Queens Lawmakers on the Move Jan. 4, 2021

Queens County City Council News

Holden Urges Mayor to Spare Community Boards from Budget Cuts

City Council Member Bob Holden

City Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Woodside) urged Mayor Bill de Blasio in a letter last week to preserve the already tight budgets of the city’s community boards and look elsewhere for ways to save the city money.

Holden, who served on Community Board 5 for over thirty years, said: 

“While there is a need to tighten our belts during this economic crisis, which was precipitated by a novel coronavirus, I firmly believe that the Program to Eliminate the Gap, otherwise known as PEG, should be focused on larger agencies who can more easily find cuts. Our community boards are already operating on low margins due to the first round of PEGs, and any additional cuts will cripple them ineffective. We cannot afford to lose the services that a community board provides.”

Sanders Appears on The Brian Lehrer Show

State Senator James Sanders Jr. Photo from nysenate.gov

Senator James Sanders Jr. (D–Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Arverne and Far Rockaway) will appear on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show with host Brian Lehrer on Monday. 

The senator will preview the 2021 legislative session and the opportunities to fix New York State’s budget crisis including repealing the stock transfer tax, the millionaire’s tax, and creating a public bank. He will also discuss New York’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps the city and state must take in the new year to ensure equitable opportunities for all.

The radio segment will take place at 10:30 a.m. on January 4. 

Listen live on the WNYC website.

De Blasio Announces Goal of 1 Million Vaccine Doses in January

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week his New Year’s resolution for New York City: administering 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of January. 

With the city’s new three-point plan to double its weekly capacity, and additional support from all levels of government and private partners, the city could increase the pace and scale of its vaccination effort to make this target achievable. This goal cannot be hit by the city alone, without expanded support and increased coordination at every level of government.

“Like any good New Year’s resolution, one million doses by the end of January is an ambitious goal to say the least,” said de Blasio. “We are doing everything we can to vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible, but to really pick up the pace, we need our federal and state partners on board—and fast. It will be tough, but I believe that we can do it.”

With the Vaccine Command Center helping to manage, triage, and coordinate the effort, the city aims to double its weekly capacity for vaccination—from hospitals, to community health care centers, to urgent care clinics—through a three-pronged plan. First, COVID-19 Vaccine Hubs will be launched across the city in January, where New Yorkers in neighborhoods across the city will ultimately be able to go to access a vaccine. Conveniently located testing NYC Heath + Hospitals testing sites will also serve as vaccination centers, in addition to continuing to provide ongoing COVID-19 testing. The city is also calling on local organizations to scale up their capacity to administer vaccines quicker.

While the city is building out its capacity to ramp up vaccinations, continued and increased assistance from the State, Federal government, and private partners is needed to truly achieve these goals, including:

  • Receiving more concrete and comprehensive guidance in advance so that NYC can expand the number of eligible New Yorkers
  • Ensuring supply of the vaccine remains consistent, allowing the city to expand its reach to vaccinate more New Yorkers
  • Private partners: pick up pace of getting shots into arms and increase ability to offer more vaccines to more New Yorkers every day and every week

With all these pieces in play, this New Year’s Resolution is ambitious, but achievable, the mayor’s office said. 

AG James, Cuomo Renew Suspension of State Debt Collection Again

State Attorney General Letitia James
Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that the state will renew, for the ninth time, an order to halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the state of New York that has been specifically referred to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for collection — with limited exceptions — through January 31.

In response to continuing financial impairments resulting from the spread of COVID-19, the OAG renewed orders going through Sunday, January 31, 2021. After this period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for another possible extension. Additionally, the OAG will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the state of New York and referred to the OAG for collection.

“As we head into a new year, millions of New Yorkers are continuing to see and feel the financial impact of COVID-19,” said James. “While hope is on the horizon with a vaccine, my office will not add undue stress or saddle New Yorkers with unnecessary financial burden at this time. We are renewing the suspension of student and medical debt collection referred to my office through the end of January in an effort to alleviate hardships and support New Yorkers as they navigate through these difficult times. My office will continue to look for ways to help New Yorkers to get back on their feet, and, by working together, it is our hope that we can rebuild our state’s economy and move towards a period of recovery.”

“New Yorkers made enormous sacrifices to bend the curve of this deadly virus, and we recognize many people are still struggling with both emotional pain and economic hardship as a result of this crisis,” Cuomo said. “Renewing the suspension on the collection of student and medical debt that is referred to the attorney general’s office for an additional 31 days will help lessen the burden faced by so many families and businesses whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. I’m grateful to the attorney general for her partnership.”

Millions of New Yorkers, like Americans across the nation, have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. Since COVID-19 began to spread rapidly across the country in mid-March, tens of millions of residents across the nation have filed for unemployment, including more than 4.5 million in New York state alone. In an effort to support many New Yorkers economically impacted during this difficult time, James renewed the order — first made in March and renewed in April, in May, in June, in July, in August, in September, in October, and in November — to ease the financial burdens for many workers and families by halting the collection of medical and student debt owed to the state of New York and referred to the OAG for collection — with limited exceptions — through January 31.