NYC Council to introduce coronavirus relief package to help business, tenants

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Saying New York City is in the midst of an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis, the City Council is set to unveil a COVID-19 relief package of bills that include help for small businesses and tenants.

The package will include a bill that extends the time that COVID-impacted tenants will have to repay rent and back debts, as well as new protections from harassment for all renters, including small businesses.

A "NYC Essential Workers Bill of Rights" is also being proposed. The bills would require premiums for non-salaried essential employees at large companies, prohibit the firing of essential workers without just cause and mandate paid sick leave for gig workers.

All of the bills will be introduced Wednesday at the Council’s first remote stated hearing. The Council will hold hearings on each of the bills over the next week and a half.

New York City Council Speaker Speaker Corey Johnson.

“These bills provide relief where it is needed most right now, including protecting tenants from eviction,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “We’re also protecting small businesses and essential workers, who have been so hard hit. We must take these steps to help make sure that New York City remains the vibrant, diverse and exciting place it was before COVID ravaged our neighborhoods.”

Highlights of the bills to be introduced:

Premiums for essential workers
The Council will consider legislation that would require large employers to pay premiums to certain essential non-salaried workers. The bill requires employers with more than 100 employees to pay hourly workers $30 for a shift under four hours, $60 for a shift of four to eight hours and $75 dollars for any shift over eight hours. The obligation would end when the state of emergency is lifted.

Just cause rights for essential workers
The Council will consider legislation to prohibit all hiring parties of essential workers from firing those workers without just cause.

Paid sick leave for gig workers
The Council will consider legislation to extend paid sick leave to independent contractors. Independent contractors were not included in the paid sick leave bill passed by the New York State Legislature for employees. This bill would close that loophole and help give these front-line gig workers paid sick leave.

Extending time for renters to repay, blocking evictions
The Council will consider legislation that prevents marshals and the city’s sheriffs from the taking and restitution of property or the execution of money judgments. This means that evictions and the collection of debt would be paused for all residential and commercial tenants. It also means those renters would have additional time to repay their rent.

Protecting tenants from COVID-related harassment
The Council will consider legislation that would make harassing a tenant based on their status as person impacted by COVID-19, including whether they are an essential worker or because they were laid off, or because they’ve received a rental concession or forbearance. Violations would be punishable by a civil penalty of $2,000 to $10,000.

Providing safe shelter
The Council will consider legislation that will require the city to provide each single adult homeless individual with a private room through the end of the pandemic and implement protocols to reduce risk of infection. In effect, this would require the city to temporarily close many shelters and move residents to hotels or other facilities with private rooms.

Mandating open city streets
The Council will consider legislation to open city streets to pedestrians and cyclists during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic to allow New Yorkers more room for social distancing as essential workers commute and while enjoying the short- and long-term health benefits of being outdoors.

Commercial tenant harassment
The Council will consider legislation to make threatening any commercial tenant based on their status as a COVID-19 impacted business or person a form of harassment punishable by a civil penalty of $10,000 to $50,000.

Suspending personal liability on commercial leases
The Council will consider legislation to temporarily suspend personal liability provisions in leases and other rental agreements of COVID-19 impacted businesses while the state of emergency is in effect.

Suspending sidewalk cafe fees
The Council will consider legislation to suspend annual sidewalk café fees. Reducing this fixed cost for cash-strapped restaurants, bars and nightlife is one "common-sense step" the Council can take to reduce the severe financial burden that has fallen on these impacted businesses.

“Our small businesses, including those impacted by COVID-19, are the backbone of New York City’s economy and the embodiment of the American dream,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “These small businesses are struggling right now and we must strengthen protections against commercial tenant harassment so that they will have the opportunity to thrive in the future.”

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Coronavirus City of New York, NY Corey Johnson