Legislature promises two hearings on COVID-19 impact

Photo courtesy of the New York State Assembly
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, above, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, are promising two webcast legislative hearings on the COVID-19 pandemic on New York’s small businesses and its disproportionate impact on minority communities in New York state.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced the New York State Legislature will hold two public hearings to look at the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on small businesses and minority communities in New York state.

In the interest of public safety, the hearings will take place via video conference. The dates have not been announced.

One of the hearings will evaluate the current and future economic damage the coronavirus pandemic has had on small businesses, including farms. It will also address whether the response from the federal government was sufficient in relation to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 has had on the state. The hearing will, in addition, reflect on the federal government’s efforts to help small businesses and if they had been effective in targeting the businesses most in need.

The legislators are inviting testimony from small business owners and employees, farmers and others regarding the federal government’s response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York State. The hearing will focus on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, and whether the federal assistance provided was adequate and accessible for small businesses across the state.

A second hearing will look at the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on minority communities in New York, such as infection rates, hospitalization rates and fatalities from the disease. This disproportionate impact on minority communities is likely to put additional strains on local government finances and overwhelm an already strained health care system that predominantly serves Medicaid and uninsured populations.

“In the face of this global pandemic, we are working with our partners in the Senate to find safer ways to continue to serve our constituents and ensure their voices are heard,” said Speaker Heastie. “New York has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, which has had devastating effects on our small business, including farmers. We are also working with our colleagues in the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus to address the disproportionate impact this virus has had on our minority communities.”

This article will be updated when the hearings are scheduled.

“Despite this pandemic, the work of government continues. There are issues that must be addressed and questions that must be answered,” Sen. Stewart-Cousins said. “Together with our Assembly colleagues, we will hold hearings on efforts to help New York’s struggling small businesses, and examine why this crisis has disproportionately impacted minority communities. Our state’s residents expect leadership and action from their government, and we will continue to work with Governor Cuomo to confront this crisis and help struggling New Yorkers.”