New York state lawmakers will hold two public hearings in the coming weeks to assess the effects of the pandemic on communities of color and on small businesses.
The hearings come as lawmakers have not been in Albany since the passage of the state budget a month ago, and the Legislature plans to hold the hearings largely through video conference technology.
Lawmakers will review the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent economic shutdown on small businesses, farms and the governmental response to help them.
Separately, lawmakers will also examine the impact of coronavirus on minority communities in New York and how services, including health care, have been affected as a result.
Public health data show black and Latino people have seen higher rates of COVID infections and deaths.
“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 Assembly Speaker Carl 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.”
Lawmakers haven’t given an indication when normal work of the legislative session will resume. Rule changes approved in March allow them to cast votes remotely, and legislators continue to propose bills.
But at the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo has largely been a one-person government through the use of executive orders to respond to the pandemic — power given to him by lawmakers at the start of the crisis.
“Despite this pandemic, the work of government continues. There are issues that must be addressed and questions that must be answered,” Senate 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.”