By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Councilmember Keith Powers came out in support of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s relief plan for workers and businesses throughout the city that are impacted by COVID-19 that was introduced last week.
Johnson’s $12 billion relief plan, proposed last Thursday, includes a temporary universal basic income for all New Yorkers, unemployment protections for hourly and freelance workers, up to $250,000 to cover costs for impacted businesses, temporarily deferring fees for businesses and refunding business taxes.
“We’re calling on the city to take action to help our restaurant and bar industry,” Powers said of the proposal. “We mandated they had to close. It’s already a struggling industry and it’s the lifeblood of NYC. They’re dependent on that paycheck.”
According to City Council estimate, more than 500,000 workers and more than 40,000 businesses generated $40 billion in taxable sales last year and are among the hardest-hit industries so far in the COVID-19 crisis. These businesses include the hospitality industry as well as retail shops, performance venues, salons and other businesses.
“I’m concerned because many don’t have savings that could last for months and we’re facing dire months ahead so I did appreciate someone coming out with a real plan about how we get there,” Powers said. “It does set the framework about what to do.”
Powers added that one of the most important aspects of the plan should be protecting workers who might not be about to collect unemployment.
“We have to make sure that the plan reaches everyone, not just those reaching certain criteria,” he said. “We have to make sure those who are self-employed and freelancers who may be struggling even more are protected.”
Johnson is calling for the plan to be paid for by the federal government and if the government will not cover it, Johnson said that it can be funded by bonds. The city has previously sold bonds to rebuild the economy after a disaster, including after September 11th.
“This is a crisis unlike any we’ve ever seen,” Johnson said. “However, the tools that have helped us in the past can be utilized again. The difficult steps we’ve taken to protect ourselves and others are necessary, including social distancing and mandatory closures, but they are devastating our businesses and workers in every corner of the city. This plan will provide relief not just for our economy, but also for the small businesses and workers that are the heart and soul of New York City.”
Powers also noted that the city has to think beyond April in terms of providing assistance, especially to New Yorkers who have already lost their jobs.
“April 1 is going to be bad but I think May 1 and beyond are going to be worse,” he said, pointing to partial wages workers may have received in March but the lack of wages for months following if workers don’t get their jobs back or can’t go back to work. “Getting money to those who need it will be key.”