Queens Lawmakers on the Move May 15, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Ramos, Constantinides Put Focus Outer Borough Small Business 

State Sen. Jessica Ramos
City Council Member Costa Constantinides

State Senator Jessica Ramos (D- Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, parts of Astoria, Woodside) and City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) are calling on the city to create a comprehensive strategy to help small businesses in Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, many of which are immigrant-owned and operated, that are suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. 

The lawmakers’ formally called on the City to undertake this necessary work in a May 11 letter to Mayor de Blasio; Gregg Bishop, the recently appointed Senior Advisor for Small Business Related to COVID-19; and Jonnel Doris, the newly named Commissioner of Small Business Services (SBS).

As the city begins the conversation around how to restart its economy as the COVID-19 spread is curbed, new statistics show Manhattan small businesses accounted for the majority of the 2,600 firms who received more than $19 million from two SBS-run relief programs. More than half of the NYC Employee Retention Grant’s payout went to Manhattan businesses, as did 66% of the NYC Business Continuity Loan Fund. 

Queens, with more than double the population of Manhattan, received 9% of the grant’s payout and 16% of the loan’s funds. Brooklyn small businesses received 18% and 25%, respectively. 

“Our small businesses all over New York City are suffering through the COVID-19 crisis, yet only ones in Manhattan benefited most from SBS relief,” said Ramos. “The city must create a robust plan to reach out to our small businesses, many of which here in Western Queens are owned by immigrant families, to create constructive ways to give them help.” 

“Western Queens’ small businesses represent the American dream, with owners and workers who come from every corner of the globe,” said Constantinides. “Yet so many barriers keep them from accessing vital City services or support — especially now. Without a full-scale plan to reach out to our small businesses, access their needs, and adapt, this will be a tale of two recoveries.” 

Meng Calls For Improved Key Loan Programs

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D- Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) announced yesterday that she sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza urging them to support and implement improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, two critical initiatives intended to aid small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

Meng’s correspondence calls for fair treatment of PPP applications, ensuring the participation of women- and minority-owned businesses in both programs, providing improved data on businesses receiving assistance, waiving the EIDL program’s six month waiting period for denied applicants to reapply, and extending the eight week period for PPP loans.

“Small businesses play a critical role in our City’s neighborhoods and communities, providing jobs and critical services to New Yorkers,” said Meng. “Relief programs to assist these businesses must be more effective as we continue our fight against the coronavirus. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Carranza must do more to improve the Paycheck Protection and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs so that they work better for small business owners. We must do everything possible to help small businesses survive this global health crisis, and that includes making sure these two initiatives are truly helping entrepreneurs.”

Velázquez Presses HHS to Explain Remdesivir Distribution 

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan) is pressing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an explanation on how the agency has distributed donated doses of “remdesivir”, a drug that has shown promise in shortening recovery time for patients suffering from COVID-19.  

In a letter to the Secretary of HHS and the agency’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Velázquez asks for a better explanation as to how the agency is prioritizing the medicine’s distribution.

Her letter follows conversations with personnel at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center who expressed that the hospital, which has been a coronavirus hotspot, was denied the drug. 

“From the outset, the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic has been characterized by incompetence and cronyism,” said Velázquez. “Now, we’re hearing some hospitals in coronavirus hotspots, often minority communities, were denied access to this vital drug. We need a fuller accounting from HHS on how this drug is being distributed and to be sure HHS is sending doses directly to hospitals that need it most.”

“If Trump’s HHS can’t target allocation of this relatively small amount of a donated drug to where it’s needed, it begs the question whether it could effectively handle widespread distribution of a vaccine or other therapies once developed,” she added.  

City Expands Trace & Testing To Woodside

Mayor BIll de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday that any person with COVID-19 symptoms is now eligible to receive a test in New York City, and added 51-30 Northern Boulevard in Woodside as a testing site. 

Those who have been exposed to a positive case or work in a congregate residential setting are also eligible for testing regardless of symptoms. This comes as the City continues to expand its testing capacity with the aim to test and trace every positive case of COVID-19.

“Lack of widespread testing was our achilles heel from day one, but we’re rewriting that story every day,” said de Blasio. “Our effort to test and trace very New Yorker in need of a test is coming together at lightning speed, giving us the tools we need to defeat the virus once and for all.”

New Yorkers will now be eligible to receive a COVID-19 test if they have:

·         COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of age, chronic conditions or occupation

·         Come in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, regardless of symptoms

·         Work in a congregate residential setting (nursing home, shelter, or adult care facility), regardless of symptoms

Please Visit nyc.gov/covidtest to find a community testing site near you.

Gillibrand Urges Congress to Support Vulnerable Renters & the Homeless

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) yesterday joined calls for Congress to prioritize the needs of homeless and housing insecure Americans by providing robust funding in the next coronavirus relief package. 

As a cosponsor of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, Gillibrand is pushing Congress to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance to help families and individuals pay their rent and remain housed during and after the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gillibrand has also cosponsored the Public Health Emergency Shelter Act, which would provide an additional $11.5 billion in critical funding to state and local governments to respond to the needs of families and individuals experiencing homelessness during this crisis. 

“This pandemic has caused steep and unique barriers for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity,” said Gillibrand. “It is our job as public servants to protect our most vulnerable and we must ensure that at-risk Americans are able to remain housed and have access to housing and shelters during this crisis. We must also provide assistance to recently unemployed families and individuals to ensure that they can pay rent during and after this crisis. I’m proud to push for these critical pieces of legislation and I will work to include them in the next relief package.”

Sanders Hosts Unemployment Insurance Info Session

State Sen. James Sanders Jr.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway) today is hosting a virtual Unemployment Insurance Information forum. 

The forum will address the multiple issues residents are having in filing an unemployment insurance claim. Experts will be on hand.

The info session is slated for 12 noon, today, May 15 on Facebook Live. Facebook.com/StateSenatorJamesSandersJr/