COVID-19 update: Protecting the Postal Service: Postal Banking Act would provide reinforcement, Gillibrand says
On the front lines of the war on COVID-19, there are many civilian heroes going out of their way, as volunteers and contributors. Also, many who are elected to serve are going the extra mile. In this column the Eagle hopes to give our readers an ongoing update on those fighting in the front lines.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday called on Congress to strengthen the United States Postal Service. Gillibrand’s Postal Banking Act is designed to protect the Postal Service as it faces renewed attacks from the Trump administration, which is unwilling to provide emergency funding during the coronavirus pandemic. The Postal Banking Act would not only establish essential banking services to low-income and rural communities, but it would create approximately $9 billion in revenue for the Postal Service and would ensure that Americans across the country have access to vote by mail. “The Postal Service is in desperate need of reinforcement, and providing postal banking for the nearly 10 million American households who lack access to basic banking services is the first step,” Gillibrand said.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has announced a new telephone campaign to return over $2.5 million in unclaimed prevailing wages to workers cheated out of their pay by unscrupulous contractors on city-funded projects. The Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law enforces prevailing wage and benefit rates for public work construction and building service projects. The phone calls notifying workers — many of whom are immigrants — are being made by employees of the Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law who are telecommuting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and conducting intensive research to find telephone numbers and email addresses for workers with unclaimed wages. “While the federal social safety net continues to discriminate based on immigration status, we’re working around the clock to make sure workers get the $2.5 million in unclaimed prevailing wages they are owed for their work with the City,” sad Stringer.
Brooklyn Public Library’s Business & Career Center has, over the course of just a few weeks, moved all of its resources online for small businesses to access. Additionally, there’s a whole suite of personal finance management tools that caters to every financial stage and a specialized resume service. From online events on Small Biz Association funding to help navigating the CARES act, a book list for business owners and entrepreneurs, and even micro-grants to small businesses through the library’s Power UP! Competition, the library system offers a wide range of resources.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Committee on Transportation, held a press conference on Monday in Downtown Brooklyn to distribute masks to essential workers and to call for free fares for all essential workers for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even MTA data show subway and bus ridership have plummeted in recent weeks due to the spread of COVID-19, essential workers — more than 70 percent of whom are people of color — continue to rely on mass transit to get around. “The very least we can do as we continue to navigate this public health emergency is allow [essential workers] to access our public transit system free of charge for the duration of this crisis,” Adams said. “These people deserve more than our gratitude — they deserve concrete benefits that recognize and celebrate their heroic contributions.”
In Sunset Park, the Community-Based Programs Department of Family Health Centers at NYU Langone is making sure that households in their community have access to healthy food. At their food pantry, called The Table, staff and volunteers provide food and nutritional information to families throughout the community. They continue to provide healthy and nutritional options for families, and often enclose recipes on how to prepare the enclosed food items, as well as information about SNAP food stamps, COVID-19, and other services offered by Family Health Centers. In addition to providing food to families in need, the Table has also recently begun to provide food packages to discharged COVID-19 patients.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on Monday called for a series of revenue raising measures on the state level and investments on the city level as part of the COVID-19 crisis response and recovery plan. He highlighted the need to adapt to budget deficits and prevent the slashing of critical systems such as healthcare and education, as well as both youth and senior services, through revenue-raising measures on the state level and targeted investment on the city level. “With these cuts, the Governor is essentially saying that while he refuses to consider raising taxes on the wealthy, he’s okay with cutting services that are critical to New York’s most vulnerable populations, especially low income communities of more color,” said Williams. “We cannot ask for the greatest burdens to be shouldered by those who have the greatest need.”
As the City continues to fight COVID-19, Mayor de Blasio has announced that 200 new Safe Haven beds will begin to open this week prioritizing vulnerable New Yorkers living on the streets and subways in high-need areas. The city is also focusing on offering help at up to10 end-of-the-line subway stations citywide, with the goal of bringing more unsheltered New Yorkers off the subways amid the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, the City will call on the MTA to temporarily close these stations during the overnight hours from 12:00 AM to 5:00 AM to allow for more targeted outreach and enhanced sanitization. “Our COVID-19 response must prioritize the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said de Blasio. “We are doing everything we can to strengthen our subway and street outreach to ensure that every New Yorker who needs a place to sleep will get one.”
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