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Queens lawmakers support legislative package to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19

State Senator Michael Gianaris discusses the merits of a legislative package that would help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy of Gianaris' office)

On a walking tour of Astoria, state Senator Michael Gianaris and members of the Save Our Storefronts coalition visited small businesses just days after the Senate passed a commercial eviction moratorium and other measures aimed at helping them survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Earlier this week we passed a small business relief package that is just a down payment on what they need to survive,” Gianaris said. “I was pleased to spend the afternoon talking to local entrepreneurs with the Save Our Storefronts coalition to discuss what more needs to be done.”

Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani joined Gianaris on the walking tour and said it was “powerful” to hear the concerns of the local small business owners.

“It is vital that we not only pass bills that prevent eviction, but also prioritize a budget that gives them financial relief they so desperately need,” Mamdani said.

The legislative package, pushed by state Senator Jessica Ramos and advanced by the Senate, includes protecting small businesses from eviction and foreclosure, protecting restaurants from third-party delivery fees, implementing third-party restaurant posting requirements, promoting the shared work eligibility program, freezing unemployment insurance rates and establishing a partial-unemployment system.

That measure would shift the current calculation that any day of work leads to a 25 percent reduction in benefits, and instead would reduce benefits by an amount proportional with the amount earned. The Ramos legislation would help incentivize part-time work by reducing the disincentive that a day of work will lead to a disproportionate reduction of benefits.

“As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers begin to get called back to work at reduced hours, passing my bill to update New York state’s antiquated Partial Unemployment Insurance system is a long overdue win for working families,” said state Senator Jessica Ramos, the chair of the Committee on Labor. “These necessary reforms to change the way our state calculates it Partial Unemployment Insurance benefits means even more New Yorkers can accept part-time work knowing that no matter how many hours they are offered each week, they will not be at risk of losing these supplemental benefits that allow them to provide for their families.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky touted the legislative package, which combined with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, could represent a turning point for small businesses owners impacted by the pandemic during the economic crisis.

“We have asked for our small businesses and especially our restaurants to make unprecedented sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Stavisky said. “This legislative package protects small businesses, so they can continue to serve the community during what we hope is its final surge.”

State Senator John Liu agreed.

“Small businesses and their employees are the heart of our state’s economy and their success is vital to our economic recovery,” Liu said. “These bills will help our small businesses stay open by providing them with tenant protections, improving access to government aid, and making it easier for them to retain their employees. We will continue to look for more ways to help our small businesses and our state get back on track.”

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