Op-Ed: A fast worth a thousand lives

Courtesy of Simotas’ office


The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the public health emergency in our most vulnerable communities. New York City has been shut down for over 120 days. Thousands of New Yorkers are left months behind on rent, with no income to pay for food, diapers or any basic resources needed to survive this crisis.

Immigrant New Yorkers are the backbone of New York’s economy, yet they have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Both working on the frontlines against the COVID-19 pandemic and excluded from any federal or state economic relief stimulus, immigrant communities are deprived of the necessities they need and deserve. 

While hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, billionaires’ collective wealth increased by over $565B since the crisis began. We cannot continue to ignore the mounting costs of economic inequality—such glaring disparity needs to be addressed head-on.

The Billionaire Wealth Tax / Worker Bailout legislation (S8277 | A10414) is a viable, responsible solution that can raise over $5.5B to provide retroactive, emergency income replacement for workers who are excluded from unemployment benefits. By ensuring that the 118 billionaires living in New York pay their fair share, we can assist countless working class New Yorkers—many of whom have sacrificed their own well-being to allow the rest of us to practice social distancing indoors— to survive. 

I began a fast on July 16th at 12 p.m. to stand with countless immigrant day laborers, domestic cleaners, food service workers, clergy and my legislative colleagues to demand that Governor Cuomo #MakeBillionairesPay to #FundExcludedWorkers. I encourage all of my colleagues who have a role in shaping public policy to attempt what I did and see how far you get—experiencing hunger really puts priorities in perspective. It is my hope that the fast that so many New Yorkers experienced will amplify this cause, raise awareness, and draw attention to the importance of passing the Billionaire Wealth Tax / Worker Bailout

We have failed our immigrant communities for too long and it is past time to make it right. 

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas represents parts of western Queens, including Astoria and parts of Long Island City.

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