Michael Blake, New York State Assembly Member and candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 15th District, unveiled a 15-part Coronavirus Response Plan to protect families and small Businesses while stimulating economic sustainability. The plan includes a $100 billion fund that would provide $3,000 rebate checks to individuals in need. Given that The Bronx, like so many urban areas in America, is home to many hourly workers, and a significant immigrant population, the borough is extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus represents a significant threat to the most vulnerable communities in the U.S., and in particular hourly-workers and immigrants in The Bronx. People are legitimately concerned, seeking answers and looking for leadership. It is another reminder that it matters who holds elected office as during times of crisis and challenge, we must respond to the moment with results not just rhetoric. In consultation with local, state, federal, and international policy experts, as well as with union and business leaders, I am announcing the following 15-Part Coronavirus Response Plan that includes a $100 billion fund to protect families and Small, Minority and Women Owned Businesses. It is my hope that the proposals are considered and enacted to help our fellow New Yorkers and Americans. The federal government and New York State’s government must take bold, swift action to protect those who are vulnerable and most often left behind. In the district where Fordham University is temporarily suspending in person classes, we must take short and long term approaches that allow us to recover and thrive. Equally, within our district which has the first senior center in America, William Hodson, the largest Latino senior center in the community, Casa Boricua, and another which understandably is restricting visitors, Arturo Schomburg, I am witnessing firsthand how it is critical for us to have an immediate and thorough response, especially for our seniors and other vulnerable Bronxites. The federal and state government must live out the vision of the 5 Ps - Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Blake is calling for providing $3,000 rebate checks to individuals – plus $500 for each child – for those making up to $75,000 per year (or for married couples making up to $150,000 per year). This fund would deploy rebate checks in the event that workers, who do not have paid sick leave, are forced to stay home. Moreover, funds should be used to create a Public awareness campaign to educate on the virus and how to take precautionary steps while also increasing hospital and Community Based Health Center capacity to address the growing needs due to the virus. In addition, funds must be available for Small, Minority and Women Business Enterprises to get immediate relief for loss revenue while still paying for their previously expected workforce. How much of the $100 billion fund is paid would depend on the severity and spread of the coronavirus and its economic impact – and it would be entirely funded by rolling back Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. The Bronx is home to many of New York City’s hourly workers who will lose their livelihoods if they must be quarantined at home or in a hospital. This fund not only cushions the blow, but also provides an economic stimulus so that more Bronxites have disposable income to spend at local businesses.
Blake is calling on Congress to require insurance companies to wave prescription limits, which will allow individuals with disabilities and chronic illnesses to access their medications in advance, in order to support social isolation when necessary.
Blake is calling on Congress to immediately pass a veto-proof suspension of the “public charge” rule – so that immigrants who need care, or whose children need care (including many children who are U.S. citizens themselves), are able to obtain care without fear of deportation. This is of the utmost urgency in the Bronx, which is home to newcomers from all over the world. The New York Times Editorial Board said that the “public charge” rule is a recipe for disaster and could cause the epidemic to be far worse for all of us. The “public charge” rule is reckless, immoral, and an unmitigated disaster for public health.
Instead of projecting fear into immigrant communities with ICE raids and roundups, the President should suspend non-border ICE activities and provide emergency immigration protections for vulnerable immigrant communities, including undocumented individuals, entrepreneurs, and those attending prayer services. All people, regardless of their citizenship status, should be able to seek medical attention during this trying time without fear of detention or deportation.
The federal government should immediately release the $35 million in funding that it had pledged to New York State and make resources widely available for use, especially for community-based health centers. Time is of the essence, especially for vulnerable people in the Bronx.
We need to scale up our capacity when it comes to testing – which is why Blake is calling on the administration to expedite FDA approval which it has the power to do immediately.
The Department of the Treasury must disseminate information about stock market fluctuations and allay concerns about investments and pensions.
The Department of Commerce must consider tax holidays for businesses impacted while also having strong penalties for price gouging. Moreover, the Department of Labor must ensure that labor protections are being enforced and notify employees and businesses of their rights in the event that people need to stay home. Employees who are quarantined must also have non-discrimination protections.
The Department of Transportation should disseminate guidelines and best practices to inform passengers and transportation operators of ways to stay safe throughout the day.
Blake is calling on SBA to issue disaster loans to small businesses. COVID-19 should be considered a natural disaster, comparable to floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, for which the SBA already provides disaster loans. This will enable small businesses to weather the “storm” of the coronavirus and remain open and active throughout this difficult time.
Blake is calling on Governor Cuomo to provide immediate, transparent, and specific reporting on how the $40 million in state funding will be spent. Funds should be distributed in part to community-based health centers so they can perform more testing and hire multilingual medical professionals of color from our local neighborhoods. Funding should also be made available for emergency sanitation of NYCHA buildings, as well as for creating mobile care units throughout the city to serve homeless New Yorkers who are feeling ill, using efforts from the West Coast as a model. It is clearly not the time for Medicaid cuts nor any downward investment to any health related initiative in 2020, including but not limited to Community Based Health Centers and diversity in medicine.
Governor Cuomo has announced that incarcerated New Yorkers have been tasked with making 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to distribute to the public to help fight the outbreak. Blake is calling on the state to pay these individuals a fairer wage, not just an inhumane wage of pennies a day.
Governor Cuomo must accelerate efforts to crack down on businesses and individuals caught price gouging on critical items like hand sanitizer by significantly increasing fines, penalties, and investigations. The state should engage with the U.S. Department of Commerce, especially the Minority Business Development Agency, as well as the Small Business Administration to collaborate with businesses in the e-marketplace to ban misleading sales and claims on items related to the coronavirus.
New York State officials should follow the lead of Trader Joe’s and encourage all businesses to allow sick workers to be reimbursed for their time off. Blake is calling on the state to offer tax credits for businesses who offer their workers paid sick leave during this outbreak.
Blake is calling for New York State to create an emergency reserve for consumer goods that are likely to be in short supply due to global supply chain disruption, such as certain over-the-counter cold and flu drugs and food items. The state should also develop an equitable and transparent process for allocation and distribution.