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JCPenny to Close Easley Store as Part of Nationwide Cuts

JCPenney has released the list of 138 stores it plans to close in an effort to cut costs and grow sales at its strongest locations, and the Easley store is on the list. The Charleston store in Citadel Mall is the only other South Carolina store closing on the list.

The release comes a few weeks after Penney's said it would close up to 140 stores this year, following similar decisions from Macy's and Sears. Between the companies' four biggest chains, which include Sears' Kmart brand, more than 300 big-box stores will go dark this year alone.

The closures highlight the pressures on traditional department stores, which are losing market share to off-price competitors and Amazon. They also underscore the deteriorating economics at lower-quality shopping centers, whose risk of failure rises when an anchor tenant exits.

"We believe closing stores will allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement back in February.

The company said at that time that most of its closures would occur in the second quarter. Liquidations will start April 17, it said Friday.

Penney's expects to save roughly $200 million a year by exiting these locations, which contributed less than 5 percent of its annual sales. It plans to invest in its best stores and digital operations while whittling down $4.3 billion in long-term debt.

Roughly 5,000 jobs will be affected by the closures, Penney's said Friday. At the time of its initial announcement, the company said it would provide some 6,000 employees with a "voluntary early retirement program," depending on their age and tenure. Eligible employees have until March 31 to decide whether they will accept the package, a spokeswoman said.

In addition to that offer, Penney's said Friday that it is trying to relocate certain leaders and will provide outplacement support services for eligible workers.

The moves will result in a pretax charge of roughly $225 million in the first half of fiscal 2017.

In addition to its store closures, Penney's is shutting down one supply chain facility in Lakeland, Fla., and relocating another in Buena Park, Calif.

Wall Street is already speculating that more closures could be ahead. At a recent meeting with analysts in New York City, Penney's said it is testing the rollout of Sephora beauty shops and home appliances in its smaller stores. Those categories have been fueling sales growth at the company's bigger locations.

Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen warned if the tests are not successful, Penney's may need to close additional stores in the future.

More closures are already expected at Macy's. The chain has so far announced just 68 of the 100 locations it plans to exit, and said last month that the remainder of those stores will go dark "over the next few years."

List of JC Penney upcoming store closures

Mall/Shopping Center 
Auburn Mall Auburn AL
Tannehill Promenade Bessemer AL
Gadsden Mall Gadsden AL
Jasper Mall Jasper AL
Military Plaza Benton AR
Chickasaw Plaza Blytheville AR
Riverview Mall Bullhead City AZ
Downtown Bishop Bishop CA
Sunwest Plaza Lodi CA
The Village at Orange Orange CA
Hilltop Mall Richmond CA
Fort Morgan Main St. Fort Morgan CO
Glenwood Springs Mall Glenwood Springs CO
St. Vrain Centre Longmont CO
Broadway Plaza Sterling CO
Connecticut Post Mall Milford CT
Jacksonville Regional Shopping Center Jacksonville FL
Palatka Mall Palatka FL
Dublin Mall Dublin GA
Macon Mall Macon GA
Milledgeville Mall Milledgeville GA
Gateway Plaza Thomasville GA
Tifton Mall Tifton GA
Downtown Decorah Decorah IA
Crossroads Mall Fort Dodge IA
Penn Central Mall Oskaloosa IA
Quincy Place Ottumwa IA
Snake River Plaza Burley ID
Eastland Mall Bloomington IL
Fulton Square Canton IL
Village Square Mall Effingham IL
Freestanding Macomb IL
Peru Mall Peru IL
Northland Mall Sterling IL
Centerpointe of Woodridge Woodridge IL
FairOaks Mall Columbus IN
Connersville Plaza Connersville IN
Huntington Plaza Huntington IN
Jasper Manor Center Jasper IN
Logansport Mall Logansport IN
Chanute Square Chanute KS
Downtown Great Bend Great Bend KS
Hutchinson Mall Hutchinson KS
Freestanding Lawrence KS
Winfield Plaza Winfield KS
Cortana Mall Baton Rouge LA
Park Terrace DeRidder LA
North Shore Square Slidell LA
Berkshire Mall Lanesborough MA
Easton Marketplace Easton MD
Rockland Plaza Rockland ME
Lakeview Square Mall Battle Creek MI
Delta Plaza Escanaba MI
Westshore Mall Holland MI
Copper Country Mall Houghton MI
Birchwood Mall Kingsford MI
Midland Mall Midland MI
Cascade Crossings Sault Ste. Marie MI
Central Lakes Crossing Baxter MN
Five Lakes Centre Fairmont MN
Faribo West Mall Faribault MN
Irongate Plaza Hibbing MN
Hutchinson Mall Hutchinson MN
Red Wing Mall Red Wing MN
Downtown Thief River Falls Thief River Falls MN
Freestanding Winona MN
Maryville Center Maryville MO
Leigh Mall Columbus MS
Southgate Plaza Corinth MS
Greenville Mall Greenville MS
Bonita Lakes Mall Meridian MS
Oxford Mall Oxford MS
Capital Hill Mall Helena MT
Sidney Main Street Sidney MT
Albemarle Crossing Albemarle NC
Boone Mall Boone NC
Eastridge Mall Gastonia NC
Blue Ridge Mall Hendersonville NC
Monroe Crossing Monroe NC
Becker Village Mall Roanoke Rapids NC
Prairie Hills Mall Dickinson ND
Buffalo Mall Jamestown ND
Downtown Wahpeton Wahpeton ND
Fremont Mall Fremont NE
Downtown McCook McCook NE
Platte River Mall North Platte NE
Rio Grande Plaza Rio Grande NJ
The Boulevard Las Vegas NV
Dunkirk-Fredonia Plaza Dunkirk NY
Westfield Sunrise Massapequa NY
Palisades Center West Nyack NY
Findlay Village Mall Findlay OH
New Towne Mall New Philadelphia OH
Richmond Town Square Richmond Heights OH
St. Mary's Square St. Marys OH
Altus Plaza Altus OK
Ne-Mar Shopping Center Claremore OK
Ponca Plaza Ponca City OK
Pioneer Square Shopping Center Stillwater OK
Astoria Downtown Astoria OR
Grants Pass Shopping Center Grants Pass OR
La Grande Downtown La Grande OR
Downtown Pendleton Pendleton OR
The Dalles Main Street The Dalles OR
Columbia Mall Bloomsburg PA
Clearfield Mall Clearfield PA
King of Prussia Mall King of Prussia PA
Philadelphia Mills Philadelphia PA
Bradford Towne Centre Towanda PA
Lycoming Mall Pennsdale PA
Willow Grove Park Willow Grove PA
Citadel Mall Charleston SC
Town 'N Country Easley SC
Palace Mall Mitchell SD
Northridge Plaza Pierre SD
Watertown Mall Watertown SD
Yankton Mall Yankton SD
Greeneville Commons Greeneville TN
Knoxville Center Knoxville TN
County Market Place Union City TN
Athens Village Shopping Center Athens TX
Borger Shopping Plaza Borger TX
Heartland Mall Early TX
El Paso Downtown El Paso TX
Marshall Mall Marshall TX
McAllen Downtown McAllen TX
University Mall Nacogdoches TX
King Plaza Shopping Center Seguin TX
Bosque River Center Stephenville TX
New River Valley Mall Christiansburg VA
Tanglewood Mall Roanoke VA
Pilchuck Landing Snohomish WA
Pine Tree Mall Marinette WI
Marshfield Mall Marshfield WI
Richland Square Shopping Center Richland Center WI
Rapids Mall Wisconsin Rapids WI
Foxcroft Towne Center Martinsburg WV

Colbert New King of Late Night Televison

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert remained the highest-rated late-night show for a sixth week in a row, though The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon still had a slight edge in the 18-49 demo despite being in repeats. For the week of March 6th, The Late Show drew 3.23 million viewers, its largest weekly audience since Colbert’s first week as host in September 2015. According to the New York Post, that helped give CBS its longest winning streak in late-night since the 2009-2010 season during David Letterman’s tenure while Conan O’Brien was hosting The Tonight Show.

The CBS program was up from 3 million viewers for the previous week, though it remained flat in the demo with a 0.55 rating, slightly behind The Tonight Show’s 0.6, but above the 0.49 rating for Jimmy Kimmel Live, which also took third place in total viewership with 2.28 million viewers in the time slot compared to the 2.47 million weekly average for The Tonight Show encores.

Colbert’s ratings bump is even helping The Late Late Show with James Corden, which had the biggest increase of the week from a 0.30 to a 0.35 demo rating, along with 1.44 million viewers, giving it a rare win over Late Night with Seth Meyers in both measures, though the NBC show was also in reruns.

Elsewhere, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah dipped from a solid 0.35 rating to a 0.32 on Comedy Central, averaging just under 1 million viewers, while Conan increased from a 0.23 to a 0.27 in the 18-49 demo.

Colbert has undoubtedly benefited from a Donald Trump presidency, along with other liberal-leaning shows like Full Frontal with Samantha BeeReal Time with Bill Maher and The Rachel Maddow Show, which was the highest-rated cable news program last week. The MSNBC show likely got a big bump this week (Nielsen ratings have been delayed due to a power outage) thanks to a much-hyped episode where she unveiled one year of Trump’s tax returns (Update: The show had its highest-rated episode ever with 4.1 million viewers and a 1.0 demo rating per Vulture). But her long drawn out announcement has received plenty of backlash, and was even parodied by Colbert in Wednesday’s Late Show cold open.

The ratings for The Late Show are a huge turnaround from last fall when the series hit an all-time low since Colbert succeeded Letterman, falling to a 0.36 rating and just 1.98 million viewers in September of last year. But things have been on the upswing since the beginning of 2017, especially since Trump’s inauguration, as viewers starting tuning in in droves to watch Colbert mercilessly mock the president’s every move.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fallon has seen a precipitous drop in the ratings since last season, fueling speculation that liberals abandoned his show after his chummy interview with then-candidate Trump, prompting reports that NBC is urging the comedian to get more political in his sketches and opening monologue as a way to keep up with Colbert.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS. However, the late-night series is off the next two nights thanks to March Madness.


FOX21: Citizens Worried About Speeders on Gentry Road

People who live on Gentry Road in Anderson County have complained speeders are putting them in a danger zone. Located right off of Highway 81 in Starr, the rural road has no posted speed limit, according to resident Angela Rietzel. 

"Somebody's gonna get killed," she said. "It's gotten really serious. What I am worried about is every morning when I get my daughter onto the bus - who is going to smack into the back of the bus?" 

"My daughter's school bus almost got hit three times last year," said Rietzel. 

Signs warning drivers of school bus traffic dot the road, but Rietzel showed FOX Carolina cell phone video of one of the signs after it had been run over by a car. Rietzel and her neighbor Darren Mitchell said simply posting speed limit signs is not enough. 

County officials, however, said installing speed bumps on rural roads isn't an option without a formal speed study. 

State law requires speed bumps to be installed in only urban - not rural - areas, according to Anderson County Public Works Administrator Holt Hopkins. "Urban," he said, means homes are within 100 feet of each other. He said that is not the case on Gentry Road, adding the speed limit would not be allowed to be under 35 mph because it is a rural road. 

He also told us each speed bump, if installed, would cost $1,200 - and half of each one would have to be paid by residents. 

"County Council would pay the other half, but that is what our ordinance currently says," said Hopkins. 

Hopkins said Council might consider additional signage for the road. 

Rietzel said residents have signed a petition for speed bumps and asked for more patrol officers from the county. 

"Somebody is going to die out here, it's not a joke. It's serious," she said.


Shiloh Church Road Bridge Replacement to Close Road April 4

The Anderson County Roads and Bridges Department will close a portion of Shiloh Church Road near Highway 17 in the Wren community on April 4  to replace the west bridge near Shiloh Creek Subdivision. The roadway will be closed between Highway 17 and Cane Hill Drive, C-01-0307, for approximately one year. The new bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic by April 4, 2018.

Until then, the posted detour will follow Highway 17 north to Hurricane Creek Road. 

The existing road and bridge near Highway 17 is too narrow for the volume of trucks using the road.  The new bridge will be a 30-feet-long precast concrete hallow-cored slab, 33-feet wide with concrete parapets on each side. Approximately 1,000 feet of roadway near intersection of Highway 17 will be reconstructed. Estimated construction cost of $240,000 funded through the county’s general fund with Roads and Bridges providing labor and equipment.

The posted detour will follow Highway 17 north to Hurricane Creek Road.


Trump Budget Cuts Arts, EPA. Eliminates 19 Agencies

President Donald Trump on Thursday released a proposed budget that could cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and the State Department by 29 percent while boosting military funds.

Stacks of the blueprint -- titled "America First" -- were delivered to the Government Printing Office bookstore and a 62-page document was posted on the White House website early Thursday.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday told reporters the White House proposal will cut the EPA's budget down from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. About 3,200 positions -- or more than 20 percent -- in the EPA's workforce of 15,000 would be cut.

The proposed budget would end funding to former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan -- his signature effort to combat climate change by regulating power plants' carbon dioxide emissions. EPA programs such as the $73 million-a-year Chesapeake Bay cleanup project and the Energy Star program, designed to improve energy efficiency and save consumers money, would lose all funding.

"You can't drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency," Mulvaney told reporters. "The president wants a smaller EPA. He thinks they overreach, and the budget reflects that."

In a Gallup poll released Wednesday, 59 percent of Americans said protecting the environment is more important than continuing use of traditional energy, such as fossil fuels. In the poll, 71 percent of people said the United States should focus on alternative energy to solve U.S. energy problems, while 23 percent said the country should emphasize the production of oil, gas and coal.

The State Department's core programs face a $10 billion cut. The budget proposal would eliminate climate-change initiatives and slash foreign aid funding, United Nations contributions and cultural exchanges. The proposal also calls for cuts to State Department operations in war-torn areas such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Overall, the State Department's budget would shrink from $52.8 billion to $37.6 billion.

Trump's proposal would eliminate funding to 19 agencies including the African Development Foundation, the Chemical Safety Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Institute on Peace and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

The winners in Trump's proposed budget are the Defense Department which would see a $52.3 billion increase, the Department of Veteran's Affairs which would see a $4.4 billion increase and the Department of HomelandSsecurity which will see a $2.8 billion increase.


Andersonian Among 3 Seeking to Lead S.C. Democrats

Three candidates are vying to replace outgoing Chairman Jaime Harrison as the next leader of South Carolina's Democratic Party.

Local media outlets report Anderson native Trav Robertson has been making the rounds speaking to political groups across South Carolina. The former state deputy treasurer was Barack Obama's South Carolina campaign manager in 2008 and ran state Sen. Vincent Sheheen's gubernatorial campaign in 2010.

Robertson left South Carolina for several years to serve as executive director of Oklahoma Democratic Party from 2011 to 2015. He returned last year and worked on efforts to recruit Democratic candidates.

Pawley's Island party activist Susan Smith and Horry County executive committeeman Cedric Blain-Spain are also running. Both Robertson and Blain-Spain were delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.


Cheerios Giving Away Wildflower Seeds to Save the Bees

Bees are in trouble but Cheerios is creating a lot of buzz with a campaign to help these pollinators.

A federal task force created in 2014, seeks to protect honey bees and other pollinators who play an essential role in food production. These creatures are responsible for making one in ever three bites of food possible for humans, according to officials.

The rate at which they're disappearing is shocking.

In 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported the deaths of 42 percent of the United State's honeybee colonies. The NRDC attributed the plummet to a dramatic spike in toxic pesticides.

Cheerios announced a partnership with Veseys Seeds to spread bee-friendly habitats across the country. General Mills, which relies on pollination for 30 percent of its ingredients, said by 2020, they plan to have more than 3,000 acres of wildflowers on their oat farms.

"As a General Mills cereal built around nutrition, helping pollinators get the key nutrition they need through fun, family-friendly activities like planting wildflowers is a natural fit,” said Susanne Prucha, director of marketing for Cheerios. “Our commitment to increasing the habitat for pollinators is one way we are continuously striving to be a company that not only makes products people love, but a company that pursues creative solutions to make our world a better place for all families.”

The public is invited to get in on the action to help the bees by requesting a free wildflower seed packet from Cheerios.

Click here to request free wildflower seeds.

According to the Cheerios website, as of Wednesday the company had already met its 100 million seed goal.


$8B House Bill Includes Money for School Buses in S.C.

The House's roughly $8 billion plan for state taxes spends $100 million on upgrading K-12 schools, puts an additional $38 million into a per-student payment, and buys $10 million worth of school buses.

The House voted 115-3 early Wednesday to send its budget proposal to the Senate. A 115-0 vote sent the accompanying "capital reserve" bill, which spends $139 million from this year's rainy-day fund.

Most of that goes toward Hurricane Matthew cleanup costs incurred by state agencies and local governments. Legislators voted late Tuesday to set aside $700,000 for Nichols. Most homes remain vacant five months after floodwaters consumed the Marion County hamlet.

The so-called "base student cost" for K-12 schools increases by $50. The $100 million will help refurbish dilapidated schools in high-poverty districts.


Freezing Weather Could Destroy S.C. Peach Crop

Winter weather in South Carolina is threatening the state's peach crop, affecting the second leading peach producer in the country.

The peach trees at Belue Farms Natural Food Market in Boiling Springs are in bloom, but before the peaches make can make it to markets throughout the country, they have to survive the cold.

However, Clemson Agriculture Agent Andy Rollins says during this time period, the peaches are the most fragile.

“At that period of time that little peach is very susceptible to just about any cold and so if the temperature drops between 28 and 26 degrees, it’s gonna suffer some degree loss because of those temperatures."

Rollins said Monday’s cold, damaged some of the peach blooms, but he remains optimistic, saying he only needs about two peaches per limb.

Most of the concern lies in the forecast for the rest of the week, when more freezing temperatures are expected.

“It looks like Thursday morning around 6 a.m. is the predicted low from the National Weather Service so we are very concerned about that. 24° and the stage that we're at would be very difficult for producers to handle at this point."

The National Weather Service released the following statement on freezing temperatures affecting peach crops, adding apple crops may be affected as well:

"A very cold night as cold advection brings temps down well below normal and well down into the hard freeze category, which threatens to wipe out the rest of the peach crop and might also impact the apple crop. We will all feel sorry later this summer when we have no local peaches or apples."

The SC Dept. of Agriculture says blueberries and strawberries may also be affected by the dropping temperatures, however, many factors will affect the amount of damage, if any, sustained by the crops. Some of the variables include: stage of bloom, wind, moisture and the length of time the temperature stays below freezing.

Farmers will not be able to made accurate assessments until the cold weather has moved through the area.

"For now, all we can do is wait,” said Hugh Weathers, SC Commissioner of Agriculture. “These specialty crops are very important to our farm economy and we are all saying a prayer for the farmers ahead of the potential freeze.”


Analysis: 7 S.C. Senate Dist. 3 Candidates Debate at Forum

Greg Wilson/News Analysis

Election season is open again and while April 11 kickoffs the voting, Tuesday night kicked off the candidate forums.

Seven of the eight Republican candidates seeking to fill the South Carolina Senate seat vacated by Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, faced their first crowd as a group Tuesday night, and there were few, if any surprises.

During the forum, sponsored by the Progressive Women of Anderson County, each of the candidates vowed their commitment to party values such as greater accountability from government, fiscal responsibility, better education, better roads and pro-life issues.  

The candidates seeking the seat in the April 11 primary who participated in the event were Corey Bott, Don Bowen, Carol Burdette, Richard Cash, James Gaylean, Brad Johnson and John Tucker. Only Dean Allen was absent.

The eventual winner of the primary will likely be the winner in the May 30 special election. Democrat has filed for the seat.

The candidates' opening statements can be watched here. 

District 3 includes more than 100,000 residents and encompasses most of Anderson, as well as Pendleton and Townville, stretching north to Powdersville and south across Lake Hartwell to the Anderson County line near Fair Play. Voters can confirm eligibility to vote in this election at

With so many candidates in the mix, it is highly likely that a runoff will be scheduled April 25, two weeks after the April 11 primary. The special election is scheduled for May 30.

Forums, such as the one Tuesday night, are an important part of getting the word out in hopes of getting folks out to vote. Historically, special elections attract around 5 percent of the eligible voters in any given district. 

For more information on each of the candidates who attended Tuesday night’s event, visit here for information:

Corey Bott 

Don Bowen 

Carol Burdette

Richard Cash 

James Gaylean 

Brad Johnson (unavailable)

John Tucker


Senate Advancing $800 Million Road Bill

Senators are advancing a bill that would eventually raise nearly $800 million more for South Carolina's roadways.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 14-7 Tuesday on a proposal that would increase the state's gas tax by 12 cents over the next six years, to 28 cents per gallon. That's two pennies more than the road-funding plan approved by the House earlier this month.

An updated estimate shows the House plan would eventually generate $530 million additional yearly.

The Senate plan raises more by also increasing the sales tax cap on vehicles from $300 to $600 instead of $500.

Its chances on the floor remain uncertain. Opponents want the bill to include government restructuring and tax relief.

Democratic Sen. John Matthews says if tax cuts are inserted, the bill will die.


S.C. Seeks to Fire Safety Chief Through Budget

Legislators voted Tuesday to fire the director of South Carolina's Department of Public Safety through the state budget, saying his micromanaging is decimating trooper ranks.

The House voted 76-20 to eliminate the director's position and reduce the agency's funding. If the clause remains in the 2017-18 budget, which is still being debated, it would effectively fire Leroy Smith, who's been at the helm since November 2011.

Smith "has destroyed the morale at the highway patrol," said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, who proposed the budget amendment.

Smith is one of three black Cabinet leaders. Rutherford, who is black, said Smith told the Legislative Black Caucus earlier this year complaints about his leadership were due to racism. A House Oversight panel has been investigating the Department of Public Safety.

"As I delved down into the details and the data, it was clear he is the problem," Rutherford said. "The reality is nobody wants to work for him, so they're quitting. The reality is that the people he hires, he fires. It's a total waste of state resources because we're training these troopers for him to fire them for the silliest of reasons."

A spokesman for Smith didn't immediately respond to questions.

Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, said Smith's employment is a decision for the governor.

"Let the governor, who wants that responsibility and power, own it," he said.

But Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said the move represents legislators' only recourse. Both former Gov. Nikki Haley, who appointed Smith, and Gov. Henry McMaster, who ascended to the office in January, have rejected calls to fire the Cabinet director, he said.

"The budget process is the only way we have to speak our mind about what's going on," said Pitts, a retired Greenville police officer who leads a Ways and Means panel that writes state law enforcement sections of the budget.


GOP Health Bill Puts Coverage for 24 Million Americans at Risk

As many as 24 million Americans risk losing health coverage over the next decade under the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported.

By 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured if Congress enacts the healthcare proposal, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law, according to the report. President Donald Trump, who supports the legislation, vowed that the plan would provide “insurance for everybody”.

The congressional analysts estimate that the Republican healthcare proposal could reduce the federal budget by $337bn over 10 years, with largest savings would come from cuts to the federal Medicaid program and “Obamacare” tax credits for people who buy insurance individually.

The bill, called the American Health Care Act, faces intensifying opposition from conservatives, Democrats, consumer interest groups and nearly every sector of the US healthcare industry.

The ACHA seeks to radically transform and cut Medicaid, one of America’s largest social safety nets; end requirements for Americans to purchase healthcare; allow insurance companies to charge the old five times more than the young; expand tax-free health savings accounts; cut taxes that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy; and shrink subsidies that benefit the middle class.

At the same time, it allows insurance companies to levy a 30% surcharge to anyone who does not have insurance for more than two months, meant to incentivize people to keep insurance.