Public Advocate To Introduce Legislation To Support Small Businesses, Essential Workers Amid Covid-19 Pandemic

October 15th, 2020

Press Release

NEW YORK: Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams will introduce a legislative package today aimed at supporting small businesses in New York City struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well as essential workers on the frontlines. The legislation comes as New York City has implemented new restrictions in hotspot areas seeing COVID-19 spikes and the city faces the potential of a second wave of the virus.

The first bill, Intro 2125, would require the city to create guidelines for a safe reopening of New York City businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while allowing those businesses to operate and recover amid the economic crisis. Those guidelines would be constructed around federal, state, and local laws around reopening, as well as best practices for public health. Council Members Fernando Cabrera, Carlina Rivera, and Costa Constantindes co-sponsor the legislation.

Clear directions are essential as businesses attempt to reopen while preventing further spread or spikes in the number of positive cases which could trigger renewed lockdowns and closure. This need was made even more urgent as hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens led to greater closures of and restrictions on businesses within these areas.

The second bill would require the Department of Small Business Services to report on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. While it is broadly clear that there has been an extraordinarily devastating impact on small businesses in New York City over the last seven months, providing aid in a targeted and effective way requires specific information on the impact of the pandemic. Under this legislation, co-sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, the Department of Small Business would collect and report data on the amount of revenue lost from the virus, any jobs or positions eliminated, and permanent closures relative to business size, location, and type. Data would be collected via a broad survey effort.

"The current economic crisis is inextricable from the public health crisis, and we can only see meaningful economic recovery if the virus is significantly suppressed. As we have seen in recent weeks, safety is vital when considering any re-openings, and businesses need clear guidance on safety measures and standards." said Public Advocate Williams. "In order to provide the most good, we also need to direct specific aid to the those most in need - our small businesses, our essential workers - who are the backbone of our city."

New York City is home to about one million essential workers, many of whom have been treated as expendable and the majority of whom are women and people of more color. The Public Advocate introduced legislation today, co-sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, aimed at providing fair compensation and protections for these workers in this pandemic and in preparation for any future public health crisis. Under the bill, during a state of emergency or a public health emergency related to an outbreak of a communicable disease, any agency seeking an emergency procurement of a client services vendor is mandated to include a specification in its solicitation for the provision of hazard pay to the vendor's essential workers.

Public Advocate Williams also put forth a resolution with Council Member Justin Brannan calling on Congress to pass, and the President to sign, legislation creating the "Heroes Fund" to provide hazard pay to employees required to work on-site during COVID-19.

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