Business Headlines


(WASHINGTON) -- The resurgence of COVID-19 across the country this summer has deepened anxiety for millions of American small business owners who face another imminent cash crunch in their battle to survive a historic pandemic.

The government’s $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program, first rolled out in April, was supposed to help many businesses and their employees weather the storm. Nearly half of all American workers are employed by a small business.

But now many of the nearly 5 million US companies that got loans say the relief money is running out with little sign the virus is loosening its grip on the economy.

"We're literally the guy who was jogging and got hit by the meteor like the one in a trillion chance," said Will Eastman, owner of U Street Music Hall, a nightclub in Washington, D.C., shuttered since March. "We were the first to close and we'll be the last to reopen."

In May, Eastman received a $120,000 PPP loan to help keep five full-time staff on payroll and pay for rent and utilities. He says those funds run dry in less than two weeks; his only revenue is from T-shirt sales and online donations.

"It is a psychological trauma not to know if your entire industry will be here next year," he said.

Hope that phased reopenings of local economies would lead to a financial rebound are now overshadowed by customers' renewed health fears, more forced business shutdowns and a possible vaccine still months or years away.

Farid Nouri, who’s owned Eighteenth Street Lounge in D.C. for 25 years, recently made the decision to fold after his PPP loan ran out.

"We’re looking at at least a year and a half of staying idle and accruing more rent debt, more insurance debt," said Nouri in an interview as he prepared to auction off the club furniture and leftover liquor stock. "We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars at the end of the day before we can even be able to reopen."

Karen G. Mills, former Small Business Administrator who helped guide the recovery from the 2008 Great Recession, predicts as many as 20-30% of all American small businesses could close for good during the pandemic.

"Cash is the number one need for small businesses -- money that is not a debt burden to them, that helps tide them over until we get our arms around this health crisis and they can open safely," said Mills.

Since March, Congress has allocated more than $670 billion in guaranteed loans to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees. If recipients use at least 60% of the loan to cover payroll or rent, the loan will be forgiven.

Businesses can only apply once, and data shows that many of the nation’s smallest businesses still have not taken advantage of the program.

There is roughly $130 billion up for grabs before the program expires on Aug. 8.

Mia Stewart, who owns Haute Hair in Washington, D.C., a custom wig and hair extensions shop, is among the small business owners who have struggled with the PPP application process, which requires accounting and legal skills that some say they don’t have.

"I think there needs to be more of a streamlined process to allow us access to these funds," Stewart said. "It should have happened months ago, and here we are still waiting. It’s July."

To make matters worse, Stewart’s shop was looted during the recent protests after the death of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody in May. She says more than $150,000 in merchandise was stolen.

"The PPP loan has just been a really difficult process," Stewart said. "And I just think it’s completely unfair that these other corporations were allowed to get such large sums of money."

The Trump administration this week revealed for the first time the names of the biggest recipients of PPP loans so far.

Among them are major restaurant chains like P.F. Chang’s China Bistro; hedge funds; real estate firms; and clothing lines, including Kanye West’s sneaker brand Yeezy LLC.

At least a dozen businesses have ties to political leaders, including a hotel partially owned by the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a shipping company run by the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

"I was very disappointed, because the most vulnerable small businesses out there are the little ones," said Mills of the data released by the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department. "Overall the program is going to have saved a lot of businesses, but if you were a bad actor, do not do that again."

President Trump’s small business chief Jovita Carranza says she’s "ecstatic" about the PPP, telling SirusXM radio in an interview that it is "one of the most successful and consequential federal disaster response programs in memory."

Many economists have credited the program with helping to blunt the tide of job losses. After a historic spike this spring, the unemployment rate fell from 14.5% in April to 11.1% in June, according to the Labor Department.

Pia Carusone, owner of Republic Restoratives in Washington, D.C., one of the world’s only women-owned distilleries, says she considers her business a PPP success story -- with a caveat.

A $150,000 PPP loan the distillery received this spring helped "save well over 50% of our team," she said.

"But I don’t know why anyone’s taking a victory lap about anything. You can’t claim a huge success when, first of all, many businesses are going under today," Carusone noted. "It has been very helpful but we’re not anywhere near done with this yet."

Working in her favor is steady demand from walk-up customers who are trickling back and restaurants slowly resuming orders of craft vodka and bourbon.

Other retailers see a similar cautiously upward trajectory but remain on edge.

"I was able to bring back a majority of my staff" with a PPP loan, said Adam Waterreus, owner of Lost City Books in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, where increased foot traffic has meant renewed book browsing and sales.

"I’m still fairly uneasy about the next few months," Waterreus added. "I was listening to the news this morning about Texas and these big surges [in COVID-19 cases]. There seems to be little reason to think that won’t come back to us."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Goya Foods, the New Jersey-based producer of many canned foods that have become staples in American homes, is facing calls for a boycott from prominent Latino voices after its CEO Robert Unanue lauded President Donald Trump.

"We are so blessed to have you as our leader," Unaue told Trump on Thursday at their public meeting, part of the president's effort to court Latino supporters through a measure dubbed the "White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative."

Trump has previously called Mexican immigrants "rapists" who are "bringing crime" and "bringing drugs" to the U.S. His administration also has faced outrage for policies that have separated immigrant children from their parents at the southern border.

Given the president's past rhetoric on Latino issues and immigration, the backlash faced by Goya Foods has been swift.

The hashtags #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway began trending on Twitter Thursday evening, with everyone from politicians to musicians calling for Americans to veer away from the company's goods.

Goya Foods "has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainizes and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain," Julian Castro, a former Democratic presidential candidate and an Obama administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said on Twitter.

"Americans should think twice before buying their products," he added.

.@GoyaFoods has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations.

Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainizes and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products. #Goyaway

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) July 9, 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., added, "Oh look, it's the sound of me Googling 'how to make your own Adobo.'" She went on to share a simple adobo recipe with her followers in a follow-up tweet.

Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling “how to make your own Adobo”

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 10, 2020

Even Lin-Manuel Miranda, director and star of the Broadway smash-hit "Hamilton," weighed-in, writing, "We learned to bake bread in this pandemic, we can learn to make our own adobo con pimienta. Bye."

We learned to bake bread in this pandemic, we can learn to make our own adobo con pimienta. Bye.

— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 10, 2020

Democratic candidate Joe Biden led Trump by 39% with Hispanics nationally, according to a June New York Times/Siena College poll.

Goya Foods did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Friday.

Unanue, however, doubled down on his comments in an interview with Fox News on Friday, saying he won't apologize and that's he's also praised former President Barack Obama.

"So you're allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you're not allowed, when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and educational prosperity and you make positive comment, all of the sudden that's not acceptable?" he told Fox News. "So I'm not apologizing."

"When you're called by the president of the United States, you're going to say, 'No, I'm sorry, I'm busy, no thank you?'" he added. "I didn't say that to the Obamas, and I didn't say that to President Trump."

Unanue slammed the boycott calls as a "suppression of speech." He said he previously worked with Michelle Obama to help include Goya in nutritional guidance to minority communities.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway also responded to the criticism of the CEO on the same show Friday morning, saying, "it's a shame that people see politics in every single thing."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Kanye West’s fashion brand. Investment firms that manage billions. Businesses tied to the Trump family and owned by prominent lawmakers. The Church of Scientology.

The Small Businesses Administration’s (SBA) massive data dump that included the names of over 650,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recipients revealed no shortage of eyebrow-raising beneficiaries of the taxpayer-funded, potentially forgivable loans. But oversight advocates say they fear it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier this week, the SBA released information on nearly five million loans made through the program, but it withheld identifying information for businesses that received less than $150,000 in funding -- which account for over 80% of loans made through the program and roughly a quarter of money lent through the PPP.

"As the largest stimulus program in our nation’s history, PPP must receive proper oversight and transparency," John Arensmeyer, the founder and CEO of the small business advocacy organization Small Business Majority, said in a statement. "The survival of America’s small businesses depends on the full disclosure of PPP’s successes and failures."

Public data on the smaller loans that went out to the vast majority of mom-and-pop businesses could show holes in the program's reach, advocates argue, particularly in the face of data showing that the wealthy and well-connected received millions of dollars in loans while some small business owners who applied for PPP received less money than they applied for, or never received any at all.

Both the SBA and Treasury Department faced bipartisan pressure to release information on PPP loans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin initially told lawmakers in June that no borrower information would be revealed, contrasting with standard SBA practices for traditional lending programs, before later changing course and saying some data would be released to the public and certain congressional committees would be granted access to all recipient names and loan sizes.

Mnuchin said in a press release that the data unveiled by the SBA this week "strikes the appropriate balance of providing the American people with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors."

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sees it differently. He called the release a "good start" in a statement, but added that "more transparency is still needed to ensure that these taxpayer dollars went where Congress intended -- to the truly small and underbanked small businesses."

For Kejuana Isom, the owner of Keke's Love Is Care, a home day care facility in University Park, Illinois, the information the SBA did reveal was enough to be disheartening. When Isom applied for a PPP loan back in April, she requested roughly $2,000 for her and her two employees -- a drop in the bucket of the $513 billion program that still has $134 billion left in the bank. But Isom was denied the loan because of her credit, despite a CARES Act provision that waived credit requirements.

"I've always felt as if it's about who you know and that hasn't changed. This just proves my theory, it's all about who you know," Isom said, reacting to the news of administration officials, members of Congress and celebrities netting PPP loans.

"[Kanye West] may have needed it -- I don't know, I can't count anyone else's money. I can only count my own money, and I know that I needed it," Isom said.

 While businesses far larger than hers survive off the forgivable loans, Isom has to decide whether she can even remain open through the end of the month. Before she closed down her day care center in February, she cared for six children, ranging in age from a few months to 2 years old.

"I'm trying to think about whether I'm going to close, which I really don't want to do. That's my passion," said Isom, who is a mother of four.

"I love watching children. And I can't really get out there and look for a job because no one is really hiring," she said.

For the last few months, Isom has supported her family with the boosted $600 per week of unemployment insurance from the CARES Act, but it's set to expire in late July unless Congress extends it.

Like other minority business owners who have been hit especially hard by the economic devastation of coronavirus, Isom, who is Black, said she's "frustrated" and "disheartened."

"I'm just trying to plan my Plan B and Plan C. That didn't work out so I have to move on," Isom said. "We're survivors, I guess."

The Trump administration, meanwhile, has used the data release as an opportunity to hail the PPP’s success.

"Today’s data shows that small businesses of all types and across all industries benefited from this unprecedented program. The jobs numbers released last week reinforce that PPP is working by keeping employees on payroll and sustaining millions of small businesses through this time," SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a statement this week.

However, the information released on the loans appears to show that over 90,000 recipients did not specify how many jobs the PPP funds would support. A more accurate estimate on how many jobs the program may have actually saved will not be attainable until more businesses begin applying for loan forgiveness, which requires demonstrating that employees were maintained or quickly rehired.

Small-business advocates like Arsenmeyer say more information on PPP loans is also needed to determine if the funding was equitably distributed to minority-owned businesses and to paint a full picture of who may have been cut out or shortchanged in the lending process.

"Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant, and we cannot allow those small businesses that were grossly underfunded or disadvantaged by the program to disappear and not have their stories told and rectified," Arsenmeyer said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP and one of the leaders of the ongoing Facebook ad boycott, called the social media giant a "threat to democracy" and said that they won't back down until the platform is safe for everyone.

"Facebook is allowing their platform to be used as a gathering point to meet, recruit and plan out harm against communities," Johnson told ABC News. "They've also allowed their platform to be manipulated by a foreign nation and domestic actors to suppress and subvert our voting process and democracy."

"That is a clear and present danger to our democracy," Johnson said.

"The NAACP was started in 1909, in response to a race riot in Springfield, Illinois, and the founders of the organization have stated very clearly that we cannot have a true democracy if we allow for this type of mob violence," he added, accusing Facebook of allowing the same violence "to breed on the platform."

Moreover, Johnson said he believes Facebook has "absolutely failed to keep African Americans safe."

"When you have a white supremacist group meeting on the platform, plotting and planning on the platform, that's a threat to the African American community," Johnson said.

"The fact that they allow their platform to be manipulated by a foreign nation, Russia, to suppress Black votes and subvert democracy, that's an immediate threat to the Black community," he added, arguing that "the outcome of that election has caused the neglect of public policy that we're seeing now with the lack of response to deal with this health pandemic."

As the leader of one of the largest civil rights organizations in the U.S., he said the group was inspired to take action with the ad boycott to get Facebook to finally pay attention and enact changes after he says his research found there was very little oversight of the social media "behemoth."

Facebook made nearly $70 billion in advertising revenue alone last year, according to financial disclosures.

Facebook has no "regulatory oversight," Johnson said, adding "there are no board or stockholders who can hold the company in check because Mark Zuckerberg owns 60% of the stock."

Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO and co-founder, controls 57.9% of the total voting shares of Facebook, according to a 2020 Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

"The only thing that can be done at this juncture is to get the broader corporate community to stand with our groups and the American people, to raise the question as forcefully as possible that we need a new standard and we need guardrails on this platform to keep people safe and to protect our democracy," Johnson said. "That's not too much to ask of any company."

The call for a pause on Facebook ads began on June 17, when a coalition of advocacy groups led by the NAACP, Colors of Change and the Anti-Defamation League launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign, calling on corporations to pause advertising on Facebook during the month of July.

Since then, organizers say nearly 1,000 companies have joined in the ad boycott -- including multinational conglomerate Unilever, telecom giant Verizon and coffee chain Starbucks.

While the ad boycott was only to last throughout the month of July, Johnson said they are planning on continuing the fight for a hate-free Facebook for as long as it takes.

"For the NAACP, we are 111 years old, we've got to continue to fight against discrimination," he said. "We're going to continue to push for people to stand with us, for accountability, so discrimination or racial hatred is not on this platform."

"There should not be a timeline on that," he added. "That should be a collective effort to make sure people are safe."

Since Facebook began to feel the pinch of advertisers pulling out, the social media giant has announced a series of updates in recent weeks, including labeling newsworthy posts, removing hundreds of extremist "boogaloo"-related accounts and updating its policy for hate in ads.

While these steps in the right direction are welcome, Johnson said the issue is "they as a platform are making changes after the fact, after there has been harm after there have been injuries."

"We want them to be more proactive to ensure people are not harmed before changes are made," he added.

He said Facebook already has "several roadmaps" of what needs to happen next, including making changes as a result of its recent civil rights audit, or listening to the boycott organizers' 10 demands.

"They can start at any place," he said. "They just simply need to get it done."

A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News that the company has invested "billions" to keep the platform hate-free and fight voter suppression.

"We agree that we must be front-footed and take aggressive action against hate and voter suppression. That’s why we have invested billions in people and technology to keep hate off of our platform," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We have created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference and have launched the largest voting information campaign in American history."

The statement added that they have banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations and are producing regular reports about content moderation efforts.

"We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement," the spokesperson said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Wachiwit(SEATTLE) -- BY: KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

As cafes, restaurants and businesses continue to navigate the throes of the pandemic under guidance from top health officials, Starbucks announced that all customers will soon be required to wear masks at all of its U.S. locations.

The Seattle-based coffee chain announced Thursday that beginning on July 15, it will require "customers to wear facial coverings while visiting all company-owned cafe locations in the U.S."

"This decision was based on a growing number of government mandates requiring individuals to wear facial coverings while in public as well as guidance from the CDC and other public health officials and partner feedback," a representative for the company told ABC News in a statement.

Starbucks explained that customers who "may not be wearing a facial covering" at locations where a local government mandate is not in place, will have other ways to place orders.

Where applicable, customers not wearing a mask can order via drive-thru, curbside pickup through the Starbucks app or place an order for delivery through Starbucks Delivers.

"The company is committed to playing a constructive role in supporting health and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Starbucks said in the release.

The news comes on the heels of the ongoing debate over wearing a mask, which has become both politically charged and filled with confusion.

Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government officials discouraged Americans from wearing masks, saying they were unlikely to help stop the spread of the virus, according to the best evidence at the time.

But as evidence accumulated, the CDC made an abrupt about-face on April 3, encouraging all Americans to don face coverings to slow transmission of the virus, which was largely believed to be spread through respiratory droplets.

Now, more than six months into the pandemic, experts say there is enough evidence to conclude masks are critical in mitigating COVID-19 spread.

ABC News' Dr. Ayodola Adigun, Dr. Alexis E. Carrington, Dr. Stephanie E. Farber, Dr. Jessica Johnson and Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In an effort toward creating more retail shelf space for Black-owned brands in stores, Aurora James, a fashion designer and the founder of Brother Vellies, created the "15% pledge" -- which calls on major retailers to commit a minimum of 15% of their shelf to Black-owned businesses.

West Elm has become the third company to make the pledge.

On Wednesday, 15percentpledge announced that West Elm's participation, "shows impressive leadership in the global design space."

With this new commitment, West Elm is pledging through brand collaborations, local shelf space and hiring practices. The brand has also vowed to make a multi-year donation to the 15 Percent Pledge organization.

"We commend West Elm on their commitment to supporting Black-owned businesses and we look forward to working with them to further this mission," the organization wrote in a post.

Shortly before West Elm's pledge, Rent The Runway also committed to stock their shelves in support of Black designers. The fashion rental company will also be ensuring a minimum of 15% of their freelance creative talent will be Black. This includes stylists, photographers, models, influencers and more.

In June, Sephora became the first company to commit to the 15 Percent Pledge. "We recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better," the company captioned a graphic announcing the news. "So, we're starting now."

On Instagram, the 15 Percent Pledge account also spread the news about Sephora's participation. "With unparalleled influence and power, not only in the beauty industry but in retail at large, Sephora is making a historic contribution to the fight against systemic racism and discrimination by taking this Pledge."

The caption continued, "We commend their early leadership and look forward to working with them on their accountability and commitment as we join together in the mission to put billions back into the Black community."

Sephora is fully committing to all three stages of the 15% pledge, which includes taking stock of the current percentage of shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses, taking ownership of all findings, understanding blind spots and disparities, and identifying concrete next steps, as well as taking action to publish and execute a plan for growing the share of black businesses Sephora helps empower to at least 15%.

"We were inspired to make the 15% Pledge because we believe it's the right thing to do, for our clients, our industry, and for our community," said Artemis Patrick, the EVP and chief merchandising officer of Sephora, in a statement. "Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves, it starts with a long-term plan diversifying our supply chain and building a system that creates a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow while ensuring Black voices help shape our industry."

To make sure the Black-owned brands that will now be available at Sephora are supported, the company is examining all areas of its business -- starting with bringing all of its knowledge to the table freely, so aspiring founders have access.

Additionally, the company said it will provide connections to and support from funders and the venture capitalist community as well as help launch and develop black-owned businesses.

The popular beauty haven also said it will use its internal incubation program Accelerate -- dedicated to cultivating female founders -- to also focus on women of color.

The 15% Pledge has also called on several other retailers, such as Target, Whole Foods and Shopbop, to dedicate space for Black-owned brands. "Black businesses need your support today, tomorrow, always," the organization said on its website.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Another 1.3 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Department of Labor said Thursday.

While the new jobless claims have leveled off some since peaking at 6.9 million in late March, they remain at historically high levels -- and have been in the millions each week for over three months. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the record for weekly unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.

The latest data from the DOL indicates that some business are reopening as pandemic restrictions ease, but some 18 million U.S. workers are still receiving unemployment insurance. Since the pandemic began, more than 45 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance at some point.

"New claims have dropped for 14 straight weeks despite the uneven nature of COVID-19 restrictions and the outbreak itself," Bankrate's senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick said in a commentary Thursday on the latest jobless claim figures. "Even so, with more bankruptcies and job cuts announced in the retail sector, for example, the economy remains at significant risk in the weeks and months ahead."

The official unemployment rate in June was 11.1%, the Labor Department said last week. Economists, however, cautioned that this figure might not encompass business re-closings that have been happening in recent weeks amid concerning rises in COVID-19 cases in many states.

"As the COVID-19 outbreak has recently intensified in some states, hopes for an accelerated, sustained and successful re-opening of the economy have hit roadblocks," Hamrick added. "This raises concern about the economy’s rebound."

Some of the hardest-hit industries by the COVID-19 financial crisis include hospitality, retail, food and beverage service and the travel sector.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pineapple Studio/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- After a years-long battle, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has rolled back a series of proposed limitations to payday loans in a move advocacy groups call a "grave error" that could potentially trap vulnerable people in debt.

The CFPB announced Tuesday that it was rescinding mandatory underwriting provisions -- which essentially require lenders to confirm that borrowers can pay back the loan before issuing it -- framing the move as an effort to "maintain consumer access to credit and competition in the marketplace."

"A vibrant and well-functioning financial marketplace is important for consumers to access the financial products they need and ensure they are protected. Our actions today ensure that consumers have access to credit from a competitive marketplace, have the best information to make informed financial decisions, and retain key protections without hindering that access," CFPB Director Kathleen L. Kraninger said in a statement.

"The Bureau protects consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and takes action against companies that break the law. We will continue to monitor the small dollar lending industry and enforce the law against bad actors," Kraninger said.

The payday loans industry has courted controversy for years, with many critics slamming the high interest rates and allegedly predatory practices lenders use on often-desperate customers that can lead to so-called "debt traps." The industry has also faced criticism for allegedly targeting communities of color.

Advocacy groups were quick to slam the CFPB's announcement that it was scrapping the limitations, especially amid the coronavirus-induced financial crisis.

"By eliminating the ability-to-repay protections, the CFPB is making a grave error that leaves the 12 million Americans who use payday loans every year exposed to unaffordable payments at annual interest rates that average nearly 400 percent," Alex Horowitz, the senior research officer at Pew Charitable Trusts' consumer finance project, said in a statement.

Horowitz called on financial institutions to still abide by the protections, which encouraged mainstream lenders to offer affordable installment loans options.

"Despite the CFPB's abandonment of these critical consumer safeguards, banks, credit unions, and responsible lenders should reject balloon payments and instead offer consumers installment loans on affordable terms," Horowitz said.

Linda Jun, the senior policy counsel at the nonprofit group Americans for Financial Reform, said that the CFPB's announcement amid the COVID-19 crisis could have disastrous effects.

"Amid a global pandemic and an economic contraction with little precedent, the CFPB has chosen to devote scarce resources not to protecting consumers, but to dismantling guardrails that would have given people more protection from predatory lenders," Jun said in a statement.

"It will give loan shark-like payday lenders greater leeway to exploit the current crisis by continuing to trap people in debt and hamper their financial recovery," she added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



United Airlines is preparing to furlough up to 36,000 employees -- as much as 45% of its front-line U.S.-based workers -- as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the airline industry.

United Airlines said almost half of its U.S.-based workers face the potential job cuts on or shortly after Oct. 1, as the federal requirement under the Payroll Support Program (PSP) prohibiting airlines from involuntary layoffs is set to expire. United currently employs 95,000 people globally.

"None of the decisions so far have been more difficult as the decisions that we are announcing today," A United executive said, referring to the involuntary furloughs as the company's "last resort."

In an attempt to avoid layoffs, United implemented a variety of cost-cutting measures such as slashing domestic capacity, eliminating executives' salaries and freezing non-essential hiring. However, the airline is still burning through $40 million a day.

Demand for air travel steadily increased in recent weeks, but rising coronavirus cases and state quarantine rules have threatened the small signs of recovery. After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced travelers from hot spot states would have to quarantine for two weeks, United saw a "noticeable decline" in demand for travel to New York, executives said.

The carrier will send out notices this week to potentially affected employees -- more than 15,000 flight attendants, 2,500 pilots, and 11,000 customer service and gate agents. For front-line employees, layoffs will be based on seniority. For management and administrative staff, layoffs will be determined by performance, according to executives.

The ultimate number of furloughs will be determined in mid to late August. Around 3,700 front-line employees have already agreed to voluntary separation packages, and United executives explained that if more people opt to take voluntary leave it would significantly reduce the number of jobs they would have to cut in the fall.

"Involuntary furloughs that we worked so hard to avoid are now the last option left to protect the long term interests of the company," a United executive said.

Other major U.S. airlines are expected to lay off employees in October when they are no longer tied to the conditions set forth by Congress to receive federal aid. Unions representing front-line workers are calling for an extension of the PSP.

"Congress must extend the PSP in order to avoid hundreds of thousands of layoffs from an industry that normally drives economic activity for every other sector and supports more than 11 million jobs," President Sara Nelson, who represents United flight attendants, said in a statement. "Failing to maintain this successful jobs program will have a ripple effect across the economy."

United executives say they are not counting on the likelihood that Congress would be able to approve more assistance "in an election year."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) --  H&M is planning to close 170 stores worldwide after experiencing a drop in sales amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After many of the fashion retailer's stores were forced to close due to mandated shutdowns, the company has experienced a 50% drop in sales during the company's first quarter.

There were initially plans to close 130, but plans have shifted to increase that number as sales have continued to fall.

"Covid-19 continues to impact people, communities and companies around the world and I am full of admiration for our employees' commitment, drive and perseverance during this very challenging time. The safety of our employees and customers remains our highest priority and we are reopening stores in line with decisions by the authorities," H&M CEO Helena Helmersson said in a released earnings statement.

She continued, "Before the pandemic hit, we performed strongly – a result of many years of long-term investments to create the best offering for our customers and to meet the digital shift in the industry. This, combined with the fact that we have acted quickly to counter the negative effects of Covid-19 and that we are speeding up the transformation of the H&M Group, makes me convinced that we will come out of the current crisis stronger."

While net sales have decreased at physical locations, there has been an increase in the fast fashion giant's online sales by 36%, and the company has expressed that there will be a shift to put more focus on e-commerce efforts.

"During the pandemic it became clear how important it is that the digital and physical channels interact to meet customers’ needs. When the majority of the stores were temporarily closed in the second quarter, we focused on redirecting product flow to our digital channels, which remained open at all times in nearly all our online markets," said Helmersson.

H&M joins Lucky Brand, Victoria's Secret, J.C. Penny and several other labels that have announced store closures or bankruptcies this year.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Facebook released the results of its two-year independent civil rights audit on Wednesday, which revealed the platform "has a long road ahead on its civil rights journey."

The nearly 90-page audit, led by civil rights expert Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, a partner in the civil rights law firm Relman Colfax, was released a day after Facebook executives met with organizers of an ongoing ad boycott.

The meeting did not seem to go well, and ad boycott organizers released a statement shortly after blasting Facebook for delivering "the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands."

In the civil rights audit, Murphy wrote that COO Sheryl Sandberg pledged continued support and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he will "continue to revisit its voter suppression policies, as well as its policies relating to calls for violence by state actors."

"These policies have direct and consequential implications for the US presidential election in November 2020, and we will be watching closely," Murphy wrote. "The responsibility for implementing strong equality, non-discrimination and inclusion practices rests squarely with the CEO and COO. They have to own it and make sure that managers throughout the company take responsibility for following through."

Murphy noted that some of the company's "painful decisions" over the last nine months have caused "real-world consequences that are serious setbacks for civil rights."

The audit also said it is "it’s absolutely essential that the company do more to build out its internal civil rights infrastructure," noting that "more expertise is needed in-house."

It also implored the social media giant to "address the tension of civil rights and free speech head on," stating that Zuckerberg's past calls for free expression do not have to exclude the values of non-discrimination.

"For a 21st century American corporation, and for Facebook, a social media company that has so much influence over our daily lives, the lack of clarity about the relationship between those two values is devastating," Murphy wrote. "It will require hard balancing, but that kind of balancing of rights and interests has been part of the American dialogue since its founding and there is no reason that Facebook cannot harmonize those values, if it really wants to do so."

The results of the audit come as Facebook faces immense pressure from a growing ad boycott at the urging of civil rights leaders.

The call for a pause on Facebook ads began on June 17, when a coalition of advocacy groups led by the NAACP, Colors of Change and the Anti-Defamation League launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign, calling on corporations to pause advertising on Facebook during the month of July. Since then, organizers say nearly 1,000 companies have joined in the ad boycott -- including multinational conglomerate Unilever, telecom giant Verizon, and even coffee chain Starbucks.

On Tuesday afternoon, organizers of the #StopHateForProfit campaign including NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson, Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and Free Press Co-CEO Jessica J. Gonzalez met with Facebook executives including Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

Gonzalez issued a statement shortly after the meeting, saying she was "deeply disappointed that Facebook still refuses to hold itself accountable to its users, its advertisers and society at large."

"I was hoping to see deep humility and reflection about the outsized role that Facebook plays in shaping beliefs, opinions and behavior, and the many harms it’s caused and facilitated in real life," she added. "Instead we saw more dialogue and no action."

Gonzalez added that the company's leaders "delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands."

"This isn’t over. We will continue to expand the boycott until Facebook takes our demands seriously," she said. "We won’t be distracted by Facebook’s spin today or any day. Mark, Sheryl and their colleagues have much work to do to make Facebook a better place for everyone, and they need to get it done now."

A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News that the company and the organizers both want Facebook to be "free of hate speech."

"This meeting was an opportunity for us to hear from the campaign organizers and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate on our platform," a Facebook spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Tuesday. "They want Facebook to be free of hate speech and so do we. That's why it's so important that we work to get this right."

The spokesperson added that Facebook has "invested billions in people and technology to keep hate off of our platform," noting that the company has created new policies to prohibit voter and census interference and has banned more than 250 white supremacist organizations.

"We know we will be judged by our actions not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement," the statement added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


In a screen grab from a video posted to Instagram, a tech CEO was caught on camera yelling racist taunts at an Asian family at a restaurant in Carmel Valley, Calif., on July 4, 2020. - (Obtained by ABC News)By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(CARMEL, Calif.) -- A tech industry CEO has apologized after he was caught-on-camera yelling racist remarks at an Asian American family celebrating a birthday at a restaurant in Carmel, California.

In video that has since gone viral, a man -- who was later identified as cloud computing company Solid8 CEO Michael Lofthouse -- can be seen smirking and giving his middle finger to the family.

"Trump's going to f--- you," he said in the video. "You f---ers need to leave ... f---ing Asian piece of s---."

As he continued on, a staff member at the restaurant intervened, telling him to "get out" and defending the family as "valued guests."

"You do not talk to our guests like that, get out now," a waitress can be heard saying in the video.

"Who are these f---ers," Lofthouse quipped back, adding, "Yes, they are valued guests in America?"

Raymond Orosa told local ABC News affiliate KGO-TV that he was at the restaurant celebrating his wife's birthday on July 4 with his family, when "suddenly I hear this loud voice: effing Asians."

"He was full of hate and anger," Orosa said. "And it’s sad that there is still people that are like that in this world, let alone in this country."

Orosa said his niece filmed the video and shared it on Instagram, where it has garnered nearly 650,000 views. It was also widely shared on Twitter, and even celebrities including Chrissy Teigen weighed-in on Lofthouse's actions.


— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 8, 2020

Orosa added that he admires the waitress for stepping in.

Sean Damery, the regional vice president of Bernadus Lodge and Spa, which housed the Lucia restaurant where the incident took place, told ABC News in a statement that he was "proud" of his staff.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation, however we are proud of our staff at Lucia in keeping with Bernardus Lodge’s core values," he said. "This incident was handled swiftly and the diner was escorted off property without further escalation. We provide guests with a safe environment for lodging and dining; and extend our sincere apologies to the guests enjoying a birthday celebration on a holiday weekend."

Since his tirade went viral, Lofthouse has seemingly erased himself from social media. Facebook and LinkedIn accounts associated with him have been de-activated. A website associated with Solid8 has also been replaced with a "Coming Soon" landing page. A phone number listed for Lofthouse could not be reached by ABC News.

Lofthouse has issued a statement to KGO-TV apologizing to the family, calling his behavior in the video "appalling."

"This was clearly a moment where I lost control and made incredibly hurtful and divisive comments," Lofthouse's statement said. "I would like to deeply apologize to the Chan family. I can only imagine the stress and pain they feel. I was taught to respect people of all races, and I will take the time to reflect on my actions and work to better understand the inequality that so many of those around me face every day."

Orosa told KGO-TV he thinks the apology is "just saving face."

"I think he really meant what he said and what he did," he said. "I don’t believe his words because his actions speak louder than the words he say."

Still, the father said while he doesn't believe that what Lofthouse did was "acceptable or right" he has chosen to forgive him.

"A lot of people will probably disagree with me for saying that I forgive him," Orosa said. "But I do."

The incident comes as the novel coronavirus pandemic and its suspected origins in Wuhan, China, has brought an onslaught of anti-Asian racism in the U.S

President Trump has repeatedly called COVID-19 the "Chinese virus," or even the "Kung flu," despite diseases carrying no national origin and criticism of his use of the phrases stoking racism against Asian people.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Bastiaan Slabbers/iStockBy GOOD MORNING AMERICA, ABC News

(LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) -- The phased reopening of Walt Disney World is just days away, and as the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida remains one of the highest in the country, many are wondering, "Should the theme park be opening right now?"

The question was posed to Jim MacPhee, senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World Resort, on Good Morning America as we got a first look inside the park as it prepares for a July 11 reopening of Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a July 13 reopening of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

"We believe very much we should be reopening," MacPhee said. "Again we’ve been focused on this, we’ve got the best protocols in place, and it’s a guest choice environment."

As of Tuesday, Florida's positivity rate has climbed to 16.1%, up 1.3% from Monday, according to data from the state's Department of Health. Florida is reporting 7,347 new cases, with the total number of diagnosed cases now at 213,794. Florida is reporting 7,347 new cases, with the total number of diagnosed cases now at 213,794.

MacPhee presented opening plans to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force in late May. Among those were physical distancing, guests and cast members being required to wear face masks and plexiglass at registers and other places where social distancing is difficult would be installed.

Now as the park prepares to open on Saturday, temperature checks are in place, guests staying at Disney hotels will check in on mobile, a new reservation system was put in place to reduce the capacity in each park and mobile ordering and cashless payments has been implemented at restaurants to reduce contact between guests and employees.

The attractions look different too. At Kilimanjaro Safaris, for example, guests will enter through partitions and when they are on the ride vehicle, there will be barriers between each row.

"We’re really focused on having a thoughtful and methodical reopening strategy that’s phased on various attendance levels, that allow us to launch, learn and adjust," said MacPhee.

But some are skeptical.

Comments on a video on health and safety precautions posted to Walt Disney World's Facebook page Tuesday drew comments both in support of and against the reopening. "Bad idea," said one. "Shouldn't be opening," said another. "Too difficult to socially distance," said a third.

At least 21 states have either reversed or paused reopening measures, ABC News has found.

Six states -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Texas -- have reversed some aspect of their economic reopening. Disneyland in California announced in June it had postponed its planned July 17 reopening.

Many expressed excitement for upcoming trips. Still more said they would be back -- as soon as the mask requirement was lifted.

Responsibility for a smooth reopening, Macphee said, is shared.

"Really our success is based on the sum of everyone working together to ensure we really operate well in this environment," he said.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- With Walt Disney World scheduled to begin its phased reopening on July 11, 2020, guests will see big changes when it comes to safety protocols, social distancing and more.

But what's been on many fans' minds is how they will interact with the beloved Disney characters. Until now, Disney has only said traditional parades and character greetings are on hiatus. ABC News' Good Morning America has learned the re-imagined ways guests will see characters, outlined below by park.

Magic Kingdom Park (reopening July 11, 2020)

- The Royal Princess Processional: Several times daily, favorite Disney princesses will travel through the streets of the Magic Kingdom. Princess Merida leads the way on her steed Angus, followed closely by a gazebo float and crystal castle carrying Cinderella, Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Rapunzel and more.

- Mickey and Friends Cavalcade: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and their pals pop up throughout the day, inviting everyone to "Get Their Ears On" as they wave to guests along the park's parade route.

- Cinderella's Evil Stepsisters: From time to time, guests in Fantasyland may spot the dastardly Anastasia and Drizella perched on a balcony of Cinderella Castle.

Disney's Animal Kingdom (reopening July 11, 2020)

- Discovery River Character Cruise: Throughout the day, guests can see Timon and Rafiki or Pocahontas with Meeko, who will set sail on the park's waterways.

- Donald's Dino Boat Bash!: Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Launchpad McQuack wave to guests from their party boat as "Donald's Dino Bash!" moves from Dinoland U.S.A. to Discovery River.

- Discovery Island Drummers: The group of percussionists cruise along Discovery River, entertaining guests on the shore with an energetic beat.

EPCOT (reopening July 15, 2020)

- Mickey and Friends World Tour: As guests travel around World Showcase, they may come upon Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Goofy all out sightseeing and waving to their friends.

- Frozen Promenade: Queen Anna and Elsa venture into the unknown around World Showcase, journeying from country to country and waving hello to guests along the way.

Disney's Hollywood Studios (reopening July 15, 2020)

- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: While living their own adventures in a galaxy far, far away, guests are likely to come across some familiar faces as they explore Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu.

- Heroes of the Resistance, including Rey, Chewbacca and Vi Moradi, may be spotted on platforms above the garage in Black Spire Station or surveying activity around the spaceport where the Millennium Falcon has landed.

- A contingent of First Order Stormtroopers join Kylo Ren in patrolling the landing platform at Docking Bay 9, where they've arrived aboard their TIE Echelon assault vehicle.

- Pixar Pals Motorcade: Some of the biggest stars from Pixar Animation Studios' films arrive on Hollywood Boulevard, from The Incredibles to Toy Story pals and more. They'll wave to their fans as they head down the avenue accompanied by a celebratory musical score.

- Disney Junior Stars Motorcade: Throughout the day, Disney Junior stars including Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina will cruise down Hollywood Boulevard waving to fans from colorful custom convertibles.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy of Demi SkipperBy HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- One San Francisco woman who started with a single bobby pin has since traded it up to a pair of Nike sneakers worth close to $1,200. Her ultimate goal is to barter her way to a house.

Demi Skipper, 29, began the @TradeMeProject account on TikTok on May 18, and since then she has made 12 trades and amassed 3.3 million followers.

“I had never used TikTok before, but I thought it was a good place to do short videos to keep a record for myself,” she said. “Within a week, I had over a million followers, and then within a week a half, I had 2 million.”

She added, “It’s crazy to me just the fact that it resonated with other people. It’s been pretty wild!”

Skipper, who works for a restaurant reservation app and runs a wedding dress rental business, says she has been a hustler her entire life. She thought the project would be natural for her to test her negotiating and research skills.

“I think my friends aren’t really surprised that I’m doing it, just because of who I am. I am always up for a hustle challenge, nothing is too big,” said Skipper.

Trades often take hours of reaching out, item verification and ensuring her own safety if she is meeting up for an item swap, she said.

“Everybody just sees the TikTok video and the videos are just a minute," Skipper explained. "So people are like, ‘Oh, this is really quick, she makes a one-minute video.’ And what they're not seeing is hours and hours of research that's going into this."

Skipper said she wakes up at 6 a.m. every day to look through thousands of trades.

“I've sort of been joking like with each trade -- I've become almost like an expert in that specific space,” said Skipper, noting that she joined groups on Facebook to learn about, for example, the culture and authenticity of sneakers.

Skipper said she was inspired by a TED Talk she listened to in quarantine about the “One red paperclip” trading project in 2009, which eventually got one Canadian blogger a house in a series of 14 online trades.

For Skipper, the question is no longer “if” she gets her house, but “when.”

“I think the question comes up like, ‘What happens if you don’t get [the house]?’ and it’s not even in my mind. I am in go-mode until i get the house,” she said.

Skipper says that once she gets the house, she doesn’t have any plans yet, but is open to options.

“I’ve talked about moving into [the house], but also renovating it or furnishing it and donating it,” she said. “There’s so many people that would want a house and I think it would be really cool, too, to find somebody that needs the house. I’m really excited to see where it goes.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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