‘KEEP PROMISE FOR FEMA TO COVER FULL COST’: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter on May 11 asking President Donald Trump to fulfill his commitment to authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to cover the full costs of New York’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“More than 21,600 New Yorkers have died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than 337,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the virus,” the Chairwoman wrote. “New York urgently needs federal assistance to combat this unprecedented public health crisis and to prevent more people from being infected, getting sick, and dying.”
On March 13, the President declared a national emergency as a result of the coronavirus, which made states eligible for assistance for at least 75% of the cost of their coronavirus response efforts.
On March 21, Governor Cuomo announced that he was requesting the federal government waive the 25% cost-sharing for New York, explaining that, “if there is any situation where FEMA should waive the 25%, this is the situation.”
After a meeting with the President at the White House on April 21, Governor Cuomo announced that the President had agreed to waive the 25% state match for FEMA: “Normally a state has to pay 25 percent of the FEMA cost. That would be a cruel irony for New York and adding insult to injury.…So, the President agreed to waive that. That’s hundreds of millions of the dollars to the State of New York.”
After this meeting, President Trump stated:
“I’m proud of the relationship my administration has forged with New York and, I can say very honestly, with New York State and New York City. They’ve been terrific to work with. The New York metropolitan area has been the epicenter of the outbreak here in America, and the federal government has spared no expense or resource to get New Yorkers the care they need and the care they deserve.”
However, President Trump still has not authorized FEMA to carry out his pledge.
“New York has been the worst-hit state in the nation, and our citizens cannot afford further delays in receiving the federal funding necessary to combat this public health crisis,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote. “You promised to help, but your commitment has been languishing for weeks in a clouded muddle of bureaucratic inaction. I ask that you provide clear direction – today – to instruct FEMA to make good on your pledge and help the people of New York.”
PROTECTED BIKE LANE COMING TO CRESCENT STREET: Councilman Costa Constantinides, District 22, issued the following statement in response to Mayor de Blasio’s announcement that work would begin to build a protected bike lane along Crescent Street, between Queens Plaza and Hoyt Avenue: ”Though Crescent Street deserved this protected bike lane long before this pandemic shut down New York City, I am thrilled to see its construction finally begin. Going to work shouldn’t be a daily life-or-death scenario, but sadly it too often is. Those who can cycle deserve a safe north-to-south route, from the Triborough Bridge to the Queensborough Bridge. My office is ready to work with the Department of Transportation to get this right, especially as later phases move north and interact with Mount Sinai Queens. I hope this is just the first step in creating a holistic transit network for western Queens.”
Constantinides has called for a holistic transit network in western Queens that prioritizes bike infrastructure, especially when it comes to connecting neighborhoods.
In September, Constantinides first supported a protected bike lane along Crescent Street, which would provide a north-to-south connection between Astoria and Long Island City. That same month, he called on the MTA to install protective fencing along the pedestrian path of the Triborough Bridge, as well as reopen the southern pedestrian path. Such moves would enable cycling along the Queens-Randalls Island span, which is currently banned.
Last month, Constantinides called on the New York City Department of Transportation to close the Queensborough Bridge’s southern outer roadway to cars. He argued this will provide separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians, which, in turn, allows commuters to practice social distancing across the bridge.
NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris also issued the following statement following the mayor’s announcement: “I am glad we are finally seeing better bike infrastructure in western Queens with a protected bike lane on Crescent Street. There is more work to be done, including improving bike access over our bridges, and I look forward to working with Transportation Alternatives and their Queens lead Juan Restrepo to make it happen.”
MENG: IMPROVE KEY SMAL BIZ LOANS: US Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on May 14 that she sent a letter to US 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 (MWBE) 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.
The Coronavirus Relief, Aid, and Economic Security Act, H.R. 748 created PPP which provides forgivable loans to small businesses provided that 75 percent of the loan is used to keep employees on payroll. The remaining 25 percent could be used for rent, utilities, or mortgage interest.
The EIDL program provides low-interest loans to small businesses after a presidential disaster declaration is made. Those loans are designed to provide small businesses with operating funds until those businesses recover. In March, Meng introduced legislation with Reps. Velázquez and Chu that expanded the EIDL program to help small businesses suffering economic harm due to COVID-19, which became law as part of the first coronavirus relief package.
‘REFOCUS SMALL BUSINESS OUTREACH OUTSIDE MANHATTAN’: NYS Senator Jessica Ramos and Council Member Costa Constantinides are calling on the City of New York 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.
KATZ ON EXPEDITING DISPOSITIONS OF CRIMINAL CASES: The Queens District Attorney’s Office had its first pre-indictment felony plea this week during this ongoing health crisis. The office has taken other felony pleas in Supreme Court, post-indictment during the current pandemic. However, this pre-indictment case was moved up from its scheduled June 4 court date and the defendant appeared virtually in Queens Criminal Court on Monday, May 11, where she pleaded guilty to a weapons charge. This case was expedited with special considerations made in regards to both the plea and the sentencing in order to resolve the case without keeping the defendant at Rikers Island during the coronavirus pandemic while still keeping public safety in mind.
The defendant, a woman who had been been arrested last year, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second-degree after police executed a court-authorized search warrant and found a gun in her residence. The defendant had a court date in January, but allegedly failed to appear and the Court issued a bench warrant. The defendant was returned involuntarily in March and was remanded.
Continuing, DA Katz conveyed the case moved forward with an assistant district attorney’s evaluating the defendant with the possibility of resolving the case with the woman taking a conditional plea based on participating in an alternative sentencing program. Upon completion of that program, she will have her case vacated and therefore will no longer have a felony conviction on her record.
BILL PROVIDES EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE: Following the introduction of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) issued the following statement.
“Through no fault of their own, New Yorkers and Americans across the country are struggling to pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis. Our nation must implement bold solutions that do not leave tenants behind and provide tangible rent relief. That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020, which would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund to help struggling renters across the country. Nobody should lose sleep worrying about how they will keep a roof over their head during a pandemic, and I will continue to fight for all provisions that can deliver meaningful housing relief to my constituents.”
In March, Rep. Maloney successfully won a moratorium on foreclosure and eviction proceedings for more than 70% of homeowners who have mortgages backed by the federal government or by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Maloney is a cosponsor of The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act of 2020 which would suspend rent payments during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Congresswoman is also supportive of Rep. Nydia Velázquez’s Ensuring Affordable Housing Security During the Coronavirus Emergency Act to suspend rent payments for everyone living in Section 8 and NYCHA housing.
At the local level, the Maloney has advocated and voiced her strong support of Senate Bill S.8125A to suspend commercial and residential rent payments for New Yorkers financially impacted by COVID-19. She is also supportive of Senate Bill S.8140A and Assembly Bill A.10248 to establish a COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program.
CAPPING FEES ON ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY: The Queens Chamber of Commerce issued the following statement on behalf of President and CEO Thomas J. Grech in response to the New York City Council passing a bill that will limit the fees charged to restaurants by online food delivery platforms: “Restaurants are a crucial part of New York City’s economy, and the local economies of neighborhoods in all five boroughs. Our restaurants have been devastated by this public health and economic crisis and if we fail to act many of the 25,000 restaurants in New York City, including 6,000 in Queens, will close their doors for good.
“We applaud the Council for taking the important first step of capping the fees online platforms can charge, which will ensure that multibillion-dollar corporations cannot use their market share to exploit our small businesses. This will be a great help to restaurant owners struggling to make ends meet. We thank Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Council Members Mark Gjonaj and Francisco Moya for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with them and the entire Council to help small businesses bounce back from this crisis.”
Councilman Paul Vallone explained, “With the survival of many independent restaurants hanging in the balance, lawmakers are stepping in to limit how much third-party delivery companies like DoorDash and Grubhub can charge restaurants for orders for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The New York City Council voted to restrict food delivery fees paid by restaurants to delivery providers like Grubhub’s Seamless to 15% or less of the order. The council also voted to approve caps of 5% for non-delivery services. Mayor Bill de Blasio still has to sign the bill into law, but he has previously voiced support. Without restrictions on delivery fees, restaurants typically pay between15% and 30% on orders placed with delivery providers.
Councilman Vallone said he is “proud to co-sponsor these two bills by NYC Council colleagues Mark Gjonaj and Francisco Moya that will limit commissions from food delivery apps and keep profit in the hands of the local small businesses who need it!”
CORONAVIRUS FUNDING FOR LOCAL HEALTH PROVIDERS: Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on May 12 the awarding of $50.7 million in federal funding for health-related providers located in her congressional district. The funds, which are allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, will help 1,485 local providers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act was the third coronavirus relief bill that was passed by Congress and enacted into law.
“Queens has been the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and many of my constituents continue to suffer from the effects of the outbreak,” said Rep. Meng. “These funds are vital. It is essential that we receive the financial resources we need, and I’m pleased that funding from the CARES Act is making its way to providers in communities throughout our congressional district. I commend this funding, but we need even more, and I will continue the fight to ensure that we obtain all the money we deserve.”
The $50.7 million will go to medical offices, labs, hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and other health-related facilities.
BILL PROHIBITS BANKS GARNISHING STIMULUS CHECKS: Representatives Gregory W. Meeks and Ayanna Pressley introduced legislation on May 13 which protects stimulus checks from garnishment and fees. The Protect our Checks Act of 2020 ensures that stimulus payments authorized by Congress in the CARES Act, in response to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot be garnished to settle debts or other payments. Text of the Protect our Checks Act of 2020 was included in the HEROES Act, unveiled by Speakers Pelosi and House Democratic leadership, as the next phase in congressional support for American families and frontline workers. The introduction of this legislation is a follow-up to a letter that Representatives Meeks and Pressley sent on May 1 to the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) asking the agencies to immediately issue regulation or guidance to restrict financial institutions from seizing economic impact payments to collect on outstanding debts, such as overdraft fees.
“The Administration never should have allowed the garnishment of stimulus payments that Congress authorized to provide financial support for American families at a time of greatest financial need and vulnerability. American families cannot afford to have these stimulus payments garnished as they struggle to pay rent and utilities, keep food on the table, and pay healthcare bills,” said Congressman Meeks, who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions.
“It is egregious that payments intended to serve as a lifeline would be garnished and diverted away from American families during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “No one should be profiting off this pandemic”
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters was also an original cosponsor of the Protect our Checks Act of 2020.
OVERSIGHT FINDS ICE MISLEADS VIRUS SPREAD: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding the Administration’s inability to prevent the now deadly spread of coronavirus in detention centers housing detainees.
“Despite our repeated attempts to secure information, ICE has failed to fully respond to our requests, casting serious doubt on its preparedness for this crisis,” wrote Maloney and Raskin. ”ICE has failed to take this crisis seriously, and three people—that Congress and the American people know about—have now died. At each step of the way, the agency has waited rather than acted, prioritizing continued detention of thousands of non-violent detainees regardless of the life-and-death consequences for immigrants, employees, contractors, or their families.”
The May 14 letter is the Committee’s third request for information about DHS’s coronavirus plans for detention facilities. Chairs Maloney and Raskin wrote letters on March 11, and April 7 before ICE Acting Director Albence and CBP Acting Commissioner Morgan briefed the Committee on how DHS is addressing coronavirus risks in immigration detention facilities on April 17.
The letter found that ICE is:
- Contradicting CDC guidance on “cohorting,” transfers, social distancing and PPE;
- Misleading the Committee on its review of detainee population;
- Unnecessarily detaining medically vulnerable immigrants;
- Facing an infection rate higher than any state with no contingency plan; and
- Repeatedly failing to provide critical information to the Committee.
“ICE’s actions are inconsistent with its public statements and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leading to conditions far more dangerous than those faced by the general public,” added Maloney and Raskin.
The Committee requests that ICE provide all previously requested information by May 21, and schedule a briefing and documents relating to the death of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia by May 22.
‘VICTORY FOR ENVIRONMENT’: NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo thanked advocates for fighting the Williams Pipeline as NYS DEC rejected the project: “I believe the state’s denial of the Williams Pipeline is consistent with its previous concerns regarding the project and is a great victory for our environment. I have joined many opponents of the pipeline, such as my constituents in Rockaway, in highlighting the unwarranted need for this costly Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project, better known as the Williams Pipeline, since it was announced. Now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has denied the project because it would not meet our state’s water quality standards. I would like to thank all of the advocates and volunteers who came together to protect our environment from a project that would be obsolete in the near future, as we are innovating new ways of providing clean energy for the New York.”
DA KATZ ANNOUNCES HUMAN TRAFFICKING BUREAU: District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on May 18 the creation of a Human Trafficking Bureau. District Attorney Katz said, “This newly formed Bureau will combat sex and labor trafficking by aggressively prosecuting traffickers and buyers of sex and will also connect survivors of trafficking with meaningful services to empower them to escape their traffickers, and provide community outreach, education and information aimed toward preventing and identifying trafficking in our communities.
“The sex trafficking industry is a brutal, degrading and illegal enterprise that far too often profits by forcing women, children and members of our transgender community into prostitution. But there are other forms of trafficking, such as forcing individuals to work with little or no pay.”
The 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, issued by the US Department of State, reveals that a staggering 24.9 million people are robbed of their freedom and basic human dignity by sex and labor traffickers in the United States. Traffickers often use violence, threats, deception, debt bondage and other manipulative tactics.
Queens County is leading in New York City with its rich cultural and ethnic diversity. It is home to two international airports and home to a large percentage of foreign-born and undocumented persons. Therefore, Queens is a prime geographical location for traffickers to target and exploit those most at risk. Traffickers often target already vulnerable and marginalized members of society, such as homeless youth, undocumented immigrants, those with substance abuse or mental health issues, as well as those who face discrimination or gender inequality, and have little economic or social support systems.
At the same time, District Attorney Katz said, she is focused on holding traffickers and buyers of sex accountable for their role in the facilitation of human trafficking. Recent prosecutions demonstrate this. In January, 23-year-old Tyquan Henderson was convicted of sex trafficking a 16-year-old victim. This defendant is awaiting sentencing at which time he faces up to nine years in prison.
In February 2020, said DA Katz, defendant David Viltus, 31, pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the heinous attack against his transgender girlfriend. The defendant repeatedly stabbed her in the head and face after she refused to continue to engage in prostitution. Viltus is expected to be sentenced to 10 years in prison later this month. In another case, defendant Julius Heusner, 27, was sentenced on a felony charge of aggravated patronizing a minor for prostitution, related to paying a 16-year-old child to perform sex acts on him in a parked car. The defendant is required to register as a sex offender and complete a program designed to educate and deter buyers of sex from continuing to exploit young women sexually.
These convictions, said DA Katz, demonstrate her commitment to aggressively investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of these “degrading crimes that deprive many vulnerable members of our community of their liberty and free will. Human trafficking is a horrific form of modern-day slavery.”
HOUSE BILL CREATES COMPENSATION FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Congressman Peter King (R-NY), and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced on May 14 the introduction of the bipartisan Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act.
Modeled after the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), this new fund would provide compensation for injuries to any individual, or their families, who are deemed an essential worker and required to leave their home to perform services and who have become ill or died as a result of COVID-19.
The Members joined last Thursday in a virtual event with the Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA), Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA), and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers; to discuss the legislation and its importance to essential workers in all industries.
“On September 11, it was the firefighters and officers who ran into the burning buildings to save lives. Today, it is hospital workers – nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians and all essential workers. We owe them more than applause at 7 pm,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “In this fight against the coronavirus, it is the first responders, retail workers, transit workers, grocery store clerks, delivery workers, janitorial staff, sanitation workers, mail carriers, hospitality workers, and federal, state and local employees who are on the frontlines, walking into the fire every day as they risk their health to make sure we are safe, fed, and healthy.”
The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act would:
Establish a compensation fund for all essential workers, personnel, and their families, across all industries, that were required to leave their homes to perform their services and became ill or died as a result of COVID-19;
Support essential workers affected by COVID-19 across the country in their recovery by providing critical financial assistance to help with medical costs, loss of employment, loss of business, replacement services, and burial costs; and more.
Family members who share homes with essential workers and became sick through contact with the essential worker would also be eligible to file a claim.
HEROES ACT INCLUDES TOP OVERSIGHT PRIORITIES: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement on May 12 after The Heroes Act was introduced in the House of Representatives: “I am very proud that so many priorities of the Committee on Oversight and Reform were included in this bill. The Postal Service needs immediate emergency assistance, and this bill would provide funding to ensure that it can continue serving the American people through this crisis. In addition, recognizing that Congress has a constitutional responsibility to help ensure a fair and accurate Census, this bill extends key deadlines as a result of the coronavirus crisis while enhancing congressional oversight of Census operations. Finally, in response to the Administration fighting oversight tooth and nail, this bill includes protections to promote the independence of inspectors general and helps them hold agencies accountable.”
The Heroes Act, H.R. 6800, includes several provisions offered by Chairwoman Maloney and Committee Democrats, including Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Gerry Connolly and Vice Chairman Jimmy Gomez:
Emergency Funding for the Postal Service: The bill would provide the Postal Service with $25 billion in emergency funding to avoid entering into bankruptcy and shuttering operations at a time when American lives depend on it every single day. The bill also would provide $15 million for the Inspector General to conduct oversight of this funding, and it would provide additional protections for postal workers.
Stronger Protections for Inspectors General; The bill would allow Inspectors General to be removed only for specified causes, including permanent incapacity, inefficiency, neglect of duty, malfeasance, felony conviction, conduct involving moral turpitude, knowing violation of a law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, or abuse of authority.
In addition, the bill provides for Additional Oversight of Census; Additional Flexibility for Pandemic Response Accountability Committee; and Enhanced Federal Worker Protections.
MALONEY’S FLOOR STATEMENT SUPPORTING HEROES ACT: On May 15 Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, delivered the following remarks extracted from her speech on the House Floor in support of H.R. 6800, The Heroes Act:
“I rise in strong support of the Heroes Act. This bill will provide $100 billion in total relief to New York State – emergency aid that is desperately needed by the state that is on the frontline of our national fight against coronavirus. There is more than $17 billion that will flow directly to New York City whose people continue to inspire the country with their resilience, courage and compassion.
“The Act includes critical support for renters…the federal government will pay their rent for them with a $100 billion fund. As Chair of the Oversight Committee, I led a bipartisan effort to save the Postal Service from financial ruin – this bill will provide $25 billion to ensure that it can continue serving the American public during this crisis.
“I thank the numerous members on both sides of the aisle who have joined me in supporting that funding. This emergency assistance will mean that we can avoid drastic service cuts at a time when American lives depend on the mail more and more every single day.
“The bill would also enhance Congressional oversight of Census operations. This administration has fought legitimate oversight tooth and nail and the bill has added protections for this essential function.”
MENG’S STATEMENT ON THE HEROES ACT: US Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on May 15 after passage of the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) in the House of Representatives.
“This is an unprecedented moment in history and it requires an unprecedented response by Congress. I was proud to join my colleagues today to pass legislation that puts families and frontline workers first. As a representative of Queens, I have seen firsthand the pain and suffering the coronavirus has caused, and how many of my constituents are hurting and need help,” said Rep. Meng. “Given the scale and scope of this damage, we must address this crisis with measures that meet the gravity of this moment. The sobering statistics of this national health crisis paint a grim picture in our country: over 84,000 people have died, there are nearly 1.4 million confirmed cases, and over 36 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits. People are hurting; they’re scared for their safety and their health. Many are worried about how to pay their rent or mortgage, and how to put food on the table. They need a lifeline, and the Heroes Act provides one.
“Among the provisions are nearly a $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments, and a second round of more substantial economic stimulus payments that will ease the financial burden many are experiencing due to COVID-19.”
“I was especially pleased to see that the Heroes Act includes hazard pay for all of our frontline workers – a provision for which I strongly advocated,” Meng added. “Many of these essential frontline workers are often overlooked. It is only just to see property service workers, agricultural workers, warehouse employees, and grocery store employees, covered by this provision. Our janitors, security officers, residential door persons and others are often left out of these conversations, but they are crucial to keeping key buildings and facilities up and running.
“The Senate must act and pass the Heroes Act swiftly.”
Items in the bill that Meng fought to secure include:
- More cash assistance to families and children.
- $200 billion to fund hazard pay for frontline workers.
- Expansion and increase in funding for SNAP, and allowing the program to cover hot food purchases from retailers.
- Ability of immigrants who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) to receive economic stimulus payments, and making these funds retroactive.
- Extension of work permits for immigrants, many of whom are serving as essential workers on the frontlines of combating the coronavirus pandemic.
- Inclusion of her legislation, the Emergency Educational Connections Act (H.R. 6563), which would provide $1.5 billion for internet access for students who are doing remote learning.
- Nearly $200 billion to help struggling renters and homeowners pay their rent and mortgages to help them stay in their homes.
- Billions for coronavirus testing and contract tracing, both critical components to combating the spread of the virus, and eventually re-opening our nation.
- More money to New York State and New York City – the nexus of this pandemic.
- Extensions of the enhanced unemployment insurance through January 2021 to provide relief for those who are struggling after losing their jobs.
- Elimination of the 75/25 rule for the Paycheck Protection Program, and an increase in the flexibility of PPP loan usage from 8 weeks to 24 weeks.
H.R. 6800 now goes to the US Senate.
MALONEY ENDORSED BY THE LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was endorsed on May 14 by the League of Conservation Voters for reelection in 2020. Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, “Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is dedicated to protecting our environment. Not only did she receive a perfect score of 100% on the 2019 National LCV Environmental Scorecard, she also sponsored legislation to conserve our public lands and supported legislation to require that the US adhere to the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord. That?s why we are proud to stand with Congresswoman Maloney in her reelection, and we urge voters in Congressional District 12 to cast their ballot for her on Election Day.”
Said Maloney, “The League of Conservation Voters has done an incredible job advocating for policies that protect our environment and encourage conservation efforts. I?m honored to have their endorsement as I fight for a Green New Deal, push back on the Trump administration?s environmental abuses and work to ensure clean air and water for every American.”
Maloney is an original co-sponsor on the Green New Deal, and a co-sponsor on the Green New Deal for Public Housing. She has been a vocal opponent of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken the EPA, and of the EPA’s decision to stop enforcing environmental laws during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maloney has also introduced the RECIPE Act, a bill that would help serve environmental justice by helping fund community pocket parks around the country.
She was instrumental in having Newtown Creek, on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, declared a Superfund site, as well as helping secure funds for the creek?s cleanup.
In addition to the League of Conservation Voters, Congresswoman Maloney?s 2020 endorsements already include End Citizens United, Brady United Against Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Progressive Caucus PAC, National Organization of Women Political Action Committee (NOW PAC), Off the Sidelines PAC, NARAL Pro-Choice America, a number of labor unions, and numerous Democratic Clubs, elected officials and community leaders. Her full list of 2020 endorsements can be viewed at www.carolynmaloney.com/endorsements.
AMID PANDEMIC, NURSES STAND WITH GIANARIS: NYS Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris proudly announced his endorsement by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). The state’s largest union of nurses, NYSNA represents more than 42,000 frontline nurses providing essential services during the covid-19 pandemic.
“New York’s nurses are on the frontlines of this pandemic and I am honored to stand with them as we fight for the protective equipment and good working conditions they need and deserve at this moment in history,” said Senator Gianaris. ”I am humbled to receive NYSNA’s endorsement and pledge to continue fighting for the needs of our nurses.”
“NYSNA is proud to endorse Michael Gianaris in NY’s 12th State Senate District,” said NYSNA President Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, RN. “We appreciate Mike’s leadership on behalf of working New Yorkers, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic. From advocating for nurses and essential workers, to healthcare justice, to housing justice, we know Mike will continue to fight for us in Albany.”
Gianaris has been providing aid to frontline workers during the covid-19 pandemic, including passing more than $40 million in emergency relief earlier this year. He has ensured area hospitals have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for all its nursing staff, his supporters note.
Since launching his re-election campaign, Senator Gianaris has been endorsed by a range of organizations representing working people. In addition to the Nurses Association, he is supported by the Sanitation Workers Union, 1199 SEIU, SEIU 32BJ, NY Hotel Trades Council, CWA, NASW-PACE, Public Employees Federation, RWDSU, and the Working Families Party. He is also endorsed by Make the Road Action, Tenants PAC, the New York Immigration Coalition, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Stonewall Democrats.
YANG’S HUMANITY FORWARD ENDORSES CONSTANTINIDES: Humanity Forward, the advocacy organization launched by former Presidential contender Andrew Yang, named Queens Borough President candidate Costa Constantinides among its first round of endorsements to lead New York City to a stronger, fairer future.
“Costa caught my attention when he became the first councilperson in New York to call for a Universal Basic Income in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Andrew Yang, Founder of Humanity Forward. “He’s also running on a forward thinking climate change platform. Costa knows first hand the toll coronavirus is taking on our communities, as he and his family are still recovering from a nasty case of COVID-19. Very excited to be supporting him.”
“I am honored to be among the first candidates endorsed by Humanity Forward, which has already done tremendous work to improve New Yorkers’ lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Councilman Constantinides. “Under Andrew Yang’s leadership, they have put cash into the hands of struggling families, proven that we should not cancel democracy, and sparked a national conversation on the need for a new economy. Together, I know we will continue to fight the climate crisis, create new green jobs, and foster an open government that works for everyone.”
Yang and Constantinides have also called for an adaptive government that protects democracy’s integrity but also keeps people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Constantinides was an early voice in this pandemic for a vote-by-mail system – a version of which later took shape in New York State. Yang also made history by successfully suing to reinstate the Presidential primary in the Empire State after its cancellation.
Both have also called on the government to put cash in the hands of people at risk of displacement by this crisis. Yang’s Presidential campaign was built around the idea of a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 per month for all Americans. Constantinides, at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, called for a People’s Paycheck, which would have used unclaimed funds in the State of New York to help residents put out of work by this crisis.
For more information, visit: www.votecosta.com
CROWLEY RECEIVES A+ FROM COOP, CONDO COUNCIL: Elizabeth Crowley, candidate for Queens Borough President, received the highest rating, A+, from the Presidents Co-Op and Condo Council. ”This is the highest rating bestowed by our organization, whose members represent over 40,000 units of coop/condo housing. The grade is the result of your continuous effort and attention to issues of significant importance to our members. You have always been a partner with us and responsive to the needs of the co-op and condo community,” read the statement from Bob Friedrich Co-President, Warren Schreiber Co-President, Michael Kurtz Treasurer, Mark Ulrich Vice President, Janice Schreibersdorf Secretary, and Geoffrey Mazel Member at Large / General Counsel.
“I am grateful for the A+ rating from the Coop and Condo Council. I have always been a strong advocate for the needs of coops and condos, including my recent push for the City to freeze property taxes because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Queens must remain a place for the middle class to raise families and own affordable homes,” remarked Crowley.
Elizabeth Crowley represented the 30th District in the NYC Council. She is the founder of Friends of the QNS, a nonprofit advocacy organization, which calls for the reactivation of the Lower Montauk Branch of the LIRR for local commuters. In 2017, Elizabeth co-founded the 21 in ‘21 Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to empowering women with the tools and resources to run for local office.
LIC COALITION BACKS CONSTANTINIDES: LIC Coalition, a progressive Long Island City-based organization dedicated to local government that transparently serves its communities, on May 13 endorsed Councilman Costa Constantinides as “the leader that Queens needs to get back to work, build new hospitals, and fight the climate crisis,” according to Constantinides’ campaign.
“LIC Coalition strongly endorses Costa Constantinides for Queens Borough President,” LIC Coalition members said in a joint statement. “We support Costa’s efforts to fight Climate Change and promote sustainability; his rejection of contributions from big real estate developers; and his commitments to public land for public use, to deeply affordable housing, and to building new hospitals in Queens so that we have the capacity we need and deserve. Costa will invest in a STEAM curriculum at our schools—including arts programming, solarization of all schools, and the addition of a STEM or hydroponic science lab in every school. And he will invest in desperately needed cutting edge green infrastructure throughout the borough so that Queens is at the forefront of sustainability and the growth of good paying green jobs. We believe Costa Constantinides is the best candidate to lead the fight for a more equitable and sustainable Queens.”
LIC Coalition has led the effort to stop the irresponsible overdevelopment of luxury housing in western Queens, straining Long Island City’s aging infrastructure. Members of the LIC Coalition have fought for a more sustainable neighborhood, where the community gets a say in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), sewage doesn’t pour into the East River, and it’s affordable to raise a family.
Together, Constantinides and the LIC Coalition took a stand against Amazon’s attempt to “buy the neighborhood and build a corporate campus without going through ULURP. The deal only promised to price out many families while not putting money into our infrastructure, nearby public housing, or create a school-to-workforce pipeline,” Constantinides said.
As Borough President, Constantinides has also promised to secure a state-of-the-art hospital for Queens, create 50,000 union green jobs, and solarize every City building in the borough that’s ready to support panels.
For a full list of endorsements and other information, visit: www.votecosta.com
‘STUDENTS NEED INTERNET ACCESS FOR REMOTE LEARNING’: Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) announced on May 11 that she led 103 Members of Congress in a letter to House and Senate Leadership calling for her Emergency Educational Connections Act (H.R. 6563) to be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package.
The Emergency Educational Connections Act would provide $2 billion to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program to ensure all students have internet access during COVID-19. Under the bill, schools and libraries, including Tribal schools and libraries, who receive E-Rate funds would be able to purchase wifi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-connected devices to help students without broadband participate in remote learning during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health crisis that has forced millions of Americans to shelter at home, including over 55 million students who have transitioned to remote learning environments,” said Meng. “Even before the pandemic, there were nearly 12 million students without internet at home—part of the so-called ‘homework gap’—and with 7 in 10 teachers assigning online homework, these students in the homework gap faced an uphill struggle to complete online classroom assignments. Many were forced to seek out public spaces for free wifi connections, or forgo completing their assignments. In today’s COVID-19 pandemic world of shelter-in-place and extended school closures, this gap is more like a chasm. In New York City, which has the largest school system in the country at 1.1 million students, more than one in five households with school-aged children lack broadband access. Without secure and reliable internet access in the safety of one’s home, learning will stop – and this will lead to unimaginable long-term socio-economic consequences. That is why we must redouble our efforts to provide funding to close the digital divide. The $2 billion in the Emergency Educational Connections Act is a down payment for our kids’ success, and I will continue to fight for its inclusion in the next coronavirus relief package.”
The FCC’s E-Rate program provides discounts of up to 90% for broadband to and within elementary and secondary schools (public and private), and public libraries in rural and nonrural areas.
HELPING NURSING HOME RESIDENTS VIRTUALLY CONNECT: Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on May 13 that she cosponsored legislation which seeks to help those in nursing homes electronically connect with family members and doctors during the coronavirus crisis.
The bipartisan Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act would protect these vulnerable populations from risking exposure to COVID-19 by increasing their access to remote health care, and their ability to connect with loved ones and caregivers online.
“We have all seen how nursing homes have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tragic deaths that have occurred at these facilities particularly here in New York,” said Rep. Meng. “We must protect the health and safety of our elderly population but physical distancing should not force them to be cut off from loved ones, and risk social isolation. This legislation would help ensure this does not happen, and that nursing homes residents can remain in touch with their family members and health care providers.” Specifically, the ACCESS Act would:
- Authorize an emergency supplemental appropriation of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Telehealth Resource Center to assist nursing facilities receiving funding through Medicare or Medicaid in expanding their use of telehealth services;
- Require the Secretary of HHS to share recommendations on additional ways to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities and temporarily designated nursing facilities during the pandemic; and
- Establish a grant program authorizing HHS to award nursing facilities grants to enable residents to participate in “virtual visits” with loved ones while the health risk of in-person visits remains high during the pandemic.
Organizations endorsing the legislation, which was introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Peter King (R-NY), include AARP, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Justice in Aging, the Long Term Care Community Coalition, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
A Senate version of the bill has been introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
SHARE ACT WOULD PROTECT NY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: On May 12, State Senate Education Committee Chair Senator Shelley B. Mayer, and State Senate Higher Education Committee Chair Senator Toby A. Stavisky introduced S.8329, the SHARE Act – the Shared Help Assessment to Rebuild Education Act. The SHARE Act would bring in much-needed new revenue, asking those most capable of paying to share in the financial burden of COVID-19 for a very limited time, two years, in order for the state to avoid devastating education cuts.
Senator Mayer said, “We are in a period of unprecedented fiscal crisis, and we must ensure that our public schools – the great equalizer of our democracy – are funded adequately. It is a time for shared sacrifice. Sadly, those earning less than $70,000 annually are facing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic from a financial point of view. We cannot allow this terrible virus to threaten the futures of hundreds of thousands of students throughout New York State. In times of crisis, an equitable sharing of sacrifices for the benefit of all is a fundamental principle of our democracy.”
Senator Stavisky said, “Education, from pre-K to college, has been under-funded for many years. As a result of the pandemic, education will be facing unprecedented challenges. This legislation will mitigate its fiscal effect. We cannot forget the young men and women fighting to earn their degree and improve the future for themselves, their families, and their communities. We cannot fail our next generation of young professionals and entrepreneurs, and we must ask those capable of helping our public education system get back on its feet to do so.”
The SHARE Act increases the income tax rate for earners of more than $5 million from 8.82% to 10.90% for a period of two years. The new tax rate would apply to taxable years 2020 & 2021. The new revenue generated by the SHARE Act would be shared between public schools and public higher education: 85% for public schools and 15% for SUNY and CUNY.
PHEFFER AMATO’S NEW CHIEF OF STAFF: Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway) announced that her Deputy Chief of Staff, Daniel Randell, will now hold the title of Chief of Staff effective immediately. Randell is a Bayside native and current Rockaway resident, joining Pheffer Amato’s team in January of 2017 as a Community Liaison. Randell began his legislative career as an intern in the State Assembly in 2014 while attending SUNY Albany. After graduating from SUNY Albany with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Randell went on to work as a Real Estate Coordinator with MTA Capital Construction. He studied Public Administration at Baruch College, graduating with his Masters of Public Administration in 2017 while working part-time in Pheffer Amato’s office. Randell has gained extensive experience in the legislative process while working in Pheffer Amato’s Office, as well as handling cases large and small with constituents, civic associations and government agencies. Most notably, Randell stepped up during the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic by helping to facilitate food and mask donations throughout the community and helping to create a daily newsletter on behalf of Pheffer Amato. “Danny is such a valuable asset to Team Stacey and I am thrilled he has been a part of my team since day one. Danny has gained extensive experience in the legislative process, as well as handling cases large and small with constituents in this district and I am confident he will continue to do so in his role as Chief of Staff,” Pheffer Amato said. “Danny’s strong work ethic, dedication, and capacity for management have earned him this role and I am sure that as Chief of Staff, Danny will continue to serve effectively. I look forward to having him as a partner in service to this great district!”
‘OPEN QUEENS PUBLIC GOLF COURSES TO PEDESTRIANS’: Councilman Costa Constantinides called on the City of New York to open Queens’ public golf courses to the public, which would provide more pedestrian space for residents to keep a safe distance from one another while getting fresh air.
Constantinides noted that elected officials, from the Governor down, have urged New Yorkers to exercise caution while getting fresh air throughout the pandemic. Yet a lack of enough open space has led to overcrowding at public facilities such as Astoria Park, which has led to ramped up Parks Enforcement Patrol and NYPD deployment. The City just announced it would limit the number of people at certain New York parks along the Hudson and East Rivers.
Queens is tied with the Bronx for the most public golf courses in the city controlled by the Department of Parks & Recreation. Constantinides argued the four courses – Clearview Park Golf Course, Douglaston Golf Course, Forest Park Golf Course, and Kissena Golf Course – should be opened as pedestrian greenspace. All four of these public facilities have been locked up since the apex of COVID-19’s grip on New York City. Opening them up would provide Queens residents with swaths of extra park land to keep at least six feet from others while getting fresh air.
Still, Constantinides urged residents of Queens, the epicenter of COVID-19, to stay home as much as possible, cover their face when they know they will not be able to practice social distancing, and remain vigilant.
For more information, visit: www.votecosta.com
REDO ALL APO’S & QUOTES
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts
This column was originated by John A. Toscano