Yesterday, I released a blog post about how we can support workers, essential services, and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. I wanted to share it with you this afternoon. You can click here to read it and I have copied it below, as well. [[link removed]]
Remember: Stay home. Healthy or sick, all New Yorkers need to stay home as much as possible. If you do need to go out, leave at least 6 feet between you and others, don't gather in large crowds and avoid all nonessential social interactions.
NYC Council Speaker
Supporting workers, essential services and businesses in the COVID-19 crisis
We are facing a challenge unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and have taken measures to mitigate Coronavirus/COVID-19 that would have seemed unimaginable just a few days ago. As we keep our city safe with aggressive social distancing and mass closures, we must also make sure our impacted businesses, workers, essential services, and other institutions are able to survive this crisis.
We do not know the full extent of the economic impacts yet, but we have to start taking action now to provide relief, because workers and businesses are already feeling the impacts.
It is clear that measures like these are going to be an enormous financial expenditure by our government. But crises like this are when we need to step up and use federal, city and state money to help people in need. We did this in the aftermath of 9–11 and we will do it again.
We must all do our part. Big businesses should continue to pay all of their employees, even if they are closing stores or scaling back their workforce. Apple and Taco Bell are doing it. More should follow their lead.
These are preliminary steps we should be considering and the start to a conversation. We will continue to have to add, modify and build on these ideas as this crisis continues to evolve.
KEEPING BUSINESSES AFLOAT
Overall, we must stabilize as many businesses as possible.
Even the healthiest, most successful businesses will likely need help to be able to get through this crisis. We must prioritize immediate relief to small businesses and those who are showing a demonstrated impact from this health crisis, so that we can make sure we are maximizing our resources.
We must issue clear guidance to businesses on what they can and cannot do, including whether or not they can operate at all. This impacts their planning, their insurance and their workers and they need rapid and clear communication.
We need to keep dollars in the hands of businesses and workers.
One way city government can help impacted businesses during this time is by pausing and deferring payments, fines and fees they are making to the government. This doesn’t mean they won’t eventually have to pay. But to get through this crisis, let’s get everyone back on their feet, and then we can settle up.
That could mean taking steps like:
We also need to reduce other burdens on businesses and make sure they are accessing all of the resources available.
Mayor de Blasio recently announced a grant and loan program for small businesses impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19. This is a good start but we should be looking at expanding eligibility and benefits to broaden this program.
No matter how great a program is, it won’t be helpful if people don’t know about it. We need to make sure businesses know about the programs the city is offering, if they are eligible for them and how to get the benefits if they are. Let’s look at creating a Corona-navigator assistance program that could help businesses apply for programs they might be eligible for. And let’s have a strong public education campaign in multiple languages to raise awareness of anything we do to help businesses.
ADJUSTING TO OUR NEW REALITY
We need to make sure businesses are continuing to take all necessary health precautions for their employees and customers.
Social distancing is key to flattening the curve, so eliminating situations where people are gathered will go a long way to limiting unnecessary contact. I was an early proponent of limiting large gatherings, closing the schools, and closing bars and restaurants that can’t provide takeout. I am heartbroken that we had to take these steps, but grateful that we did.
But in this time period, we need to make sure that New Yorkers have safe access to the essentials and our food supply is protected.
Bars and restaurants that are still operating by providing take out or deliveries must take measures like enhanced cleaning, allowing any employee that is sick to stay home, and offering no-contact deliveries. We need to support these businesses and provide them assistance and resources they need to take these steps. And during this time of emergency, delivery platforms should temporarily eliminate the fees they charge restaurants.
We need to help businesses find creative ways to offer their goods and services online and remotely.
We also need to continue to look at other considerations and costs businesses are facing and come up with creative solutions to assist them and meet the needs of the city during this time.
HELPING THOSE WHO HELP OUR CITY
We need to support the essential service providers who serve the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including the homeless, senior citizens, New Yorkers with disabilities and those with serious health needs.
Essential service providers like shelters and nursing homes need clear guidance from the City agencies who regulate and contract with them on how to manage in this crisis. They cannot stop providing services, and so they must be protected and given directives on how to operate. Supporting these at-risk populations requires taking measures to ensure providers have all of the resources they need to continue their crucial work.
During this time we will be calling on them not only to serve their existing populations, but to provide additional services and explore new ways of providing care, such as additional outreach to street homeless, senior citizens or New Yorkers with disabilities.
It may not be possible for social service providers to meet requirements like units of service for senior centers, staffing ratios or other contract deliverables during this outbreak. Where we can do so safely, we must make sure they have the flexibility they need to continue to remain operational.
We must also take care of workers impacted by Coronavirus/COVID-19.
Hourly workers are going to immediately lose income, even those who do not lose their jobs. We need to provide them support quickly. We should also consider expanding unemployment insurance and paid sick.
Paying people when stores are closed will be a challenge now, but it will be nothing compared to the crisis the country will face if workers can’t afford to pay their rent or eat.
We must provide help with rent, mortgages and protect people from evictions due to this crisis. Private landlords and banks must be our partners in this. REBNY was right to enact an eviction moratorium. Other landlords, including commercial landlords, should follow suit. We should do the same for foreclosures. Banks should explore rent/mortgage relief.
We must also provide support for the healthcare sector. Keeping it functional has to be our top priority. We need support not just for our doctors and nurses, but for everyone who keeps hospitals running, including maintenance workers, security, IT, and food service providers. They are all essential right now. The City needs to establish or support emergency pop-up locations that are convenient for these workers. We’ll also need to extend these services to the families of other critical workers, like those supporting transit and public safety.
New Yorkers who are older or who have health conditions that require them to engage in extreme social isolation will need support to get through this — and not just for food and essentials. It’s human nature to want to be around other people, and we must help people deal with the impacts of being socially isolated. Loneliness can be deadly. We’ll need a mix of technological and human-powered solutions to help people feel connected, including things like more internet hot-spots and tablets for those in need.
I know that many New Yorkers will be pitching in to help their neighbors, but we’ll need more than that. The City needs to establish programs not only to fill these new voids, but to connect workers that are impacted by mandatory closings to new opportunities.
Many New Yorkers won’t be able to go out and shop or walk their dogs and they may not be able to get assistance from friends and family as easily. We need to make sure they have someone to turn to. For example, there’s an app called “Be My Eyes” for the visually impaired that helps connect them to people that can assist with simple tasks. We should be looking at creating a similar system like this for those in isolation/quarantine, as well as disabled New Yorkers who might need extra support in this time.
We need people to shop for those who cannot go out and provide help with chores (dog walking, basic home repairs, tech assistance) while keeping those people safe and distanced as much as possible.
Levels of anxiety will be high for all New Yorkers. We need to make sure we have support for those with new and existing mental health needs.
The challenges before us are enormous, and will require hard work, sacrifice and a collective response prioritizing the common good. The days ahead will not be easy. But New York City has faced adversity before, and come out stronger than ever. We can again do it again by sticking together and looking out for one another.
Paid for by Corey 2021
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Corey for NYC
Brooklyn, NY 11211