Business News
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- In honor of AAPI Heritage Month the top online retailer for Asian goods partnered with an acclaimed Japanese restaurant owner and chef to bring ingredients and recipes for authentic dishes right to peoples' doors.

Chef Ivan Orkin fell in love with Japanese cuisine working as a dishwasher in a sushi restaurant at 15 and has honed his culinary focus ever since, creating one of the top ramen shops while living in Tokyo and eventually brought the cult-favorite concept back to his home in New York.

With over 4,000 brands dedicated to bring authentic and trendy Asian goods to U.S. customers, Yami teamed up with the award-winning chef to hand select ingredients to teach home cooks how to make traditional Japanese dishes.

"Fundamentally we share the same goal -- bring access to Japanese culture through the food. Chef Orkin is a master of Japanese food," Yami founder Alex Zhou told "Good Morning America."

"I'm much less of a Ramen geek and much more of a Japan-ophile," Orkin explained to "GMA," adding that he moved to Japan after college equipped with a degree in Japanese language and literature. "I didn't really decide to open a ramen shop just because I like ramen, it was more about this desire to explore deeply Japanese culture and cooking better. Then when I returned to the U.S. I wanted to expand this vision."

The pair launched a limited-edition line of curated culinary kits earlier this month that focuses on Japanese pantry staples to make braised pork curry, dashi, tonkatsu -- fried pork cutlets -- and rice balls, plus it includes full recipes from chef Orikin's "The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider."

One of the biggest concerns that fans of his cookbook, or ramen in general, have had is finding the right ingredients for that type of cooking.

"It's daunting, especially when you decide to be excited about cooking Asian cuisine -- or start a new recipe -- and you can barely get any of the ingredients, it's very frustrating when you want to get those flavors," Orkin said. "Yami has an opportunity to address some of the recipes and flavors and help bring it to customers."

After a year where people embraced what he called "couch traveling," Orkin explained that the chef-curated kits are a great way to bring a taste of a new culture to home cooks' kitchens.

"I'm really driven to have people want to know more about Japan and by extension Asia in general," he added. "A lot of people are realizing the liberating feeling of cooking -- you don't have to rely on anyone when you're hungry -- and now Asian cuisines are finally getting real exposure and a lot of people want to eat them."

Another component that Orkin said drives his passion both then and now is that "a lot of people misunderstand Japan and Asia in general." And this partnership supports Stop AAPI Hate with 100% of the proceeds from the series of themed boxes being donated to help the organization's work combating racism and hate.

Check out a taste of two of the recipes below that are included in the specialty boxes.

Fried Pork Cutlets (Tonkatsu 豚カツ)

Serves four


One 1-pound pork tenderloin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 cup vegetable oil

steamed rice

shredded cabbage

lemon wedges

Bull-Dog tonkatsu sauce


Slice the pork tenderloin crosswise into four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, place the pork, cut side down, on a cutting board and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the meat into a flat cutlet about 1/2-inch thick. Don't brutalize the meat -- ten to twelve moderately firm whacks ought to do it. Season the cutlets lightly on both sides with the salt.

Set up a breading station by lining up three shallow pans -- pie tins work well -- and filling them with the flour, egg, and panko, respectively. Lightly beat the egg. One at a time, coat each piece of pork with flour, gently dusting off any excess, then give it a dip in egg and, finally, a coating of panko. Don't be stingy with the bread crumbs, cover the whole piece of meat and press down gently to ensure a good coating. Transfer to a plate.

Add the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat to 325 degrees. As a rough guide, the oil is ready when you drop a few pieces of panko in the oil and they immediately sizzle. Fry the cutlets in batches for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack and let rest for a few minutes.

Slice the pork into half-inch-wide strips and serve with steamed rice, a big pile of shredded cabbage, lemon wedges, and a heavy drizzle of Bull-Dog sauce.

Grilled Rice Balls (Yaki Onigiri 焼きおにぎり)


2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 rice balls (onigiri), freshly made

2 tablespoons Dashi

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon mirin

mentaiko mayo (optional, recipe below)


To make each onigiri, place a 1-foot square of plastic wrap on a cutting board and drop the warm rice into the center.

Use your fingers or a spoon to flatten the rice into a layer about 1-inch thick. Gather the four corners of the plastic wrap together, lift up the rice, and twist the plastic together to force the rice together into a ball. Then use your hands to form the ball into a rough triangle, about an inch thick, twisting the plastic as necessary to compress the rice. This isn't an exact science. You're just using the plastic to help you form the rice. Remove the plastic.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, then coat with a little of the vegetable oil. Gently lay the onigiri in the pan and allow to cook while you mix together the dashi, soy sauce, and mirin in a small bowl.

Brush the onigiri lightly with the dashi-soy mixture, then flip them over. Keep brushing and flipping every few minutes until top and bottom are crisp and brown, about 20 minutes, adding more oil as needed. Serve hot with lots of mentaiko mayo, if you’ve made it.

Mentaiko Mayo

Makes about 1/3 cup


2 ounces mentaiko (cod or pollock roe), gently scraped from the sac

1/4 cup Kewpie mayonnaise


Mix the mentaiko and mayonnaise thoroughly together in a bowl. Serve immediately.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sundry Photography/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- Whether you drink hard seltzer, beer or wine, your alcoholic beverages of choice will soon be available for same-day delivery from Target.

Target's same-day pickup and delivery services are expanding to include alcohol items, the retailer announced Monday.

The option is officially available for pickup or drive-up orders at over 1,200 stores across the country, and Target said by the end of May, same-day delivery will be available with Shipt at more than 600 stores.

"Our adult beverage category is one of the fastest-growing divisions within our food and beverage business, and we continue to hear from guests how much they love our fast, easy and safe same-day services," Rick Gomez, chief food and beverage officer for Target said in a statement. "As we continue to invest in the products and experiences our guests love, making our wine, beer and spirits selection available for pickup and delivery is a natural next step, and we’re proud our team moved so quickly to bring this enhanced service to hundreds of additional stores nationwide."

The new expansion also includes exclusive launches like SunPop Wine and Frozen Cocktail popsicles, Photograph Wine and The Mystic Reef Hard Seltzer Lemonade Variety Pack.

The fast and convenient selection can be made on the Target app and website, plus drive-up and pickup options are free with no minimum order or membership fee required.

To help celebrate the new launch, Target shared a collection of festive cocktail recipes to toast to warm weather for the summer months ahead.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Extreme Media/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- Fuel outages persist in parts of the Southeast on Monday -- and the national gas price average remains at its highest level in six years -- even as the Colonial Pipeline has resumed operations following a ransomware attack.

The national gas price average on Monday was $3.04, according to data from the American Automobile Association. The AAA said a price increase leading up to Memorial Day weekend was expected, but last week's pipeline shutdown caused prices to surge in the weeks ahead of the holiday.

"The Southeast will continue to experience tight supply this week as terminals and gas stations are refueled," Jeanette McGee, an AAA spokesperson, said in a statement Monday. "Over the weekend, gas prices started to stabilize, but are expected to fluctuate in the lead up to Memorial Day weekend."

Gas prices in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina all jumped 21 cents over the past week, according to AAA data, while gas prices in Virginia and Tennessee climbed 18 cents. Nationally, average gas prices have jumped eight cents on the week.

"This is going to be an expensive summer for motorists," McGee added, though she said they don't expect this to deter people from taking road trips this summer.

Meanwhile, swaths of gas stations throughout many southeastern states are still grappling with fuel outages.

Some 57% of gas stations in North Carolina have fuel outages as of Monday morning, according to data from fuel-price tracker Gasbuddy, marking the highest percentage of any state. This is followed by 49% of stations in South Carolina and 33% of stations in Virginia.

The District of Columbia, meanwhile, is dealing with a whopping 83% of stations reporting fuel outages, according to Gasbuddy.

Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for Gasbuddy, noted that prices surged in the Southeast due to the fallout related to the pipeline shutdown, but most areas outside that region saw much smaller fluctuations.

"With the pipeline now back in service, I expect prices to come down in the hardest hit states, specifically the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia," DeHaan said in a statement Monday. "The drops should lead the national average to soon fall back under the $3 per gallon mark, but motorists shouldn’t get too excited -- prices may start to head higher in a few weeks should Memorial Day gasoline demand be red hot."

Still, DeHaan said he is optimistic there will be enough of an outage recovery by Memorial Day for motorists in impacted areas to be able to fill up their tanks without having to go searching for gasoline.

Colonial Pipeline, which transports approximately 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, entered a multi-day shutdown on May 7 after being hit by a cyberattack involving ransomware.

Last Thursday, a little less than a week later, operators said they had officially restarted the entire pipeline system and fuel delivery to all markets served had commenced.

The saga and days of confusion that followed exposed the vulnerability of critical infrastructure in the U.S. to new forms of cyber threats.

Critics also pointed to news that a multi-million dollar ransom had been paid in response to the cyberattack, which was first reported by Bloomberg late last week, as further highlighting the nation's lack of preparedness in dealing with criminal hacking groups.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Nattakorn Maneerat/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- As more states lift mask rules and other restrictions put in place during the pandemic and businesses start to invite employees back to work in person, the federal government also is working on how to make sure employers are protecting workers from COVID-19.

The federal agency charged with protecting workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has fielded thousands of COVID-19 related complaints since the start of the pandemic and is expected to release an emergency rule to help enforce the steps employers are required to take to keep people safe.

OSHA issued almost $4 million in citations for COVID-related complaints, as of the latest update in January and not including citations from state worker safety agencies. Those violations included failing to implement a written program to protect workers, failing to provide appropriate PPE, and generally failing to ensure a safe working environment.

The details of the emergency rule aren't public yet, but employment law experts say they expect it to put more power behind the guidance issued by OSHA and other agencies that require businesses to take steps to keep people safe from infection in the workplace, including wearing PPE like masks, social distancing, ventilation, and in some cases limiting the number of people in a space if distancing isn't possible.

Employers are charged with deciding how each specific workplace will handle the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in line with local, state, and federal health guidance. But through OSHA and other agencies the federal government has laid the groundwork for what employers need to do and what employees should expect.

Employers can require workers to be vaccinated

When it comes to vaccinations employers can legally require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether it's fully approved or emergency authorization, but they must provide justification for why it's necessary to do the job safely. For example, if you've been doing your job 100% remotely an employer can encourage you to get vaccinated but it's harder to justify requiring it than if you are in a job where you frequently interact with the public or are required to work in close quarters with other employees.

Employers can ask workers if they're vaccinated but they cannot share that information or ask follow up questions that could indicate if an employee's disability, according to Cathy Ruckelshaus, legal director at the National Employment Law Project.

Ruckelshaus said a vaccine requirement would work similar to any other medical mandate in the workplace, meaning employers still have to allow employees to ask for an exemption.

"I think that the EEOC guidance is pretty clear that employers are permitted to mandate vaccines if they want to, but they have to have the basic protections in place that they would for any kind of medical mandate so your employers would have to comply with any request for accommodation by an employee, or basically a waiver by an employee based on disability or religious grounds," she said.

If employees have medical or religious reasons they can't get the vaccine and need additional accommodation to ensure they're protected from COVID-19, the same process should apply as other medical exemptions. The employer should work with that individual to determine a reasonable accommodation so they can still do the job. If an employer and employee can't reach an agreement on how that employee can come back to work in person, they can legally be fired for inability to meet requirements of the job.

"There's nothing new here, it's the same dynamic in terms of what employers are used to doing, and what employees need to show if they are requesting an accommodation," Ruckelshaus said.

The Biden administration has also expanded unemployment insurance so it's easier for people to access financial help if they are required to go back to work but can't do so because of concerns about contracting COVID or are fired for refusing to go back to work in person or inability to get the vaccine.

Even if employers ask workers if they're vaccinated they legally can't share an employee's medical information with their co-workers, so people going back to the office won't know if their co-workers are vaccinated unless they voluntarily share that information.

Even if CDC says masks can go away businesses can still require them

Last week CDC said fully vaccinated Americans, meaning at least two weeks after the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, don't need to wear a mask or social distance in most situations. But it is ultimately up to businesses and local health authorities to decide how to implement that guidance.

OSHA is reviewing the new CDC guidance to provide more information on how to implement it in the workplace, according to a message on the agency's website.

CDC has also recommended that most schools keep policies that require masks – at least for now -- in place to protect children under 12 years old who aren't yet eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC says it is reviewing its mask guidance for schools next year.

Employees working in person or considering returning to work in person should consult state and local requirements around masks and ask their employer about the expectations for wearing masks in their workplace. At least 16 states had adopted or announced plans to adopt the CDC's updated guidance on masks as of Friday, while three dropped mask mandates entirely. Some fully vaccinated individuals could also choose to keep wearing a mask if they don't know if everyone they encounter at work is fully vaccinated.

The CDC recommends people who are not vaccinated continue to take steps to prevent exposure to COVID-19 as they return to work, including wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of distance from people outside your household, avoiding poorly ventilated or crowded spaces, washing hands and using hand sanitizer, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Employers can ask if you have symptoms of COVID-19, but not if your spouse has it

Employers can ask employees questions to make sure people with COVID-19 don't enter the workplace, including asking if an employee has experienced symptoms, tested positive for the virus, ask employees to take COVID-19 tests consistent with CDC guidelines, ask employees where they have traveled, require employees to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms, and require a doctor's note for certifying an employee is fit to return to work if they recently had COVID-19, according to EEOC guidelines.

But an employer cannot ask if an employee's family members have experienced symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, beyond asking if they have come in close contact with someone with COVID. Employers also need a reason to ask only one employee to take their temperature or a COVID-19 test if it's isn't a requirement for everyone, for instance if they are visibly exhibiting symptoms at work.

The EEOC says employers can legally bar an employee from physically coming in to work if they refuse to have their temperature taken or answer questions about whether they have COVID-19, but recommends employers ask why an employee is refusing and work to accommodate their concerns and make sure they know their medical information will not be shared.

Every workplace needs a COVID-19 plan

Employees are legally entitled to a workplace free of safety or health hazards, according to an OSHA rule called the general duty clause, and the agency has been using that standard to cite employers who inspectors found weren't doing enough to employees from COVID-19.

OSHA has published extensive guidance for employers on how to create programs to prevent COVID-19 infections in the workplace, including with some industry-specific guidance for situations like airlines, food processing, and even hair salons.

The general guidance recommends providing workers with masks, implementing 6 feet of distance between workers or installing barriers when that distance isn't possible, and following CDC guidance on requiring workers who could have COVID-19 to isolate or quarantine.

Debbie Berkowitz, worker safety and health employment director for the National Employment Law Project, said the upcoming OSHA will likely make that guidance a requirement and give employers a deadline to put together a COVID-19 plan evaluating the risks and steps to mitigate exposure in their specific workplace.

"You can't just call everybody back and then when people get sick go, 'oh I gotta figure this out,'" she told ABC News.

David Michaels, former OSHA director and professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, said requiring these plans could make a big difference because it gives employees documentation of what to expect and makes it easier to file complaints and enforce violations if employers don't have a plan or don't follow it.

"I think the message that everybody should have is that, you know there are, there is guidance out there now when even until the standards coming out employers should try to meet those especially, you know as offices and workplaces are reopening this standards will certainly motivate some employers to do a better job at that but they shouldn't, we shouldn't need a standard to do that," he said.

The new OSHA rule isn't expected to overhaul workplace requirements

The upcoming OSHA emergency standard isn't expected to change the protections employees already have at work or set specific requirements on how businesses should protect their employees from COVID-19 beyond the current guidance. Berkowitz and Michaels said they don't expect it to give specific requirements on how and when people should wear masks, for example, or how many people are allowed to be in a workplace because one national policy would be difficult to apply to every workplace.

"This standard does several things at once. First by making these requirements many employers who want to be law abiding will make an effort to follow them," Michaels said.

"Then secondly, it makes inspections much more straightforward. Because right now, without a standard, it's more difficult for OSHA inspectors to issue citations because they just, they have to use like all the general duty clause that just says that the employer is not providing a safe workplace where if there's a standard that includes things like masking or distance then, you know, when an inspector comes in and sees that the employer is not meeting those requirements it's much more straightforward to issue a citation."

Michaels said the third aspect of the standard is that it sends a strong message about the importance of protecting employees from COVID-19 and the consequences for businesses that don't.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Disney Parks

(NEW YORK) -- Disneyland Paris will be allowed to reopen on June 17.

The announcement was made on the park's website and social media early Monday morning.

"We are pleased to announce that Disneyland Paris will reopen on June 17 with Disneyland Park, Walt Disney Studios Park, Disney’s Newport Bay Club Hotel and Disney Village," the announcement said, adding, "The long-awaited Disney’s Hotel New York -- The Art of Marvel will open on June 21, with sales opening on May 18."

"We look forward to welcoming you back to the heart of the Magic," it added.

The park originally closed during France's first national lockdown in March 2020, but reopened a few months later in July. A second national lockdown forced its closure once again on Oct. 29, and a reopening date has been up in the air ever since.

The park reopening "will follow enhanced health and safety measures," according to the website. Some of these measures include limited admittance into the park each day; social distancing on rides and waiting lines; over 2,000 hand sanitizing stations placed around the park; increased cleaning; redesigned character meet and greets; and the requirement of face coverings in all areas.

The news comes on the heels of the reopening of Disneyland in California, which welcomed visitors back on April 30, with similar measures in place as the French park.

The Disney parks in Florida, Shanghai, and Tokyo have been open since last summer, while Disneyland in Hong Kong reopened earlier this year on Feb. 19.

For more information on Disneyland Paris' reopening, visit here.

Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of "Good Morning America" and ABC News.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Heidi Metcalf Lewis

(NEW YORK) -- An image of a Maryland woman working from her bathtub has led to a reflection on the child care crisis caregivers have faced since the onset of COVID-19, and what leaders are doing to change it.

At the height of the pandemic, Heidi Metcalf Lewis, a mother of two from Silver Spring, was photographed by her husband after she had set up a work space in her bathroom. Seen nearby was her 1-year-old daughter playing with a water table toy.

Lewis' attempt to occupy her toddler while tackling workday tasks was dubbed a familiar scene for the millions of parents who were left without options when a majority of day care centers closed and schools turned to remote learning.

The picture stirred up conversation on Twitter after it was shared by Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code and a mom of two, who is leading the "Marshall Plan for Moms," an initiative to return mothers to the workplace and pay them for the work they do at home.

"It took on a life of its own from there," Lewis told ABC News' Good Morning America. "We're all showing each other how burned out and exhausted we are, but what's being done? I don't want a Hallmark card, I want a policy change."

On April 28, President Joe Biden laid out his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which aims to invest in child care, education and the country's overall economic future.

Biden's plan is to create free, universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds and fund two years of free universal community college. The plan would cap how much low- and middle-income Americans must spend on child care, extend Affordable Care Act tax credits and expand paid leave.

Child care centers have struggled to remain open

To create universal free pre-K, the American Families Plan envisions a federal-state partnership where states would initially be responsible for 10% of the funding, which would eventually scale up to 50%. If states choose not to opt into the program, a senior administration official said they would "work directly with a locality on preschool," ABC News reported last month.

Lower-income families' child care costs will be completely covered, while families making up to 150% of a state's median income will be capped at paying 7% of their income for child care. Families could choose between child care centers, family child care providers and Early Head Start.

Before the pandemic, Lewis and her husband were spending 40% of their monthly income on child care, though their children's education and time with peers is a priority, she said.

In November 2020, the National Association for the Education of Young Children surveyed thousands of programs across the country. Of the survey's respondents, many reported "resorting to desperate measures to stay open," such as engaging in layoffs, pay cuts and taking on debt to keep their programs afloat.

Biden's new plan also calls for a $15 minimum wage for child care workers and funding for child care providers to keep classes small and to develop curriculum.

Women taking the brunt

Nationwide, nearly half of child care providers completely closed their facilities during the COVID-19 shutdowns last year, according to a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Of those that stayed open, 85% had been operating with less than half of their usual child enrollment.

These closures, as well as schools adopting remote learning models, were arguably a main cause for more than two million women leaving the workforce in 2020 alone, according to the National Women's Law Center.

Lewis said her employer, an independent bookstore, didn't lay off a single employee and instead she was able to work from home. While Lewis was grateful for the flexibility, she was faced with balancing her career with caretaking duties.

"I think a typical day was chaos, crying and tons of snacks," Lewis said. "The hardest part about having both of them home was they both had wildly different needs."

In March 2021, Ana Rodriguez of San Lorenzo, California, told GMA that her employer was allowing her three children to attend virtual school inside the office building where she works.

"The pandemic, it forced women to choose between [our families] and our careers. ... It put us 50 steps back in how we're viewed in society," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said her kids have returned to in-person learning four days a week. She said she's glad that Biden's initiative is putting a spotlight on women.

"We weren't acknowledged and it was the most inconsiderate situation we've ever been in," Rodriguez added. "I'm honored that he's at least acknowledging how much women do."

Rodriguez admitted that most of the child care had fallen on her, though her job lends itself more to being a parent amid COVID-19 than her husband's does, she said.

Lewis said that when her kids' schools closed last year, her husband had started a new job.

"I wanted to give him the space to prove himself," Lewis explained. "Did I willingly take on this unpaid labor? Yes. But we were in a crisis, and needed his income. We have a pretty good balance of labor but [as for] the emotional labor, I carry it."

Lewis said she feels the pandemic put a spotlight on structural sexism, which is why her bathtub picture garnered so much attention.

"It's the way the system is. We're have to prioritize his work ... and men make more than women. We all know that, and here we are living in the imbalance and it feels more urgent and broken," she said.

In January, Saujani and her nonprofit took out a full-page New York Times ad urging political leaders to institute a Marshall Plan effort that would provide a means-tested $2,400 monthly payment to moms and would be led by a "caregiving czar" tasked with implementing workplace benefits like parental leave, affordable child care and pay equity.

The 1940s-era Marshall Plan was a multibillion-dollar U.S. program that helped to rebuild the economies of Western Europe after World War II.

Advocates like Saujani say just as drastic and intentional an effort is needed today to help working moms, many of whom have seen their careers decimated by the pandemic.

After the the Biden-Harris administration announced its plan for addressing the child care crisis, Saujani took to Instagram writing, "It’s a huge deal."

She went on, "And remember: the pandemic hasn't just forced women out of work -- it's also forced women and girls out of school. Investing in education is ALSO a win for women and moms."

Calling for change

Since her viral work-from-home moment, Lewis has used her voice in hopes to spark change. She said that prior to Biden's new initiative being announced, an activist group called Moms Rising encouraged its members to contact their state representatives about the child care issue.

Lewis wrote a letter to U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., to alert him that child care was not listed on his website as an issue that required attention.

Raskin told GMA he's been making it a point to call parents who reached out with concerns, including Lewis.

"Hers was a very eloquent voice early on in the crisis saying we need to focus on this as a real problem," Raskin said. "It's not just a problem for families. It's a problem for the economy [as] several million women left the workforce during COVID-19."

Raskin said he feels the U.S. is now headed in the right direction with the American Rescue Plan being signed into law, which is projected to lift more than five million children out of poverty this year, and the American Families Plan.

In addition, Raskin said the extended Affordable Care Act tax credits are going to help more than 100,000 kids in his Maryland district alone, with an extra $300 per month per child.

"It's a huge investment, but other than unemployment benefits, child care were the two things I heard most about from my constituents during COVID," Raskin noted.

"Child care can be such an amazing opportunity for a society to use the best research on child development, socializing skills and healthy practices," he added.

Lewis said her 6-year-old son Charlie began remote learning in the fall. Harriet has returned to her school as well.

"I'm thrilled that President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris are centering working families and promising much-needed support for child care in this country," Lewis said.

"Working moms need everything in the American Families Plan -- and we needed it before the pandemic -- but we also need fully operating K-12 schools," she added. "I want to hear the representatives I voted for explore why school closures happened [and in some cases are still happening] and start to hold people accountable."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- It's Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and one way to give back during this celebratory time is by supporting businesses owned by cultures that make up the Asian community.

Following many anti-Asian attacks that have taken place this year, now is an optimal opportunity to stand in solidarity and show support.

In March, fashion and beauty industry leaders were among other notables who began using their platforms to spread awareness and speak out again anti-Asian racism.

The following month, SAG Award nominee Jamie Chung wore a statement-making Edie Parker purse that read "Stop Asian Hate."

Fashion and beauty industries alike rely heavily on influences, production and creativity stemmed from Asian cultures as evidenced by everything from the huge K-beauty trends to unique designs that commonly appear on some of the most coveted runways.

Get familiar with a variety of AAPI-owned fashion and beauty brands:

Beauty brands

Glow Recipe

Glow recipe creates naturally derived fruit-powered skin care products that work to help you glow from the inside out.

Top products include the Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer which has an amino acid-rich watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid for skin-plumping and soothing botanicals such as jasmine and peony extracts.

Kulfi Beauty

Lead by South Asian beauty boss Priyanka Ganjoo, who is enthusiastic about empowering her community through representation, Kulfi is where culture meets beauty. The growing brand currently carries everything from Kajal eyeliners to stickers and accessories.

Patrick Ta

Patrick Ta has become a sought-after makeup artist to the stars, and his line of makeup is an echo of his work. Patrick Ta Beauty offers special products such as his all-in-one Creme Contour & Powder Bronzer Duo as well as the Major Glow On The Go body oil to help you shine.


Through the years, Jinsoon Choi has become a New York City favorite for her nail artistry during Fashion Week as well as for her salons.

Her vast lineup of nail polishes offers a wide look at how minimalist or maximalist you can go for your next manicure.


Acaderma's roots are planted in academia and led by distinguished professor Dr. James Simon and IFSCC award-winning scientist, Dr. Shuting Hu.

Bestselling products include a Better With Age Rejuvenating Rich Cream as well as a Lunar Glow Illuminate Serum.

Live Tinted

Live Tinted's CEO Deepica Mutyla originally went viral in 2015 for a video where she demonstrated how to mask dark circles with red lipstick.

She later launched her company's Huestick which is a multipurpose stick and color-correcting tool that's available in three shades created to match a person's undertones, mask dark eye circles and hyperpigmentation.

Today, the brand continues to roll out inclusive products and build community.

Peach & Lily

Powered by Korean beauty innovations, Alicia Yoon created Peach & Lily in 2012 to connect online shoppers with top Asian beauty products. The company has cruelty-free products that range from face masks to serums.

Fashion brands

Joah Love

Founded by Korean-American designer, mother and entrepreneur Ahyoung Kim Stobar, Joah Love is a line of high-end loungewear clothing made locally in California. The company features mommy and me matching outfits, face coverings and more.

Plus, Joah Love donates a percentage of monthly sales toward the AAPI Women Lead and #ImReady Movement.

3.1 Phillip Lim

The high-fashion label created by fashion designer Phillip Lim has apparel, handbags, shoes, accessories and more.

Lim has also been very instrumental in using his platform to help put an end to Asian hate.


Designed by sisters Oleema and Kalani Miller, Mikoh is a stylish swimwear and ready-to-wear brand that sells a variety of beach-ready styles as well as accessories.


Misho is a jewelry label worn by celebrities including Kylie Jenner and Beyoncé. The brand describes each piece as "modern architecture for the body."


Brought to life by Malaysian-born designer Han Chong, Self-Portrait has become known for its uniquely designed dresses that often feature silhouettes as well as lace and floral prints.

Sandy Liang

Liang's eclectic line of fashion has been said to be "Lower East Side cool meets Chinatown grandmother aesthetic," by Fashionista and its overall vibe screams "cool kid."

The brand offers everything from clothing to outerwear, accessories and jewelry.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Michael Burrell/iStock

(NEW YORK) — Federal income tax filings and payments for individuals are due Monday.

The Treasury Department and the IRS extended the deadline in March.

"This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a news release announcing the extension.

Monday’s deadline does not apply to Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, where the IRS had extended Tax Day to June 15 to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. That extension was a result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster declarations in those states following winter storms in February.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — From digital art and published columns, to sports highlights, viral photos and even memes, NFTs can take the form of virtually any type of online content and these irreplicable tokens have skyrocketed in popularity.

Simply put, a non-fungible token is a one-of-a-kind asset that lives online and is managed in a digital ledger.

These digitally unique assets are attached to a distinct value with a certificate of authenticity, so even though it exists online, the asset can't be easily and endlessly duplicated. That's because each NFT exists on decentralized digital platforms based on blockchain technology. Transactions on a blockchain platform are written to a digital ledger. That ledger publicly records every NFT transaction to confirm the item's ownership.

Blockchain supports replicable tokens including Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies -- which were once viewed as unstable and confusing, but have seen a meteoric rise among those ready to embrace the digital alternatives to traditional currency.

"NFTs can't be duplicated or copied, they're verifiably scarce," said Decrypt editor-in-chief, Daniel Roberts. "All it really means is that it can't be divided, duplicated, subbed one-for-one."

NFT defined

Merriam-Webster officially defines the three letter acronym as "a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided, that is recorded in a blockchain, and that is used to certify authenticity and ownership of a specific digital asset (such as the original version of an online photo or video).

"When a new word makes its way into the world’s lexicon, our ears at Merriam-Webster perk up," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, said when they announced the new word. "Over the past several months, NFT has rocketed into popular culture, and the team at Merriam-Webster crafted a definition to provide meaning to this emerging technology.”

Why NFTs have become so popular

From graphic designers to street artists-turned-digital creators, NFTs have created a whole new buying and selling platform for the art word.

NFT marketplaces (also known as exchanges) have attracted attention from collectors, investors, celebrities and even chefs. And with the rise in popularity and attention to the crypto-collecting space, artists have capitalized on opportunities to sell their work for huge sums with some investors spending tens of millions on one NFT.

The new medium for collectors through online auctions has also created an opportunity for a more personal connection between buyer and creator.

Plus, content creators can sell their work anywhere and collectors can access the global markets virtually from anywhere.

Where and how can you buy an NFT?

NFTs are purchased through a third-party online marketplace, or NFT exchange.

OpenSea, which was founded in 2018, is the world’s largest digital marketplace for crypto collectibles and NFTs. Other popular sites for NFT transactions include Rarible, Superfarm, Ethernity and more.

While transaction details can vary slightly by site, the blockchain auction will open during alotted times and once the NFT has a winning bid, that site connects with the new owner, usually by sending a verified link to their profile on the site within the marketplace.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Mike Potenza

(BOSTON) — On Cape Cod, the only thing as sure as the seafood and lighthouses is the region's dependence on summer tourism.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, maybe no industry was more impacted than seaside getaways. There were no vacationers doling out for rentals, there were no diners to sit at beachside restaurants and there was no one to ride rollercoasters or waterslides. Most of the businesses didn't open at all.

Water Wizz, a water park in East Wareham, Massachusetts, has been in business for over 30 years. The park has been featured in films such as "Grown Ups" and "The Way Way Back," but due to the pandemic, its slides ran completely dry all last year. This summer, Patricia Kells is hoping to make up for lost time.

"Last summer was the hottest summer that I can remember since I've been in business," Kells, Water Wizz's president, told ABC News. "It was the best summer ever to have a waterpark, and it was shut down, and that was very painful to endure.”

Amusement parks, movie theaters, restaurants and stores are the backbone to many coastal economies. The survival of these businesses, some seasonal and all vulnerable to the unanticipated loss of revenue the pandemic caused, depend on summer turnout to keep their doors open.

"I'm one water park," Kells said. "I'm not Six Flags New England, a big corporation. I don't have a lobbyist. Nobody cared about my little dinky waterpark. I'm just not that big."

With over 59% of American adults having received at least one dose of a vaccine and with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors -- regardless of crowds -- many of these summer businesses are feeling optimistic ahead of Memorial Day.

Reinvention has always been central to the survival of local businesses, Rob Anderson, owner and chef of the Canteen in Provincetown, Massachusetts, said.

"We are not trying to go back to normal," he said. "We are trying to build a new normal."

Ninety percent of Americans are looking to travel within the United States this summer, according to HomeToGo, a vacation rental search engine. Many summer tourist towns, not just those in Cape Cod, are hoping vacationing families choose their businesses to patronize.

Steve Nicoletti, owner and chef for Cafe Beach Club, a mom and pop restaurant in Ocean City, New Jersey, is optimistic about the summer, based on the crowds he's seeing come into his restaurant. He's also concerned with having the staff to keep up with the demand, though.

"Ocean City is on the precipice of having one of its best years they've ever had," he said. "They say the rentals are at an all-time high, but one of the big issues that I believe is going to really hurt a lot of people, especially people new in business, is they don't have the employees."

While demand for housing in these coastal areas has skyrocketed, some businesses are experiencing labor shortages.

"Families can't afford to live here anymore, frankly, on Cape Cod," said Mike Potenza, director of marketing and public relations of The Lobster Pot in Provincetown, Massachusetts. "You can't earn enough to sustain your living so they move, and so there's no kids to do the jobs.”

For the family owned restaurant in business since 1979, securing a seasonal workforce has only become more difficult in the pandemic. "There's the uncertainty of the labor force, the uncertainty of the mandates and the rules that they dictate because they change all the time," Potenza said.

Small businesses have been doing their best to meet the standards of local and state COVID-19 protocols. While many businesses have appreciated receiving financial assistance from the government through Small Business Administration loans and the Paycheck Protection Program, for some, guidance given by state officials has proven frustrating, due to its nature to change with limited notice.

"As you're dealing with those growing pains, and finding your way on top of all of COVID happening, it was just a lot, it was really hard," Josh Flanders, general manager of Bad Martha Farmer's Brewery in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, said of last year.

Flanders' East Falmouth brewery, the company's second, opened just months before the beginning of the pandemic. The brewery shut down in March 2020, and then reopened in June 2020. Receiving little notice from the state before reopening last summer "was kind of a nightmare," Flanders said. Limited time to recruit staff felt like "going from zero to 100 really quickly.”

As Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center reopens, its executive director, Jamie Hook, hopes theatergoers will feel nostalgic for the past, while still having faith in life after the pandemic.

"I almost liken it to a civic duty, to experience something collectively with strangers," Hook told ABC News. "I think that that experience is really important in our nation as we go forward."

Not every vacation spot was dealt a blow last season by COVID, though.

At the beginning of the pandemic, those with the financial means to leave cities such as New York and Boston sought refuge in less-populated areas such as the Hamptons and Cape Cod. Sales on homes in coastal areas like the Hamptons continue to grow, and are up 89% compared to last year, according to Corcoran Realty.

Lisa Field, owner of the Sag Harbor Variety Store on Long Island, said the migration from New York City last year was something they had never seen before.

"We're used to the season being July and August and seeing the population explode. It kind of took us by surprise, but we were able to roll with it," she said.

For the most part though, tourist destinations -- even those that are among the most famous in the country -- are enjoying welcoming back crowds.

In Brooklyn's Coney Island, one of the most recognizable amusement park destinations in the country, Luna Park reopened on April 9 after spending over 500 days closed during the pandemic.

Alessandro Zamperla, president and CEO of Central Amusement International, the company that owns and operates the park, is happy to see people on rides that are running again: "The amusement park industry is really about passion -- about loving what you do.”

From strolling down a boardwalk, to taking a trip down a water slide or sitting next to strangers at a theaters, the success of one business could mean the success of many.

"If we're not open, then people don't necessarily come up to the boardwalk as often," said Brian Hartley, vice president of Playland's Castaway Cove, an amusement park in Ocean City, New Jersey. "Because we know we're all in this together, everyone up on this boardwalk has to work together if we're going to survive."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- If you’re going to Starbucks or Target, bring your mask. But if you swing by Trader Joe’s, you can leave it in the car, assuming you are fully vaccinated of course. That said, if you’re taking public transportation to get there, you’ll need to mask up for the ride.

After 405 days of urging every man, woman and child to wear a mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stunned much of the nation this week -- including health experts – with its recommendations that vaccinated Americans can mostly ditch the mask. The decision left businesses, governors and schools scrambling to respond and an emerging hodgepodge of rules for masks, depending upon which state, county or store a person is in.

The new CDC proposal also raise serious questions: Can employers require proof of vaccination before a worker goes mask-free? Should businesses ask patrons to present proof upon entry? Could teens, eligible for the vaccine, be denied access to a classroom without a mask if they aren’t vaccinated?

Governors said they weren’t briefed in advance on the plan, despite 24 states and the District of Columbia having some sort of state-wide mask mandate in place at the time of the announcement.

"We were as surprised as anyone by the CDC’s announcement – learning about it through the press," said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, calling CDC messaging in recent months "inconsistent, convoluted, and ever changing."

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills told reporters she was "anxious" to hear from the CDC how to distinguish between vaccinated the unvaccinated people. But by Friday, Mills announced she was on board and that the state would adopt the CDC guidance as state policy.

Several health experts also said were caught off guard, assuming new mask recommendations would come when more Americans were fully vaccinated. Nearly 36% of the U.S. population is vaccinated, and the pace of shots has declined.

"I thought it would be prudent to wait until everyone who is willing (ages 12 and up) has had an opportunity to be fully vaccinated, around July 1," said Linsey Marr, a virus transmission expert at Virginia Tech.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University's Milken School of Public Health, tweeted: "I’m still stunned at the CDC decision."

The White House, too, claimed to be unaware of precisely what the new recommendation would be, making the case that the CDC came to its conclusion without political pressure. Press secretary Jen Psaki said only a "small number" of people at the White House knew about the proposal Wednesday night.

"The White House was informed of that decision, just to give people assurance of that," Psaski told reporters Friday.

When asked what the CDC guidance means for Biden’s executive order that mandates masks be worn on federal property, Psaki said it may take a few days for any possible changes, but she expects "the guidelines will be the guide."

"We're working to implement those [guidelines] across the government," she said.

Several big-chain stores also seemed surprised, firing off terse statements that mask mandates would remain in place until they had a chance to review the new recommendations and determine which businesses might be subject to local mandates.

"These conflicting positions put retailers and their employees in incredibly difficult situations," said Lisa LaBruno, a senior executive vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

For its part, the CDC defended the new guidance as a natural next step based on emerging scientific evidence, including fresh studies that the vaccines were holding up against variants of the virus and cutting asymptomatic transmission. The CDC also cited plummeting case numbers and a recent decision by regulators that kids as young as 12 now qualify for vaccination.

"We have had a coalescence of more science that has emerged just in the last week," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told reporters when asked what had changed in the past 16 days since the agency last released mask guidance.

Under the new recommendations, people who are fully immunized should feel safe removing their masks in almost all circumstances, even indoors and in a crowd. The guidelines call for masks to still be worn on planes, trains and buses, as well as homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons.

While the CDC insisted its decision was grounded in science, it seemed to acknowledge that it was unprepared to answer the questions that would come with it. In an interview with NPR’s "All Things Considered," Walensky said the recommendation would trigger a review of other guidance.

"What we really need to do now as an agency is comb all of our guidance not just for travel, but for schools and for camps and for child care centers and for all of the guidance that we have out there … And that is going to be the work of the weeks ahead that we have in the agency," Walensky told NPR on Thursday.

John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor, said one primary concern is that the U.S. is still experiencing active disease transmission with more than 35,000 COVID cases a day. Also, some vulnerable populations including children don't have the option of getting vaccinated.

That puts everyone on the honor system and many people and businesses confused on how exactly to stay safe, he said.

"Americans are feeling incredible whiplash," Brownstein said.

ABC News’ producers Sasha Pezenik, Ben Gittleson and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Google has taken a public stand in support of immigration rights via a court filing Friday that seeks to protect the ability to work in the U.S. for some 90,000 immigrants, the vast majority of whom are women.

Google led a coalition of tech companies in filing an amicus brief (or so-called "friend of the court" document) that supports work authorization for the partners of high-skilled workers who enter the U.S. on H-1B visas.

The filing relates to a years-long legal attempt to end the H-4 EAD program, which provides work authorization for spouses of those on the H-1B visa, which is commonly used in the tech industry.

"In other words, it seeks to end the ability of highly-skilled immigrants’ partners from working in the United States," Catherine Lacavera, Google's vice president of legal, wrote in a blogpost Friday. She added that the H-4 EAD program provides work authorization to more than 90,000 people, more than 90% of whom are women.

"The pandemic has already disproportionately impacted women and ending this program would only make things worse, leading to disrupted careers and lost wages," Lacavera added. "Furthermore, if the program is lost, the practical effect is that we welcome a person to the U.S. to work but we make it harder for their spouse to work."

"That hurts their family, impacts our ability to compete for talent, and harms our economy," she wrote.

More than two dozen companies -- including Amazon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Reddit more industry leaders -- have joined the amicus brief.

The court filing argues that "H-4 visa-holders -- like their H-1B spouses -- are a highly educated, highly skilled group," adding that 99% of H-4 visa-holders hold a college degree and nearly 60% have a master's degree or higher. Ending the program would cause "severe financial harm and emotional trauma on tens of thousands of individuals across the country," the brief states.

Moreover, it argues that these workers boost U.S. innovation, especially within the tech sector, and help to drive the economy and maintain American competitiveness.

Finally, it estimates any job losses to domestic workers from the program are offset by "the 6,800 jobs created by the H-4 entrepreneurs who have founded companies and employ American workers."

The ongoing litigation the amicus brief relates to stems from a lawsuit initially filed in 2015 by a group of American workers who argue they lost their jobs to foreign workers due to the visa program. The lawsuit was put on hold when the Trump administration threatened mass overhauls to the visa program, but the legal battle is back on in Washington, D.C., district court, where the tech giants' amicus brief was filed.

Lacavera said that the company's work defending immigration rights is personal, writing, "As an immigrant myself, I have been the beneficiary of a welcoming America and I hope we can ensure that same welcome for future immigrants by preserving the H-4 EAD program."

"Ending this program would hurt families and undercut the U.S. economy at a critical moment," she added.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The price of Bitcoin nosedived after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced his company would no longer be accepting the cryptocurrency as payment due to its ties to fossil fuels in a tweet that sparked a heated debate on the digital currency's environmental impact.

"Tesla has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin. We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel," Musk wrote in a tweet Wednesday evening. "Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at a great cost to the environment."

The electric vehicle company chief executive added that Tesla will not be selling any of the Bitcoin it currently holds -- which amounts to some $1.5 billion, according to a February SEC filing -- but will use it for transactions "as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy."

In a follow-up tweet on Thursday, Musk added, "To be clear, I strongly believe in crypto, but it can’t drive a massive increase in fossil fuel use, especially coal."

Bitcoin is made through a process called mining, which involves verifying Blockchain transactions using high-powered computers that solve complex mathematical equations. The specialized computer servers required to mine Bitcoin consume immense amounts of electricity, which in China and other Bitcoin-mining hubs often relies on energy from fossil fuels.

Bitcoin accounts for 0.69% of the world’s total electricity consumption, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF).

Annually, this would mean that Bitcoin mining and transactions consume more energy than the entire nation of Sweden or the Netherlands did in 2019, the researchers noted.

Bitcoin evangelists are quick to point out, however, that many of the headlines on crypto mining's energy consumption often leaves out the energy sources. For example, the environmental impact would be vastly different if the computers were powered by renewable energy.

A 2020 study from the CCAF said that 76% of cryptocurrency miners use renewable energy as part of their energy mix. The same researchers said, however, that only 39% of crypto mining’s total energy consumption comes from renewables.

A separate study on Bitcoin's environmental impact published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications in April said that China accounts for more than 75% of Bitcoin mining operations around the world, largely due to its relatively cheap electricity costs and easier access to some of the hardware needed for the computers.

The study estimated that carbon emissions from Bitcoin blockchain operations in China are expected to peak in 2024 and generate more than 130.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions that year alone. This emission output would exceed the total annualized greenhouse gas emission output of the Czech Republic and Qatar, the researchers said.

Musk's decision to hold onto rather than sell the company's Bitcoin investments -- as well as a recent tweet from Musk that seemed to endorse Bitcoin's positive environmental impact -- has sowed confusion on the motives for his sudden reversal.

A white paper released last month by Square, the financial services company founded by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, argued that Bitcoin mining could actually encourage investments in solar and other forms of renewable energy.

Dorsey tweeted the research just a few weeks ago, captioning it, "#bitcoin incentivizes renewable energy." At the time, Musk replied to the tweet with: "True."

Industry analyst Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, on Thursday called Musk's "major U-turn" on crypto a "head-scratching move."

"Musk is now concerned about the use of fossil fuels in Bitcoin mining and transactions, yet the nature of Bitcoin mining has not changed in the last three months, which speaks to why backtracking on the crypto transaction three months later is a very surprising and confusing move to both Tesla and crypto investors," Ives wrote in a note sent to ABC News.

The price of Bitcoin has plunged more than 9% since Musk's tweet.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The cyberattackers that compromised Colonial Pipeline's systems demanded "millions" of dollars in ransom, sources briefed on the investigation told ABC News, and the company declined to comment Thursday on whether a ransom had been paid as its fuel delivery operations restarted.

Colonial Pipeline said Thursday that it has made "substantial progress" in its reopening following the cyberattack, and that fuel delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets it serves. The company added that it expects each market it serves to be receiving product from its system by mid-day Thursday.

The pipeline company, which transports approximately 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast, said Wednesday evening that it had restarted operations following a multi-day shutdown after it was the victim of a ransomware attack.

The shutdown has been linked to gas prices hiking, fuel shortages and panic-buying throughout parts of the Southeast.

Colonial Pipeline declined ABC News' request for comment on Thursday as to whether a ransom had been paid, after Bloomberg News reported that the company shelled out some $5 million to Eastern European hackers via untraceable cryptocurrency.

Brandon Wales, the acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA), told reporters Thursday that he has "no knowledge of whether a ransom was paid, how much was paid, if it was paid, when it was paid."

Meanwhile, sources briefed on the investigation told ABC News that while the attack is considered technically unsophisticated, the ransom demand shows some level of sophistication. The sum demanded is viewed by investigators as a figure that's high enough to be substantial but not so high as to be out of the question for a company the size of Colonial to pay.

Investigators also say they are confident the attack was isolated to the company's IT systems and did not hit the separate operating network that manages the functions of moving petroleum products through the pipeline.

The hack is seen as highlighting the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure in the U.S. to new forms of cyberthreats, and federal government officials have expressed concern that Colonial was slow to contact the federal government after the hack despite the critical role its pipeline plays in the nation.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order that aims in part at improving information-sharing between the government and the private sector on cybersecurity issues.

Meanwhile, the national gas price average in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon for the first time in seven years on Wednesday amid the pipeline saga. Many gas stations throughout the Southeast reported fuel outages as motorists rushed to the pump.

Jeanette McGee, an American Automobile Association spokesperson, said in a statement Thursday the pipeline restart means "relief is coming."

"While impact won’t be seen immediately and motorists in affected areas can expect to see a few more days of limited fuel supply, relief is coming," McGee said. "Station pumps will be full of fuel in several days. This is an especially good update ahead of the Memorial Day holiday."

As of Thursday, the national average gas price was $3.03 a gallon, according to AAA data.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Sue Choi and her husband own several Korean restaurants in New York City. For their latest venture, Rib No. 7, they've been trying to hire servers, kitchen staff and hostesses -- but have had few bites so far.

"I don't even get one single phone call, even for the whole week," Choi told ABC News recently.

Upping the pay hasn't helped either, she said. Pre-pandemic, Choi said they would offer $20 an hour for an experienced hostess and get "hundreds and hundreds of resumes." Two weeks after posting a job listing for a hostess at Rib No. 7 for $30 an hour, they still hadn't received one, she said.

"It's kind of scary right now," Choi said.

Choi is not alone. In recent weeks, as COVID-19 dining restrictions have loosened, restaurants nationwide have been reporting staffing shortages. As a result, some have not reopened, are reducing operating hours or are trying to attract applicants with higher wages or signing bonuses.

Much attention has been paid to the impact of boosted unemployment benefits potentially dissuading people from seeking work -- as several governors have announced they will end the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment funds -- though the reasons behind the hiring pains are myriad, experts said.

"There's not one existing issue that's making hiring so difficult in the restaurant industry, but a collective force of many different pressures," Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, told ABC News.

For one, restaurants and bars are all hiring at the same time, he said, as increasing occupancy continues to require businesses to staff up.

Culinary Agents, a hospitality career website, told ABC News it has seen "significant and consistent" increases in job posting volume monthly since the beginning of the year. From January to March, posting activity nationwide increased 10 times, it said. The biggest increases were for front-of-house positions -- like waiters, servers, bartenders and hosts -- "mainly due to increased dining capacity," it said.

All these restaurants may be competing for a smaller pool of workers, experts said, as people moved away, went back to school or got work in a different industry during the pandemic.

"When we had to start closing dining rooms and we reduced our staff, unfortunately, we lost them to other industries, specifically retail and grocery retail and delivery, Uber, those kinds of things," Melissa Stewart, executive director of the ‎Greater Houston Restaurant Association, told ABC News.

Job seekers may also be looking for remote work during the pandemic; a February survey by jobs site ZipRecruiter found that 60% of respondents said they would prefer to find a job where they can work from home. That doesn't square, of course, with restaurant gigs.

"The restaurant industry is not an industry that you can work in remotely," Rigie said. "You can't mix cocktails on FaceTime."

Some people may not be able to work at all due to continued childcare disruptions. In a U.S. Census survey conducted during the second half of April, nearly one million people said an adult in their household did not look for a job in order to care for children, while over 920,000 said they left the workforce to care for children.

While anecdotal, low wages in the industry coupled with boosted unemployment benefits could be keeping some people from applying. In 2019, the average weekly earnings in accommodation and food services, which includes restaurant workers, was $407 -- about 43% of the average weekly earnings in all industries in the U.S., according to Gary Burtless, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Depending on how much someone can claim in their state, with the $300 boost, they could be taking home more than what they used to make.

"The generosity of unemployment benefits is no doubt also a partial explanation for why I think a lot of these low-pay establishments in particular are finding it hard to persuade people to come back to work, but it's not just that," Burtless told ABC News. "There is a childcare issue for a lot of families ... and fear of getting COVID in your place of work."

"I think all of these things are going to present challenges to employers, especially employers who think that they should be able to hire restaurant workers at the same pay they were offering before the COVID emergency struck us," he said.

Legally, if someone is offered reemployment and turns it down they're likely to lose their unemployment insurance (though owners do not regularly report to their state labor department, as required, when that happens). Many states also continue to waive requirements for those receiving unemployment to report their efforts to find work.

This month, at least five governors have announced they will cut their residents off from the extra $300 a week in federal unemployment funds in the coming weeks.

"We don't need to pay people to stay at home when employers are begging for workers. And that's what I hear," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told ABC News' Start Here on Tuesday.

Still, restaurants and bars have been able to hire. As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease, the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants and bars, was the biggest job creator in April, with employment in the sector increasing by 331,000, according to the latest Labor Department report. At the same time, the industry has a long way to go to recover, with employment down by 2.8 million, or 16.8%, since February 2020.

In the Houston area, some restaurants have had success by responding quickly to applicants and offering employee referral bonuses, Stewart said.

Rigie said he is "cautiously optimistic" for the New York City restaurant industry as more people get vaccinated and the economy continues to open up -- including Broadway in September.

"It's just a very difficult time to own a restaurant, to work in a restaurant, and it's going to take time," he said. "We're nearly 16 months into this pandemic that has decimated New York City's restaurant industry, and we're not going to recover overnight."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Listen Live




On Air Now
Best Country Hits
Best Country Hits
6:00pm - 12:00am
Night Show