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(NEW YORK) -- AMC Theatres is taking steps to reopen after shuttering its theaters worldwide in mid-March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In an email sent to the company's "A List" members on Wednesday, the theater chain announced that movies will resume starting Aug. 20.

Should all go well, the company hopes to have roughly two-thirds of its franchises up and running by Sept. 3.

"We already have opened more than half of our theaters in Europe and the Middle East, safely and without incident, and will open all by Aug. 26," the company said in the email. "Here in the United States, we will begin opening AMC with more than 100 theaters resuming operations on Aug. 20, and continuing such that about two-thirds of our theaters across the country should be open no later than Sept. 3. The remaining AMC locations will open after we get further clearance from state and local authorities that it is safe to do so."

Those eager to watch a movie on the big screen can check the opening status of local AMCs starting Thursday on the company's website or by downloading its mobile app.

Among the spate of new movies the chain is readying to premiere are "The New Mutants" (Aug. 28), "Tenet" (Sept. 3) and "Unhinged" (Aug. 21) to start.

AMC said it will fill the gaps in its schedules with hit films like "Beauty and the Beast," "Black Panther," "Inception" and more at just $5 plus tax per ticket.

AMC is also offering numerous offers to entice movie fans to return to its theaters, including a one-day event on Aug. 20. Tickets that day will cost what they did in 1920, when the company was founded: 15 cents plus tax.

In terms of cleaning and safety measures being implemented, AMC said it will "significantly" limit seating capacity for movies as well as enforce social distancing and the wearing of masks for "all guests and employees."

AMC added that hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes will be "widely available" throughout its theaters, there will be "reduced cash handling at box offices and concession stands" and food and beverages can be ordered online via mobile phones.

Additionally, AMC is limiting seating capacity and adding extra time between showings so each auditorium can be cleaned, with guests able to expect "continuous extra cleaning and disinfecting of high traffic areas."

AMC said it worked with The Clorox Company and former faculty of Harvard University’s School of Public Health on its safety measures as well as investing "tens of millions of dollars" to create all of its Safe & Clean initiatives, which can be viewed in full here.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Some 963,000 workers filed jobless claims last week, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor released Thursday.

This is the first time in 21 weeks that weekly jobless claims have dipped below one million. The number of new claims has fallen since peaking at nearly 6.9 million in the last week of March, but the streak of pandemic-induced layoffs remains unprecedented.

Some economists worry that the furloughs and temporary layoffs could turn into permanent job losses.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


skhoward/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- After initial excitement about the discovery of a promising treatment for some coronavirus patients, executives with Gilead Sciences are now facing harsh criticism over the initial business decisions they’ve made in the midst of a pandemic.

In recent days, state leaders and a government watchdog group have leveled complaints against the company for the price point it set for its antiviral drug remdesivir, a promising treatment shown to diminish recovery time in hospitalized coronavirus patients, and for allegedly not more quickly pursing a potentially cheaper alternative. Gilead holds exclusive manufacturing rights for remdesivir.

“Gilead, on the one hand, has a product that helps people” said Dr. Erin Fox, the senior pharmacy director at the University of Utah. “But on the other hand, it does feel like they’re taking advantage of the situation.”

With some critics accusing the California-based pharmaceutical giant of placing too much focus on profits, Gilead is experiencing a challenge now facing a number of for-profit companies that are devising COVID-19 treatments and vaccines -- how to market and sell their products during a global health crisis.

The company has pushed back on criticism of its drug marketing choices, citing the “unique situation” of conducting business during the pandemic, and saying it is guided by its "responsibility to patients." Early in the pandemic, it committed to donating 1.5 million doses of the drug worldwide.

Gilead also announced this week that it would investigate the less-expensive alternative to remdesivir after the company faced accusations of suppressing it for financial considerations.

In a letter to Gilead executives and federal health officials last week, government watchdog group Public Citizen encouraged the company to investigate whether another of its patented antivirals, called GS-441524, could serve as a viable and less expensive substitute to remdesivir, even though it may make the company less money.

The health research experts at Public Citizen, joined in signing the letter by two cancer medicine experts at University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, argue that the cheaper drug “is very similar in chemical structure and activity to remdesivir” -- and may even “offer significant advantages over remdesivir.” The watchdog group posits that Gilead may be withholding it because its patent expires five years sooner than does remdesivir’s, and the company would stand to profit more if remdesivir remained the only available treatment.

“It is unclear why Gilead and federal scientists have not been pursuing GS-441524 as aggressively as remdesivir,” the letter continues, “but we cannot help but note that there are significant financial incentives tied to Gilead’s current patent holdings.”

A Gilead spokesperson, however, told ABC News that the company had reason to promote remdesivir over the other drug: unlike remdesivir, early research suggested the other drug would be less effective and because of that, it had not been tested for humans.

The spokesperson said the company has since “initiated additional preclinical studies to further compare remdesivir and GS-441524” and will publish the results of those studies “as soon as they become available.”

The company has also faced renewed questions about the pricing it has set for remdesivir. Earlier this week, Gilead sought official approval for the drug from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but in May, regulators fast-tracked its use under an emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients. By late June, Gilead set its price at $520 per dose for U.S. private insurance companies and $390 per dose for the U.S. government.

Most patients receive a five-day treatment, meaning the total charged for those with private insurers adds up to $3,120. For those enrolled in government health programs, that total is $2,340.

And while experts acknowledge it's difficult to determine the cost and value of a drug mid-pandemic, that price point is one that a bipartisan group of state attorneys general last week called “outrageous and unconscionable." On the day the letter was sent more than 53,000 people in the United States were hospitalized for the disease nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

“It is unfortunate that Gilead has chosen to place its profit margins over the interests of Americans suffering in this pandemic,” the group of 34 attorneys general wrote in a letter to officials from the Department of Health and Human Services. “Gilead should not profit from the pandemic and it should be pushed to do more to help more people.”

Led by California Democrat Xavier Becerra and Louisiana Republican Jeff Landry, the attorneys general encouraged the federal government to invoke a law that would allow third parties to develop remdesivir, effectively waiving Gilead’s patent.

Joe Torsella, Pennsylvania’s state treasurer, also went public with criticism of Gilead last week, calling its remdesivir pricing “both wrongheaded and immoral.” Torsella oversees Pennsylvania’s financial holdings and investments, which includes shares of Gilead.

“We’re going through a time when the country is hurting and people are either rising to the occasion or taking advantage of it,” Joe Torsella told ABC News. “I want to urge Gilead to put themselves in the camp of the ‘rising to the occasion’ group and rethink this pricing.”

Torsella said he has been in touch with Gilead about reducing the cost, but would not go into detail about those discussions.

Critics of Gilead say their concern stems in part from what they say is the relatively low cost of manufacturing the drug. The state attorneys general claim one vial of the drug -- a daily dose -- costs between $1 and $12 to manufacture. One peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Virus Eradication earlier this year suggested that one dose could be produced for only 93 cents.

Gilead pushed back on that figure, telling ABC News that “fair-minded audiences will understand that the cost to manufacture a complicated investigational drug like remdesivir, which relies on raw materials sourced from around the world, involves multiple chemical reactions and requires sterile manufacturing facilities, is not 93 cents.” The company did not say how much it understands the drug to cost to manufacture.

The company has also disputed the argument that by accepting $70 million in estimated taxpayer money to develop the drug through federal grants and clinical trials and charging patients thousands of dollars for treatment, Americans are effectively paying twice for the drug.

Gilead has reported in its quarterly financial filing that it has invested more than $1 billion in the drug, with much of the money used to increase manufacturing capacity. The company also pushed back on the $70 million figure, claiming it reflects government grants for “research across many disease areas.” Gilead said it calculated $18.9 million in government grants for work relating to coronavirus.

Fox, the University of Utah pharmacist, said “it is not uncommon” for a drug product to receive government funding for research and development, and characterized the example of remdesivir as “an unfortunate continuation of this double-dipping.”

Beyond the medicine’s potential health benefits, Gilead highlight’s its value in saving hospital costs, while acknowledging that “there is no playbook for how to price a new medicine in a pandemic.”

“Earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient,” said Daniel O’Day, the company’s CEO, in a June statement announcing the drug’s price. “Even just considering these immediate savings to the healthcare system alone, we can see the potential value that remdesivir provides.”

Experts in the field agree that determining a fair price for drugs is always complicated. In the case of remdesivir, the complexity is exacerbated by multiple factors. While the stakes are especially high during a global pandemic, the process of gaining emergency authorization is much more streamlined than during normal times. And it is able to go to market even though there remains a relatively small body of research showing remdesivir to be effective.

“We still don’t have the full clinical picture to know what is the full value of the drug,” said Dr. Michael Ganio, a senior director at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. “So as far as whether it’s too expensive or priced appropriately, it’s really difficult to say.”

Some have defended Gilead’s pricing decisions. An analysis by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review in June determined that “Gilead made a responsible pricing decision based on the evidence we have today.”

Other experts said they felt strongly that Gilead should prioritize wide distribution over profits during the crisis, even though they are a for-profit enterprise.

“That their actions benefit public health to the extent that they do is a side effect of their pure pursuit of profits,” said Dr. Peter Bach, a health policy expert at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Torsella, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, called on Gilead to take a more humanitarian perspective to the crisis. He conceded that the company cannot ignore its role as a money-making entity, but pleaded with executives to take the extraordinary weight of the pandemic -- and its effect on every American -- into account.

“I understand there are business imperatives,” Torsella said. “But this is a time when everybody is and should be making some sacrifices. And I’d like to see that reflected here.”

A Gilead spokesperson said the company is doing its best to navigate a difficult period in a way that helps those in need, and supports the company’s work financially.

“Throughout the pandemic, our responsibility to patients has guided all of our actions, and this holds true for our approach to remdesivir pricing,” the spokesperson said. “The unique situation of this pandemic requires a unique solution to ensure remdesivir is accessible to patients around the world, while also balancing the need to recoup our investment to date and continue to invest in this medicine and research that will prepare us for emerging pandemic threats.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The realities of quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic are now showing up in the aisles of children's toys.

Toy giant Fisher-Price has debuted three new toys for kids that reflect all the things adults are doing at home today, from working to cooking and working out.

Fisher-Price's My Home Office eight-piece set features a pretend laptop, four fabric apps to attach to the computer screen, a wood smartphone and headset and a to-go cup for kids to sip their favorite beverage, according to the company.

The company's Baby Biceps set includes a wearable headband, kettle bell rattle, a pretend dumbbell and a jingling protein shake bottle.

The Cutest Chef set lets a baby have fun with a crinkle recipe card, play tongs with a meatball spinner, an oven mitt teether and a wearable chef’s apron bibgreat, according to Fisher-Price.

The toys, which range in price from $14.99 to $24.99, are designed to let kids role-play and connect with their parents, according to Chuck Scothon, senior vice president of Fisher-Price and global head of infant and preschool for Mattel, the parent company of Fisher-Price.

"At Fisher-Price, we’ve always been focused on making playtime more fun by infusing surprising and playful elements into our toys," Scothon said in a blog post announcing the new toys. "In the infant and preschool categories especially, we have deliberately focused on introducing toys that get parents and caregivers laughing, too."

"This collection features a number of actions that kids are seeing the adults in their lives do now more than ever," he wrote.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(CHICAGO) -- Under the grass it is barely noticeable: an unmarked grave covering one of America’s "Hidden Figures" for nearly a century.

You probably have never heard her name, but Nancy Green has likely been in your kitchen before. Green created the Aunt Jemima recipe, and with it, the birth of the American pancake.

"Her face on the box, that image on the box, was probably the one way that households were integrated," Sherry Williams, president of the Bronzeville Historical Society in Chicago, told ABC News.

Long before she pioneered that famous mix, Green was born into slavery in Montgomery County, Kentucky.

After the Civil War, she moved to a deeply divided Chicago, becoming a strong voice at Olivet Baptist Church, the city’s oldest black congregation.

"This church was noted for its work to shield those who had escaped slavery, who arrived here in Chicago because there were many slave catchers in Chicago still pursuing people who were of African descent," Williams said.

Williams has been shining a light on Green’s story for more than a decade, giving underground railroad tours of the neighborhood. In the past few years she finally identified the exact location in Chicago's Oak Woods cemetery where Green was buried.

"I mean who else has experienced slavery and then walked through all of the experiences of America, Jim Crow, segregation, lynching,” Williams said.

To Williams, Green "is that essential worker that we should salute from today in times to come."

To get Green a headstone, Williams needed the approval of one of her descendants.

After a long search, Williams finally found Marcus Hayes.

"When I found out about it, to be honest, I was shocked, and excited at the same time. Living in the United States, some African Americans, as you may know, it is hard for them to go that far back, to get who they're connected to," Hayes said.

Hayes remembers hearing stories of Green's pancakes.

"It was so good that the boys would now tell everyone ... the milling company heard about it ... they came and sought her out," Hayes said.

And just like that Aunt Jemima was born. It made its debut at the World’s fair in Chicago in 1893.

As legend tells it, Green sold 50,000 boxes of the now famous pancake mix.

"She was the trusted face. Back then, you know, anybody who would look at an African American woman cooking, they knew that they can trust her cooking, that she could cook,” Hayes said.

But for all those years, ads by Quaker Oats for Aunt Jemima never mentioned Green.

Green lived until the age of 89 but died after being hit by a car in Chicago in 1923.

After her death, female ambassadors hired by Quaker Oats continued the legacy.

Lilian Richard was one of them.

Richard put her small Texas community on the map and as a result, Hawkins, Texas, is considered the pancake capital of the state.

Unlike Green, Richard has her own headstone and a plaque in Hawkins.

The town also holds a pancake breakfast every year.

“One of my cousins, she would dress up in the same type of clothing that my Aunt Lillian had ... she would get up and tell the story to those that attended the ceremony that did not know,” Vera Harris, a descendent of Richard's, said.

Harris added, "I believe that some people may have thought that those faces were not real."

Now Harris and Hayes say those real faces, and real stories, are in danger of being erased.

In June, PepsiCo, Quaker Oat’s parent company, announced that the Aunt Jemima brand would be phased out by the end of September.

The sudden news in the midst of this country’s "racial reckoning" shocked both families.

“I was, I was taken aback. I was really shocked. I knew people didn't realize that those were real people and, you know, to phase them out, would kind of erase their history,” Harris said.

Hayes worries about Green’s legacy when the brand goes away.

‘She's just not a character ... I really want her legacy to be told. That this is a real person. And this was her recipe. And she fed the world from her flapjacks,” he said.

While some people might view the image of Aunt Jemima as antiquated or insensitive, Williams does not see it that way.

"No time ever have I heard anyone in my community say that this image was one that was derogatory. So I don't know where that sentiment is coming from," she said.

In a statement to ABC News, PepsiCo said, "This is a sensitive matter that must be handled thoughtfully and with care. We respect the women who have contributed to our brand story and will approach our rebranding with their heritage in mind."

Pepsi also announced plans to commit $400 million to various causes to help with diversity but so far has not contacted Hayes or Green or announced a definitive future for the longtime brand.

Hayes and Harris both hope Green and Richard are part of that future.

‘We don't know what it could be called as long as she is somewhere in the mix. Call it 'Nancy Greene's,'" Hayes said.

She went on, "It's not about the money, this is about the truth."

After a decades long push, Williams was finally able to raise enough money to give Green a proper headstone and marker.

Headstone artist Mark Hunt carefully etched a face that will now be preserved for generations -- a face America is finally getting introduced to all these years later.

Williams and Hunt are planning a plaque at Olivet Baptist Church as well-- with more honors to come.

The headstone will officially be placed over Green's grave on Sept. 5 after she laid in anonymity for nearly a century.

"I think for me, it gives me the courage. It gives me the motivation to push forward and make sure that you do something great in this world, that you leave a mark that people know about you," Hayes said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The president’s recent executive action designed to bring economic relief to families struggling during the pandemic does not mean a new round of government checks are about to arrive in the mail.

Instead, Donald Trump's recent announcement about additional unemployment benefits intended for millions of Americans has more quickly produced confusion among some state officials about where a large portion of the money will be coming from and the financial burden each state may be expected to take on -- all amid some mixed messages from the White House and scant federal guidance on how it all would actually work.

Officials in a handful of states told ABC News they planned to participate in the White House program, but a majority of states have made no such commitment, with two dozen state officials specifically saying this week they're waiting on further guidance from the federal government or are still reviewing the White House proposal. More than a dozen states said that if they end up having to pay for a portion of the relief, it would put a significant strain on state budgets that have already been steamrolled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump's action came after leaders in Congress failed last week to agree on a new, expansive coronavirus relief bill, and the White House has defended Trump's move as a way to fast track relief for Americans that continue to struggle financially.

But on Monday, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said the memorandum raised more questions than answers, and said the potential additional expense to the states themselves would threaten important programs and services.

“With the myriad legal and logistical questions these orders and memoranda raise, the President’s actions over the weekend appear to subordinate real relief for unemployed Americans to partisan gamesmanship, making Maine families a paw in a cruel political game,” Mills wrote in a statement.

The memo, then some mixed messages from the White House

The states' questions revolve around a memorandum, signed by the president on Saturday, that was meant to provide $400 a week for additional unemployment insurance benefits for individuals on unemployment, with a $300 contribution from the federal government and the rest, $100 or 25%, from the states.

According to the memo, the unemployment benefits will be available until the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) reaches $25 billion or for weeks of unemployment ending no later than December 6, whichever occurs first.

But since the signing there have been questions about the states' portion of the payment, which for some is expected to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the different answers coming from those in government.

For his part, the president indicated the financial obligation could change state-to-state -- a suggestion that was not spelled out in the memorandum.

“Yeah, we have a system where we can do 100% or we can do 75%, they'd pay 25%, and it'll depend on the state, and they'll make an application, we'll look at it and we'll make a decision,” Trump told reporters on Sunday, without detailing how the decisions will be made. “So it may be they'll pay nothing in some instances, it may be a little bit.”

When asked by reporters about the states' obligations on Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said states were "required by statute" to provide their portion of the funding to receive the other $300 in federal aid or count existing state unemployment funds as their 25% contribution which will require an application process.

"Because as you know, it's 75% federal government covering and 25%, the states," McEnany said. "And they can use C.A.R.E.S. funding or even existing unemployment funds for that $100. That will require an application process."

Early federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor provided to at least three states Sunday evening and obtained by ABC News further explained that second option in which states could count existing state-funded unemployment insurance weekly benefits payments as their contribution.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow explained most recently on Tuesday, all 50 states should qualify for the federal government's $300 aid without additional state funding. Officials in Ohio, New Hampshire and New Jersey told ABC News they were provided the federal guidance described above, but several other states did not respond to questions about it, and it remains unclear if it went to all 50 states.

But Kudlow on Sunday caused some confusion on how much exactly people would be receiving in federal assistance by listing a range of numbers that he later explained was an estimated range of the total amount an individual could be getting from the federal government and a state.

"Right now, that number is going to run around $700. I think they will get to $800. Some states can get above $800 with our federal help. And, again, the key point here is that it's a wage increase, Dana, of about $1,200 for the last four months of the year. That's a big pay hike," Kulow said on CNN.
As many Americans struggle, some states push for clarity

In the wake of the original memo, the early guidance and the officials' statements, some state leaders and other officials said they still feel left in the dark, with a myriad of unresolved questions, and are waiting for additional details from the federal government before making a decision on how to proceed -- with their citizens waiting in the wings.

“There are far more questions than answers, and there is currently almost no guidance from federal agencies about how either option might work,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat and vocal Trump critic, wrote in a statement. “The program appears woefully insufficient relative to the scale of the crisis, unworkable in its proposed form, and a bad deal for workers, employers, and states.”

Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner of New Hampshire’s Employment Security, told ABC News while the new White House proposal offers new opportunities for the state, it would need to get additional guidance from the federal government on three key aspects of the new unemployment benefits before moving ahead: the sources of the state portion of funds, the level of collaboration in implementation that would be allowed with the state’s existing unemployment system, and any restrictions on who would be able to access the benefits.

Lavers said he has seen “some references” to the potential waiver for the 25% match, but said the state has not been given enough guidance to make any decision yet.

Brooke Scheffler, the spokesperson for Utah's Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office, told ABC News that the state would consider pursuing the federal funds if the administration develops a way for the state to qualify for the $300 benefits “without burdening our budget and the health response.”

For some states, the White House’s language about the states' obligation in the memorandum set off alarms as they were already struggling with their budget amid a costly pandemic response.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a scathing tweet on Sunday called the memorandum “absurd,” saying “Americans need real help -- not false promises.”

The Democratic governor said during his daily press conference on Monday that the White House proposal would cost California at least $700 million per week -- and possibly up to $2.8 billion a week -- and emphasized that the money “simply does not exist" after all the state has spent on public services amid the pandemic.

“The rest of money simply does not exist,” Newsom said, adding that the state would need the federal government to provide support for the 25%. “There is no money sitting in the piggy bank of the previous [federal coronavirus relief] CARES Act to be reprioritized or reconstituted for this purpose. It simply does not exist.”

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, D., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the plan would cost the state roughly $500 million through the end of the year, emphasizing “the president’s plan is not a great idea.” Similarly, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, also a Democrat, said that in his state, the cost would easily surpass Connecticut’s number, saying “It’s just not workable.”

In mid-July, Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced more than $250 million in budget cuts, nearly 10% of the state’s general fund budget. But even with the deep budget cuts, the state is still predicting a budget shortfall of more than $600 million. Like some others, the state is waiting on additional guidance from the Department of Labor.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear expressed his frustration on a conference call with fellow Democrat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, saying the state is struggling enough as it is, currently seeing high short-term unemployment.

Beshear said the state would have to pay between $48 million to $60 million per month. But based on his calculations, Beshear said he is worried states might end up having to pay the full $400 if the federal funding cap is hit early.

“But based on calculations as to how much money was set aside, the federal program might only last 5 weeks, meaning states would be left picking up that full $400,” said Beshear. "Looking at the last three months to get through the year, we'd be looking at over $1.5 billion, something that's just not possible for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

A few states jump on board White House plan

Still, officials in a few states -- all led by Republicans -- said they were eager to join the White House plan.

On Monday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced that his state has chosen to accept the $300 federal contribution at no state cost, based on the guidance his government received.

“We plan on working with other states and with the federal government, Trump administration and the Department of Labor to hopefully ease any implementation concerns ahead of that,” DeWine’s spokesperson Dan Tierney told ABC News. “Obviously, the more uniform the benefit is, the easier it is to implement.”

At least four other states have told ABC News that they will gladly participate in the new White House program. Arkansas and West Virginia have already announced that they will pay the 25% of the unemployment benefits, while states like Arizona and South Carolina have said they’re willing to participate without further detailing what it would look like.

Arkansas's Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said the state has no budget shortfalls and has over $200 million in surplus or reserve funds they could use to meet the 25% share. But he said there would be delays in getting the funds “out the door” because it would require legislative approval.

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s spokesperson Patrick Ptak said the governor’s office is “very thankful to President Trump for extending these critical benefits,” and “will be working diligently to apply these changes in Arizona.” Another Republican governor, Henry McMaster of South Carolina, said during a press gathering that his state is moving forward with the White House proposal as well, though he didn’t elaborate further on how the state would implement the plan.

In a press briefing on Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he will “very willingly” pay the 25% which would total about $26 million per week. The state would use $678 million from the CARES funding that was set aside early on.

“We’re hopeful that the federal government is going to reverse where the states don’t have to pay the 25%,” Justice said, “but we’ve got the money set aside... because you’ve got people wondering how they’re gonna make a car payment.”

Editor's Note: This report has been updated to reflect that White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday discussed the possibility of states using existing unemployment funds as their contribution to the White House proposal. The original version of this report mischaracterized her statements. The update also includes an additional quote from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow to CNN.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(LOS ANGELES) -- A California judge on Monday said Uber and Lyft cannot classify their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, delivering a major blow to the rideshare giants that have fought to block their drivers from receiving employee protections such as sick leave and overtime pay.

The preliminary injunction compelling the new classification is on hold for 10 days until the companies have a chance to appeal. Uber and Lyft have already vowed to fight the ruling, arguing that drivers want the flexibility that comes with contractor status.

Uber and Lyft have argued that their businesses are platforms that connect customers to drivers, rather than transportation companies. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman dismissed that reasoning, writing that it "flies in the face of economic reality and common sense."

"Uber's argument is a classic example of circular reasoning: because it regards itself as a technology company and considers only tech workers to be its 'employees,' anybody else is outside the ordinary course of its business, and therefore is not an employee," Schulman noted. "Were this reasoning to be accepted, the rapidly expanding majority of industries that rely heavily on technology could with impunity deprive legions of workers of the basic protections afforded to employees by state labor and employment laws."

"To state the obvious, drivers are central, not tangential, to Uber and Lyft’s entire ride-hailing businesses," Schulman added.

Uber and Lyft claim drivers want the flexibility to create their own hours. Uber has also argued that the need for flexible work is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing unemployment crisis.

"Drivers do not want to be employees, full stop," Lyft told ABC News in a statement. "We’ll immediately appeal this ruling and continue to fight for their independence. Ultimately, we believe this issue will be decided by California voters and that they will side with drivers."

Uber did not immediately respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment Tuesday. A spokesperson for the company told The Associated Press that "our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression."

Meanwhile, in November, a proposition backed by Uber and Lyft is on the ballot in California that would allow app-based drivers to be classified as independent contractors instead of employees.

Monday's decision comes after California -- led by its Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco -- sued Uber and Lyft over their classification of drivers in May.

"The court has weighed in and agreed: Uber and Lyft need to put a stop to unlawful misclassification of their drivers while our litigation continues," Becerra said in a statement Monday in response to the preliminary injunction. "While this fight still has a long way to go, we’re pushing ahead to make sure the people of California get the workplace protections they deserve."

Advocacy groups lauded the judge's ruling as a "victory for workers."

"This is a huge victory for workers and confirms what we already knew: Uber and Lyft have been breaking the law by misclassifying drivers in order to deny them fair wages and healthcare," Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen said in a statement.

He continued, "Drivers everywhere are standing up to fight for their rights and the courts have taken their side in case after case. Now it's time for the companies to do what's right: pay drivers what they are owed, provide the protective equipment they need, and treat them with the dignity they deserve."

Nicole Moore, a driver and organizer with the group Rideshare Drivers United, responded to the news in a statement, calling it a "significant win for drivers and for all workers."

"Everyone can be deployed by an app -- and that technology should not provide a free pass for employers to prevent us from receiving basic protections under the law: all workers need access to basic benefits such as unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, health protections, and a minimum," Moore said. "All of these things are essential to work in America."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) --  A coalition of more than two dozen business leaders from some of New York City's largest employers together are pledging to hire 100,000 Black, Latino, Asian and low-income workers over the next 10 years.

CEOs from 27 major businesses, including JPMorgan Chase and Google, announced the formation of the New York Jobs CEO Council on Tuesday to help meet the goal.

The initiative will be led by Dr. Gail Mellow, who previously worked as the president of LaGuardia Community College. It will work closely with the City University of New York system -- 75% of that student body is Black and Latinx, according to Mellow -- and other public education and community organizations.

"This is not about a press release, this is about a 10-year commitment on the part of these companies. This is long term, this is systemic," Mellow told ABC News. "These CEOs are metrics-driven. They don't want a good story, they want to see the numbers."

A diverse and inclusive workforce is "important for the country, and it's frankly important for their businesses," she added.

The new program comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated income inequality in the U.S. and hit communities of color especially hard.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state is "confronting this injustice head on" and that the new initiative "will play an important role connecting underserved communities with career resources and access to New York's world-class educational institutions, helping ensure economic prosperity is a dream anyone can realize, no matter their ZIP code."

Joining the initiative are the chiefs of Amazon, Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, IBM and more. The proposed job types range widely by company, according to Mellow, but the goal is that all are well-paying, even at the entry level, and provide the potential for growth.

"Many New Yorkers are stuck in low-paying jobs that could be lost in the future or are struggling to navigate the labor market as the COVID-19 crisis has further exacerbated the economic inequities in the city," Jamie Dimon, CEO and chairman of JPMorgan Chase and a co-chair on the council, said in a statement. The participating companies, including his, are using their "collective power to prepare the city's workforce with the skills of the future and helping New Yorkers who have been left behind get a foot in the door."

Arvind Krishna, CEO of IBM and another co-chair, added that the jobs council "will create much-needed economic opportunities for New Yorkers in diverse and underserved communities."

"This will not only help companies tap into fresh new talent but also ensure that people of all backgrounds can reap the fruits of the city's economic recovery and thrive in a fast-changing job market," Krishna added.

Mellow told ABC News that each company has been asked to provided a signed letter of intention. As part of the letter, the companies must pledge to work closely with the New York City public schools system and the City University program to create an increasing number of apprenticeships.

Mellow, a college president for two decades, told ABC News her goal has always been to propel students "out of poverty and into the middle class." She said that job opportunities, especially internships and apprenticeships, have been one of the biggest game changers for students from low-income communities entering the workforce.

"The world has been unfair to low-income communities, and that is exactly why we are doing this," she said. "We don't want people to stay low-income -- we want to help create the middle class in America again."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Clothing rental services continue to be a hot topic even through these unprecedented times, and that's part of the reason plus-size retailer Eloquii has decided to come to the forefront with something many people are already excited about.

On Tuesday, the company announced Eloquii Unlimited, a rental service that will give women above size 14 limitless options and a rotating wardrobe of clothes to wear.

This new offering will include a huge assortment of stylish dresses, tops, bottoms and outerwear. There's also a variety of textures and prints that can be worn for work or play.

Fresh new styles will also be added two times weekly.

After surveying 1,000 women who are sizes 14-28, Eloquii found that 80% of them agreed a clothing rental subscription service could be the solution to them finding the right sizes for looks they like. Over 40% of the women surveyed said that it’s still important for them to avoid wearing the same outfit too many times.

These insights, coupled with the void for plus sizes within rental clothing services, helped the fashion label decide to take the leap into a space where there is apparent need.

How Eloquii Unlimited rental service works:

Eloquii Unlimited shoppers can subscribe for $79 a month to get access to boxes containing four pieces of clothing.

The subscription boxes allow for unlimited box swaps throughout the month which means boxes of clothing can be kept by customers for as long as they would like to keep them. Or, they can be sent back in a pre-paid postage box.

Once your Unlimited box is returned, you have access to select new options for your next box delivery -- all at one flat fee.

ABC News Medical Unit has confirmed that it's still unclear how long viruses can live on clothing, but it is a fact that viruses can stay on shipping materials such as cardboard for up to 24 hours.

However, if you are wondering if it's safe to rent clothing amid COVID-19 from retailers such as Eloquii, the brand has stated that extensive health procedures will be done to ensure the clothing is properly sanitized and exceeds the CDC’s recommendations.

In addition to the good news surrounding Eloquii Unlimited's new rental service, the brand is offering a free month for a limited time.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(BEND, Oregon) -- Before streaming services, there was Blockbuster. Remember the excitement of the trip to the local store, wandering the aisles and looking for the perfect Friday night movie? If you were lucky, maybe your parents even let you pick out a candy from the display near the checkout line.

You can live out the Blockbuster experience one last time. For the first time, the world’s last store is now on Airbnb.

Bend, Oregon, store Manager Sandi Harding listed the iconic establishment for an end of summer sleepover as an appreciation for all that the local community has done to support the store during these difficult times, according to Airbnb. The three, one-night stays will give guests an opportunity to experience a '90s themed sleepover and relive the bygone Friday night tradition.

On Aug. 17 at 1 p.m. PT, movie lovers from the area are invited to request one of the nights -- either Sept. 18, 19 or 20 -- for up to four people.

Sleeping arrangements are communal and complete with a pull-out couch, bean bags and pillows to cozy up with “new releases” from the ‘90s.

Blockbuster fans around the world who can’t snag one of the three bookings can take advantage of the store’s “Callgorithm” to receive tailored movie recommendations or they can show their support to help keep the store alive by visiting their online shop for some blue and yellow gear.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo D. Myles CullenBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL and SARAH KOLINOVSKY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday said that states will be able to "execute" new weekly federal unemployment benefits of up to $400 within two weeks, after the Trump administration repeatedly declined to offer a timeline for the new benefits announced by President Donald Trump over the weekend, following the collapse of coronavirus relief negotiations with Democrats.

"Within the next week or two, most will be able to execute," said Mnuchin, who answered the question posed to Trump at his news conference Monday, at the president's suggestion.

Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the benefit would be delivered to Americans "quickly" and "close to immediately," but did not provide a more specific timetable. On Saturday, Trump said it would be "rapidly distributed."

Trump took action to create a new federal unemployment benefit over the weekend, redirecting up to $44 billion in disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the states to distribute. The federal government is set to contribute $300 a week, with states expected to contribute an additional $100 under the memorandum. The benefit would only be available to workers already collecting at least $100 in other unemployment benefits.

The president also signed an executive order directing the federal government to work to limit evictions and a memoranda to defer payroll taxes for employers and student loan payments -- a series of unilateral steps aimed at addressing the concerns of Americans in the pandemic and ongoing recession, after negotiations collapsed between senior administration officials and Democratic leaders over the scope of additional relief funds.

Democrats and some Republicans criticized the president's executive actions after the coronavirus relief negotiations broke down on Capitol Hill between the Trump administration and Democratic leaders, as some governors warned that their states would not be able to afford to contribute 25% of the benefit under the president's memorandum.

"We appreciate the White House's proposals to provide additional solutions to address economic challenges; however, we are concerned about the significant administrative burdens and costs this latest action would place on the states," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association, said in a statement Monday.

Democrats have pushed a $3 trillion package passed by the Democratic-led House in May, while Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows began discussions after Senate GOP leaders introduced a $1 trillion proposal that had divided their own conference.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- As schools across the country slowly reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, 12 out of the 15 largest school districts in the United States have chosen to go back to school remotely.

While it’s a safer option, it poses an economic challenge for parents who cannot afford to purchase another laptop or better Wi-Fi at home. It also poses a challenge for kids who don’t have internet access at home and who have trouble learning on their own.

But tech experts like Stephanie Humphrey, the author of Don’t Let Your Digital Footprint Kick You in the Butt, which is out now, shared a few budget-friendly ways to virtual schooling with ABC News' Good Morning America to help parents and kids navigate the fall semester seamlessly.

Hacks to get internet at home

According to recent data from the National Center for Education and Statistics, more than nine million school children will have difficulty completing assignments online and 14% of children don’t even have internet access at home.

But with the help of websites like, a nonprofit that connects low-income families to affordable internet service and computers, and, Humphrey says that there are ways to access the internet.

Hacks to boost your Wi-Fi signal

For those who do have internet access at home, many know that it’s sometimes difficult to get a good signal, especially if there are multiple people in the home using it. While you can just pay to boost your signal, it can get pricey.

So, one way to boost your signal that Humphrey shared is to assess the best places in your house to work with a free app like CloudCheck, which helps find the strongest signal in your home. All you have to do is press one button to find out if you’re working in the best spot in your house.

If you still need a boost, Humphrey said to add an extender for around $30 like the TP Link AC 750, which is compatible with all standard routers and has an easy one button setup.

Hacks to help kids who need a tutor

With quarantine putting a dent in the way kids learn from a teacher or a tutor, sometimes it can be a challenge for kids who need that support to get through assignments.

Luckily, Humphrey pointed out that there are online resources like and which aim to provide academic support for K-12 students with limited access to resources.

On, students can get paired up with one of over 4,000 mentors in the program and on, students can find a tutor from over 2,000 libraries which provide tutoring sessions.

TutorMe is another resource which provides 24-7 online tutoring for $1 a minute. If your kid is stuck on one homework, you can pay for 10 minutes of tutoring instead of one whole hour. This is a great, more affordable way to give your student access to educational resources for a short time.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Andrei Stanescu/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- SpaceX and United Launch Alliance scored a lucrative multi-million dollar contract to launch national security missions for the U.S. government.

The deal puts Elon Musk's private space exploration company in charge of 40% of launch mission services from the U.S. Space Force's Space and Missiles Systems Center through fiscal year 2024. It puts ULA -- the joint venture backed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing -- in charge of 60% of launch services, the U.S. Air Force announced last Friday.

The first of the launches are scheduled for liftoff in fiscal year 2022. Initial contracts will be issued to the ULA for $337 million and SpaceX for $316 million for launch services to meet fiscal year 2022 launch dates, according to the Air Force.

"This landmark award begins the dawn of a new decade in U.S. launch innovation, while promoting competition, maintaining a healthy industrial base, and reinforcing our global competitive advantage," Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in California, said in a statement announcing the deal.

"This acquisition will maintain our unprecedented mission success record, transition National Security Space payloads to new launch vehicles, assure access for current and future space architectures, and cultivate innovative mission assurance practices," Thompson added.

Dr. William Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, added that the deals "mark a new epoch of space launch that will finally transition the Department off Russian RD-180 engines."

The Colorado-based ULA's president and CEO Tory Bruno said the company was "honored" to be selected.

Bruno added that the company's latest launch vehicle, the Vulcan Centaur, is the "right choice for critical national security space missions and was purpose built to meet all of the requirements of our nation's space launch needs." The Vulcan Centaur was largely created through funding from the government's initial National Security Space Launch program.

In securing the lucrative Pentagon deal, the companies beat out competitors Northrop Grumman and the Jeff Bezos-backed firm Blue Origin.

Blue Origin's CEO Bob Smith said in a statement that they were "disappointed" in the decision and that they had "submitted an incredibly compelling offer for the national security community and the U.S. taxpayer."

Northrop Grumman similarly expressed disappointment in the decision in a statement, saying, "We are confident we submitted a strong proposal that reflected our extensive space launch experience and provided value to our customer, and we are looking forward to our debriefing from the customer."

SpaceX did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Monday. The good news for SpaceX comes on the heels of its successful partnership with NASA to launch U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Simon Cowell's electric bike accident over the weekend has renewed e-bike safety concerns as sales soar across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The America's Got Talent judge was recovering in the hospital Sunday after breaking his back in several places, according to his representative.

The fall occurred on Saturday while Cowell was testing his new e-bike in the courtyard of his home in Malibu with his family, the spokesperson explained to ABC News.

"If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time," Cowell tweeted Sunday night, sharing "a massive thank you" to all the nurses and doctors that took care of him.

Cowell's accident comes as e-bike sales have skyrocketed. One Phoenix-based company has had to increase production after seeing an over 140% growth in sales since quarantine measures were announced.

"People want to get outside," CEO of Lectric eBikes Levi Conlow said. "They've been locked up inside and they want to get out there and they want to go explore their communities. And that's just one layer of it -- another layer is people are not eager to use public transportation anytime soon."

Many of these sales represent new, first time e-bike riders.

"Crashes can happen often in the first or second ride," Executive Director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association Greg Billing said.

E-bikes have a motor and often have more power than a normal bike.

One recent study reported e-bikes carry a higher risk of severe injuries compared to traditional bicycles or scooters.

Researchers analyzed hospital data from 2000 to 2017 by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and found that people riding powered bikes were more likely to suffer internal injuries and be hospitalized.

Billing, who teaches a class for first time e-bike riders in Washington, D.C., recommends having a checklist before getting on a powered bike -- check the air pressure, the brakes and the chains.

"It is a different skill than just riding a bike," Billing told ABC News. "Which is why we encourage people when they are starting to use e-bikes to really practice and understand how to handle the power of the bike and make sure that they feel comfortable before they get out on the road or on a trail around other people or cars."

Conlow emphasized the importance of riders wearing a helmet.

"You know you're way more safe that way," he said. "Ride within your ability as well and definitely take the time to get comfortable with the bike and read your owner's manual."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Real-life superheroes can now easily dress up as their favorite Disney heroes and heroines this Halloween or any other time.

On Monday, released a first-ever line of adaptive costumes to its Halloween lineup.

The costumes are designed with stretch fabric that opens in back for easier dressing, longer lengths for wheelchair-friendly wear and flap openings on the front center with self-stick fabric closure to accommodate tube access.

The wheelchair cover sets fit most wheelchairs and come with supportive plastic piping pieces for added stability and long self-stick fabric strips to help keep the pieces in place.

On offer: Cinderella’s Coach Wheelchair Cover Set, Incredimobile Wheelchair Cover Set along with Cinderella Adaptive Costume, Buzz Lightyear Adaptive Costume and Incredibles 2 Adaptive Costume.

The adaptive costumes are now available on to order. The wraps are available for pre-order. Both wraps and costumes will be coming to certain Disney Parks in the future.

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

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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