May 5, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Several Queens Congress Members want the next COVID-19 relief bill to include assistance for bodegas, ethnic grocery stores and small independent supermarkets.
Congresswoman Grace Meng announced Sunday that she wrote a letter— signed by 12 other New York Congress Members– to House leaders Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy urging them to help these businesses.
She estimates that there are around 13,000 of these small stores throughout New York City and that many have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic.
The lawmakers requested grants for refrigeration units – to help store fresh produce and offset increased utility costs – and new partnerships to be created between rural farms and small grocers in order to boost sales of local produce, meat and dairy.
The members want hazard payments to be given to frontline employees who work at these stores and federal income tax exemptions from their wages.
The letter, which was penned April 30, stated that community grocery stores are a lifeline to neighborhoods and often cater to specific cultural groups.
“Small grocers provide a unique access point to ensure that those who are food insecure can purchase healthy foods and fresh produce,” the letter reads.
“While major grocery chains are struggling to keep up with panic buying of toilet paper, paper towels, and other staples, New Yorkers are turning to their community stores for these critical supplies, “it continues.
Carolyn Maloney, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nydia Velázquez, Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks were among the Queens contingent of lawmakers who signed the letter.
Low-income New Yorkers who shop at these stores should also be given relief which in-turn would help these businesses, the group said.
Among these demands are increased funding of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment insurance being made available to qualified persons – regardless of their citizenship status.
The delegation also wants federal stimulus checks to be given retroactively to people without social security numbers who have individual taxpayer identification numbers, such as the undocumented. This group was left out when the $1,200 stimulus checks were sent out last month.