The COVID Crisis: Legislature To Hold Two Joint Legislative Public Hearings On NY State COVID-19 Impact

May 1, 2020

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins today announced the Legislature will soon hold two public hearings to address the impacts of COVID-19 on New York State. In the interest of public health and safety, the hearings will be conducted virtually using web-based video conferencing. Additional details will be released at a later date.

One 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. A second separate hearing will examine the disproportionate adverse impacts of COVID-19 on minority communities, which may include disparate impacts on industries, services and the surrounding health care system.

“… 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.”

“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.”

“Despite this pandemic, the work of government continues. There are issues that must be addressed and questions that must be answered,” Majority Leader Andrea 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.”

Members of the Legislature will hear testimony from the small business and farming community and other stakeholders regarding the federal response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses in New York State. Beginning March 12, 2020, the governor 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. The purpose of this hearing is for the Legislature to solicit feedback from the small business and farming community and other stakeholders on the scope and implementation of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including but not limited to, 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.

In a second separate hearing, the Legislature will receive testimony to examine the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities. Current data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on minority communities in New York and nationally. This is demonstrated through infection rates, hospitalization rates and fatalities from the disease.

While a complete picture of the impact on minority communities is difficult to ascertain due to gaps in data reported by the states, the information that has been provided shows a wide disparity in the disease’s impact. 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 addition to the direct health effects observed, this inequity also means that minority communities are bearing an increased number of less visible negative impacts, including economic and social conditions that traditionally already have a disproportionate presence in minority communities.

The Legislature is looking to receive input from stakeholders across the state to understand and examine the impact that COVID-19 has had on minority communities, including insight into potential causes of the systemic inequities that are perpetuating these issues and the resulting impacts to the health care system.

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