By Gina Martinez
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) has helped add $3 million in funding to the New York State Assembly budget to assist dry cleaners and nail salons.
Kim spearheaded the funding inclusion, called the Financial Assistance to Business program, and said he and the rest of the Assembly will ensure the allocation will be in the final 2017 state budget. He is encouraging the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do the same.
“This is a great start to uplifting two industries that have faced insurmountable challenges these last few years,” Kim said. “It will help almost 10,000 family-owned small businesses dealing with unreachable mandates and exorbitant fines.”
Members of the Korean American Association of Greater New York, the Chinese American Nail Salon Association, the Korean American Dry Cleaners Association of New York, and the Korean American Nail Salon Association went to the state capital Tuesday to advocate for the program. The Legislature and governor will spend the next few weeks negotiating the final 2017 Budget.
Kim has been outspoken in his support for nail salon owners and has worked with them to ensure regulations do not drive them out of business.
In February 2015 a New York Times article exposed the poor working conditions in nail salons across New York City, including Flushing. The article claimed nail salon workers faced racism, abuse, were paid well below the minimum wage and sometimes were forced to work for no pay. The response to the article was widespread outrage and in May 2015 Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation to protect the rights of nail salon workers. Measures included paying workers back wages, requiring all manicurists to wear gloves and publicly post signs informing workers of their rights in multiple languages.
By October 2016 all new nail salons were required to have ventilation systems. Existing nail salons were given five years to install the ventilation systems. According to Cuomo, the regulation is intended to protect workers and customers from inhaling harmful fumes, but Kim at the time spoke out against the legislation, saying the economic impact of the mandate were too severe.
“Our industry is still recovering from the damage done by the unilateral mandates and targeted enforcement of the past few years,” said Peter Yu, president of the Chinese Nail Salon Association of East America. “The members of our association and I are truly thankful to Assemblyman Kim, who has consistently advocated on behalf of small businesses. It is my hope that this allocation will make it past the final budget and reach the many neighborhood stores who truly need help.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart