Business News

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.

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mixetto/iStockBy ANGELINE JANE BERNABE and JACLYN ROTH, ABC News

(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 EveryoneOn.org, a nonprofit that connects low-income families to affordable internet service and computers, and CommunityVS.org, 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 Coved.org and Tutor.com which aim to provide academic support for K-12 students with limited access to resources.

On Coved.org, students can get paired up with one of over 4,000 mentors in the program and on Tutor.com, 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.

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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.

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mladn61/iStockBy GIO BENITEZ, MINA KAJI and SAM SWEENEY, ABC News

(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."

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ShopDisney.comBy GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(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, ShopDisney.com 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 shopDisney.com 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.

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ABC NewsBY: CHEYENNE HASLETT AND SHANNON K. CRAWFORD, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- When Genevieve Villamora left her house for the first time after battling the novel coronavirus for six weeks, she was struck by how much her neighborhood had changed -- "For Rent" signs plastered on storefronts, one block after the next.

Villamora is co-owner of Bad Saint, once deemed the second best restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appetite. The line to get a table there, in the trendy Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Columbia Heights, used to stretch down the block.

But not now. Not as Villamora watches her neighborhood become a shell of its former self.

"When we lose small businesses, we really lose a lot more than just that one business," Villamora said through tears, her voice cracking. "I think the ripple effects spread out, and they spread out in ways that are unfortunately very lasting, in ways that shred communities and neighborhoods."

In late April, Villamora's restaurant secured a lifeline -- a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program.

If used just to pay a skeleton crew, with 75% of her staff cut since March, Villamora's loan, she said, will help her last through the end of the year. She and her staff are focused on covering costs, never mind turning a profit.

They're still standing. For now.

"The way it feels," she said, "is like we're being asked to rebuild a house on sand that is shifting under us all the time."

The chance for small businesses to apply for PPP funds, forgivable loans so long at least 60% is spent on payroll, disappears Saturday. Since the program was launched April 3, more than $521.7 billion has been approved, according to the Small Business Administration.

The program, not without its faults, has helped more than 5 million businesses but to varying degrees -- some ran out of money within a month, with others stretching their loans a bit longer.

But even those who benefitted from PPP told ABC News that while it was helpful, they need more help. And there's no plan on the table to provide additional aid, without which many businesses won't be able to bounce back.

"People are incredibly resilient and resourceful, but all of their resourcefulness and new business ideas for streams of revenue will come to naught if the pandemic continues to worsen," Villamora said.

White House negotiators and top Democrats have spent much of the last two weeks attempting to reconcile differences between dueling plans to buoy the economy. Both agree on extending PPP -- but not on how to do it.

Talks appear to have collapsed entirely, with little progress made and no plan for the parties to meet again.

Even businesses that may seem well-suited to pandemic-induced lifestyle changes are finding themselves on shaky ground.

Kathleen Donahue owns Labyrinth Games and Puzzles, but before March, it offered much more. The white brick store on Pennsylvania Avenue, replete with stacks of brightly colored board games, also hosted neighborhood gatherings -- children's parties and trivia nights.

Donahue said the $100,000 in PPP she received went almost entirely to payroll expenses during the months she couldn't allow customers inside. That money's gone, and even with limited in-store shopping now allowed, she can't host events that helped land additional customers.

"We had to refund all of our summer camp money. That was pretty huge," Donahue said. "Unless we can maintain better sales than we had in July, or get more help, it's going to be very hard to pay rent and maintain the staff that I have currently for the rest of the year."

Like Donahue, Mike Brey is concerned about his business, Hobby Works, which sells model cars, miniature trains and giant gliders -- items that end up on holiday wishlists.

The $70,000 in PPP Brey received helped him and his employees weather the uncertainty of the spring, but it's not enough to last them if there's no holiday rush.

"The toy and hobby business is really built on surviving March through October, and then making all of your money November, December, January, February," Brey said. "If we were to shut down again in the fourth quarter, that would be bad."

Donahue and Brey both have small online presences, but the bulk of their business is from walk-ins.

"Usually, this time of year we start preparing for the holidays. I don't know even how to prepare," Donahue said. "It's nothing like anything we've ever experienced before."

Brey said he was grateful for PPP but that small business owners still needed lawmakers to be more "forward looking."

"If we have to go through another shutdown, my business and many businesses like it will probably need -- if not assistance -- certainly access to capital," Brey said. "Because rent doesn't stop. Health insurance doesn't stop. Payroll doesn't stop, unless you lay people off."

"Let's stop treating this like it's gonna magically disappear," he added. "And let's start figuring out how we're going to live with this virus, as a people, and as business people, for another year to a year and a half."

Jaja Chen, a 27-year-old second-generation Taiwanese American who along with her husband started a boba tea business, Waco Cha, in Waco, Texas, only got about half of the PPP for which she applied. She said they settled for that amount, after inquiring with four different lenders, because they were told funds would be drying up soon and they otherwise risked getting nothing.

They only received about $6,500.

"So," Chen said, "was it worth it? When I think about that question my head hurts, 'cause I'm like, I don't know if it was worth it."

The money was gone within a month. She and her husband have started selling dumplings along with tea to generate more revenue. Waiting for the next round of PPP -- or whatever it's called -- wasn't an option for them.

"At that point," Chen said, "we decided ... that we cannot rely on these programs to help us to be able to have a thriving business."

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Kameleon007/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 10.2% in July, falling slightly below June's 11.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There were 1.8 million jobs added in the month as the country continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

While the numbers are better than expected, they show a slow climb for job gains and there are still 12.9 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic shuttered much of the economy.

Moody's Analytics said in a statement that the jobs report "adds to a mixed picture for the U.S. economy, where jobs are being added at a slow pace but rising infection rates in some parts of the country and uncertainty around the level of continued government support are clouding the outlook."

Consumption likely will remain subdued, and perhaps even curtailed, with the end of the weekly $600 unemployment bonus that some 30 million Americans were relying on, according to Moody's.

President Donald Trump was more optimistic, writing in a tweet, "Great Jobs Numbers!"

 

Great Jobs Numbers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2020

 

Future coronavirus relief is being discussed in the Capitol, however administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders remain far apart on key issues.

But even if new benefits are added, until infection rates show "meaningful and steady declines, health concerns will weigh on consumer confidence," according to Moody's.

Jobs added in July were in leisure and hospitality, government, retail trade, professional and business services, other services and health care.

Leisure and hospitality saw the largest gains among sectors that added jobs, with employment increasing by 592,000.

The food and drink industry also increased, by slightly less with 502,000. However, despite gains over the last three months, overall employment in that sector is down by 2.6 million since February.

The service industry has been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with Americans mostly being told to stay inside and many restaurants, bars and cafes shuttering in March.

Black people faced the highest rates of unemployment in July, at 14.6%, with Hispanic people behind that at 12.9%, government data shows. Asian people had an unemployment rate of 12%, while white people had the lowest number at 9.2%.

By age, teenagers had the highest rates, 19.3%, adult women recorded an unemployment rate of 10.5% and adult men saw a rate of 9.4%.

The unemployment rate peaked at 14.7% in April, not too long after a historic low of 3.5% was reported in February.

The monthly jobs report comes a day after weekly jobless claims topped 1 million for the 20th week in a row.

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Anatoliy Sizov/iStockBy MARK OSBORNE and MATTHEW VANN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Thursday night effectively giving ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, 45 days to sell the video sharing app before it's banned in the country.

The deadline, 45 days from Thursday, would be Sept. 20, which is five days longer than the date Trump had previously used to threaten TikTok with a ban. The president has said the app is a security threat based on its owner.

The executive order officially bans all U.S. deals with ByteDance after 45 days, which the president has said is the only way he will not ban the app.

He repeated the claim in signing the executive order, writing, "TikTok automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users, including Internet and other network activity information such as location data and browsing and search histories. This data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information -- potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage."

Trump said on Aug. 1 he would ban the app, popular with young people for sharing videos choreographed to music. The app has been downloaded 175 million times in the United States, according to the executive order.

"These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic," a TikTok spokesperson said Aug. 1 after the president said he would ban the app. "We've hired nearly 1,000 people to our U.S. team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US. Our $1 billion creator fund supports U.S. creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access. TikTok's biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users' privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

ByteDance is reportedly in advanced talks with Microsoft to buy the app. Trump has indicated he would support a deal with the U.S. tech company, however, he has also said that the United States should get a portion of the sale. It's not clear how that mechanism would take place, or if it would even be legal.

"I told Microsoft, and frankly others if they want to do it, if they make a deal for TikTok -- whether it's the 30% in the United States or the whole company -- I say it's OK, but if you do that, we're really making it possible, because we're letting you operate here," Trump said Tuesday at a press conference. "So the United States Treasury would have to benefit also."

Another order from the president Thursday night bans transactions with WeChat, the popular texting app. The app is owned by Tencent, also a Chinese company.

Both have been targeted by the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recent days.

Pompeo blasted TikTok, WeChat and other social media apps in a press conference on Wednesday as "significant threats to personal data of American citizens, not to mention tools for CCP (Chinese Communist Party) content censorship."

Should no deal be reached in the 45-day limit, the U.S. would only be the second-largest country to ban the app. India banned TikTok, WeChat and dozens of other Chinese-owned apps in late June.

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BET2020/Getty Images for BET NETWORKSBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Alicia Keys is a bonafide beauty in her own right, and now fans will be delighted to hear she's coming out with a line of beauty products.

On Thursday, e.l.f. Beauty announced the company will team up with the award-winning singer-songwriter to create a new lifestyle beauty brand.

While the brand or Keys haven't released any further details on the exact items that will be included, it has confirmed that the product line will include dermatologist-developed, cruelty- free products.

"We are beyond thrilled to leverage our strengths to help realize Alicia's vision, as it not only aligns with our mission to make the best of beauty accessible, but infuses it with an even deeper dimension," said Tarang Amin, chairman and CEO of, e.l.f. Beauty in a statement.

He continued, "As a brand builder, I'm excited and very energized about the opportunities for us to reach new audiences in creative ways and to continue to lead in category innovation."

Keys has been open about her ideas on beauty in addition to her own personal skin care journey. E.l.f. Beauty stated the new platform will enable Keys to further explore conversations about inner beauty, wellness and connection.

"Alicia is not just an icon, she is an inspiration," Kory Marchisotto, chief marketing officer, e.l.f. Beauty and president of the New Lifestyle beauty brand with Alicia Keys, said in a statement. "Her perspective on beauty is soulful and timeless. Together we are painting the highest vision to blaze a new trail in beauty."

Marchisotto adds, "Alicia inspires millions of people every day. And now, more than ever, the world is craving a vision that is more than skin deep."

The new lifestyle beauty brand with e.l.f. is slated to officially launch in 2021.

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courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Amanda’s student loan debt began

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

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

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

Living with debt

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

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

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

Picking a plan, paying up and getting ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Payoff

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

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

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

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

Her message to you

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Cheetos/Frito LayBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The product will roll out nationwide in 2021.

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monkeybusinessimages/iStockBy the GMA TEAM, ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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