Queens Lawmakers on the Move Dec. 22, 2020

Queens County City Council News

AOC Shines Light on Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Astoria, College Point, Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside, parts of the Bronx) said that she encourages the community to buy local and uplift small businesses during the holiday season. 

This weekend, she began a small business series on social media to share the unique stories of NY-14 shop owners and street vendors, and to highlight their ingenuity and struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the series, many brick and mortar stores shared the challenges they face paying rent and other regular bills while working with shifting regulations. Street vendors have also been impacted by decreases in foot traffic while continuing to face inflated prices on the black market for permits, paying upwards of $20k for permits that should cost $200 from the city.

To view the business series, click here for Jackson Heights and here for City Island.

Meng Secures Funds for Houses of Worship, Nonprofit Security

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), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced on Monday that she secured a record breaking $180 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the federal initiative that provides houses of worship (synagogues, churches, mosques, temples) and nonprofit entities such as educational institutions and community facilities with funding to protect their properties against threats and attacks. 

Meng secured the funds in the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill which is expected to soon be passed by the House and Senate as part of the omnibus spending package.  

The surge in funding would be for fiscal year 2021. It is a $90 million increase – doubling the funding from fiscal year 2020. Meng has consistently worked to increase funding for the grant program over the last several years including a record $90 million for fiscal year 2020.

“This funding is greatly needed to ensure the security of houses of worship, schools, nonprofits and other facilities, and it will go a long way towards keeping our communities safe,” said Meng. “With government resources tight this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m pleased to have still been able to obtain these critical federal dollars. We can never take a backseat to safety. It must remain our top priority, especially following recent acts of violence and hate that have occurred across our nation. I urge houses of worship and nonprofits in New York and across the country to apply for these important grants, and I will continue to champion funding for this crucial initiative.”  

The grants, which are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), cover target-hardening and other physical security enhancements such as barriers, gates, safety gear, surveillance equipment, and other safety measures. 

The program is comprised of two streams of funds: the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) which consists of money for urban areas and the State Homeland Securities Program (SHSP) which consists of funding for non-urban areas. Under the funding increase, both have received $90 million each.

De Blasio Lauds COVID Vaccine Administration

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that over 42% of vaccine doses have now been administered in New York City, over double the national average of 19%. 

With the city’s vaccination effort now underway, de Blasio also launched the Vaccine Command Center website to track the City’s progress in administering the vaccine in real-time.

“Hope is on the horizon in New York City,” said de Blasio. “We are moving full steam ahead to get out healthcare workers and nursing homes the vaccines they need to win the battle against the virus once and for all.”

To date, 18,105 doses have been administered in New York City out of the 42,900 doses distributed to healthcare workers and nursing homes. Comparatively only 556,208 of the 2,838,225 total doses distributed nationwide have been administered. To add to New York City’s existing supply, the FDA has also now authorized the Moderna vaccine. It will be shipped to New York City in the coming days.

Addabbo Launches Website for NYS Italian-American Legislators

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and parts of South Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside and The Rockaways) President of the New York State Italian-American Conference of State Legislators — a group of elected officials from across the state that are interested in promoting and amplifying Italian culture and achievement — announced on Monday the launch of a brand new website to help the conference grow.

“As President of the New York State Italian-American Conference of State Legislators, I am very excited to announce the launch of our official website,” Addabbo said. “Over the past few months we have worked to develop a user-friendly site as a way for our conference to share pertinent information, grow partnerships, to promote the positive aspects of Italian heritage, and create online fundraising opportunities.”

The vision for the new website is to provide visitors a one-stop information portal to learn about the NYS Conference of Italian-American Legislators, browse upcoming events and announcements, apply for scholarships, access to sponsor opportunities, and provide feedback. This new website will also provide broad fundraising opportunities, through online advertising and individual donor options, for the conference’s annual distribution of student scholarships. 

During a normal legislative session, the Italian American Conference meets each month to discuss issues of interest, advocacy opportunities and to coordinate their annual Italian-American Festa. The primary purpose of this annual event is to raise funds for scholarships, while also providing an opportunity to recognize Italian-Americans who have contributed to society through such endeavors as the arts, labor, sports, and government.

This year, the conference members proudly advocated for the installation of the statue of Mother Cabrini in NYC, which was ultimately unveiled during this year’s Columbus Day events.

Visit the website at www.nyiacsl.org.

Stringer Releases Audit on Infant Safety in Homeless Shelters

Comptroller Scott Stringer

New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released an audit on Monday of infant safety within the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelter system, revealing widespread hazardous conditions in sampled shelters where infants reside – including exposed electrical outlets, mold and mildew, vermin infestations, broken or missing window guards, and unsafe cribs. 

The Comptroller’s auditors found deficiencies raising health and safety concerns in all 13 shelters they visited and 92 percent of the 91 units they inspected, including 32 units with 4 or more safety concerns in 11 shelters. The audit also found that non-compliant shelter operators faced no apparent consequences; five of the 13 shelters in the audit sample were allowed to continue doing business with the City after receiving poor performance evaluations from DHS. Stringer recommended ten measures to protect the safety and wellbeing of infants in City shelters, including action by DHS to ensure that providers inspect all units where infants reside weekly, promptly correct all deficiencies found, and properly instruct all families with infants on safe sleep practices promptly after they enter a shelter.

“As a parent, I find the conditions we uncovered shameful, distressing and unacceptable. Our young children are the most vulnerable among us; they rely completely on us, as adults, to protect and care for them. Our investigation into infant safety in homeless shelters found that the City has utterly failed in its responsibility,” said Stringer. “It is a stain on this City that babies in our care are sleeping alongside vermin, breathing in mold and mildew, and playing near live electrical outlets. Even one child exposed to these conditions is too many, but our audit found safety violations in 92 percent of the units we inspected. Families experiencing homelessness enter the shelter system seeking safety and stability in their time of need, and we must not allow a child’s first days and months to be spent in an environment that poses a direct threat to their health and wellbeing. I urge the City to immediately correct this unacceptable state of affairs and adopt the recommendations outlined in this report to protect the young lives in shelter care. We don’t have a second to waste.”

To read Stringer’s report on DHS’ care of infants residing in the shelter system, click here.

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