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COVID-19

Everything I’ve Heard About: MONEY

These are difficult times, and we’re doing our best to keep Manhattan informed – which is why we’ve been putting out our daily COVID-19 newsletter (sign up here!).

The effect of coronavirus on paychecks has been sizable, and while local, state and federal governments, along with some businesses, have put a variety measures in place to give New Yorkers a break, it’s hard to keep track of it all. This post hopes to lend a hand by cobbling together all the news relevant to your family’s bottom line that we’ve been sending out in our newsletters. Read on for information on the deferrals, loans, grants, and suspensions available to help us all get by without breaking the bank.

Thursday, 8/6/20

Thursday, 7/30/20

  • Applications are now open for my Manhattan Community Award Program (MCAP). Every year, my office makes these small awards to nonprofit organizations and public schools;  this year (FY21) we will prioritize funding to organizations working with communities experiencing disproportionate impacts of the COVID pandemic and efforts to address racial justice. Community Awards enhance the work of local nonprofits and schools and enrich and improve neighborhoods.

    We’re especially seeking innovative proposals that will address things like food pantries and distribution of fresh food, urban farming, community-police relations, racial justice and arts programming (whether school-based or remote).

    Award Size: One-time contracts ranging from $5,000-$7,500

    Deadline: 5:00 pm, August 21, 2020

    Find out more: (with links to application) bit.ly/MCAP2021

    For questions, contact my Budget Unit: Vanessa Diaz-LopezNelson S. Andino and James Thomas.

  • Apply ASAP for an East Harlem Small Business Grant of up to $20,000, which I launched with Council Member Diana Ayala, Union Settlement and the NYC Economic Development Corporation to provide COVID-19 financial assistance. Read more about eligibility and applying. Applications will be considered only while funds last, so apply now!
  • Apply by Monday (8/3) for a Local Initiatives Support Corporation Small Business Relief Grant of up to $20,000. Priority will be given to entrepreneurs of color, women and veterans.
  • Applications are due Wednesday (8/5) for Section 8, Section 202 and Section 811 property owners to be eligible for supplemental payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to cover COVID-related expenses, like deep cleaning and PPE. Read more about eligible costs and applying.
  • Calling all storytellers– enter WomensActivism.NYC’s story writing contest by August 16. Share stories about inspirational women for a chance to win prizes of $150, $350 and $500.

Monday, 7/27/20

  • The deadline for the State Dept. of Homes and Community Renewal’s new COVID Rent Relief Program is THIS Thursday (7/30). Tenants who meet the prerequisites can benefit from a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords. Households must:
    • have income below 80% of the county’s adjusted median income AND
    • be paying more than 30% of that gross income in rent AND
    • have had reduced income in the four months of April, May, June or July 2020 (compared to March). 

    Those criteria applied to New York County (ie Manhattan) means a maximum of $63,700 income for a single-person’s household paying over $1,592 in monthly rent; or $90,950 max for a four-person household paying $2,273 a month; view other household sizes’ income caps here.

    My staff can help with your application, but you should act now, before Thursday’s deadline– gather your income and rent documentation from March and leave a voicemail at 212-531-1609. 

Week of 7/23

  • The deadline for New York State’s new COVID Rent Relief Program is July 30. Tenants who have lost income during the COVID-19 crisis are eligible to apply and will benefit from a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords. Learn more and apply here. My staff can help with your application– leave a voicemail at 212-531-1609.

Week of 7/13

  • Your other reader survey answers were quite helpful, with main suggestions including more resources for seniors and the unemployed. (Here’s a job alert, if you’re looking: Community Connections for Youth is hiring for a Program DirectorMentors, and a Training Manager for their South Bronx Community Connections Initiative.)

    One person asked for more notice on events– we try, but can only provide what we receive when we receive it!

    The vast majority of respondents, however, just sent kind words on the newsletter and how it has helped them; those words were so nice to hear.

  • Gov. Cuomo will announce Phase 4 status for New York City tomorrow. If we are approved for Phase 4, it means schools, low-risk art and entertainment events, media production and sports games (with no fans) will be allowed to open again. However, reopening indoor cultural institutions, malls, and indoor dining is postponed indefinitely– outdoor parts of zoos and botanical gardens will reopen.
  • The application window opens today (7/16) and ends 7/30 for a new rental assistance voucher program to cover rent some tenants affected by the pandemic can’t pay, operated by NYS Dept. of Homes and Community Renewal. I wrote the Governor in April urging him to adopt a voucher-based system, and am glad to see the state will be lending renters a hand. Learn more and apply. My staff is ready to assist any tenant who needs help with their application– leave a voicemail at (212) 531-1609.
  • Uninsured New Yorkers can still enroll for coverage via the The NY State of Health Exchange; the “Special Enrollment Period” has been extended to August 15, 2020. Learn more and apply for coverage.
  • The Governor also announced new, data-driven guidance for reopening schools in New York State. Schools in a given region can reopen in Phase Four, if it’s 14-day average daily infection rate is below 5 percent. Schools will be closed if the regional infection rate rises above 9%, using a 7-day average, after August 1. The State will make a determination between August 1 – 7. Read the NYS school reopening guidance here.
  • The full video of the July 16 meeting of the Manhattan Borough Board is now available on YouTube.
  • The deadline has been extended to 5 pm on July 22 for $65 million in federal CARES Act funding available for child care providers statewide through the New York Forward Child Care Expansion Incentive program. $20 million is available for expanding capacity for reopening child care centers with proper precautions, alongside $45 million to cover costs for newly opened classrooms.
  • The City Planning Commission will resume meeting, remotely, in August, in advance of a resumption of the ULURP planning clock in September. The public will be able to observe all CPC meetings and sign up to speak during public hearings via Zoom.

    The first of the remote meetings will be a Review Session on Aug. 3, followed by a Public Meeting on Aug. 5. During Review Sessions, the CPC discusses new applications that are about to commence public review, holds post-CPC-hearing discussions on applications, and votes on City Council modifications. For Public Meetings, the CPC typically holds public hearings and votes on applications.

    I will pass along the Zoom link once we have it, but I imagine they will also post on the CPC website when ready.

  • Alternate Side Parking is suspended until Sunday (7/19). The Office of the Parking Summons Advocate has a new page to learn more and get assistance: www.nyc.gov/parkingadvocate.
  • The New York Times reported Monday about the many Manhattanites who have temporarily left NYC during the pandemic, and historically high-response neighborhoods currently have extremely low Census response rates. (“Rich New Yorkers Aren’t Filling Out the Census. Poor New Yorkers May Suffer.”)

    We’ve known many Manhattanites have relocated for a while now; the Postal Service reported April’s mail-forwarding orders were double the usual rate, 81,000 requests citywide.

    To help meet this Census shortfall, in late June my office sent a first-class (i.e. forwardable) postcard to 49 of the worst-performing census tracts in Manhattan urging Census completion. (NY1 reporter Juan Manuel Benitez even received one!)

    I wish I could say that solved the problem, but those tracts saw only an extremely modest increase in response rates as posted by the Census Bureau (at least so far).

    Filling out the census is one of the best, and easiest ways to help our city… for the next decade! My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that every uncounted household probably costs the City and State over $150,000 in federal aid!

    That adds up to billions of dollars in funding for hospitals, health care, schools, housing, and so much more.

    Please do your part to ensure New York gets the resources we need; visit My2020census.gov. (You do not need a code; click “Start Questionnaire” and then “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” link below the login button.)

    There are also paid opportunities to help get out the count! NYC Census and BrownMillerGroup are hiring Census Outreach Canvassers (Google Doc) and Census Outreach Team Leaders (Google Doc).

  • Tonight (7/16) from 7 – 8 pm, I’ll join State Sen. Liz Krueger and Christian Klossner, Executive Director of the Office of Special Enforcement of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, for Sen. Krueger’s online town hall to discuss reopening New York City. Watch live on Facebook.
  • On Monday and Tuesday next week (7/20 – 21), the New York Committee for Occupational Safety & Health is offering a free online training which enables those who complete the two-day program to earn an OSHA-10 card from NYCOSH. Click here to register now. (The OSHA 10 General Industry Training teaches workers how to prevent, recognize, and mitigate the risk of workplace hazards.)
  • On Wednesday (7/22) from 11 am – 1 pm, the Children’s Rescue Fund is hosting a virtual career fair, hiring housing specialists, case managers, social workers, and supervisors. To register, email hr@icahnhouse.com.

    Community Board 5 is also hiring for a new District Manager.

  • On Tuesday July 28 at 6:30 pm, Community Board 4’s Balanced Business Task Force is hosting a “Small Business Support Programs and NYC’s Re-Opening Plan in the Age of COVID-19” virtual forum. Click the title to register.
  • Testing services have been extended at the COVID-19 testing center I helped establish at Riverside Church (91 Claremont Ave) until August 29. The center will be open 9 am – 5 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    Assembly Member Al Taylor and community partners have also set up a testing center at the Police Athletic League (3005 Frederick Douglass Blvd.), which will be open 11 am – 5 pm on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

  • Henry Street Settlement’s Henry Street Helpline is available to assist Lower East Siders in English, Spanish, and Chinese on accessing their social services and programs. Call (347) 493-2787, Monday-Friday from 8 am – 8 pm.
  • The Salvation Army, Doctors Without Borders, and the Coalition for the Homeless are running mobile hygiene and resource locations for homeless New Yorkers. Learn more.
  • Applications are open until Saturday (7/18) for the Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund from the NAACP and Beyoncé’s BeyGOOD foundation, which offers grants of $10,000 or lower for Black-owned small businesses in five cities.

Thursday, 7/9/20

  • Tax Day is next Wednesday, July 15! Visit here for info on free NYC Tax Prep services.
  • Applications have resumed for the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which dispenses loans that operate as grants if used for payroll, interest on mortgages, rent, or utilities (though at least 60% must be used for payrolls for loans to be forgiven).

    You should know that Pace University’s Small Business Development Center can help business owners apply for these loans. Email sbdc@Pace.edu to arrange a free virtual meeting to discuss this and other small business financial programs.

  • Next Thursday (7/16) at 10 am, I am hosting the regular monthly online public session of the Manhattan Borough Board, a formal body composed of all Council Members and Community Board chairs in the borough. Register to attend at this link and you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to be in the online audience.
  • Also next Thursday (7/16) from 7 – 8 pm, I’ll join State Sen. Liz Krueger and Christian Klossner, Executive Director of the Office of Special Enforcement of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, for an online town hall to discuss reopening New York City. Watch live on Facebook.

Wednesday, 7/8/20

  • Today (7/8) the Supreme Court issued two dangerous opinions:

    It ruled to grant further exception from fair employment laws for religious institutions, which will give cover for religious institutions to fire or refuse to hire someone based on discriminatory factors, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation (laws which every other employer in the country must follow).

    And the court sided with the Trump administration to allow employers to opt out of offering birth control coverage for employees on religious or “moral” grounds, which is yet another chipping away of the Affordable Care Act.

    These decisions take freedom of religion much too far.

  • Tomorrow (7/9) the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board is hosting a “Co-ops Go Solar Shareholder’s Panel” online workshop, where shareholders from co-ops citywide will discuss their switch to solar energy and answer audience questions. Register here.

Tuesday, 7/7/20

  • The City has postponed the annual tax lien sale again, and now will take place in September, 2020 (instead of August).The lien sale is administered by the NYC Department of Finance, which sells properties that are behind on their property taxes, water and sewer charges, and other property charges. The agency sends out four warning notices to property owners starting three months prior to the sale, alerting them that the property is at risk of being on the lien sale list. More than 80 percent of owners pay the full amount owed, enter into payment plans, or obtain an exemption that removes them from the at-risk pool. DOF also advertises at risk properties and conducts extensive outreach to property owners at risk of having their liens sold, often partnering with community groups and elected officials to reach as many property owners as possible.But during the pandemic, more properties than usual may be at risk. Property owners who are facing hardships making can get help from several existing DOF programs. These include exemption programs to lower the amount of taxes owed, standard payment plans, or a new Property Tax and Interest Deferral (PT AID) program, for those who qualify. DOF also provides a monthly property tax billing service to facilitate budgeting for property owners billed on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. More information on those programs can be found at https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/20pdf/hardship-programs-press-release.pdf.
  • Tomorrow (7/8) from 10 – 11 am, I’ll be joining the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association for “Reopening– What’s Ahead? A Q&A with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer,” a conversation for small business owners and community members on what awaits New Yorkers in the weeks ahead. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (7/8) from noon – 2 pm, the Upper Manhattan and Washington Heights Workforce1 Career Centers and NYCHA’s Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES) program are hosting a job fair to recruit candidates for various positions in retail, security, maintenance, warehouses, and home health. Register here, or by calling (718) 289-8100. Before the event, you must email your resume to reespostings@nycha.nyc.gov.

Monday, 7/6/20

  • Update on city policies: Buses are still boarded from the back until fare collection begins again in August. Alternate Side Parking is suspended citywide through to Sunday (7/12). The ULURP land use timetable is suspended for another five days, until Friday (7/10).

Thursday, 7/2/20

  • I have more to say about the FY21 budget.

    Yesterday I described my objections to the cuts-and-restorations in summer jobs and youth programs at a time when we really need them most. Sara Heller and Judd B. Kessler, economists who have studied the impact of summer jobs programs for young people in New York City and elsewhere, described better than I could the benefits of these programs in a NY Times op-ed on Monday (“Mayor de Blasio, Bring Back Summer Jobs”).

    As I said yesterday, I know how brutal budget negotiations can be, having served on the Council’s budget negotiating team for 12 years.

    I’ve been championing funding for a social worker in every school for a long time and, particularly coming out of this pandemic, that goal is more important than ever.  It is not clear to me that the money restored for social workers maintains the modest level committed to by the Mayor last year, since vacant positions are being eliminated and I do not know what the $4.8 million that is allocated will fund. Will they be school-based, as I have asked? Along with Council Member Treyger, I’m disturbed that social workers are not exempt from the hiring freeze. We need these critical workers now more than ever, as the health crisis and resulting economic crisis merge in young minds into one giant mass of uncertainty.

    A third priority of mine was organics recycling. It is unfortunate that the $7 million needed for community composting and e-waste collection was not fully restored. While a $2.86 million restoration of community composting programs is welcome, it’s a step backward from the goal of a citywide composting program.

    I’m appalled that the final budget did not address the need for affordable housing. FY20’s fourth quarter and FY21’s cuts to the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development’s capital budget total over $1 billion, which advocates estimate will lead to the loss of 22,000 units of affordable housing and 37,000 jobs associated with developing those units.

    We must explore all options for producing and preserving affordable housing. I’ll begin by consulting experts and advocates to re-evaluate the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program, with the goal of improving MIH as a way to generate truly affordable housing during this time when there is a scarcity of subsidies and financing. As part of that, we’ll examine whether the offsite allowance under the Voluntary Inclusionary Housing program is effective.

    I am also concerned about cuts to the Department for the Aging (DFTA).  While these cuts are minimal compared with other agencies, DFTA represents less than 1% of the city budget. Cutting the Borough Presidents’ DFTA discretionary money will mean a $241,675 reduction in services in programs like Visiting Neighbors, Inc. and Harlem Wellness Center in Manhattan, and thousands more in the other four boroughs.

    I’m glad that the City Council restored key CUNY programs, such as the ASAP program that enables low income students to attend and graduate from community colleges.

    And I wholeheartedly support the Council’s restoration of support for libraries and to culture and the arts, including $3.7 million for the Coalition of Theaters of Color Initiative.

    Like so many, I’m concerned that the supposed $1 billion cut to the NYPD is simply not real. Money has been shifted among agencies, and there is no concrete plan for eliminating or capping overtime. I believe that much more needs to be done, as we re-imagine policing in our city. I intend to continue to call together advocates and experts, hold community dialogues (as I have done in the past), and seek real reform.

  • Tonight (7/2) at 6 pm, the Harlem Business Alliance presents “Green Revolution– Leveling the Playing Field,” a panel discussion on how best to ensure cannabis legislation in New York State with racial justice in mind. Register on Zoom, or stream on YouTube or Facebook.

Wednesday, 7/1/20

  • The Fiscal Year 2021 budget was passed by the Council last night, minutes before midnight.

    I served in the City Council for 12 years– and for all of that time was on the budget negotiating team; so I know how difficult it is to pass a budget that meets all needs. While I congratulate the current Council on restoring important programs and starting to address the NYPD budget, more work must be done.

    In particular, the $115.8 million in funding restored for the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and the Work, Learn, Grow; Compass; Beacons; Cornerstones; and SONYC summer programs are not enough. The restored funding will cover just over 100,000 youth – but that’s 70,000 fewer than last year (and even last year, thousands who applied to SYEP did not get slots).  So I, along with others, will be reaching out to the private sector to help fill the gap in summer jobs for young people– jobs that help keep them safe and engaged and prepare them for the future.

    I’ll have more budget comments in tomorrow’s edition of the newsletter (which will be the last of the week due to the City holiday on Friday).

  • Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo confirmed today that NYC will not resume indoor dining on Monday (7/6) as part of Phase Three reopening, and it is postponed indefinitely as a result of surging coronavirus cases in other states (which had reopened their indoor dining weeks ago).

    The City’s outdoor dining program will continue until at least Labor Day (9/7). A restaurant may self-certify to participate in outdoor dining on sidewalks (without the approval of their landlord or local Community Board), so long as they register with the Dept. of Transportation and commit to safety protocols. Learn more.

    Restaurants can join together to apply to offer seating on current Open Streets (as well as recommend new Open Streets). Apply here.

    Those with concerns that restaurants are not following the rules should file a complaint via 311.

  • The City’s Test and Trace Corps will provide funding to community-based organizations to help with promoting testing and tracing for COVID-19, for use in outreach and education programs relating to testing, tracing, and safety measures like mask use and physical distancing. The request for proposals has a response deadline of Monday, July 13.
  • Tomorrow (7/2) from 2 – 3 pm, the government consulting firm REMI is hosting “Forecasting the Impact of the CARES Act,” a webinar with economist Leon Zhang on the resources available to state and local governments from the bill, and tradeoffs they bring. Register here.
  • Dance/NYC has announced a new “Disability. Dance. Artistry. Dance and Social Justice Fellowship Program,” which will award grants of $1000 to 25 dance workers with disabilities with work relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for racial justice. The deadline to apply is June 12.

Tuesday, 6/30/20

  • Also at press time, the Council is poised to vote on a fiscal year 2021 budget. The details are sketchy right now, but I will try to have some reactions in tomorrow’s newsletter. See the latest budget adjustment summary and Schedule C discretionary allocations from the Council here (PDF).
  • Many public assistance benefits come in at the beginning of the month. If you can, please try to avoid grocery shopping in the next few days and make space for our neighbors who are on SNAP and WIC to buy food. With children staying home, many families’ food supplies may have depleted more quickly, making grocery shopping at the start of the new month a necessity rather than a preference. (In the new normal of occasional shortages, please also be mindful of your own shopping and avoid choosing items tagged with WIC labels unless absolutely necessary.)
  • The City Dept. of Transportation has released an online form for community-based organizations (like Business Improvement Districts or Merchants’ Associations) or groups of three or more restaurants on a block to offer seating on Open Streets as well as propose new Open Streets for seating. Learn more and apply here.
  • Today the MTA announced they have deployed PPE vending machines stocked with masks and hand sanitizer as a pilot program at 10 stations. I have been calling for this for some time, and look forward to the pilot’s success. Eight of the vending machine locations are in Manhattan:

    • 14 St-Union Square

    • 34 St-Herald Square (two machines)

    • 34 St-Penn Station

    • 34 St-Penn Station

    • 42 St-Port Authority Bus Terminal

    • 42 St-Times Square (two machines)

    • 59 St-Columbus Circle

    • 74 St-Roosevelt Av

  • Tomorrow (7/1) from 3 – 4:30 pm, Housing Conservation Coordinators present “Derechos de inquilinos e inmigrantes en tiempos de COVID-19,” a webinar in Spanish on tenants’ rights during the pandemic. Join on Zoomwatch on Facebook Live, or call in at (646) 558-8656 with Meeting ID: 818 5806 5371#.
  • A group of education advocates, including two of my appointees to Community Education Council 2, have created sharemypebt.com, a site for those who have received a pandemic EBT benefit and would like to redistribute the amount on the card to food insecure families after they’ve used the card, as well as learn about benefits for using them at GrowNYC Greenmarkets.

Monday, 6/29/20

Friday, 6/26/20

Thursday, 6/25/20

  • I co-hosted a town hall with the New York Public Library and U.S. Census Bureau yesterday on outreach efforts and the benefits to filling out this year’s census– watch it on YouTube.

    In Manhattan we’ve hit 54.1% completion! Thanks to everyone who’s completed their census form. Please join a text bank to send texts to fellow New Yorkers reminding them to do the census. It’s a great way to chip in and help get our numbers up even further. (My office is at 100%!)

    • 57.1% for New York State,

    • 52.6% for New York City,

    • 49.8% for Brooklyn,

    • 57.9% for Staten Island,

    • 52.5% for Queens,

    • 54% for the Bronx,

    • and 54.1% for Manhattan!

    With so many people sheltering in places other than Manhattan, please complete census forms using the Manhattan address, and not at the other location! If you mistakenly put down your “COVID location” you can resubmit your census form at My2020census.gov. ((You do not need a code; click “Start Questionnaire” and then “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” link below the login button.)) The census system usually removes duplicates, as long as all answers remain the same except the address.

    The final census numbers help determine federal aid to states and cities for the next 10 years– hospitals, schools, food aid, transit, etc– so it’s really, REALLY important.

  • Tomorrow (6/26) from 2 – 3:30 pm, the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife is hosting a “Town Call” to help restaurants reopening during Phase 2, with presentations followed by Q & A. Also on the call will be the City Dept.’s of Health, Transportation and Small Businesses Services. RSVP at bit.ly/reopeningtowncall.
  • The application for 94 affordable apartments at Victory Plaza (11 West 118th St.) has opened for New Yorkers over the age of 62 (or households with at least one person that age) who meet income requirements. Learn more through Housing Connect.

Wednesday, 6/24/20

Tuesday, 6/23/20

  • Governor Cuomo announced $65 million in federal CARES Act funding is available for child care providers statewide through the New York Forward Child Care Expansion Incentive program, with $20 million in grants available for expanding capacity for reopening child care centers with proper precautions, and $45 million to cover costs for newly opened classrooms.
  • Tomorrow (6/24) from 2 – 3 pm, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s NY Regional Office is hosting “Keep Your Home Healthy and Safe,” a webinar on home health hazards and government resources. Register here.

Monday, 6/22/20

  • New York City entered Phase Two of reopening today.

    To help kick it off and declare Manhattan open for business, I enjoyed an outdoor breakfast with my husband Cal Snyder and Jessica Lappin, president of the Downtown Alliance, at George’s New York, a Financial District staple that survived 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. It happened that I had recently appointed the owner, Bill Koulmentas, to Community Board 1 and we discussed the needs of businesses in Lower Manhattan and what can be done to support them during re-opening.

  • Tonight (6/22) from 6 – 8 pm, I’ll be co-hosting a Reopening Town Hall with Community Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12. Representatives from five City agencies (Parks, Health, Small Business, NYPD) and the nonprofit Legal Services will be on hand to discuss reopening businesses and public spaces, preventing an eviction surge, social distancing enforcement, and health care disparities in communities of color; we will also answer questions from the audience. Register and submit questions in advance here. The town hall will also stream live on my Facebook page.
  • On Wednesday (6/24) at 4 pm, I’ll be co-hosting a town hall titled “Community Actions, Benefits & The Census” with panelists including my Deputy Borough President, Aldrin Bonilla, Jay Brandon of the New York Public Library, Amy Torres from the Chinese American Planning Council, Kathleen Daniel of the City’s Census outreach office and Lissa Southerland of the nonprofit Union Settlement. Register here.
  • The State’s Department of Financial Services is sponsoring a two-day pop-up in Chinatown to answer questions on filing claims for looting damages. Tomorrow and Wednesday (6/23 – 24) from 9 am – 4 pm at Educational Alliance (197 E. Broadway, NY NY 10002). Call (800) 342-3736 from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm on weekdays for more information.

Friday, 6/19/20

  • As of Monday (6/22) the City will allow restaurants that self-certify (and follow guidelines) to serve food outside on sidewalks, backyards, patios, and parking spaces by their storefront. This is a welcome lifeline for our city’s restaurants– but there are so many details the Mayor must work out.

    Of particular concern to me:

    • balancing local stipulations that Community Boards have fought for with getting restaurants open quickly,
    • Sidewalks remain clear for pedestrians,
    • That businesses and City inspectors ensure all health guidelines are followed.

    Restaurants must self-certify by visiting this site. See an Open Restaurants FAQ here (PDF).

    Related: A group of NYC businesses have created Rebuild New York, an online platform for businesses citywide to discuss information and best practices for reopening.

  • Official business: If you missed the Manhattan Borough Board meeting, a video of the meeting is available on YouTube… The ULURP suspension has been extended again for another week… On Monday (6/22), I’ll be testifying to the City Council’s Cultural Affairs Committee meeting on the impact of the pandemic on cultural organizations… Governor Cuomo confirmed today (6/19) that NYC will enter Phase Two of reopening on Monday (6/22).

    The first of my office’s annual professional development classes for Community Board members– and the public– begin next week. Please click the hyperlinks below to register:
    Land use and zoning 101: Tuesday, June 23, 6 – 8 pm.
    Landmarks & the role of the Community Board: Thursday, June 25,  6 – 8 pm.
    Advanced land use and zoning: Monday, June 29, 6 – 8 pm.

Thursday, 6/18/20

  • Mayor de Blasio announced today that the City will enter Phase II on Monday (6/22) and issued Phase Two RESTART guidance for NYC businesses, crucially including an NYC Restaurant Reopening Guide and an online application for “Open Restaurants” to use sidewalk and roadway space for seating. This is what I, and so many restaurateurs, have been pushing for, and I’m glad it’s finally happening. As with everything in this crisis, the devil is in the details and I look forward to working with business owners and the administration in implementing the guidelines. Restaurants must self-certify by visiting this site starting tomorrow morning (6/19).
  • During Phase Two, independent retail stores will once again be open to the public for browsing while adhering to State guidelines. Additionally, malls must remain closed to the public, but stores based in malls with their own street entrances can reopen; those without their own external entrances may conduct curbside delivery.
  • On Monday (6/22) from 6 – 8 pm, I’ll be co-hosting a Reopening Town Hall with Community Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12. City agencies and organizations will discuss health care disparities in communities of color, reopening businesses and public spaces, preventing an eviction surge, and social distancing enforcement, as well as questions and feedback from the audience. Register and submit questions in advance here. The town hall will also stream live on my Facebook page.
  • On Wednesday (6/24) at 4 pm, I’ll be co-hosting a “Community Actions, Benefits & The Census” town hall on Census updates and outreach efforts in partnership with the New York Public Library and the U.S. Census Bureau. Panelists include Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla, Jay Brandon of the New York Public Library, Amy Torres from the Chinese American Planning Council, Kathleen Daniel of NYC Census, and Lissa Southerland of Union Settlement. Register here.
  • The NYC Rent Guidelines Board voted last night to freeze rents for rent-stabilized apartments and lofts for one-year lease renewals and the first year of a two-year renewal (with a 1% hike in the second year). Rents were also frozen for single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels.

Wednesday, 6/17/20

  • On Monday (6/22), I’ll be co-hosting a Reopening Town Hall with Community Boards 9, 10, 11 and 12. City agencies and organizations will discuss policies and plans for reopening NYC, as well as take questions and feedback from the audience. Register and submit questions in advance here.
  • Governor Cuomo said today that Phase II reopening in the city is “on track” to begin this Monday (6/22). The Mayor doesn’t necessarily agree, and the city’s reopening website still says the date isn’t set.

    Hospitals and group homes are now allowed to accept visitors at their discretion while following state guidelines on limiting visit time and requiring PPE.

  • Tonight (6/17) at 7 pm, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board will hold its final meeting to vote on rent guidelines for rent regulated leases effective between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. The meeting is open to the public via YouTube livestream or via phone at 1-408-418-9388 with access code 129 518 1961 and password gtTHXjMW297.

Tuesday, 6/16/20

  • Next week, eviction proceedings will again be permitted– but only against tenants who are not in arrears because of COVID-19 factors. But since Housing Court will operate with just 20% of non-judicial staff, and buildings will be subject to severe occupancy restrictions, parties should expect things to move very, very slowly. No trials or defaults will be taken until further notice.Tenants should “answer” cases by phone; those who show up in person will be encouraged to return home and do so. The court will put stickers with the numbers to call on the postcards sent by the court clerks to tenants with eviction actions. Once answered, court dates will be set for after Phase II reopening. These are called “adjournments” and will be set longer than usual to allow tenants time to obtain all the legal advice possible before their court hearing.Experienced clerks will be available just inside court buildings to review documents and direct tenants appropriately. Tenants who must come into the building will be provided with masks if necessary. Social distancing will be enforced, with a maximum of two people per elevator.The Office of Civil Justice emergency hotline (staffed by attorneys and tenant advocates) will continue to operate as usual, weekdays from 9 am  – 5 pm and can be accessed by calling 311 and requesting the Tenant Helpline.
  • The City’s Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development has opened a new Housing Connect Portal for affordable housing lottery applications. An important note: account profiles from the prior Housing Connect site WILL NOT carry over; you must visit the site to make a new account. Learn more.
  • The City’s Commission on Gender Equity has shared a short survey for New York City residents ages 18 and older to help inform an equitable recovery from COVID-19 in NYC.
  • Tomorrow (6/17) from noon – 1 pm, the City’s Dept. for Small Business Services is hosting “NYC Means Business: Guidelines for Reopening Phase 1 Businesses,” one of many interactive webinars for small business owners and employees. Register here, and see a list of upcoming SBS webinars here.
  • Tomorrow (6/17) from 12:30 – 2 pm, the City’s Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene is hosting a Virtual Rat Academy webinar for building supers and staff, homeowners, tenants, and managing companies on rat prevention methods. Join on Webex with Meeting Number: 129 930 9276, and Password: health1.
  • Tomorrow (6/17) at 7 pm, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board will hold its final meeting to vote on rent guidelines for rent regulated leases effective between October 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. The meeting is open to the public via YouTube livestream or via phone at 1-408-418-9388 with access code 129 518 1961 and password gtTHXjMW297.
  • Tomorrow (6/17) from 7 – 8 pm, NY State Sen. Liz Krueger is hosting her second online town hall on reopening NYC, and will be joined by Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner of the City’s Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Dr. Ted Long, Executive Director of the City’s new Test and Trace Corps. Watch live on Facebook.

    Krueger will also be hosting a criminal justice reform town hall on Thursday (6/18) from 5 – 6:30 pm, with State Senators Jamaal Bailey and Zellnor Myrie, as well as the Vera Institute of Justice’s Insha Rahman. It will also stream live on Facebook.

Monday, 6/15/20

  • Today (6/15), I testified before the City Council Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management to call for swift passage of two bills I co-sponsored with Council Members Powers and Reynoso respectively to set up organics, e-waste, and textiles recycling drop-off centers in every community district (especially important now that the organics pickup program has been suspended).
  • Tomorrow (6/16), a new COVID-19 testing center will open at Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave. for both antibody (blood) and PCR (nasal swab) tests. It will be open 9 am – 5 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through July 11, no appointment is necessary. Those who test positive will be supported with quarantine advice and doctors’ referrals, and community organizations will be on hand with information on the Census, voter registration, and contract tracing jobs.
  • Tomorrow (6/16) at 6 pm, I’ll be joining the A. Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance for “Virtual Housing Forum: Tenant Rights & Protections During the Pandemic,” a discussion with lawyers and community advocates. Join on Zoom here, or use Meeting ID: 939 8100 3375 and Password: 465573.
  • Last week, the Mayor expanded the Small Business Emergency Grant program for small businesses with damaged storefronts to all five boroughs. This expansion, funded by Signature Bank, will provide grants of up to $10,000 for repairs. Complete the interest form here, and local partner organizations will reach out to eligible applicants.
  • Tomorrow (6/16) from 5:30 – 6:30 pm, the City’s Department of Small Business Services is hosting “A View From You: The City of New York Listens to the Small Business Community,” a “reverse town hall” where all NYC residents, especially small business owners and employees, are encouraged to participate. Register here.
  • The Partnership for the Homeless has received a grant to provide financial assistance, tenant/landlord mediation and legal referrals, among other services, to those who cannot pay rent or are facing homelessness. Learn more and apply.

Friday, 6/12/20

  • Mayor de Blasio announced that the Small Business Emergency Grant Program for small businesses with damaged storefronts in recent protests will be expanding to all five boroughs. This expansion, funded by a donation from Signature Bank, will provide grants of up to $10,000 for repairs.

Thursday, 6/11/20

  • The Mayor announced the Restaurant Revitalization Program, a $3 million project to assist restaurants with “wage replacement” to retain current employees (or rehire those laid off) due to COVID-19. The program will prioritize neighborhoods hit hardest, including Washington Heights, Inwood, Hamilton Heights, Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, East Harlem, the Lower East Side, and Chinatown. The first round of applications are due June 19. Learn more (PDF).
  • I testified at yesterday’s (6/10) meeting of the NYC Rent Guidelines Board. The Board has already proposed a rent freeze for some lease renewals, but I urged them to go further, freezing rent for all renewals. Read my testimony here.
  • Regular readers know I am fighting the Mayor’s decision to cancel the Summer Youth Employment Program this year. The City’s Independent Budget Office has detailed the financial losses for young people and their families if the program remains cancelled this year– it’s worth a look.
  • Tomorrow (6/12) at 1 pm, the National Black Leadership Commission on Health and NYC’s Racial Inclusion and Equity Task Force are hosting a Virtual Contact Tracing Job Fair. Register here.
  • The wealth redistribution group Resource Generation has released a form for those who have received a pandemic EBT benefit and would like to redistribute the funds to food insecure families in NYC. Register here.

Wednesday, 6/10/20

  • While there is still no announced date for Phase Two of reopening, which will see nail salons, barber shops, and hair salons reopen, the State has now posted directions for Phase Three on the NY Forward site.

    A reminder: reopening businesses must submit affirmations to confirm compliance with relevant reopening guidelines.

    The Governor has asked that commuters unsatisfied with bus or subway service during reopening call 511 with complaints.

  • Tomorrow (6/11) from 7 – 8 pm, join State Sen. Liz Krueger and epidemiologist Dr. Julia Marcus for the first of three town halls on reopening New York City, which will discuss reorienting social interactions and daily routines to minimize COVID-19 transmissions. Watch live on Facebook.
  • Applications are now open for the 2020 Spectrum Digital Education grant program, which will support nonprofit organizations providing broadband training and education in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The application window will close on June 26 at 5 pm, and awardees will be announced in August and funded in September.

Tuesday, 6/9/20

  • Word from the Governor’s office is that companies who need to prepare their offices for Phase 2 reopening (later in June or early July) may send in employees to do so now, in Phase One. Here’s the link again to the state’s reopening guidance for companies and organizations.
  • As part of Phase One reopening, the Staten Island Ferry has increased service to every 20 minutes from 6 – 9 am and 3:30 – 6:30 pm on weekdays and 30-minute service from 7 am – 7 pm on weekends.
  • Tomorrow (6/10) at 2 pm, the Appellate Division of the NY State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear virtual arguments in the Inwood rezoning lawsuit: Northern Manhattan Is Not For Sale vs. City of N.Y. Listen to the oral arguments here.

  • The third and final round of applications for the Documentary Freelancer Relief Fund opens tomorrow (6/10), which will bring their total relief funding to $325,000. Previous applications will also roll into this last round, so that filmmakers don’t have to apply multiple times. Learn more here.

Monday, 6/8/20

  • Today is the first day of Phase One reopening, 100 days after the shutdown.

    The State has released a New York Forward Business Reopening Web Tool, which helps small businesses determine if they have met the criteria for reopening.

    Employers must read their relevant industry guidance, complete this affirmation form to indicate compliance with guidelines, and develop a safety plan to be posted where employees can see it at the place of business.

    Employers looking for more information on reopening compliance can call the City’s hotline at (888) SBS-4NYC (727-4692). Workers concerned with a lack of necessary protections can call 311 and ask for the Worker Protection Hotline.

    As part of Phase One reopening, Governor Cuomo has announced New York City hospitals will be allowed to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care.

    Quick reminder: as long as we are in Phase One reopening, buses will be boarded from the back door, and will remain free to ride. 

  • Mayor de Blasio has announced that the 14th Street Busway will be made permanent following the highly successful pilot which started last October, and that two new busways will be created in Manhattan: One on 181st St. from Amsterdam Ave. to Broadway and the other along 5th Avenue from 57th St. to 34th St.
  • Tomorrow (6/9) at 1 pm, join the Harlem Covid Working Group for a Virtual Contact Tracing Job Fair to learn more about the City’s plan to hire 5,000 contact tracers by August 1 and get information on how to apply. Register here.

Friday, 6/5/20

  • On Monday, June 8, the city will begin Phase I of re-opening.

    Transit. Estimates are that around 200,000 people will return to work, with many riding subways and buses (down from an estimated 8.3 million daily transit riders on a normal day).

    To keep the system safe, the MTA is ramping up service on subways and busses (100% and 75% of total capacity, respectively). They’ll be cleaning subway cars, buses, Access-A-Ride vehicles, and all 472 subway stations at least once a day. And they’re taking innovative steps with new cleaning technology including UV light sterilization; cleaning robots; expanding OMNI touch-free turnstiles; replacing air filters on subway cars; installing sanitizer dispensers in stations and cars as well as distributing bottles of it; and handing out 2 million masks in the first week.

    If you are returning to work, and you must return to transit, be sure to wear a mask and avoid speaking around others. Keeping six feet of distancing space will of course be harder. But cities like Seoul and Taipei have found transmission can remain low as long as riders wear masks, avoid speaking, and keep from touching your face or other passengers. Lastly, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds at the beginning and end of your trip.

    During Phase I reopening, buses will still be boarded from the back door, and will remain free to ride. 

    If you are not returning to work, it will help to avoid subways and buses during rush hours to leave that space for those who must ride.

    Small business. The City’s Dept. of Small Business Services has opened a hotline for reopening advice and resources: (888) SBS-4NYC (727-4692), and released an industry guide to Reopening NYC Businesses.

    Worker protection. The City’s Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection has also released “Reopening NYC: What Workers Need to Know” (PDF), a guide for worker resources for Phase One reopening, with updates at nyc.gov/workers.

    Call 311 as of Monday to report noncompliance with any of the reopening guidelines by businesses.

  • The East Harlem Community Partnership will award ten $1,000 grants for students starting the freshman year of college or attending a technical school. Applicants must reside in East Harlem, within zip codes 10029 or 10035. All applications must be submitted by THIS MONDAY, June 8, 2020. Click here to download the application.

Thursday, 6/4/20

  • Today (6/4), I testified in support of plans to allow outdoor dining for our city’s struggling restaurants on DOT Open Streets and in parking spaces in front of businesses. I proposed these two solutions over the last several weeks, and I’m pleased the administration has heeded my calls– and look forward to working with businesses on ensuring this program is a major success.

Wednesday, 6/3/20

  • In speaking with transit leaders and advocates, they’re concerned that not enough people know that busses are free in Manhattan right now! I don’t know how long this will last, but everyone should know you can board at the rear door, be relatively distanced in a bus that’s sanitized every night, and get where you want to go without trying to find a scarce cab or expensive for-hire car or going underground– I know, I’ve done it!

Tuesday, 6/2/20

  • Unemployment insurance debit cards issued by NYS are administered by KeyBank. Because there is only one branch of KeyBank in New York City (located at 11 E. 22nd St.), too many New Yorkers assume that it is the only place to access their unemployment benefits without ATM fees (and may also be attracted to the high daily withdrawal limit of $1500). Long lines at that location have resulted.

    But everyone should know that Allpoint-affiliated ATMs take KeyBank cards without charging fees, including those at many RiteAid, CVS and Target stores. See a map of AllPoint locations here; the Allpoint site does not specify a withdrawal limit, saying each ATM operator may set its own limit.

    I wrote to Gov. Cuomo to urge that the Dept. of Labor make it much clearer to unemployment recipients when the debit cards are issued where they can use them without fees and surcharges. Read my letter here.

    In related news, the federal government is now issuing debit cards loaded with $1200 coronavirus stimulus payments to some recipients, in an effort to get the money out faster. Problem is, those cards come in envelopes that don’t look like government documents and it’s easy to assume it’s junk mail. DON’T THROW IT OUT! Here’s more from New York Magazine: Everything We Know About the Coronavirus Stimulus Debit Cards.

  • The City’s Department of Small Business Services has shared their new “Find a Job” page, which lists open employment listings from across NYC. Learn more and search the listings.
  • On Thursday (6/4) from 6 – 7 pm, I’ll be joining WEACT for one of their Uptown Chats online events, where I’ll be talking about some of the issues that matter most to Northern Manhattanites and taking questions. Register here.
  • On Thursday (6/4) from 6 – 8 pm, I’ll be co-sponsoring a Pandemic Tenants’ Rights Virtual Town Hall with Council Member Ben Kallos and other local, state, and federal elected officials from Manhattan. Attorneys will be available to provide additional information and  answer questions. RSVP online or call (212) 860-1950.

Friday, 5/29/20

  • Applications have now opened for the State EDC’s New York Forward Loan Fund that I wrote about in Wednesday’s (5/27) newsletter. See the pre-application information here. Read Wednesday’s (long) explanatory blurb on my website.

    TL/DR: If your business or organization– including MBWEs–  hasn’t received any other government help, this program will loan you up to $100,000 on pretty favorable terms.

  • New York City is still waiting on meeting Phase 1 reopening benchmarks (we’re still short on contact tracers and hospital bed capacity); but today the Governor released guidelines for Phase 2, for businesses ranging from “All Office-Based Jobs” to “limited” barber shop and salon services (and many businesses in between).
  • Registration opens at 9 am on Monday (6/1) to sign up to testify live at the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) public hearings scheduled for June 10 and June 11. The RGB has proposed a rent freeze for one-year renewals and, for two-year renewals, a rent freeze for year 1 and a 1% increase for year 2.
  • Don’t be confused! Although courts in neighboring counties in Westchester and Long Island have opened, courts across the five boroughs remained closed with limited virtual operations. See nycourts.gov for updates.
  • The affordable housing lottery has opened for 70 income-restricted units at The Smile, 158 East 126th Street. Apply at NYC Housing Connect.

Thursday, 5/28/20

Wednesday, 5/27/20

  • If you have children who attend public school in your household, you will automatically receive the $420 per child from NY State that would have been spent on school lunches during a normal school year. The funds are disbursed as follows:

    • If you are on SNAP and cash assistance: You should have received an additional $193 deposited to your EBT card on May 19. The remainder, $227, will be deposited on June 16.

    • If you are on Medicaid only: You will receive the full $420 amount per child during the last two weeks in June.

    • If you are not on any assistance or benefits program: you will be mailed a $420 EBT card this summer from the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

  • Yesterday we mentioned Gov. Cuomo’s announcement of a new $100 million New York Forward Loan Fund. Here are more details.

    NYFLF will make under-$100,000 working capital loans to NYS small businesses, nonprofits, and small landlords of under 20 employees and gross revenues of under $3 million. Applicants are ineligible if they received SBA funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

    Loan amounts will be the lesser of (a) $100,000 or (b) up to 100% of average monthly revenues in any 3-month period from 2019 or first quarter of 2020. For small businesses and small landlords the interest rate is 3%, for nonprofits it’s 2%, and all are for a five-year term with interest-only payments due during the first 12 months. No collateral is required and there are no application fees or prepayment penalties. Eligible use of loan funds include working capital, inventory, marketing, refitting for new social distancing guidelines, operating and emergency maintenance, property taxes, utilities, rent and supplies.

    Those businesses can complete the NYFLF pre-application and get in queue. Learn more at Empire State Development’s NYFLF presentation and FAQ Document.

    You should know that Pace University’s Small Business Development Center can help business owners apply for these loans. Email sbdc@Pace.edu to arrange a free virtual meeting to discuss this and other small business financial programs.

  • The Mayor’s Office to Prevent Gun Violence has announced the Safe in the City grant program, which will provide grants ranging from $500 – $1000 to NYC residents and nonprofit groups to fund community-centered actions and activities to make neighborhoods safer from gun violence. The program’s first deadline is June 30; learn more and apply here.
  • Tomorrow (5/28) at 11 am, Enterprise Community Partners is hosting a pre-application conference call for nonprofit development corporations interested in applying for the New York State Non-Profit Housing Recovery Program. These grants of up to $200,000 will support up to ten nonprofits that operate affordable housing and are acting as first responders in communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Join the call on Zoom using Meeting ID: 690 773 1795 and Password: 268228.
  • Three tenants’ rights events tomorrow:

    • Tomorrow (5/28) from 6 – 7:30 pm, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is hosting a Housing Rights Legal Clinic with attorneys available to answer questions; Spanish interpretation will be available. RSVP here.

    • Tomorrow (5/28) at 6 – 8 pm, the West Side Neighborhood Alliance’s general meeting will discuss issues and organizing during the pandemic. Register here.

    • Tomorrow (5/28) from 7 – 8:30 pm, State Senator Krueger and Legal Aid Staff Attorney Ellen Davidson will host a meeting focused on renter questions and concerns. Register and submit questions here, or watch the event on Facebook Live.

Tuesday, 5/26/20

  • Tomorrow (5/27) at 6:30 pm, I’ll be joining Community Board 11 for a Virtual Housing Forum; we’ll be discussing the current eviction moratorium and its impact on tenants. RSVP here.
  • The “New York Forward Loan Fund” is a new $100 million economic recovery loan program aimed at supporting NYS small businesses, focusing on minority and women-owned businesses that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance, especially those with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues.  Learn more on how to apply.
  • Businesses can use this lookup tool to determine what phase of reopening we are in, where they are allowed to operate to date, and the affirmations for businesses needed once a region is in Phase 1. (Some businesses in NYC in anticipation of Phase 1 reopening have already made their affirmations.) Please be aware of these tools so you are prepared to enter into Phase 1 when NYC opens. Businesses can use this lookup tool to determine what phase of reopening we are in, where they are allowed to operate to date, and the affirmations for businesses needed once a region is in Phase 1. (Some businesses in NYC in anticipation of Phase 1 reopening have already made their affirmations.) Please be aware of these tools so you are prepared to enter into Phase 1 when NYC opens.
  • The Governor also announced the members of a new state-level Blue-Ribbon Commission, which will advise on improving tele-health and broadband access. A list of members (and of all the appointed reopening task forces) is available on my website.
  • Tomorrow (5/27) from 11:15 am – noon, join the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for “Too Important to Fail: Minority-Owned Businesses Navigating COVID-19 and Beyond,” a forum on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and communities of color– and how capital providers can best support them. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (5/27) at 1 pm, join NYC & Company for a “Talks session on the State of the Industry,” which will touch on the early work of their Coalition for NYC Hospitality and Tourism Recovery, and provide an update on the latest news and forecasts for the hospitality industry. RSVP and submit questions here.
  • The City’s Department of Small Business Services is hosting a series of free webinars and mentor sessions for small business owners and entrepreneurs on topics ranging from QuickBooks, to content creation, to pandemic resources. Learn more and register here.
  • The affordable housing lottery has opened for 22 income-restricted units at Waterline Square, a development between 59th and 61st Streets along the Hudson River. Learn more here, and apply at housingconnect.nyc.gov.

Thursday, 5/21/20

  • This morning’s (5/21) meeting of the Manhattan Borough Board is now posted on YouTube.
  • Tonight (5/21) from 6 – 8 pm, join Union Settlement for a Digital Marketing Workshop that will guide participants in building online presences for individuals or businesses, with the same workshop in Spanish on Tuesday (5/26) from 6 – 8 pm. Register here for either date.

    Union Settlement is also hosting a Virtual Pop Up Market on Instagram Live @BuyLocalEastHarlem tonight (5/21) at 7 pm; shop and get to know local East Harlem businesses!

Wednesday, 5/20/20

  • Tomorrow (5/21) at 2 pm, the City Bar Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project and Cleary Gottlieb are offering a webinar for small business owners focused on contract issues that may arise as a result of COVID-19. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (5/21) from 2:30 – 3:30 pm, City & State is hosting a webinar titled “Nonprofit Resources: Operating Remotely During COVID-19,” featuring United Way of NYC CEO Sheena Wright, Fortune Society President and CEO JoAnne Page, and Jewish Board of Family & Children Services CPO John Kastan. Register here.
  • Applications are open until Sunday, May 31 for The Shed’s annual Open Call: the grants will support early-career artists and collectives of all stripes to make new work, and will grant them a featured space in The Shed next year. From performers to plastics, writers to DJ’s, all types of artists and groups are welcome, provided they have not yet received major institutional support. Learn more.

Tuesday, 5/19/20

  • The Artist Relief grant program, which distributes $5000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19 and provides resources and guidance to grantees, still has applications open for their second cycle, which closes on Thursday (5/21) at 11:59 pm.

  • Tomorrow is the deadline for submissions to the Arts Writers Grants Program, which supports both emerging and established writers whose work discusses contemporary visual art with grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 awarded in three categories: articles, books, and short-form writing.

  • An update on state unemployment benefits, which are now being loaded on debit cards issued by KeyBank and First Niagara. The cards, once received, can be activated by calling KeyBank Customer Service at (866) 295-2955. The only KeyBank ATM in NYC is at 11 East 22nd Street (just east of Broadway) but no-fee withdrawals can also be made at any Allpoint ATM– see locations hereLearn more.
  • The Downtown Alliance has expanded the criteria for their Small Business Rental Assistance Grant to offer immediate help to more storefront businesses currently providing vital services to residents and workers in Lower Manhattan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their initial round of applications is closed, but more businesses can apply as of Thursday (5/21) at 9 am.

Monday, 5/18/20

  • The City Human Resources Administration has released the application for the Cooling Assistance benefit, which helps eligible households buy and install an air conditioner or fan up to a cost of $800.
  • The City is still hiring contact tracers to reach out to the contacts of those diagnosed with COVID-19 to track the spread. Learn more, and apply here.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration and Department of the Treasury have released the Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application to help small businesses seek forgiveness at the end of the eight week period following the receipt of the loan. See more information here from the Pace Small Business Development Center, or make an appointment at sbdc@pace.edu.
  • Last month the Mayor announced a $5 million City investment to provide free internet-enabled tablets for 10,000 senior NYCHA residents to help them remain connected with their loved ones, in partnership with T-Mobile and Older Adults Technology Services. Eligible seniors (62 and older, living alone or with another senior only) can email nychafamilypartnerships@nycha.nyc.gov or call (929) 505-6208 and (929) 237-3069 (M-F 9:30 am to 4:30 pm) to register. Please let our office know at info@manhattanbp.nyc.gov or call (212) 531-1509 if you have any issues.
  • The City’s Independent Budget Office (IBO) has released a report analyzing the Mayor’s Executive Budget for 2021, issuing a call for concern among growing job losses and a continuing recession.

Friday, 5/15/20

  • Tomorrow, Saturday (5/16) at 10 am, I’ll be joining the Meatpacking District’s Business Improvement District for a conversation in their “Meatpacking Unpacked: Community Connected Saturday” series. I’ll be discussing what can be done to help businesses and communities rebound. RSVP and submit questions here.
  • Next Thursday (5/21), I am hosting the online public session of the monthly meeting of the Manhattan Borough Board, a formal body composed of all Council Members and Community Board chairs in the borough. Register to attend at this link and you’ll receive an email with instructions on how to be in the online audience. We’ll be discussing the necessary measures for any potential reopening of Manhattan.
  • For those looking to renew their driver’s license online, the DMV has announced that eye tests are now allowed from any doctor or optometrist’s office that is open, not just those normally approved to submit to the DMV directly. Learn more.

Thursday, 5/14/20

Wednesday, 5/13/20

  • Even though New York City is on pause, new affordable housing is still becoming available. One opportunity is at Roosevelt Island’s River Walk Park, currently accepting applications here until July 6, 2020; available units and income requirements are posted here. For help with applying to affordable housing, please check out HPD’s resource guide, “Ready, Set, Apply!” (Click here for English (PDF)– or here for other languages.)

    Those needing assistance with housing subjects can call the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants by asking for them at 311. You can also reach the New York Legal Assistance Group’s COVID-19 hotline, available from 10 am – 1 pm Monday-Friday at (929) 356-9582.

  • The City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) launched its Driver Resource Center yesterday (5/12), offering drivers services including legal services, financial counseling, health and mental health referrals, and support with applying for public benefits.
  • The Associated Press has now obtained the complete 63-page Centers for Disease Control (CDC) document advising on how to safely reopen businesses and institutions that I wrote about in last Friday’s (5/8) newsletter. Here is a link to that complete 63-page document, and here is a link to that followup AP story.

Tuesday, 5/12/20

  • A survey for small business owners and managers in East Midtown and the Upper East Side has been released by Community Board 8, in partnership with the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, the East Sixties Neighborhood Association, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, and the East 86th Street Association. Access the CB8 survey here.

Monday, 5/11/20

  • Tomorrow (5/12) from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm, the NoHo BID and SoHo Broadway Initiative are hosting “Coping with COVID-19: A Conversation about Commercial Leases,” a panel discussion on how commercial property owners and businesses are working through challenges related to the payment of rent, negotiating forbearance agreements, payment of pass-through expenses, enforcement of personal guarantees, and more during the COVID-19 crisis. Register here.

Friday, 5/8/20

  • NYC Service, a division of the Office of the Mayor, is providing one-time funding of up to $10,000 to support nonprofits engaging volunteers to deliver essential services, particularly meals and food, to residents throughout the COVID-19 crisis. View all eligibility and funding details. Applications are due next Monday (5/11) at 5 pm.

Thursday, 5/7/20

  • Tonight (5/7) at 6:30 pm, I’ll be co-hosting a virtual town hall with Council Member Brad Lander on the resources available for freelancers, featuring Nicole Salk from Legal Services NYC, Rob Piechota from the US Small Business Administration, and Divya Sundaram from Community Voices Heard. Register here.

    I’ve compiled a list of grant opportunities for freelancers on my website. (The list is too long to go into here).

  • Today Governor Cuomo extended the residential and commercial evictions moratorium to August 20, 2020, banned late payment fees during the moratorium, and allows renters facing financial hardship to use their security deposits as payment. (Back in late March, I joined Brooklyn BP Eric Adams and Council Members Powers and Cornegy in calling for exactly this.)  We will keep you posted on how to actually pay the rent with a security deposit; the process is still unclear.
  • The City has set up a Phone-A-Clinician hotline for those with COVID-19 related medical concerns to receive free tele-medicine consultations. Call (844) NYC-4NYC for more information.
  • The Human Services Consortium of East Harlem has shared a COVID-19 resource guide (Google Docs) with information on everything from food and housing to child care and immigrant resources.

Wednesday, 5/6/20

  • Contact tracing is an essential tool for fighting this pandemic. Next Tuesday (5/12) at 6:30 pm, I’ll be moderating a virtual town hall meeting in partnership with Columbia University, “Contact Tracing and Technology: Balancing Public Health and Privacy,”  with Congressman Jerrold Nadler. Visit here to learn more and submit questions in advance.

    Yesterday I posted contact tracing jobs that both the City and the State are each hiring for: two levels of tracers as well as supervisors. Click here for the City’s listings and here for the State’s postings.

    And tonight (5/6) at 5 pm, I’ll be co-sponsoring a Town Hall with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams titled “Contact Tracing: What is it, and what will it mean for New Yorkers?” The town hall will be streamed live for the public on the NYC Public Advocate’s Facebook page.

  • Tonight (5/6) at 7 pm, the New York State Council of Churches is hosting a town hall titled: “Provide Ongoing and Universal Income Assistance Paired With True Financial Relief.” Register here.
  • Tomorrow (5/7) from 4 – 5 pm, Crain’s New York Business is hosting “How COVID-19 Will Change NYC Real Estate,” a webinar featuring NYC real estate professionals discussing how office space needs are changing as this pandemic continues. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (5/7) from 6 – 7 pm, Solar One is hosting the first of two free “Solar for New Yorkers” workshops to teach viewers about solar technology, business models, and how to save money with at-home solar power. (The second workshop will take place on Friday (5/8) from 12  – 1 pm.) Register here.
  • Tomorrow, Thursday, (5/7) at 6:30 pm, I’ll be co-hosting with Council Member Brad Lander a virtual town hall on the help and resources available for freelancers, featuring Nicole Salk from Legal Services NYC, Rob Piechota from the US Small Business Administration, and Divya Sundaram from Community Voices Heard. Register here.
  • Governor Cuomo announced $30 million in funding for child care scholarships to income-eligible essential workers, which includes health care providers, pharmaceutical staff, law enforcement, firefighters, food delivery workers, and grocery store employees. They must be using a regulated child care provider (see a list of resource and referral agencies here); apply for one of these scholarships. Learn more.
  • The City’s COVID-19 Hotel Program provides free hotel stays to eligible New Yorkers who can’t isolate where they live, as well as frontline healthcare workers who hope to reduce the risk of transmission to others at home. Learn more.

Tuesday, 5/5/20

  • Jobs available! Both the City and State are hiring employees and supervisors for contact tracing: reaching out to the contacts of those diagnosed with COVID-19 to track the spread. Learn more here for the City (three types of contract tracer jobs along with many non-tracing jobs listed), and here for the State (contact tracersteam supervisors, and community support specialists).
  • Tomorrow (5/6) at 4 pm is the deadline for representatives of nonprofits to register for “Guidance on Commercial Leases During the Pandemic,” a webinar from New York Lawyers for Public Interest and the Lawyers Alliance for New York. The webinar itself will take place on Thursday (5/7) at 10 am. Register here.
  • NYC Service is providing one-time funding of up to $10,000 to support nonprofits engaging volunteers to deliver essential services, particularly meals and food, to residents throughout the COVID-19 crisis. View all eligibility and funding details.

    Applications are due next Monday (5/11) at 5 pm.

  • To address the unprecedented impact of this pandemic, DSS/HRA has issued an emergency rule increasing the burial allowance from $900 to $1,700, and also extended the timeframe for when you can apply to 120 days from the date of the individual‘s death.

Monday, 5/4/20

  • Tomorrow (5/5) at 9:30 am and 1 pm, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) will hold the first of two public meetings this week, with testimonies heard from invited owner and tenant groups respectively. The meeting on the preliminary vote will be held on Thursday (5/7). The public is invited to attend the meeting via the RGB’s YouTube channel.
  • Tomorrow (5/5) from 4 – 5 pm, Community Board 12 is hosting a town hall in English and Spanish on “What You Need to Know: Commercial Leases, Insurance, and Contracts,” featuring lawyers from Manhattan Legal Services. RSVP here to receive a Zoom link.
  • Spectrum has extended their free 60-day internet connection offer for educator and student households through to June 30. Learn more here.
  • The Documentary Freelancer Relief Fund is adding a third and final round of applications opening June 10, bringing their total relief funding to $325,000. (Their second round, which appears to be over-subscribed, opens May 6). Previous applications will roll into the next round, so that filmmakers don’t have to apply multiple times. So once you’ve sent in your application, it will continue to be considered throughout. For those who have not yet applied for the relief fund but would still like to do so, further information can be found here.

Friday, 5/1/20

  • The ICA Group has launched the Keep Doors Open Business Resilience Program in partnership with the City’s Department of Small Business Services; the program offers all local businesses who apply free consultations on financing options for employee ownership. Those selected for the program will receive further consulting and training options. Learn more here.
  • The NoHo Business Improvement District has released the Get Online Guide, a resource center to help small businesses build out an online presence, get online marketing grants, and more.

Thursday, 4/30/20

Wednesday, 4/29/20

  • New Yorkers who receive Supplemental Security Income and have minor dependents can receive an extra $500 per child in addition to the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment (which they should receive automatically). But if you get SSI and have not filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you must complete the Non-Filer web form on IRS.gov by May 5 (next Tuesday) to secure your payment.
  • The Downtown Alliance is launching a Small Business Rental Assistance Grant program, awarding $800,000 in cash grants to small businesses in Lower Manhattan. Applications are available starting Friday (5/1) at 9 am, on a first-come, first-served basis, until May 15 or until funding has been exhausted. Learn more here.
  • Tomorrow (4/30) from 2 – 3:30 pm, join the New York State Division of Human Rights for a Zoom meeting celebrating Fair Housing Month, addressing the fair housing rights for tenants, homebuyers, and persons with disabilities. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (4/30) from 7 – 9 pm, join Sen. Brian Kavanagh for a virtual town hall meeting covering housing issues and resources available for small businesses. Register for the event and submit questions in advance here.

Tuesday, 4/28/20

  • Tonight (4/28) at 6:30 pm, my office, Manhattan Community Board 4 and Housing Conservation Coordinators are hosting a virtual forum, “Tenant Protection & Housing Security during COVID-19 Pandemic.” Register here to get a link to participate in the Zoom meeting or just watch it live on CB4’s YouTube channel at 6:30 pm.
  • Tomorrow (4/29) at 6:30 pm, I’ll be moderating a virtual town hall on “Bridging the Digital Divide during COVID-19,” a discussion of potential solutions for the many disparities in technology laid bare by this pandemic. Partners include the Columbia University School of Social Work, BetaNYC, the West Harlem Development Corporation, Silicon Harlem, and Community Board 11. Panelists include Silicon Harlem’s Clayton Banks, Dr. Desmond Patton of the School of Social Work, Nilsa Orama of Community Board 11, and Noel Hidalgo from BetaNYC.
  • Tomorrow (4/29) from 11 am – 12:30 pm, the Harlem Community Development Corporation is hosting a free “Using Video in Business Marketing” webinar, guiding participants in properly recording and sharing videos online. Register here.
  • On Thursday (4/30) at 9:30 am, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) will hold its second public meeting to discuss the 2020 Income & Affordability Study and the 2020 Mortgage Survey Report. Members of the public may livestream the meeting here, or call in at (646) 668-8656 with Meeting ID 967-5796 -0550. A recording of the first RGB meeting on April 23 is available here.
  • On Thursday (4/30) from 10:00 – 11:30 am, the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) is hosting a virtual policy symposium on “Ensuring an Inclusive Economic Recovery in New York City.” Register here.
  • The NYS Bar Association has launched a new service to connect pro-bono attorneys with New Yorkers having trouble collecting or filing for unemployment benefits. Learn more here.

Monday, 4/27/20

  • A word to the wise: do not even open any emails with the subject line “Stimulus Payment Confirmation.” No one who’s legitimate will be sending you emails to confirm or ask for details on any stimulus payments. Mark them as spam and block the sender.
  • The NYC Fund for Public Health is now hiring people with health backgrounds to do COVID-19 contact tracing. Learn more at https://fphnyc.org/about/careers/ under “COVID-19 Jobs.”
  • Tomorrow (4/28) at 6:30 pm my office, Manhattan Community Board 4 and Housing Conservation Coordinators are hosting a virtual forum, “Tenant Protection & Housing Security during COVID-19 Pandemic.” Register here to get a link to participate in the Zoom meeting or just watch it live on CB4’s YouTube channel.
  • Tomorrow (4/28) at 2 pm, I’ll be joining Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez for a City & State webinar in their “Small Business Perspective on Coronavirus Pandemic” series. Register here.
  • Tonight (4/27) at 6 pm, Congressman Nadler will be hosting a virtual town hall focusing on COVID-19 small business relief, in partnership with the Harlem Small Business Development Center and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Submit questions ahead of time by selecting the issue “COVID-19”; questions will also be accepted during the event. Join the town hall here.
  • This morning at 10:30 am, the Small Business Administration resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications after an additional $310 billion was allocated by Congress last week. Not long after, their website crashed. With more than one million loan applications pending, demand will likely again outstrip supply, so if you’re a small business owner and have not yet submitted an application, please do so immediately. If you’re a small business owner with less than 15 employees, and haven’t even started, I recommend you email the team at Columbia Law School being coordinated by Professor Tim Wu, at columbiappp@gmail.com, as soon as possible. Official SBA Small Business Development Centers at Pace University, Baruch College, and Columbia University can also answer questions and provide guidance.

Friday, 4/24/20

  • On Tuesday (4/28) at 6:30 pm my office, Manhattan Community Board 4 and Housing Conservation Coordinators are hosting a virtual forum, “Tenant Protection & Housing Security during COVID-19 Pandemic.” Register here to ask questions in the Zoom meeting or watch it live on CB4’s YouTube channel.
  • On Wednesday (4/28) at 6:30 pm, I will be moderating a virtual town hall on “Bridging the Digital Divide during COVID-19,” a discussion of potential solutions for the many disparities in technology laid bare by this pandemic. Partners include the Columbia University School of Social Work, BetaNYC, the West Harlem Development Corporation, Silicon Harlem, and Community Board 11. Panelists include Silicon Harlem’s Clayton Banks, Dr. Desmond Patton of the School of Social Work, Nilsa Orama of Community Board 11, and Noel Hidalgo from BetaNYC.
  • Tomorrow (4/25) from 1 – 2:30 pm, Tenants and Neighbors is hosting their annual meeting online via Zoom, with the theme “Rallying for Tenants’ Rights and Justice in the Midst of Covid-19.” Register online here, or call in at (929) 436-2866 with Meeting ID: 616-636-6635.
  • For those in need of help in the burial of a loved one, the Human Resources Administration (HRA) is providing funeral assistance and payment of expenses for qualifying individuals. Learn moreSee the application here (PDF).

Thursday, 4/23/20

  • 250 of the jobs for NYCHA residents listed on OpportunityNYCHA.org have yet to be filled. These positions are for temporary per diem workers to assist with general maintenance at NYCHA properties. Per diem income will not have an impact on your rent. Apply here.
  • NYCHA residents who’ve lost income should qualify for NYCHA’s rent hardship program and should apply now. Residents can self-certify without submitting any documents and will be given a credit as soon as the request is submitted and reviewed by NYCHA (Residents do not have to wait as they did in the past). Call (718) 707-7771 or learn more here.
  • JustFix.nyc has announced Emergency HP Action, a new tool empowering tenants against landlords who are neglecting essential repairs or harassing tenants. Emergency HP Action allows tenants to sue landlords from any device that connects to the internet– saving a trip to Housing Court. Learn more here.
  • Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have announced A Common Thread, a grants program for the American fashion firms who have been impacted by the pandemic. Grants will target designers, small retailers and other members of the fashion community. The second round of applications is now available through May 3. The fund is not limited to former Fashion Fund participants or CFDA members.

Wednesday, 4/22/20

  • Citi Bike is hosting a webinar tonight (4/22) from 5:30 – 6:30 pm for those interested in applying for their Citi Bike Community Grants; the $5,000 to $25,000 grants are for local nonprofits who will work to increase access to bikeshare in their under-served communities. Find application materials here and register for the webinar here.
  • Tonight (4/22) from 6 – 7 pm, Council Member Helen Rosenthal will be hosting her monthly housing clinic online, in partnership with Take Root Justice and Goddard Riverside Law Project. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (4/23) from 2:30 – 3:30 pm, NYN Media is hosting a webinar titled “Managing the Impact of COVID-19 on your Nonprofit,” featuring the leaders of Safe Horizon, the Chinese-American Planning Council, New York Foundling, and Mazars USA, who will be discussing their work to mitigate the effects of this crisis. Register here.
  • New York State issued additional guidance on Friday (4/17) that allows NON-essential retail establishments (as defined by the Empire State Development Corporation) to fulfill delivery orders placed remotely via phone or online.

Tuesday, 4/21/20

  • Applications open this Thursday (4/23) for unrestricted grants of up to $2500 from the newly formed Maurice Sendak Emergency Relief Fund, administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Applications will close once 600 are received, and grants will be made in the order in which applications are received. The Maurice Sendak Foundation has funded the first $100,000, with a goal of raising $250,000.

    Applicants must be children’s picture book artists and/or writers who have published at least one picture book in the last five years (or who have a book currently under contract) and must show documented losses of income for the period of 2/1 – 7/30/2020 (including, but not limited to, cancelled freelance projects; teaching, speaking, or consulting assignments; lost temp work; layoffs or furloughs as a result of business closures, etc.). Applications will be reviewed between 4/23 and 5/4, and applicants will be notified by 5/4/2020. Please visit NYFA’s website for more information including a list of application questions and requirements. All questions should be directed to sendak@nyfa.org.

  • Citi Bike has opened applications for their Citi Bike Community Grants for July 2020 – July 2021. The $5,000 to $25,000 grants are for local nonprofits who can help increase access to bikeshare in low-income neighborhoods. There’s a webinar tomorrow (4/22) from 5:30 – 6:30 pm for those interested in applying. Find application materials here and register for the webinar here.
  • Tomorrow (4/22) from 10:00 – 11:15 am, the New York Public Library is hosting a webinar titled “Job Search Tips for Mature Job Seekers,” offering tips on building confidence, searching for positions, building a resume, and preparing for interviews. Register here.
  • Tomorrow (4/22) from 6:00 – 7:00 pm, Council Member Helen Rosenthal will be hosting her Monthly Housing Clinic online, in partnership with Take Root Justice and Goddard Riverside Law Project. Register here.
  • New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) has launched the NY COVID-19 Legal Resource Hotline to help New Yorkers impacted by COVID-19 get answers to essential legal questions. Reach the hotline and leave a message at (929) 356-9582, Monday-Friday from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. When leaving a message, include your name, the best number to call you back at, and a description of the legal question or issue.
  • Community nonprofit The Pillars is partnering with luxury bridal lifestyle brand Signature Bride and WedWeb Mobile to find medical staff (nurses, doctors, aides) who have had to cancel or postpone their wedding in response to the pandemic. One lucky couple could win a virtual wedding and honeymoon package worth $10,000 – register to win at their website, and email info@signaturebride.net for more information.

Monday, 4/20/20

  • This Wednesday (4/22), I am hosting a virtual Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) Town Hall at 3:00 pm. I’ll be moderating an hour-long panel on the importance of SYEP and efforts to save it, featuring the Children’s Aid Society’s Sandino Sanchez, Catholic Charities’ Eddie Silverio, the Harlem Boys and Girls’ Club’s Dominique Jones, the Chinese-American Planning Council’s Wayne Ho, and the United Neighborhood Houses’ J.T. Falcone. Register here to get a Zoom log-in link.
  • The Manhattan District Attorney has opened a hotline for reporting scams related to COVID-19. If you have been the victim of such a scam, or know someone who has, email fraudcomplaints@dany.nyc.gov, call (212) 335-8900, or message (347) 463-2198 on WhatsApp.
  • The New York Attorney General has issued guidance to make sure stimulus payment checks remain off limits to banks, creditors and debt collectors; those violating this order will face swift legal action.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation opened applications for their $5,000 Save Small Business grants for businesses (employing 3-20 people) that have been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Legal Services NYC has opened a hotline to help New Yorkers apply for public benefits like SNAP and Medicaid, as well as manage rent and utilities arrears. Call (917) 661-4500 for a free, confidential assessment.
  • NMIC Legal Services has established temporary COVID-19 intake hotlines for all New Yorkers — but prioritizing residents in Upper Manhattan and Southwest Bronx — to receive assistance on a variety of issues:

    • Accessing benefits: (919) 512-4469, Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

    • Unemployment: (929) 512-4476, Tuesday/Thursday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm

    • Housing: (929) 512-4565, Wednesdays from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

    • Immigration: (929) 512-4496, Mondays from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Friday, 4/17/20

  • Also tomorrow (4/18) at 4:00 pm, the financial education nonprofit World of Money will present an interactive virtual Town Hall for children ages 9-12 titled “COVID-19 Global Pandemic and the Road Ahead: Our Concerns, The Challenges, The Opportunities.” RSVP here.

Thursday, 4/16/20

  • The IRS has begun transferring so-called “Economic Impact Payments” to taxpayer bank accounts (for those who have their accounts on file) or sending out physical checks. Use this webpage to start the process of determining if you are eligible to receive any of that funding.

    For security reasons, the IRS plans to mail a letter about the economic impact payment to the taxpayer’s last known address within 15 days after the payment is made. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment. If a taxpayer is unsure they’re receiving a legitimate letter, the IRS urges taxpayers to visit IRS.gov first to protect against scam artists.

  • Speaking of scams, the Wall Street Journal published “Don’t Click! Coronavirus Text and Phone Scams Are Designed to Trick You” with a useful reminder that now is a time when scammers on your phone can seem more legitimate. Columnist Nicole Nguyen wrote:

    “A text comes in on your phone. It’s from the IRS, and your economic relief check is ready, pending your acceptance. There’s a form to fill out. All you have to do is click the link.

    “If you don’t have time to read this whole column, please—for the love of sweatpants—just read this: Don’t. Click. The. Link.

    “… Circulating schemes involve stimulus checks, airline refunds, charities, fines for breaking social-distancing rules, ‘mandatory’ Covid-19 preparedness tests, unproven treatments and sales of in-demand supplies like masks or thermometers. Experts say the scams are designed to get you to take immediate action, more and more through texts and calls…”

  • The NYC Bar Association’s City Bar Justice Center offers legal resources to help New Yorkers during the pandemic:

    • Their CBJC Legal Hotline at (212) 626-7383 is staffed by attorneys who offer free advice to low-income callers on a range of civil– not criminal– legal issues in English and Spanish (other languages available by using interpreter services).

    • Their COVID-19 Small Business Remote Legal Clinic connects volunteer lawyers with small businesses in need of help accessing relief and stimulus resources.

    • They’re providing free life-planning help— wills and powers of attorney– to front-line healthcare workers.

    • Their Legal Referral Service also remains open: (212) 626-7373 for English, (212) 626-7374 for Spanish, or submit a request online.  If you are referred, the initial virtual or phone consultation will be $35 or free, depending on the type of case, and will last for up to 30 minutes.

  • Regular readers of this newsletter know I advised Governor Cuomo (see my letter here) against holding meetings of the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) since having them online limits participation from those with less technology access or savvy. Nonetheless, an RGB meeting will be held next Thursday (4/23) at 9:30 am. The initial schedule of meetings has been posted here, with information on how to join them by phone or video conferencing.

Wednesday, 4/15/20

  • The nonprofit news site The City has released a guide to navigating unemployment benefits, with explainers on eligibility for federal aid, tips for part time and freelance workers, as well as instructions on how to obtain state unemployment benefits.
  • Volunteers of Legal Service (originally formed in response to the 2008 financial crisis) has relaunched their Unemployed Workers Project, offering free legal advice for low-wage unemployed workers seeking to access their government benefits. Call their hotline at (347) 521-5720 or fill out their online intake form.
  • Submissions are now open for the 2020 Arts Writers Grant Program, which supports both emerging and established writers whose work discusses contemporary visual art with grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 awarded in three categories: articles, books, and short-form writing.

Tuesday, 4/14/20

  • Last night I moderated a virtual Town Hall in partnership with the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center, the NYC Dept. of Small Business Services (SBS), the NYC Hospitality Alliance, the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce on “Small Business Relief during COVID-19.” For those of you unable to join us, the recorded video session is now available on YouTube.
  • On Thursday (4/16) at 11:30 am, the NoHo Business Improvement District and SoHo Broadway Initiative are hosting Coping with COVID-19: A Conversation for Small Businesses. Panelists include Andrew Flamm from the Pace Small Business Development Center, tenant attorney Samuel J. Himmelstein, and accountant William Skody. Click on the link above at 11:30 am Thursday to participate.
  • Last week, I shared the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program helpline (888-614-5400) from the Community Service Society (CSS), but that was only one of many advisory helplines available from CSS:

    • For help enrolling in health insurance, contact their Navigator Network at 888-614-5401 or enroll@cssny.org.

    • For help understanding and using your existing health insurance, contact their Community Health Advocates at 888-614-5401 or cha@cssny.org.

    • For help with long-term care or behavioral health services through a managed care plan, contact their Independent Consumer Advocacy Network at 888-614-8000 or ican@cssny.org.

    • For guidance on student loans, contact their Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program at 888-614-5004 or edcap@cssny.org.

    • For money management and financial tips, contact their Financial Coaching Corps at cdavis@cssny.org.

    • For help correcting rap sheets, contact their Next Door Project at 212-614-5441 or cjesse@cssny.org.

  • The New York Public Library (NYPL) continues to offer online resources:

Monday, 4/13/20

  • If you own a small NYC-based business (15 or fewer employees) and are struggling to apply for the payroll protection program (PPP) or the disaster emergency relief loans provided by the federal government, Professor Tim Wu and a group of Columbia law students are providing free help and information about the process. Email columbiappp@gmail.com.
  • For-hire vehicle and taxi drivers who are self-employed or work as independent contractors are eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the Small Business Administration. For drivers, the PPP loan funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. If the funds are used for these purposes—and at least 75% goes towards income—then the loan will be forgiven.
  • As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers apply for unemployment, Governor Cuomo has provided the State Dept. of Labor (DOL) with necessary reinforcements: a revamped website, 300 new phone reps, and a new procedure. Applicants can now process claims entirely online– if a phone call is needed, the DOL will call the applicant. (If you receive a call that says “Caller ID Blocked” — answer the phone! It’s probably DOL calling.) So please be patient– but persistent– about applying online at labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm.
  • The Actors’ Fund has released a round-up of resources available to artists, bartenders, and freelance creatives and shared similar lists made by the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Freelance Artist Resource Producing Collective.

Thursday, 4/09/20

  • With hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers suddenly thrown out of work, many– most?– are applying for unemployment insurance, often for the very first time. Unfortunately, they’ve been met with a State Dept. of Labor (DOL) website that was a little… rusty.The Governor announced in today’s briefing that tonight, they are installing a new DOL unemployment website and a new application form that promises to be easier to fill out and eliminate the need for applicants to call in themselves to complete the process. Instead, if a phone call is needed, the DOL will call the applicant. (The call centers, too, have been overwhelmed– but they’ve hired 300 more phone reps.)Applying for unemployment means money in your pocket if you’re out of work– and even if you are a freelance or gig-economy worker (i.e., earn 1099 income) you could qualify. What’s more, the Federal CARES Act is supplementing all states’ unemployment benefits, increasing checks by $600 per WEEK. And this week, the State extended benefits by 13 weeks– from 26 to 39 weeks in total.The State had received 810,000 unemployment claims since March 9th– 350,000 claims in just the last week. Of those claims, 600,000 have been processed, but approximately 200,000 are still in limbo.So please be patient– but persistent– about applying online at   labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm after tonight’s website revamp.
  • The Community Service Society has established the Managed Care Consumer Assistance Program (MCCAP), a free health coverage helpline assisting people with how to manage the health care bureaucracy, including applying for hospital financial assistance, resolving billing issues, or appealing coverage denials. Reach MCCAP at (888) 614-5400, Monday-Friday, 9 am – 4 pm.
  • The Robin Hood Foundation has announced they will be providing immediate response grants to 501(c)(3) organizations, averaging $45,ooo in funding for the first three months.
  • The New York Community Trust has created the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, providing both grants and loans to nonprofits struggling with the health and economic effects of the coronavirus.

Wednesday, 4/08/20

  • I’m calling on Governor Cuomo to extend rent relief to tenants and support legislation to establish a rental assistance voucher program administered by NYS Homes and Community Renewal. The program would directly pay landlords the amount of rent that tenants cannot afford due to financial impact from COVID-19. Read my letter here.
  • The State Dept. of Labor is announcing claims are now extended by 13 additional weeks, from 26 to 39 weeks. Claims will be back-dated to the date the filer became unemployed. Claims ARE being processed, but patience– and persistence– is key. New York is among the first states to include the additional $600 in unemployment payments, as provided by the federal CARES Act.
  • Goya is launching the Goya Culinary Competition for Scholarships for NYC high schoolers. Submit a recipe using Goya products for a chance to win $10,000 in scholarships. Interested? Visit Food and Finance High School’s website.

Monday, 4/06/20

  • The State Dept. of Labor is working to improve response times (and their infrastructure) for unemployment insurance, and has hired 300 more operators, expanded service from six to seven days a week, and Google has been hired to enhance intake capability. Meanwhile, in an effort to manage the influx, applicants are now asked to call based on the first letter of their last names, as follows:
    • Monday, names starting with A – F.
    • Tuesday, names beginning G – N.
    • Wednesday, last names with initials O – Z.

    If you miss your day, you can also file on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Any claim filed will be back-dated to the date the filer became unemployed, NOT the date of filing. If you are eligible, you will be paid for all benefits due. If you are instructed to call to complete your claim, the ONLY valid number is 1-888-209-8124.

  • Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander has prepared a page with information on relief for freelancers, artists, and gig-workers— who lack many basic worker protections or access to a robust social safety net– that many will find useful.
  • The Times yesterday recapped the pandemic policies of all the major airlines, with nearly all offering credits for future flights. But it also clearly states U.S. Dept. of Transportation refund policy: “…passengers are entitled to a refund if the airline makes a significant schedule change….”  Experts quoted in the piece advise those with tickets to wait until a few days out from your flight to see if a cancellation triggers a refund.
  • On Friday, Vox published 9 questions about how to get the coronavirus stimulus funds, answered.

Thursday, 4/02/20

  • The City launched the Help Now Portal this week to connect New Yorkers who need help to resources on employment, benefits, seniors, food security, NYCHA residents, mental health, and education– and to also give those who want to GIVE help a way to do so.
  • Charter/Spectrum cable (which has a large footprint in Manhattan) is expanding the eligibility for its 60-day free offer for internet and wifi to include educators (K-12 teachers and college/university professors) who do not already have a Spectrum account. Contact Spectrum at 1-844-488-8395 to sign up (but prepare for a wait!). A free self-installation kit will be provided to new student and educator households.

Tuesday, 3/31/20

  • Tomorrow is April 1st, and many people and businesses have rent due. The NY Times published “What if I Can’t Pay My Rent Now?” and many may find it helpful. Bottom line? You can’t be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the next 90 days.The Wall Street Journal (online Sunday [paywalled], in print editions Monday) called this “America’s Make-or-Break Week.” With so many New Yorkers and businesses facing financial pressures from the coronavirus, the rent and utility and credit card bills looming on April 1 present a dilemma for many. With that in mind, I thought it might be useful to compile some updates on the suspensions made and deferrals available for some of those bills:-Con Edison has temporarily suspended service shutoffs for customers having payment difficulties (those relating to safety concerns will still take place); National Grid has “suspended collections-related activities, including service disconnections,” until the end of April.
    -The NYS  Attorney General, Tish James, announced her office will suspend medical and student loan debt collection until at least April 16– with a potential extension then.
    -Cable and internet providers like Verizon and Spectrum are providing free internet for households with school-age children, as well as, in Verizon’s case, offering free access to learning tools and a few premium TV channels for 60 days.
    -Some credit card issuers are offering a break, offering opportunities to request deferred payments or rescinding late fees. To see information for your bank(s), Credit Karma offers a useful roundup of the measures taken by the largest firms.
    -If you are paying a mortgage, you may be eligible for a postponement of collection through April 20 if you have experienced financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, under an executive order made by Governor Cuomo.
    -NYCHA encourages households experiencing a partial loss of income to access their rent hardship program by completing an Interim Recertification via the NYCHA Self-Service Portal or by calling their Property Management Office to request a paper form be mailed. If your household experiences a complete loss of income, you may qualify for NYCHA’s Zero Income Policy; call the property management office to set up the required eligibility interview.
  • The East Harlem Community Partnership Higher Education Grants will award ten $1,000 grants to cover tuition, housing, books, or any education related expense for students starting the freshman year of college or attending a technical school. For an application, contact Angela Donadelle at adonadelle@unionsettlement.org and return it completed with attachments by June 8, 2012.

Friday, 3/27/20

  • Verizon is matching Spectrum and other cable providers’ offer for free internet for households with school-age children (which was, ahem, strongly suggested by the FCC). They are also going one better, with other learning tools and some premium TV channels offered to customers at no additional cost. Read the release: verizon.com/about/news/verizon-customers-learning-tools-premium-tv.
  • Con Ed has halted all meter reading and installation of smart meters; stopped shutoffs of electric, natural gas or steam service due to non-payment resulting from the health crisis; waived new late-payment charges; and suspended the fee charged to a customer who is unable to grant access to their property. They WILL continue to shut off service when there is a safety issue. As you can imagine, customer service walk-in centers are shut. Residential customers can choose one of the alternate ways to pay their bill, including online at My Account, by mail with a check or money order, or by phone at 1-888-925-5016.
  • The nonprofit expensify.org will reimburse SNAP participants $50 after they use their EBT card for approved purchases and submit a receipt. They are allocating these funds to help families in need purchase essential groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s no “catch” and the money is directly deposited into the participant’s bank account. If anyone’s interested in this assistance, visit Expensify.org/hunger for more information.

Friday, 3/20/20

  • The Trump administration has moved Tax Day to July 15, 2020.

Wednesday, 3/18/20

  • Governor Cuomo and Attorney General James announced that the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General for collection for at least a 30-day period in response spread of COVID-19. Apparently they have also created an application for suspension of debt collection activity here.
  • Our mentions in previous newsletters of evictions being suspended brought word of a city marshal posting an eviction notice for a tenant in upper Manhattan. We heard from the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge of Civil Court who confirmed that all evictions  are suspended, although landlords are still being permitted to file cases since certain statutes of limitation have not been suspended yet by the Governor. He also said marshals are not supposed to be carrying out any evictions, and he agreed to look into the case.
  • NYCHA encourages households experiencing a loss of income to access our rent hardship program. You may qualify for a rent reduction if all the following conditions are met:
    • There is at least a 5% reduction to gross income;
    • Current rent is more than 30% of the net household income; and
    • Reduction in income has lasted at least two months.
    Residents can request a rent reduction by completing an Interim Recertification via the NYCHA Self-Service Portal or by calling their Property Management Office to request a paper form be mailed to your home.If your household experiences a complete loss of income, you may qualify for NYCHA’s Zero Income Policy; please call your property management office to participate in the required eligibility interview.As a reminder, public housing residents have eight ways to pay rent, including via mail, MyNYCHA, online, at an authorized bank or credit union, by phone, and more. Visit on.nyc.gov/payrent to learn more.If you have any NYCHA questions or concerns, please call 718-707-7771.

Tuesday, 3/17/20

  1. Fines totalling $275,000 have been assessed on stores since March 5th by the city’s Dept. of Consumer and Worker Protection on stores that have price gouged on these essential coronavirus-related products:

Hand sanitizer

Face masks

Disinfectant wipes

Thermometers

Latex gloves

Fever reducers

Cough suppressant

Zinc oxide supplements

Paper towels

Toilet paper

Facial tissue

Rubbing alcohol

Aloe vera,

Price gouging is defined as charging more than 10% of the pre-crisis price; fines are $500 per service item. You can file a complaint online at nyc.gov/dcwp.

  • Most mobile carriers and ISPs are relaxing data caps and overage policies as the pandemic– and the need for internet connectivity– deepens. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Comcast, and Verizon are waiving overages and data caps after the FCC issued its “Keep Americans Connected Pledge.”  Under this agreement, carriers have agreed to…
    • Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic;
    • Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and
    • Open Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.

Monday, 3/16/20

  • The Hebrew Free Loan Society Coronavirus Financial Impact Loan Program provides interest-free loans of $2,000-$5,000 to residents of New York City’s five boroughs, Westchester, or Long Island who are facing financial challenges caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. All low- or moderate-income New Yorkers are eligible, regardless of credit history. Loans require one guarantor. For more information or an application, visit
    https://hfls.org/loan-programs/coronavirusfinancialimpactloan/

Categories: COVID-19