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Business News

Why Walmart entered the streaming wars

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(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Walmart, the Arkansas-based retail giant known more for value than flare, made a splash in Hollywood this week upon the announcement of a deal with streaming service Paramount+.

The retailer will provide the video content free of charge to Walmart+ subscribers, who pay $98 a year or $12.95 a month for a membership package that includes gas discounts, free two-day shipping on online purchases, and member-only deals, the company said in a statement on Monday.

The move marks a major departure for Walmart, which appears to have weathered sky-high inflation with better-than-expected earnings in the second quarter, as revenue climbed 8.4% compared to the same three-month period a year prior. However, the company had cut its second-quarter forecast just weeks earlier.

The new streaming content will help the retailer retain current Walmart+ subscribers and attract new ones, as the company vies with rival Amazon and continues to grow beyond its telltale big box stores with an e-commerce offering that gained emphasis during the pandemic, retail analysts told ABC News.

While the move highlights the digital value of Walmart's subscription service, the company's effort to improve the in-store experience exclusive to subscribers could translate the potential influx of members into more brick-and-mortar business, they added.

An assessment of the deal with Paramount+ — and its capacity to strengthen Walmart's subscription service — should take into account the customer base that the company has already built, Steph Wissink, a retail analyst at Jefferies, told ABC News. Ninety percent of Americans shop at Walmart each year, the company said in March, adding that more than 150 million people shop with the company each week either in-store or online.

As Walmart strengthens its subscription service, that customer base affords it a wide pool of prospective members, enhancing the potential value of the Paramount+ offering for the company, Wissink said.

"That touch point element is meaningfully higher than what we would see for other retailers," she said, acknowledging that "some portion of their household income distribution is not going to be able to afford" the subscription.

By comparison, as of last April, Amazon boasted more than 200 million Amazon Prime subscribers worldwide. Walmart has not released subscriber totals for Walmart+, but the expected figure is much lower, analysts said.

The deal with Paramount+, therefore, comes down to competition with Amazon, Joe Feldman, a retail analyst for Telsey Advisory, told ABC News.

"This is an effort to be more competitive with Amazon as a membership provider," he said. "You've seen both companies increasingly compete with one another and almost mirror one another."

The entry of Walmart into streaming parallels Amazon's decision to jump into the in-store grocery business that Walmart had participated in for years, Feldman said.

Even though brick-and-mortar shopping has bounced back since the early months of the pandemic, e-commerce remains a key focus for Walmart, Wissink, said.

"Digital fluency went up substantially in 2020 because stores were closed," she said. "Even your granny was ordering things online and having them delivered to the front door."

But the focus on Walmart's subscription service, brought to the attention of many by the partnership with Paramount+, also points to an advantage for Walmart that sets it apart from Amazon: the vast network of stores, Wissink said. Down the road, if Walmart improves the subscription service with further in-store benefits, it could compound the revenue from new digital subscribers with enticements for in-store shopping.

"Let's say it's my birthday and I go to Walmart, Walmart+ on mobile can prompt me with a free coffee or free cupcake at the bakery," Wissink said. "Those are benefits for a Walmart+ member."

"The partnership with Paramount+ isn't a signal that Walmart thinks its stores are no longer relevant," she added. "It's the exact opposite."

Looking ahead, Walmart could even form partnerships with additional streaming services to improve its subscription offering, Feldman and Wissink said.

"Walmart is likely to explore lots of different options," Feldman said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Abortion bans may lead to economic costs for states

Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow states to decide their own stances on abortion access has led 16 states to cease nearly all services. An economic fallout may come next.

Abortion rights advocates have said that the lack of access to reproductive care can lead to poverty or debt and pregnancy can be expensive, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Abortion restrictions also disproportionately affect women of color, according to research conducted by The Institute For Women's Policy Research. That study also declared that "currently employed women aged 15 to 44 would gain $101.8 billion in higher earnings annually if all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated.

Stanford economist Mark Duggan described two ways that states which have restricted abortion access may feel a negative impact from this decision in a phone call with ABC News. One way is by the direct impact of unintended pregnancies.

Potential Economic Impact of Abortions

Studies, such as one from the National Library of Science, have concluded that women who were denied abortions may face economic hardship that lasts for years. Another study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated that raising a child costs a quarter million dollars, a price tag that can bankrupt people if they are not prepared. Finally, one of the leading studies - The Turnaway Study - found that "being denied an abortion results in worse financial, health and family outcomes."

"It may really disrupt their economic trajectory in a gigantic way," Duggan said of people who are turned away from abortion care.

However, there is disagreement with the previously stated studies. Ahead of the Dobbs v. Jackson case that overturned Roe, 240 women published an amicus brief to discredit the negative economic impacts associated with abortion restrictions that many studies have found. The amicus rejected the Turnaway Study and other studies due to bias and scientific flaws and noted that the Turnaway Study and several others are funded in full or in part by pro-choice groups.

The Departure of Businesses

The second economic impact that reducing abortions may have on a state is less direct and revolves around businesses potentially becoming less motivated to expand and grow in places where their female employees cannot receive abortion care.

Duggan believes these new restrictions are "going to create a headwind in some states with the most restrictive [abortion] policies economically."

The economic fallout of abortion restrictions may be compounded by the fact that many of the states that have taken the strictest stance are also the poorest states by many leading metrics. As of this week, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri have what is known as an abortion ban - where abortions are prohibited outside of rare circumstances like potential death to the mother. Of these nine states, six of them are in the top ten for the highest poverty rate among all states. Five out of the nine are in the top ten lowest for rates of higher education attainment. Five of the states make up the top five in teen birth rates with seven of the nine in the top ten. These factors are strains on a state's economy through lowering taxable incomes and increasing welfare budgets.

The extent to which abortion rights will factor into companies' decision-making is not clear. Brigham Young University economics professor Mark Showalter emphasized that businesses are focused on profit margins above all else.

"If they have to choose between abortion-restrictive Texas where the business climate is friendlier than abortion-unrestrictive, but business-unfriendly California, it's not obvious what firms will do," Showalter wrote in an email to ABC News.

ABC News reached out to all nine states to ask if they are worried about further widening the gap between them and the rest of the country by enacting potentially costly legislation. Texas was the only state that responded.

"The Texas economy is booming," Gov. Greg Abbott's press secretary Renae Eze said. "Businesses are relocating to and investing in the Lone Star State at a record pace because we've built a framework that allows free enterprise to flourish and hardworking Texans to prosper."

Texas is an outlier among the other eight states as its wealth takes itself out of most of the above rankings. The Lone Star State has experienced economic success and an influx of businesses moving there to avoid the high costs of states like California. However, the concern for Texas and the other states is not their current status but rather whether the decision to restrict abortions will be costly down the road.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Newer cars shrink gender disparity in car crash fatalities: Officials

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(WASHINGTON) -- The newer the car, the safer it is for women drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a new report Tuesday.

While the NHTSA’s earlier report, published in 2013, found women to be at a much higher risk of fatality in car crashes compared to men, the 2022 report said that newer car technology, in line with strengthened regulations, has decreased the disparity.

According to the National Roadway Safety Strategy published by the Department of Transportation in February, officials said that although men represent more than 70% of drivers involved in fatal crashes, the motor vehicle fatality risk is still higher for a woman than for a man of the same age.

The NHTSA’s new report states the estimated difference in fatality risk estimates for female versus male front row occupants is 6.3% for car models from 2010-2020. Older vehicles, with model years 1960-2009, have a disparity almost three times that at 18.3%.

For vehicles within model years 2015-2020, the disparity closed even further, coming in at 2.9%, the report said.

Newer generations of cars are equipped with dual air bags, which significantly reduces the fatality risk for women in crashes, the NHTSA said. Newer cars also have more advanced seat belts, the agency said, which further reduces women's risk.

However, NHTSA’s Administrator, Steven Cliff, said that the department is still looking to improve the impact upon women who are in car crashes.

“Advancing equity, including across our transportation system, is one of the Biden-Harris Administration’s top priorities,” Cliff said in a press release. “While NHTSA’s new report shows significant declines in differences in crash outcomes between women and men, there is more work required to eliminate any disparities that remain.”

The NHTSA said a number of developments are in action to close the remaining gap, including the development of new biofidelic crash test dummies and of sophisticated computer modeling that can evaluate the effects of different types of crashes on a large range of human body types and sizes.

Further, the agency is researching the degree to which sex disparities in injuries exist in like crashes and the evaluation of new safety standards to eliminate all remaining disparities.

Historically, car crash tests used only male dummies, according to the NHTSA. The agency has used a 4-foot-11, 108-pound “female dummy” in some tests since 2003, the NHTSA said. However, this sizing is not accurate to the average woman’s body in America.

VERITY NOW, a coalition to end gender discrimination in vehicle safety testing, does not think the new report is as positive as NHTSA says, according to a new statement.

“This is an attempt by NHTSA to gloss over gender disparities in crash fatalities. Time and again, NHTSA creates inequitable safety standards for men and women, rewriting the rules or flat out ignoring their own data,” VERITY NOW Co-Chair and former Congresswoman Susan Molinari said in the statement.

"This report is a disgraceful attempt by NHTSA to deny women the same vehicle safety protections the government already provides to men. [Transportation] Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg should step up and fix this mess that NHTSA created," Molinari continued.

Beth Brooke, VERITY NOW co-chair and former global vice chair of public policy for Ernst & Young, said that the data in NHTSA's report is "cherry picked" and doesn't show real change on the issue. Instead, the organization's statement said the new report only examined gender disparities in crash fatalities, not gender disparities in injuries from car crashes.

According to the NHTSA, new federal funding through the major infrastructure bill passed in November will help accelerate research on this front to further close the gap in fatality rates for men and women in car crashes.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Gen Z is bypassing Google for TikTok as a search engine

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(NEW YORK) -- The term "Googling" may be synonymous with "searching" for things online, but for the group known as Gen Z that might be changing.

Nearly 40% of Gen Z members (born from 1997 to 2012, according to the Pew Research Center) prefer TikTok for online searches, according to internal data from Google, which was first reported by TechCrunch.

"They don't have a long attention span; they said that several times," said Adrienne Sheares, a social media consultant, who formed a Gen Z focus group to discuss their searching habits. "They want to get the information really quickly, and get to the meat of it really quickly and not have to sort."

Sheares said Gen Z was dissatisfied with the quality of Google's searches. That's in large part because the search engine forced them to sift through advertisements, which often comprise the first several results in common searches. Sheares said TikTok, by contrast, provides several avenues by which to quickly discover content.

"They use it a couple different ways," said Sheares. "So they could either be looking for it and search kind of similar to how you and I would search. But they also love the 'For You' page that kind of brings the results to them before they're even looking."

TikTok's "For You" page consists of a scrolling feed of videos that the app's algorithm has determined the user may be interested in. As such, searching via the "For You" page is more about discovering content, rather than looking for something specific. TikTok surfaces content based on a variety of factors, including how long a user lingers on a certain type of video, or whether they like or comment on it. Sheares said that algorithm is a big part of why younger users seem to enjoy searching for content on TikTok.

"The chances of [their results] being relevant are extremely high, so they can find information really quickly" she said. "Because if you're an avid user of TikTok, it knows quite a bit of information about you already."

Sheares also said TikTok's use of video is especially appealing to Gen Z users, who feel the format gives them a more comprehensive search result.

"You're seeing a three-sixty view into a destination, or experience, or product," says Sheares. "They wanted to see the makeup swatches; for bars, the thing they kept talking about was the aesthetic, the vibe."

Sheares also said Gen Z tends to search for lighter topics on TikTok - things like recipes, fashion tips and bar recommendations. Meanwhile, they leave heavier topics – like those related to COVID or election information - to Google.

"For the more serious information, they do like Google," said Sheares. "If they do see something on TikTok, they will use other methods to verify, which generally looks like going to Google or a news source to back it up."

The trend of using images and video in online searches could be here to stay. Earlier this year, Google showed off a new feature dubbed "Multisearch," which lets users search with a combination of text and photos.

"Even if people aren't interested in, say, TikTok, I think what we are going to start to see is more visual in search," said Sheares.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Calculate how much Biden's Inflation Reduction Act may save you

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) --The Inflation Reduction Act, a $739 billion measure signed into law by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, levies a 15% minimum tax on large corporations and marks the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history. Meanwhile, the law will reduce the federal deficit by $305 billion over roughly the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

More immediately, however, the legislation will impact everyday Americans' wallets.

The law, which passed the House and Senate with support from Democrats in party-line votes, empowers a federal agency to negotiate with health insurers over the prices for prescription drugs under Medicare, for instance, which should bring down the cost of some drugs for seniors.

Further, the measure puts a ceiling on out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 beginning in 2025 for people enrolled in Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan for seniors.

Beyond health care, the Inflation Reduction Act carries a host of tax credits and discounts on everything from electric cars to solar energy.

Americans can determine the financial benefits available to them under the law with help from a savings calculator created by Rewiring America, a nonprofit that aims to achieve energy efficiency through the electrification of "everything in our communities." After entering personal information about the location, size, and income of a given household, the calculator will share all of the savings accessible through the measure.

Calculate how much you may save with this link to an Inflation Reduction Act savings calculator, courtesy of Rewiring America.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Restaurant owners face challenges to balance rising costs, keep customers happy

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(NEW YORK) -- Award-winning restaurateur Michael Scelfo has run kitchens post-9/11 and through the 2008 economic downturn, but he said the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring inflation have brought on prolonged issues businesses are still trying to figure out.

"What's so different this time around is it's this sustained, evolving-downward spiral since March of 2020 when things hit the fan with COVID and the shutdown," Scelfo told Good Morning America. "What we're left with is the economic rubble of the aftermath."

Restaurant owners are accustomed to dynamic changes, but even industry veterans like Scelfo said, "it feels like we're continually taking punches and not necessarily getting the relief that we expected."

And problems that began at the onset of the pandemic -- mandated restaurant closures, safety restrictions, staffing shortages and broken supply chains -- have been exacerbated by rising costs on food, fuel and materials, failed federal relief packages and inflation, experts said.

Soaring inflation hits cost of ingredients

Food prices have outpaced the overall inflation rate, which is up nearly 11% year-over-year in July, according to the latest data from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Common restaurant staple ingredients like flour -- when purchased in a U.S. city -- rose 22% in the last year, while eggs have increased 38%.

"It all trickles down to what the baseline cost of whatever the product is," Scelfo said. "If you're paying more for it on the home front, you can be assured that we're paying more."

Scelfo, who has not passed along increases to his guests, looks at that as a last resort.

"I don't want to raise prices on the consumer any more than I have to because I'm sensitive to it too. And I do think there's a limit to what you can realistically charge," he said. "If you're a restaurant that's operating on thin margins, you're really probably up against it right now -- there's kind of this feast or famine out there for restaurants who have the means to navigate this period."

"Inflation is having a tremendous impact on everyone across the board," Leslie Silverglide, co-founder of California casual restaurant chains Split and Mixt, told GMA. "[We've tried to] hold price as much as possible," she added, and "be smarter about how we run our business."

Food shortages, costs impact menus and availability

Brooklyn-based chef-owner Sal Lamboglia of the newly opened Italian hotspot, Cafe Spaghetti, thinks customers may relate more than ever to the challenges of rising food costs as they shift their own spending on groceries.

"So many things that we use that aren't even specialty items -- eggs, milk, cream, butter – have gone up 10, 20 30% -- I'm sure every restaurant is going through this, but I also feel also for the diner," he said. "It's scary because I don't know if things will make their way down again."

And he said Lamboglia's menu has taken a hit.

"We've been getting shorted on certain pastas, and certain grains and flour -- I've had to actually change a brand of pasta," he said. "[We] go back to the drawing board each time and say, 'OK, how valuable is this dish with this exact pasta? Can we change the shape? Are people going to like it? And that's what we deal with now. It's a lot."

Chef David Nayfeld, owner of Che Fico and Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) board member, told GMA that some think inflation is "just now happening." "Our costs have been rising steadily and aggressively for nearly two years," he said.

"We've decided to actually lean into quality," Nayfeld said. "It may mean that people will dine out less," but he believes diners will choose restaurants "based on quality."

He also hopes the decision to spend more on employees, products and farms will ensure the support of key players who share his values to "offer a better quality of product to our guests, knowing that they're smart enough to know the difference."

Paying for quality labor impacts every facet of the supply chain: "If nobody is there to support and prop the supply chain up, [it] will collapse," he said. … when we believe in product and believe in farms -- we need to support them."

New strategies to stay afloat

Jake Dickson, owner of Dickson's Farmstand Meats -- a butchery, restaurant and bar -- called "huge increases in labor costs, packaging costs and meat inputs" a "triple whammy" over the last six months.

"Our labor costs per head were up 30%," he told GMA of the overhead and "first punch" at the start of the pandemic. "And that's pretty tough in a business where labor costs are already massive."

Where Dickson was initially "insulated from food cost increases" and able to keep meat prices steady thanks to longstanding relationships with purveyors, he said "unfortunately, those things don't hold right now."

"Our farmers' costs are now going through the roof," he said, noting fertilizer and fuel costs have prompted higher prices.

"They don't want to increase prices on us because they don't want me to buy less and they know that if I raise my prices, we'll probably sell less," Dickson said.

Four months ago, he made a "very purposeful decision to add a beer and wine license," opening a bar that serves as "a high margin business" to offset other new costs.

"We've kept either small increases or no increases in many places because the bar's margins are so much higher," he said, hailing it "a bulwark."

He also strategized his labor costs.

"Now they're pretty much flat because we made a choice to pay our employees really well then and we haven't had to keep giving raises -- we're very competitive -- now we're just kind of figuring out all the other pieces."

Adapting to skyrocketing expenses

In 17 years of opening restaurants across California, Texas and Arizona, Silverglide said her growing list of challenges has been unlike any other.

"We joke that it's like Whac-A-Mole. We solve one thing, then something else pops up," she said. "Especially as we're looking to build out new restaurants, we're finding it really hard to just get standard equipment -- we place the orders and then as we get closer, they're like, 'Oh, actually, it's gonna be another four to six months.'"

"It's a hard place to be running a restaurant today," Silverglide told GMA.

Lamboglia thinks restaurants can strike a balance by offsetting expensive entree lists with a section of the menu that's affordable.

"At least giving the guests the option not to feel like, 'Wow, I almost can't even go out to eat because it's just too much," he said.

Rather than constantly revising menu prices as inflation rose to 7% this spring, Leslie Whitney, the owner of Sunset Grill in Virginia, told GMA she and her husband decided on a "temporary fix" to add an "inflation fee" of 3.5% to diners' checks.

"As food prices were literally rising and changing every day ... we had to do something to recoup some of the money loss," she said. Although the flat fee won't cover all their new costs, they are "simply trying to stop the bleed."

Staffing has been one of the "lasting effects of COVID" that Whitney has grappled with.

"We can fluctuate with rising food prices, but not having appropriate staff really puts a wrench in our operations of service -- we're constantly trying to hire where we are short staffed," she said. "Back-of-the house positions are the hardest to hire because we have high expectations and aren't willing to cut corners in knowledge and experience."

A push for federal funding

"The one big player here that has not done enough is the government," Nayfeld said. "[The government] has had the ability with multiple bills to refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which would really do a tremendous amount – not just for now, but for a couple of years, making sure that these restaurants can stabilize."

Scelfo, who applied and said he never received money from the bill that was part of the American Rescue Plan, added that the "RRF only funded maybe a third or half of restaurants that applied for it and they've still never replenished that."

Despite the constant battering, resilience has created a resounding sense of gratitude and respect in the industry.

"To look for a positive in all this, I've never been more proud of our teams," Scelfo said of the staff who continuously rises to the occasion.

"Restaurants are continuing to find a way to provide a great customer experience so that they really try to minimize the effect of what's happening out there and make you feel like you're escaping it … that's why I'm trying not to pass along that cost."

"None of that would be possible without a lot of dedicated people that continue to work in this industry and work harder than they ever had before," Scelfo said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Airfare will jump 20% this Labor Day, experts say

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(WASHINGTON) -- Air travel fares may be starting to drop from their summer highs, but customers could pay the price to see family and take long-awaited vacations in the post-pandemic world, travel experts say.

Hopper predicts this upcoming winter holiday season will be the most expensive in the last five years.

Hopper anticipates 12.6 million people will fly over Labor Day weekend. Average ticket prices for the long weekend are up 20% from 2021 and 2019.

Domestic flights will cost $278 on average for a round-trip, according to Hopper data. For international flights, customers should expect to pay an average $850 for round-trip fares. International prices are up 34% from 2021 fares.

Nonetheless, Hopper said international travel is expected to make up 40% of the weekend’s air traffic, up 7% from 2021.

The most popular destinations for domestic and international bookings are Las Vegas, Denver, Atlanta, Puerto Rico and Mexico, according to Hopper.

Hotel and gas prices are expected to add further expenses compared to 2021 travel, the agency said.

This Thanksgiving, domestic flights are currently up 31% from 2019 prices and 44% from those in 2021. The average round-trip flight is sitting at $380, a Hopper spokesperson told ABC News.

For those going international, prices aren’t jumping quite as high. Hopper reported a 23% and 25% rise in prices from 2019 and 2021, respectively. The average round-trip price is listed at $788, according to Hopper.

Looking ahead to Christmas travel, Hopper said prices are up 25% and 42% from 2019 and 2021 for domestic bookings, and up 9% and 39% from those same years for international trips.

A Hopper spokesperson told ABC News that the best time to start booking your domestic holiday travel is by mid-September into mid-October. For international trips, start as soon as possible, Hopper said, to book by the first week of October.

Some of the most searched destinations for the holidays are facing these price raises, including New York City, Orlando, Atlanta and Los Angeles, according to Hopper.

London and Paris are the top searched international destinations for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hopper said.

The high-priced holiday season comes after a summer of airline disasters, as patrons experienced delays and cancellations at high rates throughout the season as severe weather and staff shortages have defined airports across the country.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Industry group says most EVs will no longer qualify for federal tax credits

Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Car buyers hoping to get a tax credit from the government for an electric vehicle after President Joe Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act into law might find fewer vehicles that qualify.

The Clean Vehicle Credit, a part of the Inflation Reduction Act that passed Congress last week, had a provision that added a credit of up to $4,000 for used EVs. The new law also removes the current 200,000 EV sales cap, which means vehicles made by Tesla, General Motors and Toyota are eligible again for a federal tax credit.

The law also tightens restrictions on which vehicles qualify for the credit. To receive the tax credit, vehicles must be manufactured in North America and made with batteries that have critical components sourced in either North America or supplied by the country's free-trade agreement partners. The new law also means that high-income buyers and more expensive EVs will not be eligible for the credit.

Of the more than 70 EVs currently on the market, one insider says there's a possibilitythat no EVs would qualify for a tax credit in the short term.

"When the Inflation Reduction Act is passed and signed by the president, those rules will change and become a lot more restrictive," said John Boezella, president and CEO of Alliance for Automotive Innovation. "And that's because the purpose of the credit has changed. It's now focused on reducing our dependance on China for raw materials and battery components."

But as manufacturing of EVs and batteries move to the U.S., far more vehicles will qualify for the federal tax credit. Boezella estimates that in five or seven years, there will be as many as 120 EVs on the market that could qualify for the new credit.

"It won't happen overnight despite the fact that companies are investing billions of dollars right now to develop those supply chains," Boezella said. "So what you'll see is a reduction in the number of vehicles that will qualify, and then over time, we would expect that more vehicles will qualify in the future."

The changes have caused confusion for industry experts, manufacturers and consumers.

"Consumer Reports did a survey and we found that half of car buyers are more likely to purchase an EV if there's a tax credit that brings down the price, so those tax credits are obviously important to buyers," said Keith Barry, an auto writer at Consumer Reports. "And if people can't quite figure out which car qualifies, I imagine that will probably stall sales in the short term."

Manufacturers, dealers and others in the auto industry are waiting to see what effect the bill will have on EVs.

"There's a bit of a wait and see," Barry said. "Different manufacturers are saying different things about what cars will qualify during this sort of transition period. And there's no one size fits all answer here, unfortunately, until the regulations are fully written and the dust settles."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Longtime Trump Organization CFO expected to plead guilty to tax charges, say sources

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(NEW YORK) -- The Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is expected to plead guilty to tax charges as soon as this week, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Weisselberg, 75, is currently scheduled to go on trial in the fall, but a hearing in the case is now scheduled for this Thursday, in what could be a sign that he could change his plea then.

An attorney for Weisselberg declined to comment when contacted by ABC News.

Weisselberg, along with former President Donald Trump's namesake family real estate firm, was charged last year with tax fraud after they were accused of compensating employees "off the books" in order to pay less in taxes.

According to the charging documents, Weisselberg avoided taxes on more than $1.7 million over the past 15 years, resulting from the payment of his rent on an apartment in a Trump-owned building and related expenses that prosecutors said included cars and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

The Trump Organization is proceeding to trial, the sources said, with the case currently scheduled to begin toward the end of October.

News of the development was first reported by The New York Times.

It was not immediately clear whether the terms of Weisselberg's plea would require him to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

However, sources said Weisselberg is expected to serve some prison time.

Last week, Weisselberg lost his motion to have the indictment against him thrown out.

He is no longer the Trump Organization's CFO, but remains employed by the firm.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Home Run Inn frozen pizza recalled over potential contamination

USDA

(WASHINGTON) -- A frozen food manufacturer issued a recall Sunday for more than 13,000 pounds of frozen meat pizza over possible contamination, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said.

Home Run Inn Frozen Foods said the food products "may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal," the USDA said.

The company discovered the problem after it received complaints from consumers, according to the USDA.

"There have been no confirmed reports of injuries or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a health care provider," the agency said in a statement.

The company said the recall affects its 33.5-ounce cartons containing "Home Run Inn Chicago's Premium Pizzeria Deluxe Sausage Classic Pizza" with a "best by" date of "12/03/22." The frozen meat pizzas were produced on June 6, 2022, the USDA said.

The affected products recall bears an establishment number "EST. 18498-A" inside the USDA mark of inspection, according to the agency.

Anyone who purchased these products is urged not to consume them, the USDA said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Thousands of Capri Sun cases recalled over potential cleaning solution contamination

Kraft Heinz

(NEW YORK) -- As children are heading back to school this month, Kraft Heinz announced a recall on Friday of more than 5,000 cases of Capri Sun due to a possible contamination.

This voluntary recall comes after the company announced the potential contamination affecting approximately 5,760 Capri Sun cases (each case contains about 10 pouches) of its wild cherry flavor. The company said a diluted cleaning solution was inadvertently introduced into a production line at one of its factories.

The "Best When Used By" date on the products is June 25, 2023, according to the company. No other Capri Sun flavors were listed in the recall.

"The issue was discovered after we received several consumer complaints about the taste of the affected product," Kraft Heinz said in a statement on Friday. "The Company is actively working with retail partners and distributors to remove potentially impacted product from circulation."

Those who believe they might have the product are advised not to consume it and return the product where it was purchased.

Click here to view the company’s full description of the affected product.

"Consumers can contact Kraft Heinz from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, at 1-800-280-8252 to see if a product is part of the recall and to receive reimbursement," Kraft Heinz said in a statement.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


More than 2 million infant rockers and swings recalled due to entanglement and strangulation hazards

Amanda Maile via GMA

(NEW YORK) -- More than 2 million infant rockers and swings have been recalled due to entanglement and strangulation hazards, leading to at least one death.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the voluntary recall Monday of certain 4moms MamaRoo Baby Swings and RockaRoo Baby Rockers, which were sold at Target and Buy Buy Baby.

When the swing or rocker is not in use their restraint straps can dangle below the seat and non-occupant crawling infants can become entangled in the straps, posing a strangulation hazard, according to the CPSC.

4moms has received two reports of entanglement incidents involving infants who became caught in the strap under the unoccupied MamaRoo infant swing after they crawled under the seat. This includes a 10-month-old infant who died from asphyxiation, and a 10-month-old infant who suffered bruising to his neck before being rescued by a caregiver, according to a press release from the CPSC.

No incidents involving the RockaRoo have been reported, the CPSC said.

Gary Waters, the CEO of 4moms, said his company was "deeply saddened" by the two incidents, adding, "Families put their trust in our company when they choose to bring our products into their homes. That’s why we take every precaution and make the extra effort to ensure that our baby gear products not only meet but exceed all applicable safety standards.

Consumers with infants who can crawl are advised to "immediately" stop using the recalled products and place them in an area where the infants cannot access them.

The CPSC said consumers should contact 4moms immediately to register for a free strap fastener that will prevent the straps from extending under the swing when not in use.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Burned-out employees are 'quiet quitting' their jobs: What to know about the trend

boonchai wedmakawand/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- When Paige West decided to scale back the amount of effort she was putting into her corporate job, she joined a growing workplace trend known as "quiet quitting."

"When I was quiet quitting, I didn't want to constantly feel that stress of working that job and feeling like I needed to put my 1000% in," West, now a digital creator, told "Good Morning America." "So I decided to scale that back and really just do the work that was required of me."

For West, the urge to focus more on her work-life balance and give less to her job came during the coronavirus pandemic, when she, like many workers around the globe, began working remotely from home.

"I was really struggling with just the idea of a 9 to 5, especially when COVID hit and we were all working from home," said West. "I was just stuck at my desk all day from 9 to 5, at a minimum, working on my computer, staring at a screen. For me, that just wasn't the ideal situation."

With the pandemic blurring the lines between work and home, people like West are using quiet quitting as a way to set more boundaries between their professional and personal lives.

The new form of "quitting" sees people keeping their jobs, but mentally stepping back from the burdens of work -- for example, working the bare minimum number of hours and not making their jobs an important center of their lives.

Clayton Farris, a freelance writer, said he heard about the trend on TikTok, where the hashtag #quietquitting has been posted more than 3 million times.

"I just heard about this term called Quiet Quitting, and I realized that is what I've been doing … against my will," Farris said in a video on TikTok.

Farris told "GMA" he has learned in his own life how to set boundaries around work.

"It's about quitting the hustle culture that goes along with work in our society," he said. "I can still be a very productive, active worker and not have to focus on work 24 hours a day."

Data shows the trend of putting limits on one's job and work life, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is most popular among people just starting out in their careers, those who are in their early 20s.

"Being connected to a mission or purpose is a high priority for the younger generation," said Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup. "That's something they want but they're not experiencing in their current workplaces."

Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent, said making a decision to quiet quit a job could come down to a person's career goals.

"If your objective is work-life balance over income and maybe even job security and you're not lookin for big raises and promotions, then this could work for you," Jarvis said, noting the current job market is also amenable to the trend. "It is much easier to pull off when there are nearly two job openings for every job seeker."

The risk of quiet quitting, according to Jarvis, is that an employee who is less invested in their job may be "more likely to be laid off in a down economy."

Jarvis said that for employees who are feeling burned out, it may be the right time to speak with their manager.

"Set time. Talk to them about the fact that you're feeling burned out," she said, adding that employees should also come prepared with solutions for how they can fulfill their job obligations while also taking care of themselves.

Finally, according to Jarvis, employees can look for community within their workplace to make things a little easier on themselves.

"For people who don't necessarily feel it on their team, look around the company. " said Jarvis. "There may be others and when you have that community, those friends at the job, it goes by so much more quickly."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Has inflation finally peaked? Economists divided on extent of recent relief

Javier Ghersi/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Lower-than-expected inflation rates last week sent the S&P 500 soaring to its highest level in three months, reflecting optimism that price increases have peaked as businesses and consumers seek relief from budget-busting costs.

While still elevated, price hikes last month waned from the near-historic pace reached in June, according to a release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. The consumer price index, or CPI, rose 8.5% over the past year as of July, a marked slowdown from a 9.1% year-over-year rate measured in June, the bureau said.

Moreover, the inflation rate saw a 0% rise on a monthly basis in July, after rising 1.3% on that measure in the month prior.

Previous optimism about inflation, however, has proven misguided. Before last month, the problem that most Americans consider their top economic priority had reached its most dire level.

Still, progress on the supply-demand imbalance that sits at the root of price increases suggests that the U.S. has reached peak inflation, economists told ABC News. An easing of supply chain bottlenecks has coincided with an aggressive series of borrowing cost increases from the Federal Reserve, which could very well have slowed the economy and slashed demand, they said.

"We're getting relief on the global supply stage," David Rosenberg, founder of Rosenberg Research and former chief economist for North America at Merrill Lynch, told ABC News. "On top of that, we're seeing disruption of demand."

"Why on earth would you think inflation will go up?" he added, citing the firm commitment to raise interest rates expressed by Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

But economists differed sharply in their assessment of how much the supply-demand imbalance has been resolved, and in their expectations for how much inflation will fall. And even as price hikes slow down, some costs for consumers, like rent, and for businesses, like wages, will persist at elevated levels, economists cautioned.

They also warned that inflation could take a turn for the worst if the global economy suffers a shock, such as a significant escalation of the war between Russia and Ukraine or a more infectious strain of COVID-19.

"The pandemic is kind of like Lucy with the football," Martha Olney, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, told ABC News. "We keep pretending that this time we'll kick the football. We keep pretending that this time the pandemic is over."

Like many economic problems, inflation largely owes to an imbalance between supply and demand.

As the pandemic eased, a surge in demand for goods and services followed a pandemic-induced flood of economic stimulus. Moreover, that stimulus brought about a speedy economic recovery from the March 2020 downturn, triggering a hiring blitz.

But the surge in demand far outpaced supply, as COVID-related bottlenecks slowed delivery times and infection fears kept workers on the sidelines. In turn, prices and wages skyrocketed, prompting sky-high inflation.

Signs point to an easing of these fundamental forces behind price increases, however, Jeffrey Roach, the chief economist at LPL Financial, told ABC News. Import prices fell in July for the first time in seven months, suggesting that supply chain bottlenecks are loosening up, according to data released by the Labor Department on Friday.

Meanwhile, the economy has seen a decline in demand for some key products like gasoline, which on Thursday fell below $4 per gallon on average nationwide for the first time since March. Many economists expect that overall demand will fall in the coming months, as the Fed pursues rate hikes aimed at slowing down the economy.

"Aggregate demand is slowing down, and supply chains are improving," Roach said. "The market is pretty happy we're at that inflection point."

But it remains to be seen just how much supply and demand have balanced out, Olney, of the University of California, Berkeley, said. She questioned whether Fed rate hikes have reduced consumer demand, with the exception of a slowdown in construction that shows appetite in the housing market has waned. "I think the jury is out," she said.

Beyond supply and demand, inflation expectations among consumers and businesses can also impact the trajectory of price hikes, Olney added. Perception helps drive the prices that companies will put forward and consumers will tolerate.

Data on consumer price expectations has shown improvement over the last couple of months. A widely observed measure of consumer sentiment, published by the University of Michigan, markedly increased last month, indicating that inflation fears have eased somewhat, according to a report released on Friday.

Nevertheless, even as inflation declines, price increases for some goods will likely remain elevated or even speed up, Roach, of LPL Financial, said. One such expenditure, rental costs, will stay sky-high over the near term in part because customers sign leases that lock them in at prices for a year or longer. "Folks don't reset rental costs as frequently as the store can reset milk prices," Roach said.

High labor costs for businesses will also likely endure, Michael Pugliese, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities, told ABC News. The economy showed unusually strong hiring last month, along with elevated wage increases that saw hourly earnings go up 5.2% on a yearly basis. Those wage hikes are "still well above what prevailed before the pandemic," Pugliese said.

The economists, including Pugliese, described the inflation data released this week as a welcome development but said more evidence will be necessary to show that a sustained, significant decline in inflation has begun.

In a report he wrote about the new inflation data, Pugliese used the subtitle, "A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step."

"We got the first step," he said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Abortion clinics in embattled states face another challenge: Money

Shelby Tauber/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- When Katie Quinonez, the executive director of an abortion clinic in West Virginia, saw the Supreme Court decision that overturned the federal guarantee of the right to an abortion, the first word she uttered was an obscenity.

The nonprofit Women's Health Center of West Virginia, located in Charleston, faced the immediate risk of prosecution under a state abortion ban from 1882, so Quinonez and a coworker made 60 calls to patients canceling procedures scheduled for the ensuing three weeks, said Quinonez.

"That was definitely one of the worst days of my entire life so far," she said. "Some of the staff were so upset that they couldn't stop crying."

Not only did the Supreme Court decision stop the clinic from providing abortions, but it delivered a crushing blow to the nonprofit health center's financial stability, Quinonez said. This is a financial reality many abortion clinics -- which often provide key care in communities and already face tight finances -- are now contending with as they decide how, or if, they can move forward.

Abortions accounted for 40% of the Women's Health Center of West Virginia revenue, Quinonez said, adding that there would be no easy way to replace such a large a chunk of the clinic's $1.6 million annual budget. (At least for now, the clinic can again provide abortions, since a lawsuit brought by the clinic days after the Dobbs decision has paused enforcement of the ban.)

"Being unable to provide abortion care absolutely puts us in a precarious financial position," Quinonez said. "Our ability to keep our doors open very much depends on revenue from the services we provide, as well as grants and donations."

The loss of a community clinic dramatically curtails reproductive health care access for women, especially low-income women, according to research. One in three low-income women depend on clinics -- such as a health center, Planned Parenthood or a publicly funded clinic -- to get contraception, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released in 2019. Another study, published in the Journal of Women's Health in 2019, found that greater travel distance for an abortion is associated with higher out-of-pocket costs, delayed care and negative mental health effects.

Many abortion clinics now must choose between two costly options: stay open but stop providing abortions, or move to an abortion-friendly state, clinic officials and reproductive health organizations told ABC News.

Remaining open but stopping the service altogether denies many clinics a key source of revenue from insurers or patients paying for the procedure, clinic staff said. Meanwhile, the choice to close and move means losing revenue from patients while facing front-end moving costs such as buying or leasing a building, relocating employees and transporting equipment, among other expenses, the clinic staff added.

Within a month of the Dobbs decision, 43 clinics across 11 states in the Midwest and South had stopped providing abortions, either because they had closed or stayed open but no longer offered the procedure, according to a study released last month by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports abortion rights.

Even before the onset of state-level abortion bans, clinics struggled to financially sustain themselves, Caitlin Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College who specializes in the financial dynamics behind abortion care, told ABC News.

The budgets at many clinics strain under the weight of compliance with onerous regulations, dependence on low-income patients who often lack insurance, and the absence of federal funding and in many cases Medicaid coverage for abortions, she said.

"A lot of abortion providers, from what we can see on the outside, are operating on fairly thin margins," Myers said. "There are already a tremendous number of challenges facing the U.S. health-care industry, and for abortion providers, those challenges are generally even greater."

Clinics also face significant legal costs navigating a maze of measures at the federal, state and local level, which became even more complicated after the court overturned Roe, said Erin Grant, the deputy director at the Abortion Care Network, a membership organization made up of more than 200 independent clinics nationwide.

"The legal and litigation costs are one of the No. 1 barriers," Grant said. "That doesn't just have to do with the abortion ban itself. This is about building regulations, Department of Health inspections and dealing with insurance companies."

For clinics that have chosen to move since the Dobbs decision, a new set of costs has arisen.

Whole Woman's Health, a health care company that manages nine clinics across five states, announced last month that it plans to close four Texas-based clinics after an abortion ban went into effect in the state. To continue to meet the needs of patients in Texas, the company hopes to open one or more locations in nearby abortion-friendly states, said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder and CEO of Whole Woman's Health.

The typical annual budget for one of the for-profit clinics run by Whole Woman's Health is $1.5 million, the company said.

The cost of closing clinics and reopening elsewhere is immense, Hagstrom Miller said. Due to the planned closures, Whole Woman's Health has laid off roughly half its staff in Texas. Meanwhile, the company has sought to get out from under leases on two of its Texas facilities at the same time it has pursued a lease on a facility in New Mexico. On top of that, the company has looked for temporary storage for medical equipment and planned the relocation of remaining staff.

"All of that requires capital resources that we don't have now because we're not able to see patients, which of course is the major source of income in any medical practice, not just abortion clinics," Hagstrom Miller said. "You don't have income if you don't have patients."

"It is a big financial burden," she added.

Melissa Fowler, the chief program officer at the National Abortion Federation, an umbrella organization that counts roughly 500 member clinics in the U.S. and abroad, put it bluntly: "It's incredibly difficult to open a clinic, especially in a new state."

It is unclear how many clinics have sought to move since the Dobbs decision, and the number may be relatively small. The financial impact of state-level abortion bans may also be less significant for clinics at which the procedure makes up a smaller proportion of its services.

For instance, Planned Parenthood told ABC News that none of its affiliates had closed or moved since the Dobbs decision. Further, abortion makes up about 3% of services delivered at its affiliates, according to the organization's 2020 annual report, the most recent available.

Needing additional revenue, many abortion clinics have received a surge in donations since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. As of early August, a GoFundMe launched by Whole Woman's Health had raised more than $285,000, though the figure falls short of its $750,000 goal.

Quinonez, the executive director of Women's Health Center of West Virginia, said the organization has raised $225,000 from donations since the Dobbs decision. That makes up more than a third of the nearly $600,000 the organization raised from donations over the entirety of its most recent fiscal year, Quinonez said.

Still, in light of a strict abortion ban passed by the West Virginia Senate during a special session late last month, the organization has cut its anticipated revenue for the coming fiscal year, ending in June 2023, to just a little over half of what the organization brought in over the previous fiscal year.

Quinonez declined to comment on whether the clinic is considering moving to an abortion-friendly state. When asked whether the clinic could remain open if West Virginia imposed a full ban on abortion, Quinonez said, "It remains to be seen."

"Right now, we've received a lot of support from our community," she added. "We certainly aren't going anywhere in the near future and we're working to add more services regardless of what happens to our ability to provide abortion care."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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