Queens councilman introduces bill to help small businesses that cater to non-English speakers gain access to city resources

Vallone EDC Hearing
Councilman Paul Vallone (Photo credit: New York City Council/Emil Cohen)

Last month, a Queens lawmaker introduced a bill that would make it easier for small businesses that primarily cater to non-English speakers to access helpful city resources.

The bill, known as Int. 2393, was proposed by Councilman Paul Vallone at the Aug. 26 City Council Stated Meeting. Under the new legislation, the Department of Small Business Services would maintain direct contact with community-based organizations in “covered languages” and also provide materials for time-sensitive applications so that the organizations have equal access to funds that would help them to recover after COVID-19.

According to the bill, the term “covered languages” includes Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, Tibetan, Gujarathi and designated citywide languages determined by the Department of City Planning: Spanish, Chinese — including Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese — Russian, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean, Arabic, Urdu, French and Polish.

“We must ensure that all of our businesses have full and equal access to city resources as we work to recover from the ravages of last year,” Vallone said. “This bill will create the networks necessary to grow our city’s relationship with wonderful organizations and remedy the disparity in resources that currently exists in our business community. ”

Vallone hosted a round table event on April 20 to hear the concerns of Asian American small business owners, who expressed the difficulties they had getting city resources for primarily non-English speaking communities. According to the lawmaker’s office, the bill would help to fully engage with these community-based organizations and make city services more equitable by serving all New Yorkers.

“We are glad to see that Council member Vallone is working to ensure that businesses in our community will have greater access to city resources as we work to undo the damage done by the last year of the pandemic,” said Satnam S. Parhar, board chair of South Asian American Voice. “This will also help right some of the historic inequities that have faced so many small businesses trying to access the network of support that the city has offered, but has never been fully accessible to so many.”

The bill’s cosponsors are Councilwoman Farah Louis and Councilman Kalman Yeger.

If enacted, the bill will allow community-based organizations that serve underserved language groups to apply to join the program and gain direct access to an SBS representative and promotional materials.

“Council member Vallone has always been a great ally to the Korean American community and has worked to ensure that the city does not overlook any group in our district when securing funds or other resources,” said Young-Joon Son, chair of the Korean Business Council. “We are excited to see legislation that will help extend this inclusive vision to SBS and hopefully other agencies as well.”