Street Vendors Call on Elected Officials to Provide Benefits for These Frontline Workers

Everyone is struggling to get by these days, including your local street meat slinger. Photo: Flickr/Tony Fischer
Everyone is struggling to get by these days, including your local street meat slinger. Photo: Flickr/Tony Fischer

City and state officials must provide new health and economic benefits to street vendors who are providing food and other goods during the coronavirus crisis, advocates said this week.

The Street Vendor Project has issued a series of demands that, the group says, will provide “emergency relief for informal economy workers and other precariously employed workers and small business owners.”

The demands come as the local economy is increasingly grinding to a halt. Like bars, restaurants, theaters and clubs, street vendors are also feeling the pinch (fewer people on the street means less business for these local heroes). The largely immigrant community of street vendors isn’t eligible for sick leave, unemployment insurance or small business loans, the group added.

So here are the demands:

Immediate Needs of Street Vendors

  • Waive all late penalties for late sales filings for NYS Department of Taxation and Finance which are due on March 20.
  • Immediate suspension of New York Police Department, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Parks Department, and Department of Consumer Affairs enforcement of street vendor compliance violations – regardless of whether the vendor has a permit or a license. Waive outstanding tickets issued since January 2020, as vendors won’t be able to work for the foreseeable future.
  • Ensure street vendors and delivery workers are included in NYC Department of Education childcare plan for frontline workers.
  • Ensure workers who are employed by food cart or truck owners, including undocumented workers, are eligible for unemployment insurance and any forthcoming emergency relief funds
  • Create granting opportunities via NYC Small Business Services for low-income sole proprietors that street vendors and other small business owners are eligible to receive:
    • Ensure that eligibility is not dependent on commercial rent payments
    • Allow for a mobile food vending license or permit, general merchandise license, or proof of quarterly sales tax filings to be sufficient proof of sole proprietorship
    • Allow for proof of income being at or below federal poverty levels as appropriate documentation of low-income status

Broad demands for the Health and Safety of Frontline Communities

  • Emergency Universal Basic Income at a minimum for low-income workers to receive direct assistance for the duration of the crisis
  • Statewide suspension of rent, mortgage, and utility payments for the duration of the public health emergency
  • Universal healthcare access for all, regardless of immigration status
  • Moratorium on the Public Charge rule
  • Cease all Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations across NYC to ensure undocumented immigrants can access vital resources in schools, hospitals, and places of worship. The immediate release of all immigrants from detention to stop the spread of coronavirus and help flatten the curve in New York City and New York State.