First, I want to take a moment to extend my gratitude to all of the healthcare and other essential workers fighting to provide services during these difficult times. I believe in this community’s strength and resilience. We will come out of this stronger than ever, but only if we are willing to work together and make the necessary investments in our workers and businesses.
COVID-19 has revealed serious cracks in our economic and social systems – at a time when we should be laser-focused on defeating the virus, we are also scrambling to find ways to stop workers and businesses from falling off a financial cliff. At the same time, we will need to do more to protect the essential workers who are on the front lines of this crisis providing services.
While it is the last thing anyone wants to hear — myself included — this crisis will not be over tomorrow. And until we have a vaccine, we will need to do more to guarantee the stability and protection of our community over the coming months, and make the bold changes needed that will ensure we are better-prepared for the next crisis.
Here’s how I propose we do it:
Maximum Testing Capacity
Our businesses and workplaces won’t be able to truly restart until we have confidence that anyone – at any time – can gain access to testing to ensure the safety of their families and businesses. The ability to test for the novel coronavirus at increased levels is the key to restarting our economy. New York State has led the nation in building the capacity to administer high numbers of tests, and must continue to do so. But, we must also pivot our testing strategy and drastically increase capacity if we want to restart our economy. This must include both random testing for active coronavirus infection and serological testing to reveal past infection. Once someone has been shown to have had the virus in the past, and potentially developed immunity, we can have confidence in their return to work. This is the path forward for New York State and the nation, and I will work tirelessly with all levels of government, our top-class technical universities, and other stakeholders to build this capacity here locally.
Increase Access to PPE for Workers and Families
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a key tool to protect our community from increasing the spread of infectious diseases. Right now, our workers and families do not have adequate access to PPE. Governor Cuomo took a much needed step to require that employers provide PPE to essential employees like grocery clerks, transit workers, and many others.
I propose that the State of New York use portions of its economic development resources to incentivize businesses to produce PPE that can be distributed to families and workers. Public health professionals recommend using face coverings whenever leaving the home — now, we need to step up and provide them with the PPE they need to safely begin the re-engage in the economy when the time comes.
Support Small Businesses
COVID-19 has endangered the lifeblood of our local economy – our small businesses. There are already reports that small and micro-businesses are struggling to access available resources, and as federal stimulus funding and rent/mortgage deferrals run out, these challenges will multiply.
We need to do more to support these business owners and the workers they employ. I propose the creation of new tax incentives and payroll support for small businesses, designed in consultation with business owners and organizations that represent them. These should be built to maximize the ability to keep workers on payroll when possible, and ensure that the businesses are able to reopen when the time comes.
I will also work hard to make sure the voices of small business owners, particularly those from historically disadvantaged communities of color, are heard in the planning process. Too often, we make decisions from the top down. The inclusion of these diverse perspectives will help to bring equity to the discussion and get business owners what they actually need.
Strengthen Protections for Workers and Families for the Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed massive gaps in our system of supports for workers and families. The time has long since passed that the wealthiest nation in history, and the most prosperous state in that country, should allow families to lose their ability to survive in the face of a crisis. We must work harder than ever for bold, structural change like universal health care and a stronger social safety net. For more information on my other proposals, be sure to check out our Issues page.