May 07, 2021
The New York Health and Essential Rights Act was signed into law late Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, setting enforceable health and safety standards to protect workers from the transmission and community spread of COVID-19, as well as any future airborne infectious diseases.
Known as the HERO Act, it directs the state health and labor departments to create an airborne infectious disease standard covering all private employers within 60 days, which would take effect 30 days later. Businesses will have to provide personal protective equipment for all employees, set up safe social distancing and disinfecting protocols, and also ensure adequate airflow.
Read more about this story at Gothamist
May 05, 2021
Essential workers were praised for staying on the job during the coronavirus pandemic, but as the region moves more into an economic recovery, experts and advocates fear those workers might be left behind. How to help essential workers, especially those of color, who make up a number of the working poor, was part of a Regional Plan Association assembly discussion about how to equitably recover from the pandemic. The panel, that included U.S. Senator Cory Booker and U.S. Rep Andy Kim, both D-NJ, also directly discussed ways to correct inequities that existed before the pandemic. While there was an outpouring of support for essential workers during the darkest days of the pandemic, New Jersey even declared an essential workers heroes day in March, the warehouse and retail workers, janitors, housekeepers, food and package delivery workers still need to be lifted from the ranks of the working poor, according to members of the panel.
“Banging on pots doesn’t make them essential,” said Dr Herminia Palacio, former New York City deputy mayor for health and human services. “Their salaries aren’t essential, their benefits aren’t essential. How do we reorient resources, so we have predictable outcomes?” She warned that the window to change conditions and help these workers “is narrowing.” Panelists talked about how essential workers, especially people of color and women, were affected by higher death rates, economic and housing insecurity and other issues that threaten to leave them behind again unless action is taken. Legislation proposed by Booker could provide a federal renter’s tax credit to help workers who spend 30% or more of their take home pay on housing. The concept is similar to federal tax deductions homeowners now receive for state and local property taxes. “We can do something big and bold and make sure all our brave families can have a shot at a good home,” he said. “The hard reality is stagnant wages for working class people make it harder to make ends meet.”