A tough effort to recover in New York (Photo: Benjamin Kanter / Mayoral Photo Office)
As New York City continues to recover and rebuild after the devastation of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has had immense health and economic consequences, ideas are offered to ensure a city that is more inclusive, creative, and responsive.
During a recent event hosted by the Center for a Urban Future, a leading nonprofit think tank that offers many ideas for the city’s short- and long-term recreation, panellists made suggestions for New York City that were being implemented in other cities around the country . These policies and programs include investing in small businesses, young people, gig workers and freelancers, and others, with an emphasis on people of color and other often disadvantaged and excluded communities.
Attendees included Gary Cunningham of Prosperity Now; Joseph Parilla of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program; Sarah Treuhaft of PolicyLink; and Winston C. Fisher, co-author of The Opportunity Agenda: A Bold Democratic Plan for Middle Class Growth. Panelists discussed nine policy ideas that could help New York City create more economic opportunity.
A service corps
Parilla said cities should follow the example of Birmingham, Alabama’s Bhamstrong Initiative, a public-private partnership that provides small businesses with access to technical assistance, loans and federal assistance, as well as recruiting displaced people as paid volunteers and connecting with the community to rebuild businesses .
New York City could both connect unemployed residents and help them learn skills to move to higher-paying jobs, such as “training to be a community health coach or a digital health coach”.
Corporate community help for minority companies
Treuhaft said New York City should model Cincinnati’s Minority Business Accelerator program to help black-owned businesses grow. As small businesses across the city are closing due to the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, the associated shutdowns and lack of activity in certain parts of the city that rely on office workers, the nearest mayor’s office may urge corporate sectors to provide resources to support minorities owned by companies. She also said the city can do this by working with its Small Business Services Department to further allocate resources for businesses that belong to colored people.
Invest in babies
Low-income Americans don’t have an emergency fund, Cunningham said. By expanding NYC Kids RISE, continuing the Save for College program, and implementing Babybonds, a program that sets up savings accounts for newborns in families below a certain income, Cunningham said the city could help to close the racial wealth gap. The “bonds” grow until a child is 18 years of age. When a child reaches this age, they can decide what investments to make with the money reserved for them. “You can go to college because someone has invested in you. You can buy a house. You can start a business, ”said Cunningham.
Help freelancers and gig workers gain security through portable benefits
Fisher suggested that both cities and states look to Oregon’s Universal Wearable Achievement Program to improve financial security for gig economy workers and freelancers.
New York City should create a system that would allow these workers to access and transfer benefits that are tied to their own work, rather than to an employer such as an employer. B. Health care, retirement, employee compensation, paid sick leave and paid parental leave. “Wearable advantages would create a strategic advantage over other locations,” said Fisher. “It’s not about a single program, it’s about an ecosystem where low-wage and gig-economy workers can thrive so they can have the safety net that only exists for people in large corporations,” he added.
Retrofitting organizations for economic development
To build a more inclusive economy, New York City needs the leadership of local economic development organizations, Parilla said. He argued that New York City can do this by following San Diego’s ConnectAll program, which, according to its website, is aimed at fueling startup growth, especially for low-to-middle-income groups.
“ConnectAll is about finding and scaling minority-owned businesses and investing in digital skills,” said Parilla. “That’s the kind of coalition it takes to tackle the issues we are talking about today,” he added.
Increased city support for CDFIs and federal spending on small businesses
“Before the COVID crisis, the federal government was spending around $ 4 billion on small businesses in this country,” said Cunningham. “That’s enough to buy a nuclear submarine. We need to quadruple that and make sure that money goes to companies with color. We need to make the critical investments that people of color left behind, especially in access to capital for minority businesses, ”he added.
Cunningham said New York City could do this by increasing funding for community development financial institutions, CDFIs, which are private institutions focused on lending to disadvantaged groups. Although CDIFs have “the strongest track record of helping minority-owned businesses” according to the Center for an Urban Future, the network “lacks sufficient resources to meet demand for technical assistance or microcredit”. Cunningham said cities and states could bring more capital to organizations like CDFIs with municipal bonds. “We have to build on this network as many CDFIs suffer from the same problems as their customers, namely access to capital. Everyone buys capital independently. The city could be that connection, ”he said.
Center Equity in Policy Making
Faithful said cities like New York should follow Seattle’s Racial Equity Toolkit program, which is creating such focus across city government and beyond. Faithfully said New York must “put racial justice at the center of all aspects of policy making,” a press release said of the event. “All policies of the city (Seattle) are analyzed from the perspective of justice: who will be affected, what are the main causes, what are the structural obstacles, where is systemic racism evident? And then change and adjust the guidelines accordingly. “
Carry out universal childcare
“Access to affordable childcare is one of the biggest taxes for families,” said Fisher. “The average cost of early childhood care is $ 12,000 to $ 13,000 per year, much more in New York. People fail [of the workforce because] You can’t afford it. What it means for lifetime income is traumatic, ”he added.
By introducing a universal childcare program, New York City could help bring economic relief to working-class and middle-class families and “expand economic opportunities for women who are normally burdened with childcare,” according to the Center for a Urban Future.
Back a Federal Jobs Guarantee
According to Treuhaft, the federal government should “introduce a federal job guarantee”. One way to help New Yorkers survive amid a pandemic would be to have such a guarantee that anyone who needs a job has a job, Faithful said that could be in infrastructure, nursing, community development, or in jobs other areas that would help achieve public benefit. Faithful also said that doing so would “ensure that anyone who wants a job can have one [with] a living wage income that would dramatically change the quality of work. “