NY Lawmakers on the Move, July 15, 2022

Lawmakers on the Move

Ung calls on state to help New Yorkers struggling to pay utility bills

City Council Member Sandra Ung

City Council Member Sandra Ung (D-Queens) yesterday introduced Resolution No. 173-A in the City Council calling on the governor and state legislature to expand financial relief programs to New York City residents who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

“The dramatic and unexpected increases in their utility bills was the last thing New Yorkers still dealing with the economic devastation of the pandemic needed,” said Ung. “While the governor did allocate funding in the budget to address utility arrears, it is not nearly enough money to address the scope of the problem.”

The price charged per megawatt of power nearly tripled, from $50 in December 2021 to $140 in January of 2022. At the same time, this past January’s unusually cold weather meant residents were using more power, which led to spikes in their bills. As we enter the hottest months of the year, customers are sure to see more spikes in their power bills.

The increases affected low-income New Yorkers and communities of color the hardest, which are also the segments of the population who were most impacted by the pandemic. Experts say the issue could lead to multi-generational debt, as well as worsen the city’s existing homeless problem.

Over 400,000 customers in New York City and Westchester County are 60 or more days behind on their ConEd bills, totaling more than $819 million owed. With the state’s pandemic-era moratorium on utility shut-offs ending on December 21 of last year, many are now in danger of losing their power.

While the state-administered Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) does provide some help, it is only available to low-income residents. There is a federal program that provides a one-time payment of up to $10,000 to cover utility arrears, but it can be difficult to qualify.

“People are going to have to choose between paying their housing, food and medical costs, or paying their past-due bills to keep their power on,” said Ung. “The governor and state legislature must expand financial relief programs for New York City residents who are struggling to keep up with their utility bills.”

Clarke on unveiling of Dr. Mary McLeod Statue

U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke

U.S. Reps. Yvette D. Clarke (D-Brooklyn), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Robin Kelly (D-IL), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, yesterday celebrated the statue unveiling of the educator, philanthropist, and civil rights icon, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.

“At long last, our nation has taken the historic step to honor a Black American in our Capitol’s Statuary Hall – and we struggle to imagine a more fitting recipient of that recognition than the incomparable Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. The daughter of enslaved people, Dr. Bethune rose above the impossible hardships of hatred and oppression to devote her life towards providing better tomorrows for the countless young Black women and girls under her care,” said the lawmakers.

“From her work as an educator at Bethune-Cookman College, a school she founded to deliver opportunity to those who had been most deprived of it, to her fierce and fearless activism at the dawn of the civil rights movement, Dr. Bethune’s remarkable legacy is evident in every corner of this country. It is our deep hope that this moment signifies our national commitment to remember stories like hers, rather than those of Confederate generals and traitors whose names should be long forgotten. Not only is Mary McLeod Bethune a hero to this country, she is a hero to each of us. And we are blessed and proud to see her statue rise in the Capitol.”

Cabán, colleagues hold “New York Is A Union Town” rally 

City Council Member Tiffany Cabán

City Council Member Tiffany Cabán and colleagues yesterday joined worker-leaders in a rally spearheading Cabán’s resolution in the city council declaring solidarity with workers organizing unions across the city.

“As the price of food, fuel, medicine, energy, rent, and other essential purchases continue to soar, the billionaire class is extracting profits and over fist, with their wealth going up by almost $2 Trillion during the pandemic,” said Cabán. “Workers are standing up and saying they won’t take it anymore, the number of filings for union elections up 56% this fiscal year compared to 2021. The same bosses reaping the most exorbitant windfall profits are employing the dirtiest, most gutter-scraping union-busting tactics. It won’t work, because we stand with the workers, clearly and without apology. New York is A Union Town!”

“In these times of crisis, unprecedented new organizing drives in industries that have traditionally resisted unionization are one bright spot pointing towards a better future,” said City Council Member Alexa Avilés (D-Brooklyn).

“Workers across the country have reached a breaking point,” said City Council Member Sandy Nurse (D-Brooklyn). “After years of surviving on starvation wages, exploitative and dangerous conditions, meager or nonexistent benefits, and authoritarian bosses that track and clock your every minute, we are seeing widespread unionization efforts to build democratic power in the workplace.”

“As someone who has been a part of not one, but two unions, the right to organize is something that I consider to be sacred,” said City Council Member Rita Joseph (D-Brooklyn). “When unions are strong, it benefits all workers. Today, my colleagues and I are saying loudly and proudly: we will always support the right to unionize!”

Espaillat Votes for Active Shooter Alert Act

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat

U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, Bronx) yesterday voted for legislation to quickly warn New York communities of a nearby active shooter.  

The Active Shooter Alert Act will establish a program similar to the AMBER Alert system, allowing law enforcement to effectively and efficiently alert the public during a shooting.  Secured by the Democratic House Majority, yesterday’s passage follows House Republicans’ inexplicable attempt to obstruct this life-saving legislation last month. 

“New Yorkers, including thousands of survivors, are demanding action to combat gun violence and increase safety across our communities,” said Espaillat. “Building on the enactment of the landmark Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, I proudly voted to help law enforcement keep New Yorkers safe and informed during active shooter incidents.  This commonsense, straightforward measure will equip communities in the state with the resources, training and strategies they need to save lives.  As we work to enact this urgently needed legislation, House Democrats will continue fighting to overcome Republican obstruction and bring our nation’s gun violence epidemic to an end.”

Since 2009, communities across the nation have been torn apart by nearly 300 mass shootings – attacks that have killed more than 1,500 people and wounded 1,000 more.  Among the most urgent challenges during an active shooter incident is the need to prevent additional victims from unknowingly walking into the line of fire. 

Malliotakis: Judges Elected in Manhattan Should Not Serve on Staten Island

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island, Brooklyn) yesterday sent a letter to the New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts, Lawrence Marks, urging them to make the necessary changes to ensure judges elected by Staten Islanders are serving within the borough’s court system, including over the weekends.

The letter comes as New York City Civil Court Judge Lisa Headley, who was elected to the court in August 2015 by residents of Manhattan within the city’s 8th Municipal Court District, granted unsupervised release to Bessam Camacho, a career criminal, one day after he was arrested on Staten Island with a loaded gun, despite prosecutors’ request to hold him on $250,000 bail.

“The release of this individual, who was taken into NYPD custody 10 times prior, is the latest example of those, not elected by the constituencies they are adjudicating upon, making bad decisions that jeopardize the well-being and safety of the surrounding community,” Malliotakis wrote. “[Judge Headley] was not elected by Staten Island voters, yet Staten Island, a community that supports law and order with the proclivity to elect more conservative judges, is subjected to the decisions of off-Island judges. I implore you to make the necessary changes to ensure that judges elected by Staten Islanders themselves are serving within this borough’s court system, including over the weekends.”