and owner said "multiple employees" of Xian Famous Foods "suffered attacks, all of whom were Asian." Two notable incidents happened in the subway, one in the early morning hours before work and another right after work in the evening and "both attacks were unprovoked," he said.

As a small business owner, Wang's plate has been full, putting out other daily fires relative to the pandemic and he hasn't had a chance to speak to others in the Asian restaurant community about the new incidents.

"I'm sure they are all impacted in some way, but the fact of it is, people are reluctant to speak up about it because we don't want to make the victims feel like they are being spotlighted in any way," he explained. "It's a traumatizing experience."

Fellow Asian American chef and restaurant owner Leah Cohen responded to the recent acts of hate in New York and elsewhere, telling GMA that it "is incredibly disheartening and exhausting to hear and see."

"My mother and family have been taking extra precautions," she said. "We have had many discussions about what is happening and how to ensure her safety, something I never thought we would have to address."

Cohen said they have been "very fortunate to have not experienced any issues at our restaurants [Pig and Khao and Piggyback Bar] beyond COVID restrictions and safety measures." She added, "We know we are fortunate in this regard and hope for the same for all of our colleagues in the industry."

In addition to calling on bystanders to help a victim in need, Wang said his concrete call to action is "strengthening the police patrol and action to deter these violent attacks."

Wang emphasized his hope that "people realize this is affecting people and businesses they care about, not just someone they don't know."

Virtual platforms turn up the volume on community support

On Wednesday, heavy hitters in the Los Angeles food community came together for a star-studded conversation on Clubhouse that raised money for Asian American Pacific Islander-owned restaurants.

Crystal Coser, an LA-based caterer and former associate editor for Eater, co-moderated the room that raised nearly $50,000 for the AAPI community and Off Their Plate, a nonprofit focused on food justice solutions.

As the daughter of a poor immigrant mother from South Korea, Coser told Good Morning America that "seeing all these hate crimes against our community -- it's really horrific -- my mom can't even watch the videos. It's so hard to see because it just looks like your grandparents. It's hard to talk about."

Coser's grandmother moved to the U.S. alone, unable to speak English, and opened a steamed bun and burger stand in Long Beach, California, just to make ends meet. All roads for Coser led to the food and hospitality industry.

"It's in my DNA," she said.

Coser and her longtime friend, food writer Andy Wang, recently reconnected on Clubhouse to start a weekly discussion called LA Food Gang. The two have used their platform to advocate for the Asian food community.

"We've seen how much particularly Asian restaurants have struggled during the pandemic," Coser said. "We were raising awareness, but I wanted to do something more and I have been working with Off Their Plate through my restaurant in the South Bay. We've served over 5,000 meals to hospitals and soup kitchens."

More broadly, Coser said she's never seen anything like the positive responses online.

"I'm so appreciative for Stop Asian Hate support that's happening right now on social media," she said. "The Asian culture is a lot about keeping to yourself and internalizing struggles. Being able to push the conversation forward is something I've never seen before. It's so moving that it's becoming normalized to have open conversations."

Policy changes to mitigate future risks

Last year, Manjusha Kulkarni said she co-founded Stop AAPI Hate, "because we began to see really the emergence of COVID-specific hate against Asian American community members."

"The fears are absolutely real and we saw that in the beginning last February," Kulkarni told GMA. "The racism spread more rapidly than the virus itself."

Kulkarni hailed groups like the LA Food Gang for "providing allyship and solidarity to Asian American restaurants."

"Asian restaurants saw a real drop off after COVID began to take hold in our nation, so efforts to provide support to our restaurants are so important and key in cultural transmission," she said. "Whatever efforts we can take and certainly that the restaurants can take to protect their safety is important."

She also encouraged better public education through poster campaigns, which she said are "helpful in this effort as we look at policy solutions."

"We encourage folks to put up signs in restaurants," she explained, suggesting messages like: "Hate will not be tolerated here."

"I think that can be a really positive step that all restaurants can take and for ones that aren't Asian American to show solidarity. The ones that are [Asian] run, it lets people know if you're coming into this space you need to respect us and our community," she said.

From March to December 2020, Kulkarni said their group logged over 2,800 anti-Asian incidents across all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

"It's not clear when you look at any particular incident what the exact motives are, but we see that there is this overall pattern," she said. "Community members are feeling really fearful nervous about their own safety and especially elders in the community."

Forty percent of the hate incidents Kulkarni has seen reported in Asian communities have happened at businesses -- from refusing service to Asian customers to making derogatory remarks and vandalism targeting Asian businesses.

"The vast majority are hate incidents and they're not hate crimes," she said of the reports. "We are looking towards solutions that bolster civil rights protections on the federal level, opportunities to better understand and address issues at the state level."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


nktwentythree/iStockBy TONY MORRISON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Julius' Bar is staying open for business.

The historic bar in the heart of New York City's West Village neighborhood is a getting a financial boost to stay open amid the brutal economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Gill Foundation, one of the nation's leading funders of efforts to secure full equality for LGBTQ people, announced it will match donations up to $25,000 to protect Julius' Bar, which prides itself as "the oldest continuously operated LGBTQ bar in the city."

According to its owners, Julius' Bar's structure was built in 1826 and converted to a grocery store in 1840 before becoming a bar in 1864. It wasn't until the 1950s that the establishment became known to attract predominantly gay patrons. Among the National Register of Historic Places, the 1966 "Sip-In" at Julius' was instrumental in the long march toward LGBTQ equality.

"Too many LGBTQ people grow up in isolation from their own history, which is why places like Julius' -- where the famed 'Sip-In' of 1966 helped to ignite change -- are so important," Scott Miller and Tim Gill, co-chairs of the Gill Foundation, told ABC News.

"Keeping its doors open helps bring LGBTQ stories to light and ensures that Julius' remains a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community for generations to come," they said.

In a press release, Miller and Gill added, "COVID-19 has devastated businesses big and small, including many in the LGBTQ community."

"It's critical that we preserve and protect LGBTQ history and the places that have shaped the equality movement. Julius' has served as an important gathering place for LGBTQ advocates, leaders, and everyday people looking for a safe place to be themselves," they continued.

The Gill Foundation has a long record of preserving and protecting LGBTQ history.

Since launching the Gill Foundation in 1994 and through other organizations they created or supported, Gill and Miller have given more than $500 million to advance LGBTQ equality, including previously making a $20,000 contribution to Julius' Bar in 2020.

It was instrumental in getting The Stonewall Inn designated as the first LGBTQ National Monument in 2016.

"With the generous support of the Gill Foundation and countless individual donors, we have reopened and are thrilled to see our wonderful customers return and reconnect in this historic space. The match campaign will ensure we are able to push through the final stretch of the pandemic and continue serving the community we love," Julius' Bar owner Helen Buford told ABC News.

"We're beyond grateful," Buford added.

The Gill Foundation match grant contribution is earmarked to support rent and utility costs and brings the bar to over half its fundraising goal of $200,000.

Julius' Bar remains open for business with modified hours: Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday through Sunday, noon to 10 p.m.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Connecticut is the latest state to take action toward passing a law to ban discrimination against race-based ethnic hairstyles in workplaces and schools.

The state's Senate voted 33-0 to pass the CROWN Act, an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, this week. Now, it's with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to be signed into law.

"This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society, and I look forward to signing it into law in the coming days," Lamont said in a tweet Tuesday.

This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society, and I look forward to signing it into law in the coming days.

— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) March 2, 2021

In February, Lamont also applauded efforts being made toward the bill. ABC New York station WABC reported the governor stating, "Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, but we all know there are invisible moments and instances of discrimination that take place each and every day."

He continued, "When a Black man or woman shows up for a job interview or to work, they should never be judged based on their hairstyle."

In 2019, California became the first state to ban natural hair discrimination when the state assembly voted unanimously 69-0, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law.

Since then, several other states have followed suit, including New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland, with many others proposing to do the same.

These efforts have also led to Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cedric Richmond proposing the bill to be signed into federal law.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- As Congress debates the latest coronavirus relief bill, many await their much-needed aid, while others, desperate for help, will never see the benefits.

"I have not received any benefits," Rosa Arelvo, an essential worker, said. "I haven't received anything, I think because of my immigration status, because I don't have a Social Security number. ... But I've earned my life in the U.S. working."

Arelvo immigrated to the United States from El Salvador and works as a restaurant cook. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and continued to work as much as she could during her treatment.

It was all later complicated by the pandemic.

"Before the pandemic, I worked 12 hours a day. But, when the pandemic happened, I started working three hours a day," Arelvo said. "I've been asking for food from places. I asked at churches for food. My husband has some hours at work, and I started paying rent in, little chunks ... and there's been nothing. There's been nothing to help."

Arelvo is one of millions of undocumented workers who work in the United States, have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic and are not eligible for most assistance offered.

There are approximately seven million undocumented immigrants working in the United States, making up 4.4% of the workforce, according to a 2020 Center for American Progress report. Because of their immigration status, they do not qualify for unemployment benefits if they lose their job.

But it's not just undocumented immigrants themselves who have faced difficulty receiving aid. There are around 16.7 million people in America who have at least one undocumented family member living with them, according to the Center For American Progress. People in these mixed-status families, such as when some are citizens and some are DACA recipients but file taxes with a family member who doesn't have a Social Security number, also have struggled to receive benefits.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act did not provide direct assistance to undocumented immigrants or people living in mixed-status households. This prevented DACA recipients, immigrants with legal residency and some American citizens from receiving aid. Attorneys from Georgetown University Law Center and Villanova University's School of Law filed a class action lawsuit last May challenging mixed-status families not being included in the CARES Act. While the lawsuit is still pending, these families were included in the second stimulus package, which passed in December.

"They didn't receive [benefits] because of who their parents are," said Jossie Flor Sapunar, the communications director at immigrant advocacy group CASA. "If the law says you are to receive $600 if you're a dependent U.S. child, then that is what you're supposed to receive, no matter who your parents are."

Because these families have fewer resources available for financial assistance during the pandemic, many have relied on advocacy groups such as CASA, which serves over 100,000 members and has provided financial and food assistance to many undocumented immigrants, Sapunar said, noting that many of them pay taxes.

Research from a Congressional Budget Office report indicated that the IRS estimates about six million unauthorized immigrants file individual income taxes each year.

"Immigrants are paying into a system that doesn't provide any safety net for them. And the prime example of that is all of the stimulus relief checks," Sapunar said.

Biden's COVID-19 relief bill, called the American Rescue Plan, passed the Democrat-controlled House with no Republican support. Republicans have argued that the $1.9 trillion price tag is too big, because the relief package passed in December cost $900 billion.

Last month, support for including undocumented immigrants in COVID-19 relief was tested in an amendment vote. The result was split, with 58 senators, including eight Democrats, voting against including undocumented immigrants in aid.

Maryland recently passed new legislation that allows low-income non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants who pay taxes, to receive the earned income tax credit.

Since last year, California and Colorado have been providing Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers, which includes undocumented immigrants, access to the earned income tax credit as well.

The American Rescue Plan does not provide the same level of aid to undocumented immigrants as it does to citizens, but it does provide some assistance. Couples who jointly file their taxes only need to have one valid Social Security number and will qualify for one stimulus check.

"Everything is really hard because of immigration status for me," Arelvo said. "It's hard to qualify for things without immigration status. Especially for people like me who need treatment for cancer. We don't have things because we are without status."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


jfmdesign/iStockBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The makeup collaboration you never knew you needed is here and it comes with a side of guac.

E.l.f. Cosmetics has teamed up with Chipotle to launch a fully co-branded makeup collection and custom burrito bowl.

The e.l.f. Cosmetics x Chipotle Collection will include four limited edition items including a palette, lip gloss, sponge and makeup bag.

The "EYES.CHIPS.FACE. Makeup Bag" looks just like the Chipotle chip bag and is designed to fit the entire collection.

Last May, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Chipotle launched a limited edition bundle that sold out in just four minutes.

Back by popular demand, the new collaboration is bigger and spicier than ever.

Along with the makeup collection, Chipotle has made its first consumer brand bowl.

The Eyes. Chips. Face. Bowl will be available from March 10-17 and comes pre-built with vegan ingredients for assembling the vegan makeup formulas.

The makeup collection ranges from $8-$18 and will be available on and starting March 10.

Makeup lovers can sign up now
to be alerted as soon as the collection is available.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Ahead of International Women's Day, Mattel has introduced a new Barbie inspired by the life and legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt.

The latest doll, featuring the former first lady, was revealed on Wednesday and is a part of the company's "Inspiring Women" collection.

Dressed in a floral print dress, a pearl necklace and a black hat, the latest doll is a beautiful nod to the historical icon, United Nations spokesperson and human rights activist.

In addition to being the longest-serving first lady, Roosevelt, also known as, "First Lady of the World," was an advocate for policies surrounding civil and economic rights and was often celebrated for her humanitarian efforts.

"We are delighted to welcome former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the Barbie Inspiring Women series and to shine a light on how her perseverance as a champion of policies around civil and economic rights made an impact on the world," Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel, told People magazine in a statement.

She continued, "As the number one global toy property, we believe in the importance of highlighting past and modern-day role models, like Eleanor Roosevelt, to inspire the next generation of changemakers to dream bigger than ever."

The Barbie Inspiring Women Series presents historical and present-day role models to young girls.

At the beginning of this year, the series also paid tribute to poet, author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou. Ella Fitzgerald and Rosa Parks are also included in the series.

Retailing for $29.99, the Eleanor Roosevelt doll is available at Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Mattel is also celebrating International Women's Day by rolling out its first "You Can Be Anything" digital series which will provide interactive content for families and girls.

The series will feature live streams on Facebook and YouTube with appearances by model and activist Adwoa Aboah as well as actress Yara Shahidi.

“With the virtual event space growing exponentially, we are leaning in with innovative online experiences authentic to our brand DNA, like the Barbie You Can Be Anything Series, to connect female role models who have broken boundaries with families and remind them that kids will become the leaders of tomorrow," McKnight said in a statement.

This initiative will also coincide with the company's commitment to partnering with organizations such as Girls Leadership to fund girl-led research on media representation and a PowerLab classroom designed to address implicit bias in the classroom, internalized racial bias and inequities in representation.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The kitchen table has become more than just a place to eat dinner for Opal Foster and her 13-year-old son, Jeremiah, of Silver Spring, Maryland. It has also served as an office and a school for a year now.

Foster lost her job last March, joining the more than two million women who left the workforce in the U.S. over the course of 2020.

According to the National Women's Law Center, women have lost more than five million jobs since February 2020. Since the pandemic began, they’ve experienced nearly 54% of overall net job losses versus men. Some economic experts refer to this phenomenon as a “she-cession.”

Foster said she collected unemployment and was able to freelance until she was able to get a part-time job in December. All the while, she continued to work with Jeremiah to juggle remote learning. He has Down syndrome and requires extra help in class.

“In normal situations, you could reach out to somebody else and get assistance. We're kind of all in the same boat -- all stretched way thin,” Foster told ABC News.

Foster is not alone. As the U.S. nears the one-year mark living with COVID-19 precautions, working moms are feeling the weight from the extended pressure.

According to a recent study by the University of Southern California, 44% of women said they were the sole provider of care for their children compared with 14% of men during the pandemic.

The study found that 42% of working mothers reduced their working hours between March and July 2020 versus 30% of men. When compared to households without children, there was no dramatic gender difference in working hours.

Moreover, the study showed nearly half of mothers surveyed experienced mild psychological distress. The percentage of mothers experiencing distress remained higher than men with children and both genders without children from March through July when the study was conducted.

“This new gap in psychological distress observed between mothers and women without school-age children appears to be driven by higher levels of psychological distress among mothers of elementary school-age and younger children,” the study's researchers said.

The study has not been published or peer reviewed.

“Many of [these women] are basically trying to do three peoples’ jobs,” Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings Law, told ABC News. “They’re doing their own job. They’re doing the childcare worker’s job. And they’re being a tech aid to their children’s teacher.”

She added, “Of course they’re stressed out beyond belief.”

Since the pandemic began, Nicole Strauch of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, has gone into work every day as an occupational therapist at a long-term care nursing home. Her husband works from home with her son and their nanny.

“I really kind of felt like a germ coming into the house,” she told ABC News. “I'd strip in the garage and shower and hope that I wasn't infecting my family.”

In December, the nightmare scenario happened: Her facility experienced an outbreak. She said over 90% of her patients contracted the coronavirus and more than 35 of them died.

“These are people I spend 40 hours a week with, every day,” she said. “I know their families. I know what they like for breakfast.”

She said the emotional toll of the outbreak was devastating.

“Trying to be a parent, but then also dealing with death constantly. It was the most trauma I've ever seen,” she recounted in tears.

She went on, “Just trying to care for dying people of COVID all day, not having anyone come into our house because I was around positive patients all the time, and then just trying to be a parent and feel like I'm failing my son because I can't play with him and I don't have the energy to be happy for him.”

For Kristine Tague, balancing her work and life balance has been overwhelming.

“This has taken a huge mental toll on me,” Tague, who works as an airline industry technical illustrator in Texas, told ABC News. “The hardest thing is being OK and saying, ‘Yes, I need to take this break and it's OK.’”

Her toddler is in day care and her kindergartener attends in-person classes. Both institutions require students to quarantine if they’ve been exposed to the virus so she’s set up an area in her home office for them.

“Anytime there's an exposure, it's a quarantine of 14 days with the school district. So, basically I've had to take my children for tests, holding down my toddler, so that way he can get the nasal swab -- not fun,” she said.

Last year, her husband tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine in the guest room. As he recovered, Tague continued to work full-time while taking care of her toddler and helping her kindergartener with remote learning.

“Almost a year later, it’s surreal to me that it’s still going on,” she said. “I'm working on my resilience … anytime I fail and cry and mess up, I just let myself do that. And I get back up again and keep going.”

Tague said she feels fortunate that she and her husband have been able to keep their jobs, but there’s an anxiety about what the future may hold.

“I want there to be a place where my toddler gets to know what it's like to play with other kids … and not have to worry,” she said.

With nationwide vaccination efforts underway, Foster plans to keep marching forward the best she can, hoping relief from the stresses of the pandemic is somewhere on the horizon.

“I can't wait to get back to working just one job,” Foster said. “And letting that be my primary source of income instead of trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Airbnb, Inc. By ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With COVID-19 affecting travel trends over the past year, Airbnb has added a brand-new search feature to its platform.

Flexible Dates gives would-be travelers more options when it comes to dates and locations of stays.

This new search option offers users more freedom when they choose to travel.

Instead of picking exact dates, they can search options such as a weekend getaway or a month-long stay.

"It’s no surprise COVID-19 continues to change the way we travel, and in addition to redesigning our platform last year to make nearby and longer-term stays easier to find and book, our new Flexible Dates feature aligns with a broader shift in how people will travel in the future," Airbnb said in a press release.

According to the Airbnb travel trends report, a quarter of Americans would consider traveling during off-peak times, and one-third of people have been flexible with their date or location during the pandemic.

“Once people feel safe to travel, they will. But it will look different than before the pandemic. Travel will be viewed as an antidote to isolation and disconnection," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote in the report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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