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iStock(NEW YORK) -- With millions of Americans urged to work from home to further prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, many are dependent on at-home tech devices more so now than ever.

That's getting harder, and more expensive, with a sudden in crush in demand for screens, batteries, USB headsets, webcams or laptop docks online. Many items like these are either out of stock or prices have gone up, according to Will Evert, an IT professional in New York City, the current epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. Evert regularly buys these peripherals online for his users.

"A webcam that normally costs $50-60 is now around $100, and a dock that should be about $180 is $320 on Amazon Prime," Evert told ABC News earlier this week. As of Saturday, the webcam Evert saw was listed as out of stock altogether.

While a New York City emergency rule makes it illegal to jack up the price of products that could help contain the spread of coronavirus, like hand sanitizer, it generally does not apply to products that make is easier to live and work through the viral threat, and prices have gone up with demand.

Like most people, the switch to working from home happened quickly for Matt Naylor, a biotechnology researcher in Massachusetts. He realized that his home office was not equipped enough to efficiently perform his job. A frequent Amazon customer, when Naylor first started looking online for cheap devices they were completely out of stock.

He said he then tried alternate retailers and various semi-boutique sellers. Naylor, who says webcams add a personal connection by actually seeing his colleagues and family via video, was surprised that he was unable to find even a cheap popular webcam anywhere online. When he eventually found one, he said he felt the pressure to decide between buying a brand with which he was unfamiliar or face a month-long back-order for more recognizable names.

Naylor said that there is also a rapidly depleting stock of other add-ons like headphones and USB microphones. A monitor he purchased one day was out of stock on the same site a few days later, he said.

"It used to be that Amazon or the cheapest retailer wins," he said. "At this point, I'm more looking for who has anything at all that meets the minimum standards."

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told ABC News that sellers on the site set their own prices, "and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing their products competitively.

"We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies," the statement said. "We have implemented additional measures to keep prices low and our global teams are working 24/7 to monitor prices in our store."

According to Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association, shortages for consumer technology products are likely the result of increased demand and manufacturing disruptions not just now, but earlier this year. But he hopes any disruptions would be resolved quickly.

"The market for consumer technology products is highly competitive," Koenig told ABC News. "In the current crisis, most retailers are competing beyond price to offer flexible delivery and return options."

It varies with the brand and availability, but prices of many of these technology items appear to have gone up.

While the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has received over 4,600 complaints of price gouging and issued more than 1,000 violations total since March 5, none of those related to portable devices like webcams, laptops, monitors, and USBs, according to Melissa Barosy, spokesperson for the department.

The consumer protection agency has issued an emergency rule under the City’s Consumer Protection Law that makes price gouging illegal for any personal or household good or any service -- disinfectants, soap, and cleaning products, diagnostic products, medicines, and tissues -- that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat new coronavirus patients.

"We will prosecute businesses using this public health crisis to take advantage of New Yorkers who are concerned for their health and we urge consumers to file a complaint if they are overcharged," department head Lorelei Salas said in a recent announcement. "To the business community, if you incurred additional costs to supply these items, we will take that into account but what we cannot tolerate is businesses that are knowingly preying on vulnerable consumers for a profit. Do the right thing. Don’t overcharge."

But the message wasn't aimed at consumer electronics sellers.

One way to avoid overpaying is to go for quick fixes for broken devices, rather than trying to buy a brand new replacement.

"Repairing a broken screen is far more efficient, quicker and economical than any other option," Evert said.

Device repair shops are currently closed to retail clients in New York, because they are not considered "essential" businesses in the time of a citywide lock-down.

But even stores who offer in-home repair services are facing unique challenges due to the shortage of parts.

Joe Natanz, owner of i Can Fix It For You, a mobile, tablet and computer repair store, said he gets many of the devices' parts from factories in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus, and other parts of China. He said parts that would generally take about three to 10 business days to arrive, now can be delayed up to 14 days.

Natanz said he's seen the price for the parts increase as well, about 15%, while the quality has declined. Parts don’t come pre-assembled or are partially pre-assembled, as they did before -- and that labor must be done here in the U.S.

"We believe this to be short term, so we have decided to eat costs at the current time," he said. "If the pandemic continues, we might have to relay that cost to the consumer due to shrinking profit margins and decreasing labor."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


piranka/iStock(NEW YORK) --The U.S. government’s historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid relief package recently approved by Congress is highly vulnerable to fraud and abuse, oversight experts and veteran watchdogs who investigated abuse of the government’s financial system bailout more than a decade ago told ABC News.

The size of the unprecedented relief package – in the scale of spending and the number of businesses eligible for funds – will make it difficult to verify the information from each applicant, and how they plan to use their money.

With roughly 10 million Americans filing jobless claims over the last two weeks, and millions of small businesses seeking government aid to stay afloat, the need for the government to immediately push out money to Americans and into the staggering economy could hinder efforts to filter out efforts from potential fraudsters to seek relief funds.

“Everybody’s acceptance of some or a lot of fraud is going to have to be high, because it’s going to happen,” said Earl Devaney, who served as the top watchdog of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which tracked the stimulus spending following the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

Though the legislation mandates multiple oversight bodies, if even a small percentage of the funds are misused, it could mean fraud on the scale of potentially millions, if not billions, before there are any efforts to recoup losses, according to experts.

They see the $350 billion in funding earmarked for small businesses in the form of forgivable loans as particularly susceptible to abuse. Millions of small business owners began applying to banks for the loans on Friday, though many applicants and lenders experienced problems with the program's rollout.

While the Treasury Department has said money will begin flowing immediately, some institutions, including JP Morgan Chase, said Thursday they would not be ready to receive applications by Friday.

Other veteran investigators are concerned that the review process, which leaves it up to banks to vet potential borrowers and applicants to attest to their eligibility, doesn’t give authorities enough time to effectively weed out potential fraud.

“If you have fewer entities that has a lot of implications for oversight. It’s fewer entities to worry about. But it also means that the processes for application can be a little more thoughtful,” Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector general of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), told ABC News.

“In contrast here, the very purpose of these programs is not to impact a relatively small number of institutions but to reach as far and wide as possible," he said.

The small business loan initiative, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, will be “an extraordinarily easy program to defraud, and it will be defrauded in massive ways,” he added.

4 groups to oversee how the money's used

The $2.2 trillion, 880-page CARES ACT approved by Congress last week included oversight provisions, modeled after some of the safeguards implemented to track the financial system bailout and stimulus money after the Great Recession.

It formed three major groups to lead oversight efforts: A new special inspector general, who will be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate, will be responsible for oversight of the $500 billion fund administered by the Treasury Department and Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Trump plans to nominate Brian Miller, a special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel, to serve as inspector general, the White House announced Friday night.

A five-member bipartisan panel of lawmakers will monitor the Treasury Department program and Federal Reserve’s implementation of the stimulus package, and is expected to hold hearings and take public testimony from officials managing the programs.

The third group, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, have the broadest mandate, aimed at rooting out waste and fraud throughout programs in the entire $2.2 trillion relief package.

Led by Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense who was part of the panel’s precursor following the financial crisis, the group will be able to conduct audits, subpoena individuals and information, and refer matters to the Justice Department for investigation.

“Every time there’s kind of an emergency surge in spending like this it’s even more important that there’s additional layers of oversight to make sure that everything is on the up and up,” Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, told ABC News.

Hempowicz, who worked with Senate lawmakers on the provisions in the package, was optimistic that the various levels of oversight would help minimize fraud, modeled after the success of similar efforts a decade ago. But even a successful effort -- keeping abuse of funds below one percent of total spending -- could still amount to millions in waste, given the scale of the effort.

House and Senate Democrats, who were particularly worried about how the $500 billion supervised by Mnuchin will be awarded, also pushed Republicans to add additional language into the legislation preventing President Trump, his family, top government officials and lawmakers from receiving loans or investments from the Treasury programs.

After bipartisan bailout, politics threatens oversight

Already, there are signs that President Trump and Democrats could tangle over oversight of the massive stimulus programs as money begins to flow from the federal government to workers and businesses.

Trump's plans to nominate Miller, a former inspector general for the General Services Administration, will likely be met with criticism by Democrats. Inspectors General are typically independent and apolitical appointees; Miller played a role in rebuffing investigations into the withheld military aid to Ukraine that led to Trump's impeachment.

In a signing statement last week, Trump said he wouldn’t allow the inspector general to share information with Congress without “presidential supervision,” objecting to the provisions of the law that require the watchdog to notify Congress when they are “unreasonably” denied information about the stimulus program.

Democrats criticized the comments, and on Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a special select committee to provide additional oversight of the recovery funds and the administration’s management of the coronavirus crisis, a move Republicans and the White House quickly condemned as redundant.

Mnuchin on Thursday said he didn’t think the panel was necessary.

“Both parties wanted us to have oversight, wanted us to have transparency. We have full transparency," he said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing.

“It’s witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt,” Trump said of the select committee at the same briefing.

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Saturday, issued the following statement on the nomination of Brian Miller to be special inspector general for pandemic recovery:

"The special inspector general needs to be independent above all. Someone who currently works in the White House counsel’s office, serving a president who has tried to silence other inspector generals and announced his intention to silence this one, is not independent. It’s no wonder President Trump announced this nomination late on a Friday evening."

"While Mr. Miller has requisite experience for this position, he must clear a high bar to show the Senate he would protect the interests of the American people over the political interests of this administration."

While it’s not uncommon for both parties to snipe over the use – and potential abuse – of stimulus funds, the level of partisanship in Washington and the immediate need for the funds to be delivered to businesses and Americans make this situation much more difficult than the oversight efforts following the last recession, Devaney told ABC News.

“The atmosphere on the Hill, I thought it was acrimonious when I was there. It’s a lot worse today and I suspect that whoever takes this job is going to be testifying once a week,” he said of the eventual special inspector general.

Former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, who served as chair of the House Oversight Committee, defended the stimulus package, given the time constraints put on lawmakers and the Trump administration.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the last 50 years,” he told ABC News. “Emergency situations call for emergency measures. You can’t sit and write layers and layers of oversight.”

“There’s always going to be money going to people who shouldn’t have gotten it,” Davis said. “The question is, what were the alternatives?

Lawmakers and coronavirus stimulus watchdogs won’t just have this historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus package to police. Conversations have already started on Capitol Hill around a fourth phase of relief funding, including more money for small businesses.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


dbdurden/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Hobby Lobby finally closed all of its stores in the U.S. after the craft supplies company received backlash for staying open in at least one state amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly all of the store employees will be furloughed, as well as a large portion of corporate and distribution employees, according to a statement from the company.

The closure and furlough took effect Friday evening and will remain in place until further notice, the statement read.

On Wednesday, stores in Colorado were still open despite being deemed a nonessential business and ordered to close. The office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser then sent a cease and desist letter to the Hobby Lobby.

In the company's statement announcing it would close, it appeared to defend its previous decision to remain open.

"We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products," according to the statement.

The company also detailed the measures it took to provide a safer shopping environment, including installing physical barriers between customers and cashiers.

While the stores are closed, the company is ending its emergency leave pay and paid time off benefits. Employees will still have medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits for employees while furloughed through at least May 1, 2020, according to Hobby Lobby's statement.

The coronavirus crisis in the U.S., which has become the epicenter of the pandemic, caused the majority of the states to order all nonessential businesses to close.

Only nine states have not implemented formal, statewide stay-at-home orders: Arkansas, Iowa (all nonessential businesses closed until April 7), Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma (closed all nonessential businesses), South Carolina (closed all nonessential businesses), South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming (closed all nonessential businesses last Friday).

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Gwengoat/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The coronavirus pandemic has quickly evolved from a health crisis to a financial one, shuttering businesses, upending entire industries and sending financial markets reeling.

Here's the latest news on how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the economy:

Markets close out another volatile week

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 350 points Friday, or approximately 1.7%, to close out a volatile trading week.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both slipped about 1.5%.

The government jobs report released earlier in the day ended a streak of historically-low unemployment figures in the U.S., and officials warned that the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak would get worse.

"The trend of a declining unemployment rate that buoyed the U.S. economy for more than a decade is now sharply reversed," Moody's Investor Services senior vice president Robard Williams said in a statement Friday.

"Rising unemployment, combined with reductions in many employed workers’ hours and wages will severely constrain consumption, which is vital to U.S. economic growth and already plummeting due to restrictions to prevent coronavirus contagion," he added. "Provisions to support households and businesses in the recently passed CARES Act will mitigate the impact of rising unemployment on consumption to some extent, but GDP will nonetheless suffer a severe decline in the coming months.”

Disney to furlough employees 'whose jobs aren't necessary at this time'

Disney, which has previously committed to paying employees through April 18 despite its two parks in the U.S. being shuttered, said it will begin a furlough process on April 19 for "employees whose jobs aren't necessary at this time."

Eligible workers will continue to receive full health care benefits during the furlough period, the company said.

"Additionally, employees with available paid time off can elect to use some or all of it at the start of the furlough period and, once furloughed, they are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week in federal compensation through the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment insurance," a spokesperson for The Walt Disney Company said.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.

Top economic adviser to the White House says US economy is 'going to get worse'

Larry Kudlow, the president's top economic adviser, warned of the dire economic situation the country faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's going to get worse in the weeks ahead, there's no question about it," he told reporters Friday. "We have not seen the worst of it, I don’t want to sugarcoat it."

Kudlow also didn't mince words when asked on Fox News whether the country is looking at the potential of double-digit unemployment figures, saying, "They're going to look terrible in the weeks ahead. How much longer, I don't really want to forecast ... but there's no question that it will be bad."

His comments Friday marked a sharp reversal from the administration's tone just a few weeks ago.

On March 6, Kudlow said there was no need for "massive, federal throw money at people plans" and the administration was looking at "micro" economic stimulus actions.

On Friday, Kudlow said the government is focusing on the $2 trillion economic stimulus package, adding, "If we need to do more, we will do more."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledges $100 million donation to US food banks

Amazon's CEO and founder Jeff Bezos announced he was donating $100 million to Feeding America, which would help restock food banks and food pantries in the time of economic uncertainty.

"Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food. But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down," Bezos wrote in an Instagram post announcing the donation. "To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up.⁣"

Bezos currently tops Forbes' list of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of approximately $117 billion.

The donation comes just days after a group of Amazon employees at a warehouse in New York City walked off their jobs, demanding the company shut down and thoroughly clean the facility amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

US cuts 701K jobs in March amid coronavirus pandemic, unemployment rate at 4.4%

U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from 3.5%, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The new report released Friday is the first to show the initial impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. labor market.

The COVID-19 outbreak has brought U.S. businesses to a screeching halt. At least 45 states have issued or announced statewide closures of all non-essential businesses to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

Some of the biggest job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, especially in food and drinking services, according to the government. Notable losses also occurred in health care/social assistance, professional/ businesses services, retail and construction.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kameleon007/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As thousands of grocery staffers, delivery workers and other "essential" employees still head to work amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, recent searches for "hazard pay" have skyrocketed, according to Google data.

The once narrowly used labor term that has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks is defined as "additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship," according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A handful of companies have announced pay bumps for its front line workers as COVID-19 spreads throughout the U.S. -- including Amazon, Albertsons, Krogers, Safeway and Whole Foods, which all announced $2 per hour pay raises for eligible employees.

Albertsons called it "Appreciation Pay" and Krogers referred to the bump as a "Hero Bonus."

"Whether we call this hazard pay or not, certainly workers who are incurring some amount of unavoidable risk from COVID deserve additional pay," Ryan Nunn, policy director at Brookings Institute's Hamilton Project told ABC News, adding, "It's great to see employers doing this."

Still, Nunn said he thinks the pay bump "can’t be a substitute for employers doing everything they can to make work as safe as possible during this pandemic."

For employers that may not be able to provide hazard pay because of the unprecedented economic crisis caused by the outbreak, Nunn said, "We may need to see public subsidies."

"We need to pay the cost of that work as a society, and not put it all on the 'essential workers,'" he added.

Moreover, many of the workers now being relied on for food, supplies and more amid the outbreak are traditionally low-wage jobs.

"I think what we’re learning is that the workers who have the ability to work remotely tend to be higher paid," Nunn said. "And a very large number of workers can't effectively work remotely, and a big fraction of them are doing work that is really essential to the continuing of our society."

"Given that some risks will likely remain, I think that we need to compensate workers better," he added.

If you are still going to work amid the crisis and think you are eligible for hazard pay, Nunn said he recommends looking to your union leaders and your elected officials.

"This is a great example of a time when a union is really valuable because it can negotiate with an employer for additional pay and better working conditions," he said.

"We also should look for a public policy response because it may be that, given these unusual and difficult circumstances, it will be difficult for workers to get an increase in pay," he added, noting that many employers are dealing with "fallen demands and shut downs."

"We may need to look to policy makers for some subsidies for those essential workers," he added.

Earlier this week, when asked by ABC News' Kyra Phillips whether hazard pay for health care workers should be included in the "phase four" relief package from Congress, President Donald Trump said that it could come in the form of a bonus.

"I think it's something we are discussing in terms of bonus or bonus pay," Trump said. "It doesn’t have to be called hazard pay."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kritchanut/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As many Americans increasingly find themselves out of work and filing for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic, many have to find extra funds.

ABC News Technology and Consumer correspondent Becky Worley shared her tips for finding a few extra dollars during these uncertain times.

Subscription scrub

Get your credit card statement and pull out every recurring monthly charge. Cancel anything you can and don’t forget to go through your iTunes and Google Play subscriptions too. Becky said she was able to find $55 worth of subscriptions, which accumulates to $600 a year.

Becky also suggested renegotiating cellphone plans using an app called Trim, which can also help switch to cheaper cable.

Get a budget together

The second way Becky suggests saving during these times is to budget. She suggests several apps to get started like “You Need A Budget,” which can help you list your outgoing income and stick to a plan, and another app called “Mint,” which is a less rigid budgeting tool but gets the job done.


Go Marie Kondo on hyper drive and see if you can sell anything that you have that’s valuable. Becky suggests familiarizing yourself with sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, The Next Door “For Sale” section and selling apps like Poshmark and Mercari.

Figure out how they work, take pictures of your items and sell.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pineapple Studio/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Millions of Americans could wait months for stimulus checks from the federal government, according to a House Democratic memo obtained by ABC News.

With millions of Americans unemployed in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the extended timeline for the delivery of paper checks could spell trouble for some eligible Americans.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Internal Revenue Service would begin direct coronavirus payments to taxpayers "within two weeks," after suggesting on Sunday they would be directly deposited in the bank accounts of Americans who had shared their banking information with the IRS within three weeks.

In a memo summarizing conversations with the Treasury Department and IRS -- and circulated on Capitol Hill ahead of Mnuchin's announcement -- House Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee said the IRS would make payments to roughly 60 million Americans through direct deposits, through the information on their 2018 and 2019 tax returns, and that the agency would begin issuing paper checks to individuals three weeks later, in early May.

The IRS expects to issue five million paper checks per week, Democrats said in their memo, adding that it would take 20 weeks to mail out all checks to eligible Americans.

They will be sent out to people with the lowest incomes first, according to the memo.

On Thursday, Mnuchin pushed back against Democrats' claims about the timeline in a White House briefing, without offering specifics about the length of the entire process.

"Let me just say when Obama sent out these checks it took months and months and months," he said. "If we have your information, you’ll get it within two weeks. Social security, you'll get it very quickly after that."

"If we don't have your information, you'll have a simple web portal, you’ll upload it. If we don't have that, we'll send you checks in the mail," he added.

Tax experts have been skeptical of the timeline put forward by the Trump administration. It took three months for stimulus payments to go out in 2008 after the passage of legislation.

"It generally takes several months for the IRS to develop and test the programming systems to determine the rebate amounts -- a task which is complicated by the ongoing filing season, and the pressures processing 2019 tax returns places on the existing computer capacities," Janet Holzblatt of the Tax Policy Center told ABC News.

"This is uncharted waters -- similar types of rebates were not paid in the midst of the filing season," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


glegorly/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused unemployment levels to skyrocket, delivering a massive blow to the U.S. economy as a whole and shuttering, at least temporarily, thousands of businesses across the country.

A record-smashing 6.6 million people filed for unemployment in the week ending March 28 amid the pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on Thursday.

If you lost your job due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you most likely qualify for cash benefits that are jointly funded by the federal government and your state. Here is what you need to know about how to get your unemployment insurance:

Who qualifies for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility guidelines can vary state-to-state, but you usually qualify for unemployment insurance if you lost your job due to lack of available work, according to the DOL.

New federal rules amid the pandemic expanded eligibility to include those who -- as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak -- were temporarily or permanently laid off, had their hours reduced, are quarantined and can't work, are unable to work due to a risk of exposure or are caring for a family member who has been infected.

In most states, you might also need to meet a state's requirement for time worked or wages earned during a "base period" before you were laid off or unable to work.

You can find the details for your state's specific requirements on the DOL-designated website here.

How much money will I receive?

Under the new provisions, workers are eligible for an additional $600 a week on top of their normal benefit, which in February averaged $387 a week nationwide, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). In February, regular benefits ranged from $215 a week in Mississippi to $550 a week in Massachusetts, the CBPP said.

Benefits are also extended up to an additional 13 weeks beyond the maximum 26 weeks normally provided under the new law.

What if I am a self-employed or gig economy worker, do I still qualify?

Previously, most self-employed or gig workers did not qualify for unemployment benefit insurance. The $2 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package, however, expanded benefits to include those who are self-employed or gig workers and have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, however, most states "are in the process of updating their websites to reflect the new laws," the DOL said.

"If you don't see updated information yet, you should still apply," the DOL says online. "If you have already applied, then once your state updates their information you will receive your full benefits or be notified if your state needs more information."

Even if you only "think you might be eligible," the DOL urges you to still "apply now."

How can you apply?

You will need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked, but each state has different filing requirements. In most states, you can file the claim by telephone or online, again, depending on the state.

The DOL recommends contacting your unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after you become unemployed.

You will likely be asked for information such as the addresses of your former jobs and the dates you worked there. It usually takes approximately two or three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check, the DOL says.

More information on how to apply in your state is available here.

What happens if you can't get through?

With a record-shattering number of people applying for unemployment, there have been reports of the sites crashing and grueling wait times on phone lines.

The DOL recommends being persistent and patient, and trying at different times of the day as often as you can.

"Many state websites, phone numbers, and unemployment systems are overwhelmed by extremely high levels of traffic," the DOL says on its website. "State unemployment agencies ask that you have patience if you have trouble getting to a website or filing your claim. They suggest trying at different times of the day, and to keep trying."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News Illustration / US Department of Labor(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus pandemic has quickly evolved from a health crisis to a financial one, shuttering businesses, upending entire industries and sending financial markets reeling.

Here's the latest news on how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting the economy. For more on financial resources available during the pandemic, click here.

Financial markets rise with oil prices

Despite the staggering unemployment filings figure released earlier in the day, U.S. financial markets rallied as oil prices soared.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up more than 450 points, or 2.2%. The S&P 500 climbed 2.3% and the Nasdaq rose 1.7%.

The best performers for the Dow Thursday were energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil, which saw gains of approximately 11% and 7%, respectively.

Oil prices spike after Trump says Saudi Arabia and Russia will end price war

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he spoke to his "friend" Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, expressing confidence that Saudi Arabia and Russia will be taking action to temper their ongoing oil price war.

Trump said the prince spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and agreed to cut back oil production by at least 10 million barrels.

Shortly after Trump's tweet, however, a spokesperson for Putin denied that he spoke to the Saudi crown prince.

Still, prices for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, spiked more than 23% on Thursday. West Texas Intermediate crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, similarly jumped more than 24%.

Amazon announces temperature checks, more safety measures for employees

Amazon announced Thursday a series of new safety measures for its employees.

The company said it would check the temperature of all staff when they arrived at work and employees with a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit would be sent home.

Moreover, Amazon said it would increase the supply of personal protective equipment as well as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. Daily audits of its new health and safety measures would also be conducted.

The announcement comes just days after a group of workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York City walked off the job and went on strike Monday, demanding the company shut down and thoroughly clean the sprawling facility after they say multiple employees there have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

6.6 million Americans file for unemployment

A record-smashing 6,648,000 people filed for unemployment in the week ending March 28 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

The COVID-19 financial crisis has clobbered the U.S. economy, forcing thousands of businesses to shutter amid government-mandated stay-in-place orders.

The service industry, led by accommodation and food services, was among the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the DOL data. Other industries that have been heavily impacted include health care/social assistance, manufacturing, retail and construction, the DOL said.

Friday's staggering figure is an increase of more than 3 million from the previous record -- which was just released last week -- that showed the first labor impacts of the outbreak in the U.S.

Just a few months ago, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was near a 50-year low.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sasha Brazhnik(NEW YORK) -- MAC Cosmetics has fast-tracked the kick-off of the brand's annual Viva Glam campaign, which will allocate funds to provide relief for vulnerable communities across the globe that have been impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday, the brand announced that this year's Viva Glam 2020 initiative will be dedicating $10 million toward 250 local organizations all over the world that are on the front lines helping people at higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To further spread the news of MAC's relief efforts, Miley Cyrus, who is a past Viva spokesperson, introduced this year's plan for Viva Glam on her Bright Minded video series.

MAC's Viva Glam campaign initially launched in 1994 at the height of the AIDS epidemic, donating 100% of the selling price of Viva Glam lipsticks directly to organizations that support people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. While the campaign will continue these efforts, additional emergency COVID-19 relief funds will be allocated to support vital services such as delivering food supplies, ensuring clients remain informed about medication and testing, and treating diagnosed cases, particularly those who are immunocompromised.

"VIVA GLAM has never been about one cause, but about support to vulnerable communities," John Demsey, chairman of the M∙A∙C VIVA GLAM FUND and executive group president of The Estée Lauder Companies, said in a statement. "It was created many years ago simply as a hardship fund for people who needed safety nets."

Examples of grantees Viva Glam 2020 will support include Project Angel Food, an essential service that delivers three weeks of emergency meals to critically ill clients in Los Angeles County. The platform also hires restaurant chefs and workers who have been out of work due to the coronavirus crisis.

Partners in Health is another grantee that provides infection control measures and uses global supply chains to secure supplies in environments where shortages of masks, gloves and handwashing facilities are prevalent and predicted to get worse.

MAC Cosmetics joins companies such as Ralph Lauren, SKIMS, SheaMoisture and others that have come forward to provide financial support for those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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iStock/Dean R Specker(WASHINGTON) -- While the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the country, nonprofit organizations continue to operate some of their most important programs.

Whether it’s child care for essential workers, blood drives or online training sessions for job applications, organizations like the YMCA and United Way continue to be in demand within their local communities, according to nonprofit leaders. These programs, however, are in grave danger of using up what funding they have, which could cost millions of jobs across the country, and result in long-term shutdowns of community centers.

"Those services we provide are going to be needed now and they are going to be needed badly once we get through this pandemic," Kevin Washington, YMCA of the USA CEO, told ABC News.

Washington and other leaders are calling for an immediate federal stimulus package directed toward nonprofit groups.

The nonprofit sector is the third largest employer in the nation with 12.5 million employees, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Studies. The National Council of Nonprofits estimates there are 1.4 million nonprofit organizations in the country and 80% of the sector's revenue comes from private fees for services and government grants and contracts.

Brian Gallagher, the CEO of the United Way, which has 9,500 employees and nearly 3 million volunteers in 1,100 local chapters across the U.S., said he has received reports from other leaders that their organizations are operating with little cash.

"While I don’t know the state for all nonprofits, the data we’re seeing from New York City indicates 40,000 nonprofits have zero operating reserves," he told ABC News.

Washington added that donations from major corporations and funds have also declined over the last month.

"We have had some groups tell us said they would be able to help, but there is still a pit in our budgets that needs more money," he said.

Gallagher said full-time staff and volunteers are scrambling to continue their work because members still need their services. He noted that United Way helps operate 2-1-1 hotlines that provide support and connections to resources, such as health providers, and they have been getting over 75,000 calls a day.

"In the first few weeks of the crisis…the most requested question was, 'Should I get tested?' That has now shifted to economic distress related calls because so many people are out of work," he said.

Gallagher said he and other nonprofit leaders are asking for assistance from the government to keep them afloat. Washington said the recent stimulus bill only gave a small boost to nonprofits and had a major loophole that only allowed organizations with 500 employees to be eligible for Small Business Administration loans of up to $10 million.

"My hope is the federal government does something specific for nonprofits," Washington said.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., agreed and has co-sponsored legislation that would provide billions in relief to all 501c nonprofits and charities. Moulton said he has gotten calls about nonprofits furloughing staff and was upset that the last stimulus package left out nonprofits from any financial aid.

Under the legislation, which did not have a Senate version as of Thursday, nonprofits of all sizes would be eligible for $60 billion in funds that would be made available through Small Business Administration loans.

"Part of the things in this bill is to fix an oversight that was in the previous bill," Moulton told ABC News.

The legislation also allows Americans to count donations to nonprofits and charities as tax deductions for their 2019 and 2020 tax filings, a way to encourage more people to make donations.

Washington said he hopes leaders can push forward with this legislation.

"There will be some charities that get through this, but I know there will be a lot of organizations that won’t," he said. "I do know it will have a detrimental effect on their communities."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/fizkes(WASHINGTON) -- Bowing to pressure, the Internal Revenue Service has announced that Social Security beneficiaries will automatically receive their $1,200 emergency assistance payments without having to file a tax return – as originally required by the $2 trillion relief bill signed into law last Friday.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Wednesday eveing

This announcement came after a bi-partisan group of 41 senators wrote a letter to Mnuchin on Wednesday saying they were alarmed that the “Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released contradictory guidance earlier this week stating that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct payments.”

Earlier this week, guidance on the the IRS website said “people who typically do not file a tax return will need to file," including low-income taxpayers, senior citizens, Social Security recipients, some veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

The senators called for direct payments to be processed without the requirement of filing tax returns.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took to Twitter, arguing that having to file would be an “unnecessary burden for people who need relief now.”

The @SocialSecurity Admin already knows how to deliver money to 64M Americans. Requiring seniors, veterans, & people with disabilities to file tax returns in order to receive a stimulus check is a huge & unnecessary burden for people who need relief now.

— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) April 1, 2020

She was joined by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

"Despite language Congress passed in #COVIDー19 relief bill to ensure Social Security beneficiaries would NOT have to file taxes to receive direct relief, IRS issued guidance saying seniors DO have to file taxes" Hawley wrote. "That’s ridiculous. IRS should follow the law that Congress passed."

Despite language Congress passed in #COVIDー19 relief bill to ensure Social Security beneficiaries would NOT have to file taxes to receive direct relief, IRS issued guidance saying seniors DO have to file taxes. That’s ridiculous. IRS should follow the law that Congress passed

— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) April 1, 2020

The economic impact payment -- part of the "phase 3" COVID-19 relief package -- would give $1,200 to any individual who had an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less ($2,400 for married couples who have filed joint returns with an income of $150,000 or less). Parents, with a qualifying child, will receive $500 more per child.

“For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds,” the IRS said.

If a single filer’s income is more than $99,000, he or she is not eligible ($198,000 for joint filers with no children).

For most, no action will be required and the payment will be distributed automatically -- the IRS will base payments off either 2018 or 2019 tax returns.

For taxpayers who have not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 – and are not Social Security beneficiaries – the IRS recommends filing as soon as possible to receive a payment since the payments are only available until the end of 2020. Anyone filing should include direct deposit banking information.

As the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic continiues, these payments will be necesary for many Americans. On Thursday, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment – the most recorded in U.S. history.

For those eligible, payments will begin in the next three weeks, according to the IRS.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


t:dbdurden/iStock(DENVER) -- The Colorado Attorney General's office sent a letter to Hobby Lobby's CEO, ordering the craft supplies company to shutter stores immediately after it continued operating despite being named a nonessential business during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"For the avoidance of doubt, and as you have been previously notified, Hobby Lobby is not a 'critical business,'" the letter from attorney general Phil Weiser's office, obtained by ABC News, stated. "You are directed to immediately close all Hobby Lobby locations within the State of Colorado."

The letter added that the state's executive order mandating nonessential businesses shutter amid the COVID-19 outbreak will be enforced.

On Wednesday, several Hobby Lobby locations in Colorado remained opened. ABC News visited two locations outside Denver, where store managers said they had "no comment" when asked why they continued to operate despite being required to close.

"Craft stores including Hobby Lobby are not considered essential businesses under the order," a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health told ABC Wednesday. "Breaking the order is breaking the law."

Hobby Lobby did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.  

As of Wednesday, 45 states have issued or announced statewide closures of all nonessential businesses to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.

The U.S. has become the new epicenter of the outbreak, with over 216,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


glegorly/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A record-smashing 6,648,000 people filed for unemployment in the week ending March 28 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

The COVID-19 financial crisis has clobbered the U.S. economy, forcing thousands of businesses to shutter amid government-mandated stay-in-place orders.

The service industry, led by accommodation and food services, was among the hardest-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the DOL data. Other industries that have been heavily impacted include health care/social assistance, manufacturing, retail and construction, the DOL said.

Friday's staggering figure is an increase of more than 3 million from the previous record -- which was just released last week -- that showed the first labor impacts of the outbreak in the U.S.

Just a few months ago, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was near a 50-year low.

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alexskopje/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this week, Tara Waters made her will.

She's just 42 years old and the mother of two young children.

But amid the climate of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the nation, she, like people of many ages and walks of life, is grappling with the difficult subject and not taking any chances.

"Obviously with the coronavirus, everyone is kind of susceptible to it," Waters, a police officer from Weymouth, Massachusetts told ABC News.

"I feel like in this day and age everyone is kind of thinking about their mortality," she added. "I think people are seeing for the first time they are very vulnerable everybody is."

The coronavirus has spread rapidly in the U.S. and led to a skyrocketing demand for wills, even for those who aren't senior citizens. What once appeared to be a scourge that was primarily affecting the elderly and those with underlying health issues has now been revealed to hospitalize and kill those who are younger, seemingly at an alarming rate.

"I’m not loaded, I don't have a fortune for people to fight over, but I have two small kids," Waters said. "I definitely want to make sure that if something happens to my husband or I, our wishes are put down in legal form."

She said in speaking to different police officers and other first responders, "Everyone is saying, I should probably get a will done just in case."

Marked increase

Renee Fry, the CEO of Gentreo, an online estate-planning platform, told ABC News that they saw a 143% increase week-over-week in people creating wills with them last week, and she predicts it will be an even larger uptick this week, estimating it's "probably closer 220%."

"In the past, people thought this was only for the wealthy, it’s not," she said.

Fry emphasized that her service is legally-binding and state-specific, which is something you need to be especially cognizant of if you choose an online service.

"There might be things online, but if it's not what your state requires, then you don't have the documents you need to hold up in court," she said. "Each state has a separate requirements."

Ann-Margaret Carozza, an estate planning and asset protection attorney based in New York said in recent weeks she's seen an approximately 50% increase in inquiries about "all estate planning aspects."

"I’ve had a lot of calls and email questions about doing healthcare-advanced directives," she said. "This pandemic is causing us all to think about or it ... who we are naming to make healthcare decisions for us in the event that we are unable to speak."

"The calls about healthcare proxies were so great that I just put the PDF-downloadable form on my website," she added. "It's good in all 50 states, it does not have to be notarized."

In addition to healthcare proxies (giving someone the power to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable) and wills, Carozza said clients have been reaching out to create all sorts of often-overlooked legal documents amid the pandemic.

"There is one very interesting aspect to this and I think it may come from the very solitary nature of the most severe cases, where patients don't have interaction with family members at the end, that people are asking me for guidance on doing what I call ethical wills," she said. "A normal will simply distributes my property at my death, an ethical will is where someone can put forth words of wisdom for their family members and loved ones."

Carozza said she has also seen an uptick in inquiries for creating trusts.

"I feel like there is a general sense that parents want to make things easier and smoother for their children, and in many cases that might be doing a trust instead of a will," she said. "A trust takes effect immediately upon a parent's death and is really like a gift to the next generation in terms of simplicity."

There are several key differences between wills and trusts. Wills set forth how a person wishes to dispose of his or her property upon his or her death. Trusts, which can vary some what, hand the legal title for property to someone else -- they can be more flexible and have a wider range of uses, according to FindLaw, a provider of online legal information for consumers and small businesses.

Another key difference is that wills can face challenges in probate court, whereas a trust is not subject to probate.

'Critically important' for young parents

While in the past people may have thought wills were only for older, terminally ill or wealthy people, Carozza said it is "critically important" for parents of young children to make one.

"Especially when we have minor children, it's critically important to have a will to name guardians, otherwise it would be a court coming up with who they think would be in the best position to raise children," she said. "Anyone who has children should have a will done."

One of the most surprising aspects of the pandemic, Carozza added, is that it is making people rethink who they want to take care of their children.

"I’ve had calls where people have named siblings as guardians, but they don't like how cavalier people are taking the social distancing," she said.

While online will services have exploded in popularity in recent years, Carozza says she still discourages people from using them for the most part because of the "room for error."

"Yes, you can do an online will and you can do a will on a paper towel, and technically it's effective, but your family will be in court with that document," she said. "I would strongly encourage a person to do a will under the presence of an attorney."

"The probate laws of all 50 states state that a will executed under the supervision of an attorney is presumed to be legitimate," she added. "The do-it-yourself will will be in the probate court for twice as long."

'How fast can I get a will done?'

Drew Hall, a financial adviser in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has recently redirected his services amid the pandemic to focus on helping people get their wills in order.

Hall told ABC News that he received a surprise text a little over a week ago from a friend who was a doctor saying simply: "How fast can I get a will done?"

"I just went 'Oh man,'" Hall said. "For me it was like a lightning bolt hit. I have to do things differently for right now."

He said he then reached out to eight other people, including friends who work in the medical field, urging them to get their wills in order and not to wait until it's too late.

Currently he is working as a liaison between estate attorneys and his clients and friends to help them create wills, something he says he is not getting paid for.

But what about notarizing?

Hall said many people, however, are struggling to get their wills notarized due to government-mandated stay at home orders. He said he is currently calling in personal favors to notaries to get the wills authenticated as soon as possible.

In Louisiana and elsewhere, many attorneys have been in talks with local authorities to allow estate planning to be deemed an essential service amid the pandemic, according to Hall.

State representative Selene Colburn, of Vermont, tweeted that she is working on legislation that would allow "remote notarization processes for legal documents such as wills" amid the COVID-19 crisis.

A handful of states currently already allow remote online notarization, according to the National Notary Association.

Because of the "coronavirus emergency," and the many stay-at-home orders, more than a dozen states have authorized temporary remote notarization services with state-specific guidelines.

"Notaries in these states must follow any rules set by the governor or state commissioning officials for these emergency authorizations," the NNA states on its website.

Rules for each of the states can be found on the NNA's website.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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