Saint Patrick's Day was a bust for the history books and now the quarantine is here – what happens to all the workers?
Thousands of bar and restaurant staff – suddenly out of a job due to all the closures - were forced to file for unemployment benefits in New York City this week.
But with tens of thousands of workers from every affected industry applying in the kind of numbers not seen since 9/11, they unintentionally crashed the application website.
If the coronavirus fight is a war, hospitality workers are among its front line casualties. Hotel occupancy rates in Manhattan have dropped precipitously, with venues already furloughing its employees.
Schools and many other businesses are closed too, leaving many workers struggling to make rent, utility, or mortgage payments due to lost business or because of caring for sick family members.
Retail workers, many without paid sick leave, are being forced to choose between their paycheck and their health.
Aware of the CDC guidelines and the mayors call to self-isolate at home, they are being forced by circumstance to put themselves at risk because so many US employers are not legally mandated to pay sick leave.
But in a particularly ironic Catch-22, some employers that do have a sick leave policy are requesting that their employees furnish the coronavirus test result first, a thing almost impossible to come by, before they will obtain the leave.
And what of the undocumented, the kitchen porters, dishwashers, prep chefs, back of house bar and restaurant staff who are prevented by their status from applying for any government assistance? What do they do to make ends meet when their paychecks stop?
Will a spike in crime and muggings follow as the economy inevitably contracts? Robbery rose by 38% in New York in February. Extra policing costs extra tax dollars. Are our elected representatives doing enough to address this crisis and prepare the economy and the citizens for the fallout?
What about the exploding number of the city's homeless? In homeless shelters, they are forced into cramped conditions where the virus can flourish or will they instead take their chances on the subways morning and night? Is there any plan to address this uniquely vulnerable demographic, since it already clear they represent a risk to each other and everyone else now?
There are 25,000 restaurants and bars in New York City that will need a rescue plan very soon observers. Where is their bailout plan?
Activists are calling on Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to suspend all rent, mortgage, and utility payments for at least one month to allow people already in dire straits to do what they need to in order to take care of themselves, their loved ones, and the community. (Landlords also can play their part in the emergency, by showing a willingness to be flexible in this unprecedented crisis).
2/3 of NYC residents are renters.
Now that New York State has issued a MORTGAGE moratorium, we must also enact a RENT moratorium to prevent mass displacement.
Relief and protection from displacement shouldn’t just be for homeowners and the wealthy.
It should be for everyone.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 19, 2020
Utilities, cable, phones, electricity, all need to be put on hold until we as a nation can begin to respond to the emergency. Cuomo has to date only helped mortgage holders with their payment schedule, people who tend to be doing better financially to begin with.
It's time for leadership and a visionary national emergency plan that addresses the scale of this crisis in full.