On Monday, NY State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., of Sag Harbor, announced that the Legislature will soon hold two joint public hearings to address the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on New York State. In the interest of public health and safety, the hearings will be conducted virtually using web-based video conferencing.
COVID-19 Impact on Small Businesses and Farming
The first hearing will evaluate the current and future economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses (including farms) across the state, whether the federal response is sufficient in relation to the disproportionate impact on the state, and if efforts to help small businesses have been effective in targeting the businesses most in need.
Beginning March 12, the Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a series of executive orders requiring non-essential workers and owners of businesses across the state to stay at home or practice strict social distancing to protect the public health. As a result of these restrictions, most small businesses have had to shut their doors or drastically reduce or modify operations, placing their continued existence and financial stability at risk.
Members of the Legislature will hear testimony from members of the small business and farming communities, along with other stakeholders regarding the federal response to the pandemic’s economic impact on small businesses in NY. The purpose of this hearing is for the Legislature to solicit feedback from the small business and farming communities, and the other stakeholders, on the scope and implementation of that federal response, including but not limited to, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act, and whether the federal assistance provided was adequate and accessible for small businesses across the state.
COVID-19 Impact on Minorities
A second, separate hearing will hear testimony about and examine the disproportionate adverse impacts of COVID-19 on minority communities, which may include disparate repercussions on industries, services and the surrounding healthcare system. As the Chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Local Government, Assemblyman Thiele will co-chair this hearing.
Current data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult for minority communities in New York and around the country. This is demonstrated through infection and hospitalization rates, as well as fatalities from the disease. While a complete picture of the effects on minority communities is difficult to ascertain due to gaps in data reported by the states, the information provided so far shows a wide disparity in the disease’s impact. This disproportionate burden on minority communities is likely to put additional strains on local government finances and overwhelm an already distressed healthcare system that predominantly serves Medicaid and uninsured populations.
No dates have been set for these hearings and it’s currently unclear who will be selected to participate, or how participants are chosen, but Thiele’s office expects to share this information soon. Find more on the Assembly website, nyassembly.gov.