(NEW YORK) -- The rapid rebound in leisure travel is fueling a nationwide rental car shortage and price hikes at the pump.
If you're planning on hitting the road this summer, here's what experts say you can do to avoid any potential speed bumps:
Don't wait to rent a car
At the height of the pandemic, rental car companies sold off half of their fleets, and when demand came roaring back they had trouble getting their hands on new cars due to the semiconductor shortage.
"We are in the heart of the car rental apocalypse right now," Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash.com, said. "And I'd love to say that we're going to see it get better sometime soon, but it doesn't look like it."
He explained rental car locations in destinations like Hawaii, Alaska or anywhere near the national parks are completely sold out of cars right now. And if you can find a car, the rates are two to three times the normal rate.
Travel booking app Hopper said demand for rental cars is up 495% since January, and rental car prices are up 95% from the start of the year.
Given all the challenges, Weinberg recommended travelers start planning now if they need to rent a car anytime this summer, and certainly if they want to get away for Labor Day.
"We recommend people check pricing for rental cars before they book their airfare and hotels," he said.
Avoid trying to book a rental car during peak travel times
If you are still working remotely or have flexible travel dates, AAA spokesperson Ellen Edmund said you are more likely to find a rental car.
"You might have more luck booking a car on the weekdays versus the weekends," she said. "It's just a little more planning this year."
She also recommended working with a travel agent who can tell you what weeks might have a little lower travel volume.
"If you're flexible with your dates, and you can consider different times, it will go a really long way in helping," Edmund said.
Consider renting a U-Haul or van
Some travelers have turned to renting U-Hauls or vans given the rental car shortage.
"The times call for being creative," Weinberg said.
Car rental company Hertz has a lot of cargo vans available, which they are giving customers a sizable discount on compared to traditional rental cars.
The only downside to consider is these vans only have two seats, and they are very large, so they might not be the best option if you are relying on city parking at your destination.
Look into peer-to-peer renting platforms like Turo
If there are no available cars at traditional rental car companies, or the prices are too high, you can try platforms like Turo that allow you to rent cars straight from the vehicle's owner.
Many travelers in Hawaii have told ABC News that Turo was the only way they could get a car for a reasonable price.
But Weinberg urges potential renters to be cautious.
"We've heard some horror stories," he said. "People being left high and dry who had reservations then at the last minute the host cancels on them because they realize that they can get more money from someone else."
Budget for higher gas prices
Early on in the pandemic, national gas prices were sitting at around $2 per gallon on average for regular, but earlier this week they reached $3.17, according to AAA.
"What's really driving this is higher demand as we see people hitting the roads for summer vacation," Edmund told ABC News. "We are seeing demand at some of the highest rates in a few years."
AAA expects gas prices to remain at around $3 throughout the summer, which is the highest rate they have seen in a "few years."
"We've seen travelers offset these costs with cheaper activities once they reach their destination or packing food instead of eating out as much," she said.
Consider planning a trip to a city that has public transportation or ride-share options
If the cost of a rental car and gas is daunting, you can consider traveling to a destination like New York City or Washington, D.C., that has a variety of public transportation options.
Most trains and buses are running their pre-pandemic schedules, but masks are required until September.
You can also try calculating how much ride-share apps like Uber or Lyft would cost if you used them during your trip instead of renting a car. Depending on how much you leave your hotel, or the distance of your activities, it might be cheaper.
(NEW YORK) -- Lakisha L. Simmons, Ph.D., was a 36-year-old working mom of two young sons when she got divorced in 2017.
"I stayed in the family home with the boys and all of the bills were suddenly mine, all alone," Simmons told Good Morning America. "That brought back rushing all of the feelings [of financial insecurity] from when I was a girl, that I was alone and in this world trying to figure it out by myself again."
Simmons said she decided to "get serious" about her finances, a decision that changed the course of her life.
Now 41, Simmons, of Nashville, Tennessee, retired this year from her job as a college analytics professor. A self-taught investor, Simmons has amassed a nearly $1 million fortune and opened her own business, BRAVE Consulting, where she focuses on helping women of color obtain financial freedom.
"With the divorce, I thought I have to buckle down and get serious or I’m paycheck to paycheck and I can’t do that with two little people depending on me," said Simmons. "I thought I can't ever let this happen again."
Here are the steps Simmons says she took to reach her own financial freedom.
1. I buckled down on budgeting: "I did the budgeting when we were married but the budget was loose and I knew I had to buckle down," said Simmons. "I created a Google sheet and I started entering from the top down, which was my paycheck, my gross salary."
"Then I went to the next section and added in every single expense that I had to pay every month," she said. "Then I was able to look at that list and realistically say what is nonessential and I cut it, like cable and spending for clothes and shoes."
2. I sold my family home and moved to a townhome: "The biggest expense on my list was my mortgage, so that had to go," said Simmons. "I sold the house and moved into an apartment and that saved me $1,200 per month. I ended up buying a townhouse and the mortgage is less money than what my rent was and it’s way less than what the mortgage on the house was."
Simmons said selling her house taught her a lesson about budgeting by determining what you value.
"If you value a house on a hill that’s on an acre of land, then cut other ways and keep your family home," she said. "For me, I didn’t value the home. It was a burden and so it had to go."
3. I discovered the FIRE method: Simmons says that when she took a close look at what she valued, that included independence and more time for her children and herself, which ultimately led her to realize she wanted to retire early.
She says following the FIRE method, or Financial Independence, Retire Early, helped her reach that point.
There are different variations of the FIRE method, including the "lean FIRE," which Simmons followed and which requires extreme frugality and lifestyle changes to retire early, and the "fat FIRE," which involves people maintaining their original standard of living but investing and saving up to retire early.
Simmons' detailed budgeting allowed her to be able to know her yearly expenses, which she then used to plan how much money she would need to save to retire early.
4. I educated myself on investing: Simmons already had some money invested when she started budgeting, but she doubled down on teaching herself how to maximize her extra cash instead of leaving it in bank accounts.
She maxed out her 401(k) retirement account, contributed to a Roth IRA and also began contributing to a 457(b) account, another tax-advantaged retirement account she learned she was eligible for as a teacher.
She also invested any extra money in the S&P 500 index fund, where it could continue to grow.
"If you educate yourself about how the stock market works and you only invest money that you don’t need right now, after you’ve fully funded your emergency savings account, you’ll get a return over the long term," said Simmons. "This is my strategy as a single woman."
5. I continually cut down my monthly expenses: Simmons says the Google sheet she created at the start of her budgeting journey is something she constantly fine-tunes.
"I look at it once or twice a week and look line-by-line and say, ‘How can I reduce this amount?,'" she said. "For example, the first thing I cut was the cable and then I went to my grocery bill and looked for lower-cost grocery stores. Then I cut my mobile phone bill and now my pre-paid bill is only $180 for the entire year."
Simmons values time with her children, so she said she takes them on experiences like bike rides, picnics and local getaways instead of focusing on material items.
"What I want people to understand is that I never feel deprived," she said. "It's not depriving yourself. It’s just looking at what you value."
6. I started side hustles: As Simmons went along in her financial journey, she found ways to make extra money by teaching others what she had learned.
In addition to launching BRAVE Consulting, where she offers group workshops and online tools, Simmons also wrote a book, The Unlikely AchieveHer: 11 Steps to a Happy and Prosperous Life.
She also works with Personal Capitol, an online financial company, as a Financial Hero, helping with the company's financial education efforts.
"The mindset I’m instilling in my sons now is, 'What can you do to create your own money?,'" said Simmons. "It is all worth it."
(WASHINGTON) -- When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took what some viewed as a joyride to the edge of space earlier this week and then thanked the employees of his e-commerce empire for paying for it, the backlash against the richest man in the world was swift.
The anguish left behind from an economic shock induced by a global pandemic compounded animosity towards Bezos, whose fortune -- now topping $200 billion -- multiplied during the crisis. As millions of Americans struggled to pay rent, reports emerged that he had avoided paying income taxes. One lawmaker blasted his spaceflight on Twitter as "a monument to tax evasion and inequality." Tens of thousands signed a Change.org petition calling for Bezos not to return.
Bezos has argued his mission is "not about escaping earth" but building a "road to space" for the benefit of future generations. "We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth," he said after the launch, which was also lauded for sending pioneering female pilot Wally Funk into space after her astronaut dreams were deferred in the ’60s because she is a woman.
The Amazon chairman's trip came just nine days after a similar suborbital jaunt from fellow billionaire Richard Branson, which seemed to cement the idea that spacefaring -- once revered by many as the pinnacle of human prowess and American ingenuity -- was just another playground for the ultra-wealthy and a reminder of the deep-rooted inequities that persist down on Earth.
But intrigue in what lies beyond our planet is indiscriminate, despite the vast wealth and racial disparities that have plagued space programs for decades. As a new commercial space industry officially launches with Bezos' and Branson's spaceflights, here is what some experts say may be left behind if equity in the cosmos is not considered.
'I represented a lot of hope': Space exploration 'for the people'
First-generation Mexican American Jose Hernandez grew up toiling alongside his migrant farmworker parents from a young age but, like Bezos, had lifelong dreams of visiting outer space.
"When I was 10-years-old, I was lucky enough to watch the very last Apollo mission on our black-and-white TV console with rabbit ear antennas," he told ABC News, recalling how he clung to the antennas "for dear life, trying to improve reception."
As he watched NASA's Gene Cernan step on the surface of the moon, Hernandez said he felt a "calling." He decided right then that he wanted to become an astronaut, saying, "Lucky enough, my parents were very supportive." He was rejected by NASA eleven times before on the 12th attempt, he was selected to be a part of the space agency's 19th class of astronauts.
In 2009, he launched aboard the second-to-last Space Shuttle mission and spent 14 days in orbit on the International Space Station. He sent the first Spanish-language tweet from the ISS.
Upon arriving back to Earth, Hernandez said he was surprised to find out he had become a hero in his community and one of the most-requested astronauts for speaking engagements at the time.
"The response, especially from the Hispanic community and Hispanic news media, was tremendous," he said. "I quickly realized that I, overnight, became a role model to a lot of kids."
Hernandez said he tried to embrace this role, and showed up at every event and school that he could, urging students of color to quite literally reach for the stars.
"I represented a lot of hope for a lot of people because it's one thing seeing an astronaut, it's another seeing someone that looks like you, that talks like you, that came from the same socio-economic background you're from," he said. "And yet, you see them with the flight suit. And so then they begin to visualize themselves in that flight suit."
"That's what my dad did when he empowered me, he said, 'I believe in you,'" Hernandez added. "That's what I tried to do with these kids, I said look at my story, I could trade poor stories with the rest of you, and I was able to make it and so can you."
Kate Howell, of the space exploration nonprofit Planetary Society, told ABC News that agencies like NASA sending humans on scientific and exploratory missions is "closest that we're going to get to space travel being for the people."
"If an astronauts sets foot on Mars, for example, that's kind of being done on behalf of all humankind," she said. "It's not just about that individual astronaut's experience, they're there on a mission to learn things, to discover things."
Howell said she thinks it is important to distinguish "space tourism" from "space science and exploration."
While Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are selling tickets for the first space tourists, both companies have expressed interest in assisting space agencies on science missions as well.
"A lot of people lump sort of all things space into the same category, or see this tourism industry as sort of the evolution of humanity's activities in space, but I really see them as separate endeavors," she said. "Space tourism, I think the criticisms that are being levied against that industry are fair, but humanity is still going to continue to explore space in scientific ways that do benefit everybody."
MORE: What to know about Richard Branson's spaceflight, as billionaires race to the cosmos
Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are some of the well-known names in the budding commercial space industry, but a slew of smaller firms are also emerging. In 2020, investors poured almost $9 billion into private space companies, according to a report earlier this year from consulting firm McKinsey.
While Howell says she doesn't see a near future where ordinary people who wants to experience space can easily go due to its cost -- despite the promises of democratizing space from Bezos and Branson -- others are attempting to find a way.
In what is being dubbed "the World’s first sponsored Citizen Astronaut Program," the nonprofit Space for Humanity is inviting all to apply for its "Humanity-1" program.
"What we're working to do is sponsor people from all over the world to go to space, so they can go and see and experience our planet as a planet floating in the universe," Rachel Lyons, the group’s executive, told ABC News.
The initiative foots the bill for the spaceflight ticket, astronaut training, travel and accommodations for those it sends to space.
"When astronauts go to space and they see and experience our planet, they come back down very often transformed human beings -- with a new care for what's happening on our planet," she said, referring to what researchers dub the "Overview Effect."
"Basically, we will be covering people to go and have this overview effect experience so they can come back down and then be like seeds of people around the world to go and share this perspective far and wide, because we believe that this is a perspective that we need to take on collectively in order to solve these challenges that we now face," Lyons said.
Humanity-1 participants will launch when the technology is ready via whatever flight provider that may be, she added, such as buying tickets from Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin.
"Space is not about a specific gender or specific race," Lyons said. "It's important to us to have everyone feel included in it, as everyone feel like a stakeholder in it."
The Planetary Society's Howell added that in the current state of the space tourism industry, where tickets have sold for millions of dollars, "You are going to see the racial disparities of wealth play into that."
"Most people who are going to be able to afford to go on these trips into space for fun, are going to be the people who have benefited from racial privilege," Howell said.
'Whitey on the moon'
Chris Smalls, an activist and former Amazon fulfillment center worker who was fired under contentious circumstances last March, said he was handing out water bottles to his former colleagues at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, when Bezos was taking his trip to space. Smalls has spent the past year protesting pandemic working conditions at Amazon warehouses, and is currently organizing a union drive at the same facility where he used to work.
Smalls said Bezos' thanking Amazon employees and customers for funding his space jaunt was "a slap in the face" to workers.
"We take it as disrespect, and all the money he was donating, giving out, and the fact that I'm outside of his facility in 90-degree weather handing out waters ... we honestly don't even care about it," Smalls said.
Smalls said that he did not even watch the live event, saying, "I'm in the middle of a union drive right now."
"We're focused on our mission, and our mission is to get organized to unionize and protect ourselves," he said.
Smalls, who is Black, called the billionaire space race "whitewashed."
Racial disparities in all aspects of the space sector have persisted since its inception. As the nation rushed to put a man on the moon during the original U.S.-Soviet space race in the '60s, Black Americans were still fighting for equal freedoms back on Earth with the simultaneous eruption of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated just one year before the moon landing.
The 1970 spoken word poem "Whitey on the Moon" by Gil Scott-Heron became a rallying cry criticizing government spending on the space program while basic needs for Black Americans were left unmet. "I can’t pay no doctor bill, but Whitey’s on the Moon," the poem -- which started trending on social media soon after Bezos took flight -- states.
"That's always been an issue, and it's going to continue to be an issue until we fix these root causes," Smalls said of the racial disparities in space.
Smalls says this is why his focus remains on unionizing Amazon, with the goal of providing better wages for all, and addressing the "massive wealth inequality at play" in the commercial space race.
"If we fixed the root causes, instead of everything trickling down you will see a trickle up, and hopefully that will also encourage more African Americans to explore options in space," he said. "We should also have the option to join when we want to."
'Every world leader should take a trip'
Hernandez said he sees the commercial space race as ultimately a positive, bringing high-paying engineering jobs to the U.S. and carrying potential spin-off technological developments could benefit everyone on earth. He also says every dollar spent on space exploration by a private company is "one dollar less the taxpayer pays to NASA to explore space."
"We now have three companies that that can give access to humans into space without being involved with NASA for the first time," Hernandez said. "I think that that is a great achievement."
What he would like to see is more efforts to include diverse backgrounds at the top levels of management in these emerging commercial space firms, and in the cosmos. He called on Bezos, Branson and SpaceX’s Elon Musk to "in each flight, designate one seat to go so that it could fulfill a purpose." This could be as simple as sending artists, poets, regular people who meet the general physical requirements and "more than just geeky engineers" to experience space.
Virgin Galactic states on its website that its mission is to "open space to everybody" and has emphasized that its future astronauts come from "diverse backgrounds" but are united by "a shared passion for the democratization of space travel." Still, its tickets cost some $250,000. Branson has also said he hopes their work encourages and inspires the future generation.
"I really hope that there will be millions of kids all over the world who will be captivated and inspired about the possibility of them going to space one day," he stated.
Blue Origin has launched a charitable foundation, Club for the Future, which distributed $1 million grants to 19 space-based charities from the funds raised through the sale of Blue Origin’s first commercial ticket to space. Club for the Future has the goal of inspiring young people to pursue careers in STEM fields and help invent the future of life in space.
Like many astronauts have reported, Hernandez said seeing the "the sun's rays hit the Earth's atmosphere, clearly delineated from space" scared and awed him -- and made him appreciate the planet with a new urgency.
In addition, the farmworker-turned-astronaut also said that he was hit with an inexplicable awe almost immediately after arriving in space, as he flew over North America and saw the continent out his window.
"What struck me in awe is that you can see Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, but you can't see where Canada ended and the U.S. began, you can't see where the U.S. ended and Mexico began," he said. "I said, 'Wow, borders are human-made concepts designed to separate us and how sad, because from this perspective, we're just one down there.'"
"Now that we have this space tourism industry going, I think it should be a requirement that every world leader take a trip so they can see what I saw," he said. "And I'll guarantee you that our world would be a much better place than it is today."
(NEW YORK) -- With landfills receiving millions of tons of textile waste each year -- and growing -- the environmental impact of clothing has become the fashion industry's dirty little secret.
Today, more people are paying attention to this worsening issue and have zeroed in on the impact of rental clothing subscription services. These companies, such as Rent the Runway, Nuuly and Le Tote, give people the option to keep their clothes in an ongoing rotation, so they can swap their sweatpants for a pair of borrowed designer trousers. All they have to do is subscribe, select a few of their favorite looks, wear them and then return them later -- some brands even offer an option to buy the pieces.
But while many of these companies have been marketed as a greener way to dress by contributing to a more circular, recycled economy, a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters questions how sustainable the logistical processes behind rental clothing subscription services actually are.
The study found that renting clothes could potentially cause the highest impact to global warming when compared to keeping a piece of clothing for an extended period of time or reselling it, which the study suggested impact the environment the least. The study said that rental services can impact the environment via increased transportation needs, such as shipping and packaging, as well as through the constant cleaning needed to maintain the clothes between each renter.
How does transportation play a part?
The transportation sector -- including cars, trucks, boats, railroad and commercial aircraft -- is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which said it contributed to 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
Most of the items used through rental companies are delivered through these transportation modes, but as the study suggests, delivery via a bike or another lower carbon-emitting vehicle could help to reduce emissions into the environment.
Some top rental clothing services, such as Rent the Runway, have implemented alternative methods for passing off the clothes, including a network of physical drop-off locations to consolidate inbound shipments from customers while also trying to mitigate the use of high carbon-emitting vehicles.
The company has also partnered with traditional carriers and implemented other non-traditional return methods such as a network of swap stops to consolidate inbound shipments from customers.
Cleaner, greener cleaning methods and practices
When it comes to keeping the clothing fresh, some apparel companies have relied heavily on dry cleaning, while others have found environmentally friendlier practices.
Women's monthly clothing rental subscription company Nuuly says it uses a custom-built cleaning facility along with dry and wet cleaning methods. The company told ABC News that more than 60% of its products are cleaned with non-alkaline and phosphate-free cleaning solutions, which are gentler on the environment when compared to traditional household detergents.
Rent the Runway says it uses similar methods, along with biodegradable detergents that are free from added fragrances and zeolites. The company said it does not use any halogenated cleaning solvents such as perchloroethylene. After cleaning, most pieces pass through a steam tunnel with temperatures between 248 and 302 degrees and are immediately sealed in plastic to protect them from subsequent handling.
Rent the Runway said it encourages customers to keep the plastic out of landfills by sending it back along with their garments. From there, the company said the plastic is recycled through a third-party partner, which in turn uses the plastic for wood-alternative building and decking materials.
Both Nuuly and Rent the Runway also say they make use of recyclable garment bags as opposed to big boxes and packing materials.
"Our goal is to power a new future for fashion, one in which women buy less and wear more, disrupting a centuries-old industry and contributing to a more sustainable future for the industry," Anushka Salinas, president and chief operating officer of Rent the Runway, told GMA. "We are focused on shifting customer behavior, improving our operations and transforming the dynamics of the industry to drive positive change."
The company also said it's making progress in these areas by inspiring a customer base that buys less clothing and keeps clothing in rotation for as long as possible, thereby shifting the focus on the industry from high volumes and low price points -- which are generally found through fast fashion brands -- to quality, durability and utilization.
While these sustainability efforts from rental clothing companies have to be considered in the grander scheme, some experts agree that the bigger issue has to do with overall mass textile production.
The study only looked at cotton-based jeans and not other textiles
While the study examined how extended use, reselling, recycling the textile materials and renting them could potentially be harmful to the environment, it also highlighted limitations in the research and areas of future exploration. Specifically, it noted that the study was only conducted on cotton-based products and that research into clothing made from synthetic fibers might have resulted in different findings.
Some experts also agree that jeans, which were primarily used for this study, are one article of clothing that's rarely rented.
"They're the kind of thing you buy and wear a couple of times a week for at least a year, if not five," Alden Wicker, a journalist and founder of sustainable fashion website EcoCult, told GMA. "Renting is great for items that you would only wear a few times or even just once, like cocktail dresses and evening gowns."
Mass textile production and manufacturing likely hurts the environment more than rental clothing
In 2018, landfills received 11.3 million tons of municipal solid waste textiles, which equates to 7.7% of all municipal solid waste that was landfilled, according to the EPA.
The study published in Environmental Research Letters says that developing "more efficient recycling options" for textiles will not be able to reduce this amount of waste on their own.
"Currently, reduction of the total amount of products in the circuit is the most efficient way to steer the sector toward more sustainable practices," the study said. "Reduce and Reuse strategies are the most practical for achieving such goals."
Timo Rissanen, an associate professor in fashion and textiles at the University of Technology Sydney, told GMA that people urgently need to reduce total fashion production and consumption.
"We are in the early stages of a human-induced planetary catastrophe, and our collective cognitive dissonance in the face of that is alarming," he said. "Rental clothing should not be employed purely to satiate a hunger for novelty and to prop up the current, inherently unsustainable worldview and levels of consumption."
Whether you're looking to try rental clothing services or not, there are eco-concious fashion advocates such as Clare Press, a sustainable fashion influencer and host of the "Wardrobe Crisis podcast," who serve as guides for people looking to dress more sustainably.
"I think rental has an important role to play in making fashion circular by keeping clothes in use for longer while satisfying consumer desire for novelty," Press told GMA. "Do I prefer renting fashion over buying a $10 dress from Shein? Absolutely."
"Resist being told what to do by pop culture, big media and fast fashion," she added. "It's much more interesting and inspiring to make your own style decisions and wear what makes you happy."
Press said that even though she loves new clothes, that doesn't mean she should be buying new pieces every week.
"Maybe what makes you feel best will be re-wearing much-loved clothes you already own," she said. "Quality over quantity, and styling what you already have in new ways."
"Cyber criminals use every opportunity to try to scam people out of money," the agency said in a statement Wednesday. "With the Advance Payments of the Child Tax Credit going out to eligible taxpayers, the IRS warns folks to be aware that thieves may use these payments as bait."
Specifically, the IRS says parents should be on the lookout for phone calls, emails, text messages and messages on social media asking to verify information in order to receive the child tax credit payments.
Parents are also advised not to take the bait of any pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages warning about a lawsuit or arrest, or any requests to make a payment using a gift card, wire transfer or crypto currency.
"Remember…the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information," the agency said. "When it comes to phone calls, remember the IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. For example, if you get a voice mail saying a warrant will be issued for your arrest… this is not the IRS."
In most cases, parents do not need to do anything to receive the monthly payments.
The IRS is using information from people's 2019 or 2020 tax return to automatically enroll them for advance payments.
(NEW YORK) -- They’re young, successful and making good money. Some call them HENRYs, short for “high earners, not rich yet.”
Usually in their 20s and 30s, these young people make more than $100,000 a year. The median household income in the U.S. is about $70,000 a year, according to 2019 census data.
Although some people might believe HENRYs are living the American dream, experts say that their six-figure salary might not go so far when factoring in student debt, rent and personal spending.
A recent study revealed that 70% of millennials are living paycheck-to-paycheck, a larger share than any other generation. 33% of millennials live paycheck-to-paycheck and struggle to pay their bills.
In interviews with ABC News, some HENRYs said that while they aren’t at that point yet, they can understand why many others feel that way.
Ben Gaut, 33, works as a technology consultant in Atlanta. He said that being in the group of so-called HENRYs was a “position [he] always wanted to be in.” However, he says the “not rich yet” part was not something he expected would be delayed.
For Gaut, a big part of that delay is due to his six-figure student loan debt.
“I don't want to make any sort of mistake,” he said. “But there's still work to be done to get to those goals that I had built up in my mind of what would happen at that point.”
In New York City, 30-year-old Turner Cowles has a similar story. He works as an investor educator and makes more than $105,000 a year, but student loan debt eats up so much of his income that at times he says he feels like he’s paying a second rent.
“If this is how I'm feeling now… oh my God, what is somebody who makes the poverty line feeling?” Cowles said. “What is somebody who's making 30, 40 [or] 50 grand a year and also living in Brooklyn -- how do they feel?”
The average student loan debt in the U.S. is nearly $40,000 per person, according to EducationData.org.
Priya Malani is the founder of Stash Wealth, a financial planning firm that works exclusively with HENRYs. She says they typically have double that amount in student loan debt.
“The average HENRY comes to us with around $80,000 in student debt,” she said. “They've accumulated additional degrees, they've been in school longer and so they have greater debt.”
Courtnie Nichols, 34, doesn’t have high student loan debt, but even with the $300,000 combined salary she and her husband make annually in Virginia, they feel like they must be careful with their money.
“I own my own business. My husband has a high net worth on his own with his job. So when you look at all the tangibles on paper, it's like, ‘Oh, they've got a lot of money,’” she said. “But, for instance, six years ago, we were hit with a tax bill of almost $10,000. … We had an emergency fund. But now it's like our whole emergency fund is gone, wiped out with one tax bill. So now we're starting over. It's like, as soon as … you take a few steps forward, you take a few steps back.”
The HENRYs who shared their stories with ABC News said they weren’t looking for sympathy and recognize they’re better off when compared to so many struggling Americans. But many said they feel like the benchmark for upward mobility has changed.
"The funny thing is I'm spending more on rent than I would on a mortgage. Because my debt to income ratio is based on my student loan debt, so I'm kind of in this catch-twenty-two of spending more money for a wonderful place to live, but I'm not building any equity, so I'm in this kind of position that seems.. difficult it's difficult to to kind of come to terms with."
The Consumer Price Index, which measures what consumers pay for everyday goods and services and is often looked at as an inflation barometer, jumped 5% over the last 12 months -- the largest increase since August 2008.
Another factor is sky-high living costs. The median price for a home in the U.S. has spiked 23.4% in just one year, and it’s particularly high in cities where many HENRYs live, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The median price for a home in the San Francisco metro area is $1,200,000. In Los Angeles, it’s $682,400; in New York, it’s $514,200; and in Washington D.C., it’s $498,100, according to the National Association of Realtors.
There’s also a desire among high-earners to enjoy some luxuries alongside their hard work, even though not all spending comes from a desire to keep up with others’ success. There are some social elements, like “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out,” culture.
“At 30-something, you would think that in our peer group we are the top of the totem pole. But that is not the case in our circle of friends,” Nichols said. “But we will be like, ‘We have a healthy income, we're building, but we're not quite there.’”
A phenomenon known as “lifestyle creep” happens when people’s lifestyles change as their income increases, and certain luxuries someone used to enjoy turn into their perceived necessities.
“The truth of the matter is that even when you do cut back, there's still this level of almost anxiety,” Cowles said.
Malani said that young people may see friends buying homes or upgrading their cars, for example, but don’t realize that they may be dealing with credit card debt.
“So you just think, ‘Wow, if they can do it, I should be able to do it, too,’ and it becomes this cycle that's very, very difficult to break,” Malani said.
Jennifer Castillo is a 34-year-old lawyer and blogger from Washington, D.C. She calls herself a HENRY, bringing in about $130,000 a year. She said she hasn’t yet felt squeezed financially and that she is looking to redefine some of the more negative connotations associated with HENRYs.
“I'm so happy to sort of embrace the HENRY title because it speaks to the potential to your own particular financial goals, what you want your wealth building legacy to be,” she said.
Although her online persona shows her living the high life, she said there’s a story behind every post. For example, she pointed to a Gucci belt, saying she’d planned to buy it for two years.
“When you look at my Instagram or you look at my blog, it may appear that I sort of subscribe to this ‘buy it, I'll do it all,’ lifestyle,” Castillo said. “But it really is a highlight reel. … Nothing that I buy is on a whim. I'm always, like, planning for my purchases. I always save up for them.”
For Castillo, the upcoming birth of her first child is her financial priority, she says.
“I think the biggest shift in my budget is going to be I'll [have] a lot less money to my fun account,” she said. “I've been looking at costs and daycare is expensive, nannies are expensive. Like, every child care option that I have -- I work full time -- is expensive. So … that's where the sacrifice is going to lie.”
Experts say financial counseling can also make a huge difference. Nichols reached out to Stash Wealth last year. Now, she knows where every dollar goes.
“I know every month how much I can spend on my credit card. Like to the exact penny, I know how much wiggle room we have,” she said.
No matter how they got there, the HENRYs who shared their stories believe that financial freedom is within their reach.
“My favorite part of the acronym is the ‘not rich yet’ part,” Castillo said, “because it speaks to the future potential of someone that's a high earner.”
(NEW YORK) -- Daimler has announced its brand Mercedes-Benz will go all-electric by 2030, where market conditions allow, and the company will invest over $45 billion between 2022 and 2030 for research and development into battery electric vehicle technology.
“The EV shift is picking up speed - especially in the luxury segment, where Mercedes-Benz belongs. The tipping point is getting closer and we will be ready as markets switch to electric-only by the end of this decade,” said Ola Källenius, CEO of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, in a statement.
The company announced Mercedes-Benz will sell BEVs in all segments they serve by 2022. By 2025, all new cars will be all-electric in markets that have charging technology and customers will be able to purchase an electric version of every model the company makes.
In markets that cannot sustain a charging network, Mercedes-Benz could still sell internal combustion engines.
Daimler says they will launch three new Mercedes-Benz electric-vehicle architectures in 2025; the MB.EA, which will cover medium to full-sized passenger cars; the AMG.EA, which will cover performance cars, and the VAN.EA, which will cover vans and light commercial vehicles.
In addition, the company says it is developing the Vision EQXX, an electric vehicle, that will have a range of over 600 miles, which would be the longest range for an EV.
The announcement comes a week after the European Union adopted new climate proposals to limit greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. One of the proposals was reducing car emissions by 55% by 2030 and 100% by 2035, meaning all new cars purchased will have to be zero-emission.
(WASHINGTON) -- When the pandemic hit Alexandria, Virginia, the economic outlook was bleak.
In April 2020, the city projected a budget shortfall of up to $100 million as businesses shut down and workers lost their jobs, eliminating key revenue from sales, tourism and income taxes.
“Early on it was catastrophic for us,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ABC News. “Every week, unfortunately, I was getting a notification from hotels, large restaurants, telling us that they were shedding workers.”
But a year later, those dire budget projections still haven’t become a reality. In fact, the city just passed its spending plan for the first tranche of $30 million in aid it had received from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The proposal includes investments in infrastructure, food assistance and a guaranteed basic income pilot program giving out $500 to about 150 families.
“We're working on a variety of different ways to try to help our residents: food insecurity, housing insecurity [and] other efforts to ensure that they get back on their feet in the aftermath of this,” Wilson said.
It’s a story playing out from coast to coast. Thanks to generous federal relief funds, a rebound in consumer spending and stock market gains, state and local governments that had predicted economic calamity are now finding themselves flush with cash.
“So far, we are seeing that a lot of states [that] talked about how they were going to have to raise all sorts of taxes and cut all sorts of spending, and it didn't happen,” Richard Auxier, a senior policy associate at the Tax Policy Center, told ABC News.
Auxier said that while it’s too soon to say that states are out of the woods, federal support has helped keep them afloat during the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan Act passed in March included $350 billion in direct aid to state, local and tribal governments. A Treasury Department spokesperson told ABC News about $200 billion of that funding has already been paid out.
Unlike the previous two COVID-19 relief laws, there are fewer restrictions on how states can use the money, which must be obligated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
“By the time the third major piece of legislation came around in 2021, there was a big desire to give them that freedom, to have some slack on how they want to spend it,” Auxier said.
President Joe Biden is now urging some cities to use some of the funds toward fighting crime -- for example, by paying overtime to police officers.
The Cherokee Nation is receiving $1.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act as well. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told ABC News the funding is going toward $2,000 stimulus checks for every resident, as well as investments in mental health, broadband internet and a new hospital.
“The number one plan was to get relief directly to our citizens,” Hoskin told ABC News.
In the meantime, 13 Republican state attorneys general are suing the Biden administration because they want to use the federal aid to fund tax cuts, which is one of the few restrictions under the current law.
“It's not a matter for the federal government to decide Arkansas's own tax structure,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told ABC News. “That's where the federal government's overreaching.”
In Maryland, Comptroller Peter Franchot established a working group to determine where the federal money has been going. He said the funding has been a “game-changer” that it helped the state avoid bankruptcy. But he added that it’s clear some of the money isn’t going to the hardest-hit communities that need it the most.
“Some of it will be well spent, [but] a lot of it probably won't be,” Franchot told ABC News. “That's the nature of having a fire hydrant of cash come into the state suddenly.”
(NEW YORK) -- Thirty years ago Engracia Figueroa, 51, was hit by a Bay Area Rapid Transit train that left her with a spinal cord injury and amputated leg. She now calls her wheelchair an "extension of her body" -- granting her freedom and independence.
But last week Figueroa says she was "re-disabled" when her $30,000 wheelchair was mangled in the cargo hold of a United flight.
"I was heartbroken," she said when she first saw what she described as her "completely contorted" chair after her flight to Los Angeles. "I just thought, all of the independence that I fought and strived for and successfully survived for soon to be 30 years by the minute, it's stripped away, and I was completely disabled and traumatized, as well as hurt and exhausted."
Airlines are obligated to fix or replace damaged or lost wheelchairs under the Air Carrier Access Act.
"They're attempting to fix it," Figueroa told ABC News, but "there's nothing to fix."
"The chair is a total loss and to get a new wheelchair, it takes two months," she said.
A United spokesperson said the company apologized to Figueroa and is "actively working with the repair company to reach a resolution to this issue as quickly as possible."
She is currently using a loaner chair that she says only allows her to move in her apartment.
"There is no regard or respect of the extension of the human that's in the plane," she said. "When they see a mobility device they should respect it, as if it is a person, because that's what it is -- an extension of their person. And we're trusting them with the rest of our body."
Figueroa says this is the fourth time her wheelchair has been damaged in-flight. She blames a lack of training on how to break down and load the devices.
Near the end of 2018, U.S. carriers had to start reporting the number of wheelchairs and scooters that were mishandled.
In a little more than two and a half years, airlines damaged or lost 15,749 wheelchairs and scooters, according to data from the Department of Transportation. In 2019, they mishandled 10,548 mobility devices, amounting to roughly 29 a day.
Earlier this month, model Bri Scalesse called out Delta Air Lines in a now-viral Tik Tok for breaking the frame of her wheelchair. According to Scalesse, the repair company told her the chair could not be fixed and that "it was going to take a really long time to replace."
"I don't know how I'm going to live my life," Scalesse said in the video, which is now viewed more than two million times.
In a statement to ABC News, Delta said they "work closely with the customer to make things right at their direction including personal apologies about their experience with us."
Videos like Scalesse's have generated more interest in accessibility issues than Michele Erwin, the founder and president of disability rights group All Wheels Up, has seen in more than a decade.
"I don't think I know of one person who uses a wheelchair who hasn't had a travel horror story," Erwin said.
And advocates say airlines are losing potential customers.
"Eighty percent of the wheelchair community isn't flying," she said, "and it's not just about the one person whose wheelchair is damaged, times it by four, because now that person's family isn't traveling."
According to Erwin, in 2016, one major U.S. carrier told her they spent $2.6 million on wheelchairs repairs and replacements. Eight years prior, they had only spent $1.6 million.
"Another eight years from now, that number is going to double again," Erwin said, "and that's why I believe they are interested in having the conversation of what can All Wheels Up do to improve accessible air travel."
She said she's had meetings with representatives at major U.S. airlines and manufacturers to come up with solutions.
"If they invested that money into the actual research on trying to implement a wheelchair spot on airplanes, we could save them millions of dollars, as well as bad press," she said.
All Wheels Up is currently funding and conducting crash-test studies in an attempt to get the Federal Aviation Administration's approval for a wheelchair spot on planes.
"Every person that uses a mobility device has traveling anxiety," Figueroa said. "You worry you're going to lose your independence and become re-disabled again. I'm always saying in the back of my mind -- not this time, not this time."
That's the latest message in a hot new merchandise drop for National Tequila Day that aims to help provide food security to hospitality workers as they continue to rally back from the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creative executive Dylan Hattem -- founder of DS Projects, the company behind This T-Shirt -- launched the charity-driven brand at the onset of the pandemic with a focus on authenticity and purpose to "help the people who power the restaurants and bars you love."
Now, as patrons are able to once again saddle up to bars safely, they can do it in style with a custom tee made by This T-Shirt that also benefits the restaurant industry.
The merch-for-good brand teamed up with the Tequila Don Julio Fund to create an exclusive unisex tee. The net proceeds from each sale will be donated to No Us Without You, a non-profit that provides food security to undocumented immigrants, many of whom are the backbone of hospitality service in the greater Los Angeles area.
The shirt design is emblazoned with the phrase "Save Bars. Drink Tequila" on the front in a trendy, bright blue serif font. The back of the shirt contains a list of seven classic tequila cocktails in various large, bold typefaces: margarita, Paloma, Anejo old fashioned and tequila sunrise, to name a few.
The pre-shrunk premium cotton is also made from recycled material, and wearing it can serve as a reminder to support devoted bartenders, restaurant staff and hospitality workers -- not to mention it can serve as a conversation starter to inspire more interest in the charity's efforts.
The unisex T-shirts cost $40, with $37 per sale donated. It comes in six sizes, ranging from small to 3XL, and is available online through Sept. 20, 2021, while supplies last.
(NEW YORK) -- A family is sharing a stark new warning for others about the alleged dangers of the Peloton Tread+ treadmill after they say their son was sucked under the belt and severely injured.
Ygal and Sarah Saadoun spoke exclusively to ABC News about their 4-year-old son, who they said suffered third-degree burns after getting pinned underneath the workout equipment.
"This treadmill is a death trap for children," Ygal Saadoun said in the interview airing Wednesday on Good Morning America.
"Children should not be sucked under a conveyor belt that can kill them," he added. "Period."
In July 2020, the Saadouns dropped their child off with another family for a sleepover. Just hours later, the young boy was sucked under the treadmill's belt while playing next to the machine and was rushed to the hospital in extraordinary pain, the parents said.
"We were shocked to see the extent of the burns. My son was covered in burns," the father told ABC News. "We were shocked to hear that a treadmill can do that to somebody."
Nearly two dozen other families have reported children being hurt by the Peloton Tread+ and one even died from their injuries.
In May, the New York-based fitness company announced a recall of its Tread+ and Tread treadmills due to risk of injury and offered a full refund to anyone who purchased them until November.
"The fact that the Peloton [Tread+] has neither a safety guard or sensor to me is extremely worrying," Sarah Saadoun told ABC News.
Peloton surged in popularity amid the coronavirus pandemic with its at-home workout machines, like the $4,300 Tread+, as people stuck at home turned to interactive fitness.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission first issued an "urgent warning" about the Peloton Tread+ in April, urging users with small children or pets at home "to stop using the product immediately." The CPSC said kids could become "entrapped, pinned and pulled under the rear roller" of the equipment.
Peleton initially called that warning "inaccurate and misleading," but then backtracked with CEO and co-founder John Foley publicly apologizing on GMA.
"We did make a mistake by not engaging with the Consumer Product Safety Commission in a more productive dialogue earlier in the process," Foley told GMA in May.
However, the Saadoun family said it was too little, too late.
"I read the statement from the company after knowing that so many kids had been injured, that a child had died and still insisting that their product was safe and taking weeks to actually recall the product," Sarah Saadoun told ABC News. "That was when we decided we need to sue this company."
The family's lawsuit against the company claims Peloton "knew or should have known" that the treadmill "was extremely and unreasonably dangerous."
Lawyers for the family pointed out that other at-home treadmills have a safety guard on the back of the machines to prevent such accidents.
"Part of what the Saadoun family wants is to raise awareness about how dangerous this treadmill is," their attorney, Nathan Worksman, told ABC News.
"We think a better, more safe, not defective product design would have avoided this child's injuries," another one of their attorneys, Jordan Merson, added.
When asked for comment, Peloton told ABC News in a statement: "We take this incident, and all others reported to us involving our products, very seriously. We care deeply about the safety of our community and recognize the trust our members place in us to develop safe products. We continue to cooperate with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on this recall."
(NEW YORK) — A government agency is urging vacation rental companies to require owners to disable at-home elevators or make safety modifications following the death of a child in North Carolina earlier this month.
In a letter to Airbnb, Vrbo and others, The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said residential elevators "can pose a deadly but unforeseen hazard to children.”
"Small children can be crushed to death in a deadly gap that may exist between the doors," the letter said.
CPSC said if the gap between the exterior door and inner door is too deep, a child can become entrapped between the two, resulting in serious injury and even death.
"Children, some as young as two and as old as 12, have been crushed to death in this gap, suffering multiple skull fractures, fractured vertebrae and traumatic asphyxia,” the letter said. “Other children have suffered horrific and lifelong injuries."
The letter comes after a 7-year-old Ohio boy was killed in an elevator accident at a rental home in the Outer Banks. The child became stuck between the elevator door and shaft, according to The Associated Press. First responders were able to free the child but could not resuscitate him, the AP reported.
CPSC said the gaps can be made safer by placing space guards on the exterior doors or by using electronic monitoring devices that deactivate elevators when a child is detected in the gap.
"These fixes are relatively inexpensive and can save lives," the letter said.
The agency said companies should notify rentals about the potential hazard as well as require all hosts to lock outer access doors or disable at-home elevators until the hazardous gaps are remedied. CPSC said the companies should also require elevator inspections at any listed homes in the future.
Vrbo told ABC News it will "soon share important elevator safety information with property owners who have residential elevators" including a recommendation to disable elevators until they can be properly inspected.
"Our terms require property owners to abide by all safety-related laws and to keep equipment safe and in working order with regular maintenance," Vrbo said.
Airbnb said it is currently reviewing the letter from CPSC.
(WASHINGTON) — COVID-19 restrictions were designed to stem the tide of the biggest public health crisis in 100 years.
As the virus began to recede with mass vaccination, many of the most burdensome were relaxed or dropped altogether.
But there was at least one that many states, and their businesses, were more than happy to keep.
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia had special provisions in place during the pandemic that allowed restaurants and bars to deliver alcohol orders to their customers.
Mike Whatley, the vice president for state affairs and grassroots advocacy for the National Restaurant Association, told ABC News to-go alcohol options increased restaurant sales on average 5-10% during the pandemic.
"Many restaurants are alive today because of cocktails to go," he told ABC News.
All but 11 of those states have kept their alcohol to-go rules in place following the end of their governors' emergency orders. Economic and political experts say those states that are on the fence should consider following suit if they want to ensure a stronger post-pandemic future for their restaurants.
Although most states have relaxed their limits on indoor capacity for businesses, restaurants and bars are still relying on takeout customers to improve their revenues, Whatley said. Restaurants still haven't regained 1.5 million jobs lost before the pandemic, a 12% loss, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Nearly two-fifths of restaurant owners said they still can not afford rent, according to statistics from the association.
"Until every single person feels comfortable eating in a restaurant, we're not going to be back to normal," Whatley said.
Alcohol to-go gives customers more options to enjoy their meals, and most importantly, gives restaurant owners a way to sell their more profitable cocktails and spirit drinks, Whatley said.
Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr told ABC News that his state's temporary cocktails to-go rule was fully embraced by residents and business owners, so there was no question to extend it. Cyr introduced a bill that passed in the legislature extending the rule until May 2022.
"I think broadly we realized this was an industry that was really hurt and we wanted to do something," Cyr told ABC News.
The senator, who previously worked a restaurant, said alcohol regulation is one of the toughest hurdles that business owners have to cross in Massachusetts and other states, since they have to get approval from both their local and state liquor authorities.
"I think more broadly, this is an industry where we don't provide enough state investment from government," Cyr said.
Experts say that red tape and years of precedent concerning alcohol laws are stalling other states from implementing more permanent delivery laws.
Kajal Lahiri, a distinguished professor of economics at SUNY Albany, told ABC News that alcohol laws in states have been linked to more conservative beliefs on drinking, such as no sales before noon on Sundays.
Lahiri contended that changing those laws, even for something as economically beneficial as cocktails to go, isn't a big priority for state legislatures given the other recovery struggles.
"I think this slipped past [legislators'] priorities," Lahiri told ABC News.
New York was one of the locations that, as of July, didn't extend its alcohol to-go laws before Gov. Andrew Cuomo ended his COVID state of emergency. A bill was introduced during last year's session to extend the regulation, but was never voted on.
Several restaurant advocates, including the New York City Hospitality Alliance, have called on the state legislature to pass legislation that would make alcohol to-go permanent.
Representatives from the New York State Assembly and Senate didn't immediately return messages for comment.
Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, told ABC News that the governor would like to see the statehouse come up with a solution to alcohol on delivery.
"We know what a lifeline this was to the industry during this pandemic and are more than willing to work with the houses on a legislative solution," Azzopardi said in a statement.
Lahiri, who has consulted with the state legislature on economic matters, predicted that New York and other states will join the other locations in extending the alcohol delivery laws.
Aside from the pressure applied by restaurants that need that service, Lahiri noted the pandemic has forced elected officials to reconcile that their older rules and regulations may be moot.
For example, canceling classes because of inclement weather was no longer necessary because of the rise in remote learning, Lahiri said. When it comes to restaurants, there are few cons to having them deliver their drink menu items.
"It is a new era and we have now realized the old ways of doing things aren't the best," Lahiri said. "I think it will be easy because we've lived with this. It's not uncharted."
(CLEVELAND, Ohio) -- Margie’s Closet opened on June 5 to help transgender, non-binary and gender-expansive people buy clothing at an affordable cost.
Located in Ohio, Margie’s Closet is the first thrift shop in the state designed to help the transgender community by offering clothing and emotional support. The store, founded by the organization Margie’s Hope, sells an extensive list of clothing, from chest binders for transgender men to $5 pairs of jeans.
Jacob Nash, co-founder of Margie’s Hope and Margie’s Closet, told “Good Morning America” that he came up with the idea for the store after listening to questions from individuals in the transgender community.
“There was some conversation, first through a friend of mine who ... had some clothes that she wanted to donate to folks in the trans community, and wanted to know if I knew of any place that served the trans community specifically,” Nash said. “Then, at the support group that Margie’s Hope has [Trans Ally] ... a lot of people talked about shopping online because they felt uncomfortable in the stores ... and then they end up sending a lot back.”
As a response to these conversations, he opened a pop-up event where people donated clothing for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive individuals. This event was extremely popular, Nash said, which inspired him to open up a store to sell this donated clothing.
“By the time we were done, we had so many clothes. We were like, ‘OK, so we obviously have a need here. What are we going to do?’” Nash said.
His dream became a reality when he discovered a space called Studio West 117, which was specifically created for the LGBTQ+ community, on the border between Lakewood and Cleveland that he found ideal to house the store.
“We toured the facility and realized that this would be perfect because we wanted to be able to provide folks within the transgender and nonbinary and gender-expansive community a space that they felt comfortable in [and] that they could get there everything [they] need[ed],” Nash said.
About six weeks after leasing the space, the store opened, just in time for Pride Month. So far, the turnout has been “phenomenal,” Nash said.
“We've had people coming in and purchasing items that are from the community, but also people that are supportive of the trans community that are coming in and saying, ‘We are coming here to shop because we want to support the community, the trans community, the nonbinary community,” Nash said. “It's not just folks from the LGBTQ community that are coming in and shopping, or even donating, but it's the whole community of Northeast Ohio.”
Monika Veliz, the executive manager of Margie’s Closet, agrees that the turnout has been “more than [they] could have hoped for.” She believes that the large numbers of people coming to the store can be contributed to local support and advertising.
“We realized that we can't do this by ourselves, and the community realized that we can't do this by ourselves, so everyone's been really helpful,” Veliz said. “Surrounding businesses have been more than generous with welcoming us to the neighborhood. We've had, because of social media, and different platforms ... people drive as far as from Cincinnati to Cleveland, from Bowling Green to Cleveland just to get to the store.”
This support is meaningful to Nash, but not because of the money made, making Margie's Closet different from a typical business. In fact, the store offers opportunities for those who cannot afford the clothing to have access to $25 vouchers through community organizations or to ask for help from the store upfront. This is because Nash wants Margie's Closet to care more about the people it helps than making a profit.
“We are trying, as our slogan goes, ‘building community one piece of clothing at a time,’ because it's not about the clothing as much as it is building community, building family, building relationships and serving the population that is most needed,” Nash said. “If that means we give away product, then we give away product because it's more about the people than it is about the money.”
When Veliz started working at the store, she did not realize this unique aspect of the store - that was, until she had a meaningful interaction with a transgender woman customer.
“She knew absolutely very little about women's clothing, about her body type, her body shape, and she came into the store as we were closing. We actually stayed open an extra hour just for her so that I could help her pick up clothes and measure her and all that good stuff,” Veliz said.
“Up until that point, I thought it was just a business, if that makes sense…, but then I realized the importance we play in trans and nonbinary people who walk through our door,” Veliz added. “They're looking for direction, they’re looking for… connection [and] community. That was the defining moment of what the store actually was for me.”
(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department said Monday it has "fundamental concerns" with Purdue Pharma’s plan to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Purdue filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2019 as it faced thousands of lawsuits across the country over its aggressive marketing of OxyContin and other opioid products.
While the department said it supports Purdue Pharma’s proposed business model of becoming a public benefit corporation and welcomes the distribution of more than $4 billion to states for opioids mitigation, it opposes shielding the heirs of founders Raymond and Mortimer Sackler from additional opioids-related litigation since they themselves are not going through bankruptcy.
"The proposed shareholder release violates due process principles," the Justice Department statement, filed with the bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, said.
"To be sure, many individual creditors in the Purdue bankruptcy have agreed to give this release in exchange for the payments and other benefits they will receive under the plan, and presumably find this to be a fair deal. But many others, including states who have voted against or objected to the plan, have not agreed.”
Also on Monday, the United States trustee, who supervises bankruptcy cases for the Department of Justice, took the more formal step of objecting to the plan, which requires Sackler family members to pay over $4 billion in cash and assets, but does not require any admission of wrongdoing.
U.S. Trustee William K. Harrington cited the "extraordinarily broad release of the Sackler family" from any liability for the nation’s opioids epidemic as a reason for his objection.
"The plan provides that some members of the Sackler family will 'contribute' more than $4.3 billion to fund opioid abatement and compensation trusts established under the plan," Harrington said in the court filing. "But there is a catch: Payment is conditioned on every member of the Sackler family and associated parties -- which total hundreds, if not thousands -- receiving a release from all liability from all persons, even if they are not creditors or parties in interest, for the Sackler family’s alleged wrongdoing in concocting and perpetuating for profit one of the most severe public health crises ever experienced in the United States."
"Although styled as a third-party release, it is nothing less than an illegal, court-ordered discharge of a potentially limitless group of non-debtors," the trustee wrote.
The Justice Department has, in other cases, formally objected to releasing third parties who are not going through the bankruptcy process themselves from legal liability.
In a letter last month, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to formally object to Purdue's plan.
"Allowing the Sacklers to obtain legal immunity through Purdue’s bankruptcy would be a tragic miscarriage of justice," Maloney said. "While the settlement will provide much-needed transparency about the Sacklers’ central role in creating, fueling, and profiting from America’s opioid epidemic, we remain troubled that the Sacklers are poised to escape accountability yet again."
Purdue Pharma's reorganization plan "has the potential to improve public health by speeding resources to communities and individuals affected by the opioid crisis," Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue's board of directors, said in a statement earlier this year. "That is what we have been working toward since the 2019 bankruptcy filing."
The company last year pleaded guilty to three felonies -- one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of conspiracy to violate the federal anti-kickback statute -- as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.
A hearing to finalize Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy exit plan is scheduled for Aug. 9.
ABC News' Celia Darrough contributed to this report.