APPLY NOW FOR PPP LOAN FORGIVENESS: Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on May 20 that the Small Business Administration (SBA) has released its loan forgiveness application for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and she encourages Queens small businesses that received PPP loans to immediately fill out and submit the form.
Created under the recently enacted Coronavirus Relief, Aid, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the PPP provides forgivable loans to small businesses provided that 75 percent of the loan is used to keep employees on the payroll. The remaining 25 percent could be used for rent, utilities, or mortgage interest.
To apply for loan forgiveness, applicants must complete and submit their application to the financial institution servicing their loan. The loan forgiveness application includes a summary of costs eligible for forgiveness, the loan forgiveness calculation form, the PPP Schedule A form, the PPP Schedule A Worksheet, and an optional PPP borrower demographic form. Applicants must submit the loan forgiveness calculation and PPP Schedule A forms.
A link to the PPP forgiveness form can be found at www.sba.gov/
Small businesses seeking loan forgiveness are encouraged to contact a representative from the New York Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at www.nyssbdc.org/. There are over 22 campus-based centers and outreach offices across New York to assist clients with the loan application. For businesses located in Queens, please email the Queens College SBDC at [email protected], LaGuardia Community College SBDC at [email protected], or York College SBDC at [email protected] for assistance.
Local small businesses requiring further assistance can contact Meng’s office at 718-358-MENG.
‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST: REINSTATE FORMER DOT IG NOW’: On May 18 Congressmembers Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Peter A. DeFazio, the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Gerald E. Connolly, the Chair of the Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao opposing President Donald Trump’s removal of former Acting Inspector General Mitch Behm and demanding he be reinstated immediately.
The Chairs wrote to Secretary Chao, “Mr. Behm’s removal is the latest in a series of politically motivated firings of Inspectors General by President Trump. This assault on the integrity and independence of Inspectors General appears to be an intentional campaign to undermine their ability to expose corruption and protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse.”
On May 15, President Trump designated Howard R. Elliott, the Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), to replace Behm – while Elliott keeps his political post at PHMSA at the same time. Elliott appears to have no investigatory or law enforcement experience. In contrast, Behm has served in the office since 2003 and has received numerous awards for his contributions to audits and reviews, noted the Chairs.
Maloney, DeFazio, and Connolly also sent a letter to Mr. Elliott: “This inherent conflict of interest would prohibit you from having the independence necessary to conduct fair and rigorous oversight of the Department and the Secretary. Your dual appointment could severely chill whistleblower disclosures to the Office of Inspector General because whistleblowers might fear that their identities could become known to an official still serving in the Department. It also may chill communication within the Office of Inspector General if auditors or investigators are concerned that you will share information with Secretary Chao before it is appropriate.”
In their letters, the Chairs requested information regarding ongoing audits, inspections, investigations, evaluations, reviews, or other engagements, as well as any communications regarding the removal of Behm and Elliott’s qualifications for Inspector General, by June 1.
URGE CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT OF USPS: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi in sending a letter on May 19 to House Colleagues to emphasize the importance of preserving United States Postal Service.
Extracts of the letter follow:
“Today, we are writing to focus on a very important priority of The Heroes Act – the US Postal Service (USPS). The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the US Postal Service… an indispensable component of America’s critical infrastructure, and its workers are on the frontlines every single day delivering information and packages to the American people.
“The American people rely on the Postal Service to deliver crucial goods and services every day, including more than a billion life-saving medications last year alone, millions of economic stimulus checks and unemployment benefits to help during the crisis, voting by mail and 2020 Census forms for every household in America. Ninety percent of veterans receive their medications by way of the USPS.
“The support for the USPS is bipartisan in the Congress and in the country with an over 90 percent approval rating. The bipartisan Postal Service Board of Governors, appointed by President Trump, unanimously asked Congress to approve $25 billion in emergency appropriations to offset coronavirus-related losses and access to borrowing authority from the Treasury on an unrestricted basis. Please make your U.S. Senators aware of your support for the US Postal Service.”
NEW COVID RELIEF PAYMENT HOTLINE: Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced on May 19 that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has established a special telephone line for taxpayers who have questions about their coronavirus relief payments. The number is 800-919-9835.
The phone line is designed to help address many common questions that individuals have about receiving their funds. Often referred to as economic stimulus payments, they are officially known as Economic Impact Payments (EIP).
The IRS began sending out relief payments in mid-April. The payments are being made under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the third COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress and enacted into law. The payments consist of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The funds are intended to help many taxpayers with the financial burden that they are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Taxpayers can also continue to track the status of their payments at Get My Payment, the online portal created by the IRS and US Treasury Department. Anyone inquiring should use all capital letters, no hyphens, and birthdates as shown when entering their info, or they will receive an “error” notification instead of info.
Those in Meng’s district who are still unable to have their questions addressed through the phone line or website, can reach out to the Congresswoman’s office at 718-358-MENG. Relief payments are not subject to federal income tax and will not change the refunds that taxpayers normally receive, Meng said.
Last Friday (May 15), Meng voted to pass the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) which among many other things, would provide a second round of relief checks at more substantial amounts; consisting of $1,200 per adult and $1,200 per child up to $6,000 per family. Also included in the bill was a provision Meng fought to secure that would allow immigrants who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) to receive the relief payments. The provision would also make these funds retroactive. Under the CARES Act, only those who file their taxes with a Social Security number are currently eligible for the payments, leaving out immigrants who use an ITIN. The Heroes Act must now be approved by the Senate.
OPEN STREETS TO SAFELY OPEN UP CITY: Councilman Costa Constantinides, candidate for Borough President, announced on May 20 a plan the City of New York, MTA, and other stakeholders can implement to create a holistic open streets system in Queens. This will create safe and efficient ways for residents to travel, cycle, and take public transit while social distancing, as the borough gradually reopens.
Constantinides’ ambitious proposal comes as the City seeks to open 100 miles of streets to pedestrians across the five boroughs. This might be the key to helping the borough’s world-famous restaurants – many of which have floundered since New York State was put on “pause” some two months ago, he said.
The Astoria native has called on all levels of government to:
- Identify 10 miles of commercial corridors to create European-style sidewalk cafe space, so the borough’s independent restaurants can thrive. Even as New York City begins to reopen, eateries’ capacities are sure to be capped at less than 50 percent, Constantinides noted. This will enable countless independent restaurants to not only reopen, but serve enough people to keep their business alive.
- Implement busways, a proven way to speed up mass transit, improve reliability, reduce crashes, and importantly, decrease the number of people traveling, reducing the risk of infection for workers and riders.
- Create 20 miles of protected bikeways to give those who can cycle a safe way to commute.
- Close streets to cars around public parks and along the waterfront. Constantinides has already been able to secure the closure of Shore Boulevard, in Astoria Park.
CB 9 AGAINST BOROUGH-BASED JAILS: A Queens Community Board 9 Executive Committee resolution on May 15 called for the City Council to vote against the Mayor’s Executive Budget based on the amount of funding for borough-based jails. Councilman Robert Holden thanked the community board for its efforts.
In the resolution, the community board pointed out that the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a proposed $2 billion in cuts to essential services, but the $8.7 billion borough-based jail plan remains intact. The community board previously passed a unanimous resolution in May 2019 in opposition to the proposed jail to be built in Kew Gardens.
“I applaud the efforts of our dedicated Community Board 9 members who have made it clear that a massive new jail in Kew Gardens will not be accepted,” said Councilman Holden. “I completely agree that the borough-based jail plan should be revisited given the current economic crisis, and the potential rebuilding of Rikers Island should have been considered as a cost-effective alternative from the outset. My bill, Intro. 940, would have created a commission to study the cost of rebuilding Rikers, but it has never seen the light of day.
“If we already had the vertical borough-based jails today, they would not be conducive to social distancing and stopping the spread of COVID-19, and I suspect that the outbreak inside these jails would be much worse than what we have seen on Rikers Island. Our constituents across the city have proven that they do not support borough-based jails, and cutting funding to the services that they need most is an insult to all New Yorkers. Thank you to Chair Kenichi Wilson, District Manager James McClelland, and the rest of the executive committee and board for their continued work on this subject.”
GLOBAL KLEPTOCRACY & CORRUPTION: Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), primary sponsor of H.R. 2513, the Corporate Transparency Act, on May 20 joined the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute for its webcast: How Congress is Taking on Global Kleptocracy and Corruption. Extracts from Maloney’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
“As you know, I’ve been working very hard on a bill called the Corporate Transparency Act, which would crack down on the illicit use of anonymous shell companies. And I’ve been honored to work on this bill with my good friend, Peter King, who has been a strong supporter of increasing transparency and strengthening law enforcement for many years.
“The bill passed the House last October with bipartisan support, and the Senate Banking Committee has reached a compromise on their version of the bill, which is very similar to our bill. So I’m very optimistic about this bill being signed into law.
“This is one of the most pressing national security problems we face in this country, because anonymous shell companies are the vehicle of choice for money launderers, criminals, and terrorists. The reason they are so popular is because they can’t be traced back to their true owners. Shell companies allow criminals and terrorists to move money around in the US financial system, and finance their operations, freely and legally.
“Unfortunately, we know that the US is one of the easiest places in the entire world to set up anonymous shell companies. The reason why these shell companies are anonymous is because states don’t require companies to name their true beneficial owners – the individuals who are collecting the profits, and who outright own the company.
“As any FBI agent or prosecutor will tell you, far too many of their investigations hit a dead-end at an anonymous shell company…financing illegal activity. Treasury conducted a pilot program a couple years ago, where they collected beneficial ownership information for real estate transactions in Manhattan and Miami over a 6-month period. And the results were stunning. Treasury found that about 30 percent of the transactions reported in those 6 months involved a beneficial owner or purchaser representative that had previously been the subject of a Suspicious Activity Report — in other words, these were potentially suspicious people buying these properties.”
PROTECTING JAMAICA BAY: At the end of 2019, Governor Cuomo vetoed bills S.4165/A.9595 aimed at increasing the protection of the Jamaica Bay waters. However, Senator Joe Addabbo and Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato plan to work with the Governor’s Administration in a continuing effort to make Jamaica Bay even cleaner and healthier.
These Jamaica Bay bills would permanently extend the current law that was put into place in 2014, which corrected the longstanding problem of using sub-quality dredging material to fill in the borrow pits of Jamaica Bay. That law is set to expire on June 30, 2022.
“In the past, the waters of Jamaica Bay were polluted and devoid of much marine life. The bill that was implemented in 2014, as well as the incredible work by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), helped to create a drastic change in the health of the water, so much so that wildlife — such as dolphins and whales —has been sighted there for the first time in decades,” Senator Addabbo explained. “Because of the success of the 2014 bill, I want to see the sunset clause removed so the bill would be permanent and we would not need to renew the protections every few years.”
Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato said, “We cannot dial down the efforts, or compromise our standards, and relinquish all the hard work that’s put in to get us here. These bills are only going to strengthen and further protect the Bay, and we must remove the sunset clause permanently, so we don’t have to renew them.”
DA WARNS OF ONLINE CHILD PREDATORS: Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz issued the following warnings to parents about online child predators:
“The spread of the coronavirus has brought new challenges and responsibilities to all the parents and guardians in Queens County. With schools closed, many teens and preteens are finding more time to explore the internet on computers and phones. Teens are naturally curious about everything including their sexuality and in this very difficult time may find themselves, through no fault of their own, in compromising positions online. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has seen a rise in the number of reports involving child sexual abuse material on the internet. My office has also seen an increase in the number of complaints regarding improper behavior towards teenagers and preteens on the internet. Several of these complaints have involved strangers seeking inappropriate pictures of the teens.
“Now more than ever, it is important to be aware of what your child is doing on their smartphones, tablets and computers. Predators are aware that children are home during the day and may use this time to attempt to contact them and lure them into inappropriate situations. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers free digital resources through Netsmartz.org regarding online safety for children and parents. NetSmartz.org is NCMEC’s online safety education program. It provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safer online by becoming more aware of potential risks and being empowered to make safer choices on and offline.
“If your child becomes a victim of an online predator, you should save whatever evidence you have, including pictures, and take screenshots of messages and contact information of the predator. You should report it to your local precinct, or call (646) 610-7272. Our Computer Crime Unit is well equipped to handle these complaints.”
MALONEY ENDORSED: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn) received the following endorsements for reelection to NY-12.
New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) announced their endorsement on May 21. NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, said, “(Carolyn Maloney) has a long track record of fighting to strengthen our healthcare system, including co-sponsoring Single Payer Medicare for All. Like nurses, she values scientific research and uses it to guide policy decisions. We look forward to her continued advocacy for women’s rights, for workers’ rights, and for the communities of NY-12.”
Supporters note that Maloney has been working tirelessly during the pandemic to get nurses the protections and equipment they need and deserve, including PPE, ventilators, staffing regulation, and more. She also introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act, which would forgive the debt of healthcare professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Gloria Steinem, the iconic feminist, journalist and social political activist who is nationally recognized as a leader for womenʼs causes, on May 21 also endorsed Maloney for reelection. The endorsement takes place on the historic 100th anniversary of the Houseʼs passage of the 19th Amendment. “Of all times in history, this is not the moment to replace experience with inexperience, or to lose seniority on crucial committees,” said Steinem. “We need Carolyn Maloney in Congress now more than ever – especially in the critical position she holds as Chairwoman of the powerful House Oversight Committee – the first woman ever to sit in that chair. It’s doubly crucial to keep Carolyn Maloney in Congress now, when the Equal Rights Amendment has finally been ratified by 38 states, and only needs the removal of an unfair Congressional deadline. She has long been the advocate for the ERA, and she must be there to assure and celebrate its final passage.”
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) on May 22 said, “Carolyn’s willingness to stand up to credit card companies was an inspiration to me. In her leadership on the Committee on Oversight and Reform, I see her willingness to fight for her constituents and working families across the country.”
May 22 was also the anniversary of Maloney’s CARD Act of 2009 (H.R.627) which has saved hundreds of billions of dollars for consumers since being signed into law.
Maloney has been endorsed by CWA, DC 37, 32BJ SEIU, AFGE, FDNY-UFOA, as well as several additional unions, numerous progressive organizations and Democratic clubs, and various elected officials, including Rep. Maxine Waters, and community leaders. A full list of Maloney’s endorsements can be seen at carolynmaloney.com/endorsements/
The NY-12 Democratic Primary and other elections are being held on June 23. NYC residents can go to nycabsentee.com to request an absentee ballots. Applications for the ballots are also being mailed out to all New Yorkers. Fill out your application today.
CONSTANTINIDES ENDORSED BY OUR REVOLUTION: Our Revolution, the progressive political group born from US Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign, has endorsed Costa Constantinides as “the most prepared, forward-thinking candidate for Queens Borough President.”
“Costa Constantinides has fought the climate crisis at the local level, and his work has proven a Green New Deal (GND) is not only possible, but necessary,” said Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution’s Executive Director. “Our Revolution knows Costa will lead Queens to a stronger, progressive future that leaves no one behind. We are proud to endorse him for Queens Borough President.”
“Our Revolution has kept the fight for progressive governments that serve all Americans, not just the few, and I am humbled to have its members’ support,” said Councilman Constantinides, progressive candidate for Queens Borough President. “I know the coalition we build will create a fairer economy, secure hospitals and access to healthcare, and invest in our education system so our children can attack the climate crisis head-on.”
With hundreds of thousands of members nationwide, Our Revolution is described as “a grassroots movement that fights for a bolder, equitable future. It has helped lead the effort for a nationwide Green New Deal, which will create a new economy that frees Americans from the fossil fuel industry. Our Revolution also fights for good jobs that pay a fair wage, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform.”
For more information, visit votecosta.com
—With contributions by Annette Hanze Alberts
This column was originated by John A. Toscano