In the face of what may be the worst recession since 2008, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D-Financial District, Chinatown) has assembled a comprehensive plan to help New Yorkers at risk.
Since February, the global COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy. The omnipresent fear of infection has spooked consumers and investors alike, causing business to grind to a halt.
While the crisis has affected all of New York City, Niou pointed out that it has been particularly hard on her district. Her constituents, who are largely of Chinese descent, have experienced both a precipitous drop in business and a surge in racist and xenophobic attacks from other New Yorkers.
“Chinatown has been particularly hard hit due in part to the racist attacks from the Trump administration, and we will stand united against hatred to provide short-term relief and long-term support to the people and small businesses who have been most affected,” said Niou. “This crisis has made it clear how crucial it is to have leaders in the Assembly who are not afraid to stand up to powerful financial interests and fight tirelessly for working families.”
In response, Niou has devised a plan, consisting of several proposals that she has organized into three categories: relief for working families, relief for small businesses, and immediate public health relief.
Relief for Working Families
Niou’s plan would, first and foremost, eliminate the one-week wait time for unemployment benefits. The measure, she said, would provide immediate relief for workers who have been laid off during the crisis. In the longer term, her plan would entitle quarantined and laid off workers the full right to return to their jobs once the pandemic subsides.
Relief for Small Businesses
Niou’s plan for small businesses mostly consists of short-term measures to help them weather the storm. For instance, it calls for a moratorium on all commercial evictions, for the duration of the crisis and at least six months afterwards. It would also suspend any fines against small businesses that shutter during the crisis, and provide them with grants and zero-interest loans to help them subsist while they wait for business to pick up again.
Immediate Public Health Relief
Niou recognizes that what we’re facing isn’t just an economic crisis; it’s also a public health crisis, and it must be treated as such. Her plan calls on the state provide to provide free access to hand sanitizer, face masks and other medical necessities. Furthermore, it mandates the immediate cleaning and disinfection of NYCHA buildings, and other large, crowded living spaces.
But how do we pay for such an ambitious plan? To answer that question, Niou proposes implementing several measures to boost tax revenue. Her plan includes a pied-a-terre tax on luxury, non-primary residences in the City with assessed values over $5 million, as well as a billionaire tax.
She has also advocated for a .5 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks. This would not only boost tax revenue, but also incentivize companies to use their bailout money to prioritize the welfare of their employees, rather than using it to inflate the value of their stock.
“This is a new and frightening experience for all of us, but we have weathered many storms together,” said Niou. “We’ve stepped up as a community and as we continue budget discussions in Albany, it is vital we continue to focus on the people who are most at risk economically and medically from the COVID-19 pandemic.”