Queens Lawmakers On The Move March 3, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meng, Velazquez Bill Would Assist Small Businesses Harmed by Coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park), first vice-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan), chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), the chairwoman of CAPAC, have introduced legislation aimed at assisting small businesses that suffer economic harm from the coronavirus outbreak. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy in Queens and throughout New York City,” said Meng. “They enhance our neighborhoods, bring investment and innovation to local communities, and provide jobs to area residents. But concerns about the coronavirus have hit many small businesses hard. In fact, I have heard from many Asian American-owned small business owners in my district that they are severely struggling. We cannot let them suffer. Government must be a strong partner in helping small businesses succeed and we must not abandon them in their time of need. I call on all my colleagues to immediately pass this legislation so that our entrepreneurs and small businesses can get back on track. When small businesses succeed, America succeeds!”

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

“Small businesses around the country and in New York City are beginning to feel the economic effects of the coronavirus,” said Velázquez. “Many of our Asian-owned businesses in New York have already experienced a decline in sales due to misinformation, fear and stigma associated with the virus. The bill we’ve authored will help businesses access federal loans if they suffer losses related to the outbreak.”  

The legislation comes as economists recently lowered the global forecasts for major economies from 2.6 percent to 2.4 percent. Much of the recent slowing of the economy is linked to the coronavirus, which has weakened demand in travel and tourism. Besides the decline in foot traffic for many retailers and restaurants, particularly those in Chinese communities, small firms have experienced challenges related to their supply chains. Companies sourcing products and services from China have had delays or complete cancellations of orders, resulting in lower profits for the company. 

Besides these challenges, small firms must start the process of preparing their companies for the potential to have employees become infected and remain home or telework. In many instances, a small employer may be unable to absorb the additional workforce reductions without a coinciding loss in productivity.

Under the bill, the “Small Business Relief from Communicable Disease Induced Economic Hardship Act,” small businesses would be able to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses, which would otherwise have been met if it were not for the virus’ spread. The bill specifies that the loans would be interest free. Companies that are major employers could be potentially eligible for larger loans.

Gianaris Bill Outlawing Gender Discrimination Passes Senate

State Sen. Michael Gianaris

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven) announced yesterday the Senate passed his legislation (S.3664B) outlawing gender discrimination in disability insurance policies. 

Currently, gender is a determinative factor in insurance premiums. Gianaris’ legislation would prohibit insurers from using gender as a tool to determine risk.  

Under Gianaris’ measure, insurers would be banned from charging different rates based on the insured person’s gender. Doctor Disability, a leading brokerage of disability insurance for the medical field, has stated it can cost up to 50% more to insure a female employee than a male. Small businesses in Queens have said it costs up to three times more to provide this insurance to women than men. 

“Small businesses should not be penalized for hiring female and gender non-conforming employees and this proposal would level the playing field for people in the workplace,” said Gianaris. “The deck is already stacked against women and gender non-conforming people in the job market and I am proud the Senate passed my legislation to make things fairer.”

Queens Borough Hall To Open 2020 Census Resource Assistance Center

Acting Borough President Sharon Lee yesterday announced the 2020 Census Resource Assistance Center at Queens Borough Hall will open to the public beginning Thursday, March 5.

The center will offer Queens residents the ability to access Census outreach materials, ask questions of trained volunteers and apply for 2020 Census-related jobs. Lee also continues to accept applications from not-for-profits interested in receiving state funding for census outreach efforts in Queens. 

“It’s all hands on deck for the 2020 Census,” said Lee. “We must ensure every single Queens resident – of every age and regardless of documentation status – is counted. When we are not counted, we are rendered invisible and irrelevant for our fair share of federal representation and funding. An undercount is something the Borough of Families simply cannot afford. The future of our county, city and state depend on a full and accurate 2020 Census count.”

The Census Assistance Office will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 5 through July 31 at Queens Borough Hall (2nd Floor), 120-55 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens.

Comptroller Stringer in Support of Equitable Budget 

Comptroller Scott Stringer

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer delivered testimony yesterday to the City Council on the implications of the State budget for New York City. 

Stringer is in support of an equitable budget that addresses past harms and lays a foundation for a more just future.

“We can, and must, do more to prepare for the risks and uncertainties that lie ahead.  Today we face critical challenges in keeping our City affordable for our working families, as the costs of housing and child care soar. If we are not actively preparing today for the future, those challenges will only get more daunting. We cannot allow that to happen.  We must ensure that we can continue to provide the promise of New York, today, and in the future,” testified Stringer.