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Coronavirus economic updates: Futures on US financial markets point to opening spike

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

narvikk/iStock(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:

Futures on US financial markets point to opening spike

Futures on U.S. financial markets pointed to an opening surge Monday morning.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up more than 700 points, or 3.4%. Futures on the S&P 500 were up 3.5%.

The rally comes as investors welcomed some signs over the weekend that the COVID-19 outbreak was nearing its peak in certain parts of the U.S.

In New York, the number of deaths in the state dropped from the previous day and Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested the state could be “near the apex” of the crisis.

“We’re looking at this seriously now because by the data we could be very near the apex or the apex could be a plateau and we could be beyond that plateau right now,” Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday. “We won’t know until we see the next few days, does it go up or does go down, that’s what the statisticians will tell you today.”

Cuomo also said the total number of hospitalizations in the past 24 hours fell to 574 from a high of 1,412 just five days ago.

He said the downward trend was “partially a function of more people being discharged,” and that 75% of the people who have gone into the hospital system have recovered and have been discharged.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus economic updates: Futures on US financial markets point to opening spike

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

narvikk/iStock(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:

Futures on US financial markets point to opening spike

Futures on U.S. financial markets pointed to an opening surge Monday morning.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up more than 700 points, or 3.4%. Futures on the S&P 500 were up 3.5%.

The rally comes as investors welcomed some signs over the weekend that the COVID-19 outbreak was nearing its peak in certain parts of the U.S.

In New York, the number of deaths in the state dropped from the previous day and Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested the state could be “near the apex” of the crisis.

“We’re looking at this seriously now because by the data we could be very near the apex or the apex could be a plateau and we could be beyond that plateau right now,” Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday. “We won’t know until we see the next few days, does it go up or does go down, that’s what the statisticians will tell you today.”

Cuomo also said the total number of hospitalizations in the past 24 hours fell to 574 from a high of 1,412 just five days ago.

He said the downward trend was “partially a function of more people being discharged,” and that 75% of the people who have gone into the hospital system have recovered and have been discharged.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Four tips to extend the life of groceries during coronavirus pandemic

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

artisteer/iStock(NEW YORK) — With many people stocking up on food and staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to get confused by the dates listed on the label of certain food products with terms like “sell by” or “use by.”

But Amy Keating, a registered dietitian with Consumer Reports, is urging consumers not to be discouraged by those dates.

“All the different dates are all related to the food’s quality and not safety,” Keating told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Now she’s encouraging people to stock up and maximize the freshness and quality of items by storing them in the freezer.

Here are four of her tips to extend the life of your groceries:

1. Keep an eye on eggs past expiration date

Keating says eggs can last in the fridge for 3-5 weeks after they are purchased.

“The date on the egg carton is not a live and die date,” she said. “You don’t need to throw the eggs out.”

She says they can even be kept in the freezer for about a year if they won’t be consumed during that time frame. To store, simply crack the eggs and beat them, then freeze them in an air tight container.

2. Blanch veggies

Leafy greens like kale or spinach can be kept frozen in the freezer by first dropping the leaves in boiling water for a short period then transferring them to ice water to stop the cooking. Keating says blanching them this way deactivates the enzymes.

After they’re in the ice water, they can be kept in a container in the freezer for up to 10 months.

3. Freeze bread

If you’re stocking up on pre-sliced bread, you can save the loaves in the freezer until you’re ready to eat. Keating says bread can be stored for up to three months in the freezer.

“You want to make sure that it’s pre-sliced so that you’re not thawing and refreezing it,” she said. “You’re taking out exactly what you need.”

For more information on other foods and how to extend the life of groceries, a good tool is the USDA FoodKeeper App, which offers specific storage timelines for your fridge, freezer and pantry for various products.

4. Wash berries as you eat them

Keating recommends removing the stems from berries when you get home from the market and placing the berries in a paper towel-lined container. This will help prevent the berries from getting moldy, she says.

“Just prior to eating them, wash them,” Keating said. “Don’t wash the whole batch and store them in the refrigerator. They’re only going to spoil that much quicker.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Photographer offers free virtual photo shoots amid COVID-19 crisis

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

scyther5/iStock(NEW YORK) — To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, businesses not deemed essential have been ordered to close, leaving millions of Americans without work. One South Florida photographer, however, has an innovative way of keeping his photography business running while still practicing social distancing.

Kareem Virgo is unable to meet with his clients in-person due to current stay-at-home orders. With the help of his wife, they came up with the idea to capture photos during FaceTime calls, then later edit the images and send clients the finished work.

“Of course this isn’t the normal photography gear that I use, but the experience itself outweighs the shoot,” Virgo told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

During the 5- to 10-minute video calls, Virgo guides people on where to stand, how to hold their iPhones and which ways to pose. With thousands of closed barber shops and beauty salons, he even offers to touch up the hair and add makeup during the editing process.

Just a week after starting these virtual photoshoots, he has received hundreds of requests from people all across the country.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “Knowing that we’ve touched so many people in a special way has been one of the most humbling experiences.”

Although his photography business, Reem Photography, is his main source of income, Virgo ultimately made the decision not to charge for the sessions, noting the intent was merely to spread positivity. His wife, Sandy Virgo, who handles the management side of the business, says it’s great to see spirits lifted during this time of global uncertainty and stress.

“We couldn’t put a price tag on this,” Sandy Virgo told GMA. “It’s bringing joy to a lot of people even through this tragedy.”

Within the next few weeks, Virgo has nearly 500 bookings lined up from people spanning across the nation. Faith Thomas, who recently had her virtual photos taken with her boyfriend, Wadly, understands that it’s more than just a picture.

“Having this photoshoot is the glimpse of hope that we need during this time,” Thomas said. “It’s a reminder that there’s still beauty in all of the chaos going on.”

Other clients, like Jamar Germain of Miami, were left speechless after seeing the finished product.

“He did such a great job capturing the essence of the picture. My girlfriend and I can’t stop looking at it,” Germain said.

Virgo plans to continue the virtual photo shoots even after the global health crisis, making it easier for those unable to attend in-person shoots.

With his newfound success, he now has hopeful advice to other business owners who have been impacted by the coronavirus: “Try to make the most out of the situation, be a little fearless, and try something new because you don’t know who you might inspire.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Photographer offers free virtual photo shoots amid COVID-19 crisis

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

scyther5/iStock(NEW YORK) — To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, businesses not deemed essential have been ordered to close, leaving millions of Americans without work. One South Florida photographer, however, has an innovative way of keeping his photography business running while still practicing social distancing.

Kareem Virgo is unable to meet with his clients in-person due to current stay-at-home orders. With the help of his wife, they came up with the idea to capture photos during FaceTime calls, then later edit the images and send clients the finished work.

“Of course this isn’t the normal photography gear that I use, but the experience itself outweighs the shoot,” Virgo told ABC News’ Good Morning America.

During the 5- to 10-minute video calls, Virgo guides people on where to stand, how to hold their iPhones and which ways to pose. With thousands of closed barber shops and beauty salons, he even offers to touch up the hair and add makeup during the editing process.

Just a week after starting these virtual photoshoots, he has received hundreds of requests from people all across the country.

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “Knowing that we’ve touched so many people in a special way has been one of the most humbling experiences.”

Although his photography business, Reem Photography, is his main source of income, Virgo ultimately made the decision not to charge for the sessions, noting the intent was merely to spread positivity. His wife, Sandy Virgo, who handles the management side of the business, says it’s great to see spirits lifted during this time of global uncertainty and stress.

“We couldn’t put a price tag on this,” Sandy Virgo told GMA. “It’s bringing joy to a lot of people even through this tragedy.”

Within the next few weeks, Virgo has nearly 500 bookings lined up from people spanning across the nation. Faith Thomas, who recently had her virtual photos taken with her boyfriend, Wadly, understands that it’s more than just a picture.

“Having this photoshoot is the glimpse of hope that we need during this time,” Thomas said. “It’s a reminder that there’s still beauty in all of the chaos going on.”

Other clients, like Jamar Germain of Miami, were left speechless after seeing the finished product.

“He did such a great job capturing the essence of the picture. My girlfriend and I can’t stop looking at it,” Germain said.

Virgo plans to continue the virtual photo shoots even after the global health crisis, making it easier for those unable to attend in-person shoots.

With his newfound success, he now has hopeful advice to other business owners who have been impacted by the coronavirus: “Try to make the most out of the situation, be a little fearless, and try something new because you don’t know who you might inspire.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Boy, 7, shot in face and killed in barrage of bullets during drive-by shooting

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A 7-year-old boy has been shot in the face and killed in a barrage of bullets during a drive-by shooting.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with coronavirus

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

PM Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms Sunday night as the Queen made an emotional address to the nation.

Tiger at zoo tests positive for coronavirus

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the new coronavirus

Coronavirus live updates: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Johnson was admitted to the hospital for tests on the advice of his doctor.

Hobby Lobby closes its stores after defying coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Hobby Lobby closes its stores after defying coronavirus orders

At-home tech prices jump as millions work from home

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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

Queen Elizabeth makes rare speech on coronavirus

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The queen’s son, Prince Charles, tested positive last week.

Biden says 2020 convention may be ‘virtual,’ will wear mask amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Former Vice President Joe Biden said a suggested call between himself and President Donald Trump about the novel coronavirus response hasn’t happened.

Europe sees more signs of hope as Italy’s virus curve falls

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Europe is seeing further signs of hope in the coronavirus outbreak as Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and health officials noted with caution that the curve was finally descending

U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for virus pandemic

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The first alarms sounded in early January that the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China would ignite a global pandemic

As millions work from home, some online buyers see shortages, price jumps in at-home tech

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

Significant storm system begins to impact California with heavy rain, flash flooding

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

An intensifying and complex storm system is bringing some bands of heavy rain and some mountain snow to parts of northern and central California this morning.

Trump says ‘toughest’ weeks ahead as coronavirus spreads

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The coronavirus death toll has shown few signs of slowing in the U.S.

Trump suggests firing watchdog was payback for impeachment

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

President Donald Trump is suggesting that he fired the inspector general for the intelligence community in retaliation for impeachment, saying the official was wrong to provide an anonymous whistleblower complaint to Congress as the law requires

9 rebels, 3 Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir fighting

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The Indian army says nine rebels and three army soldiers have been killed during two gunbattles in disputed Kashmir

Hobby Lobby closes its stores after defying coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

Hobby Lobby closes its stores after defying coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

Detroit police soldier on, despite COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

polybutmono/iStock(DETROIT) — At a community event in Detroit earlier this month in which a number of Detroit Police Department officers were present, the moderator of that event later tested positive for COVID-19.

Although it isn’t certain, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said of members of the department getting the virus from that event — it is certainly cause for concern.

“I don’t think anybody can definitively say how,” Craig told ABC News.

DPD has had two deaths since the start of the global pandemic and the disease hits close to Craig — he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The chief is working and leading the department from at home and said police chiefs “aren’t invincible” and that they have to have a plan when they are down for the count.

The department, which operates in the most populous city in the state that has the third most COVID-19 cases in the country, has a total of over 500 officers quarantined and 114 civilians and officers test positive for the virus.

“The department has taken a very aggressive posture and keeping its members safe. Early on, when we started quarantining some of the officers, some might have thought that maybe we’re a little bit over the top,” Craig said. “I’ve always believed that we’re doing the right thing and trying to keep our members safe. And doing so meant that we can’t change the number of officers.”

In order to put up with the triage of losing officers to testing positive for the virus or the mass number of officers quarantined, Craig deployed some of the department’s specialized units to the hardest hit precincts.

Craig told ABC News that response times have been lower across the city, but that doesn’t mean policing doesn’t stop because the department has been hit hard by the virus.

“We haven’t seen a disruption in service, but the idea is quickly responding instead of waiting,” Craig said.

He said the city has acquired a rapid COVD-19 test for first responders, so that way they can quickly test and get officers back into service.

Craig said in addition to losing an officer, they’ve also lost a dispatcher, to COVID-19 — and fortunately, when that dispatcher got sick, the department had a plan for the rest of the dispatch staff.

“When we had the one 9-1-1 call taker become ill, it impacted our entire call center. So much so that we had to shut it down. And the good news was that we had a fallback location that we put in operation while we. Began to do very surgical cleaning of the place to get it back operational again. But the idea of having a backup center plus has shown its value,” he said.

Craig said his men and women who are quarantined are wanting to come back to work and are wanting to serve the community.

“Despite the numbers that have been quarantined in numbers that have tested positive. Police officers are courageous. They’re resilient,” he said. “Many of those have been quarantined or eager to get back to work, support their colleagues. And so really, that’s a testament to the kind of police officer we recognize. And I’m not saying it’s unique to Detroit because this is happening all across America. But these young men and women, these American police officers, despite this unknown enemy, are still going out and keeping our city safe, despite not knowing that they’re confronting.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Detroit police soldier on, despite COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

polybutmono/iStock(DETROIT) — At a community event in Detroit earlier this month in which a number of Detroit Police Department officers were present, the moderator of that event later tested positive for COVID-19.

Although it isn’t certain, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said of members of the department getting the virus from that event — it is certainly cause for concern.

“I don’t think anybody can definitively say how,” Craig told ABC News.

DPD has had two deaths since the start of the global pandemic and the disease hits close to Craig — he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The chief is working and leading the department from at home and said police chiefs “aren’t invincible” and that they have to have a plan when they are down for the count.

The department, which operates in the most populous city in the state that has the third most COVID-19 cases in the country, has a total of over 500 officers quarantined and 114 civilians and officers test positive for the virus.

“The department has taken a very aggressive posture and keeping its members safe. Early on, when we started quarantining some of the officers, some might have thought that maybe we’re a little bit over the top,” Craig said. “I’ve always believed that we’re doing the right thing and trying to keep our members safe. And doing so meant that we can’t change the number of officers.”

In order to put up with the triage of losing officers to testing positive for the virus or the mass number of officers quarantined, Craig deployed some of the department’s specialized units to the hardest hit precincts.

Craig told ABC News that response times have been lower across the city, but that doesn’t mean policing doesn’t stop because the department has been hit hard by the virus.

“We haven’t seen a disruption in service, but the idea is quickly responding instead of waiting,” Craig said.

He said the city has acquired a rapid COVD-19 test for first responders, so that way they can quickly test and get officers back into service.

Craig said in addition to losing an officer, they’ve also lost a dispatcher, to COVID-19 — and fortunately, when that dispatcher got sick, the department had a plan for the rest of the dispatch staff.

“When we had the one 9-1-1 call taker become ill, it impacted our entire call center. So much so that we had to shut it down. And the good news was that we had a fallback location that we put in operation while we. Began to do very surgical cleaning of the place to get it back operational again. But the idea of having a backup center plus has shown its value,” he said.

Craig said his men and women who are quarantined are wanting to come back to work and are wanting to serve the community.

“Despite the numbers that have been quarantined in numbers that have tested positive. Police officers are courageous. They’re resilient,” he said. “Many of those have been quarantined or eager to get back to work, support their colleagues. And so really, that’s a testament to the kind of police officer we recognize. And I’m not saying it’s unique to Detroit because this is happening all across America. But these young men and women, these American police officers, despite this unknown enemy, are still going out and keeping our city safe, despite not knowing that they’re confronting.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Experts warn about big dollar fraud in $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

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.

Experts warn about big dollar fraud in $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

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.

Banks scramble to make small business loan applications available

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

On first day, small business loan application process plagued with problems.

What to know about hazard pay if you’re working during coronavirus crisis

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

What to know about hazard pay if you’re working during coronavirus crisis

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

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.

9 states have yet to issue formal stay-at-home orders amid coronavirus

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Although most states have enacted stay-at-home orders, 11 states have yet to take statewide action.