Velázquez Bill Would Help Communities Navigate, Apply for Benefits
Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-parts of Queens, Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan) has introduced new legislation Tuesday to connect community nonprofit organizations to help address the needs of families and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the on-going pandemic, families and small businesses alike have struggled to stay afloat. The Connecting Communities to Grant Opportunities Act of 2020 provides $200 million in funding for nonprofit organizational outreach to groups helping people and businesses apply for benefits provided by Congress under coronavirus-related legislation.
“For far too long, low income and underserved communities have disproportionately felt the brunt of every disaster and economic downturn our nation faced,” said Velázquez. “We have an obligation to reach out to those who are struggling and help them obtain all the aid that they are eligible for. With this bill, we are empowering underserved communities, vulnerable populations and small businesses that have not been able to apply for benefits even though they meet eligibility criteria.”
Under the proposed legislation, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will coordinate with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Small Business Association (SBA) to distribute grant funds to nonprofits in lower income neighborhoods. These organizations, in turn, perform outreach programs and hire staff to help eligible applicants or businesses for federal aid under coronavirus relief programs. To guarantee the grants will target areas in need, the grant prioritizes navigator programs in qualified low-income census tracts. This act mirrors similar measures found in the Affordable Care Act, which also provided funding to community nonprofits to enact a navigator program. The funding allowed these groups to aid families in obtaining health insurance through the federal Marketplace and Medicaid programs.
Grodenchik Criticizes Con Edison After Isaias
Councilmember Barry S. Grodenchik (D-Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village) on Tuesday, along with other Queens elected officials, questioned Con Edison’s poor response time to Queens residents, thousands of whom continue to be without power because of Tropical Storm Isaias.
“I know that Con Edison, like every agency, faces a tremendous number of locations that require attention after the recent storm,” said Grodenchik. “Residents have been quite patient, but this storm was not a surprise, so Con Edison should have been prepared.”
After the storm, Grodenchik spent the week driving through his district – especially in the hard hit areas of Glen Oaks, Bellerose and Queens Village – to assess the damage and speak with affected residents. The council member and his staff reported power outages to Con Edison and fallen trees to the parks department for response; they also helped to coordinate power restoration between Con Edison and the parks department in critical locations.
Meng Issues Statement on Reopening School Buildings
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) issued the following statement on Wednesday regarding New York City’s plans to reopen school buildings.
“As the mother of two children who attend New York City public schools, I know firsthand how critical it is to ensure the health and safety of our students. Nothing is more important than keeping our kids out of harm’s way, particularly with respect to COVID-19.
I have heard deep concerns from both teachers and parents that safety plans for reopening lack specifics, and that needed resources such as PPE, testing protocols, and equipment for ventilation and cleaning have not yet been made available.
Let me be clear: New York City must do everything humanly possible to protect our students and teachers, and ensure that all safeguards are in place before any in-person classes resume.
New York City teachers have been unsung heroes of this pandemic. As the coronavirus wreaked havoc on our region, they worked through very difficult and challenging circumstances. They entered unchartered territory to set-up and teach in virtual classrooms, and made sure that students were still able to learn. We cannot put them or our children in jeopardy. They and parents must feel safe, and know that all the safety standards they demand are being met. Anything less is unacceptable.
I stand in solidarity with teachers, school employees and parents in fighting to protect our children.”