Jimmy Van Bramer hosted a virtual town hall on the future of small business and good jobs in the post-COVID economy for Queens last night. Van Bramer was joined by Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Ron Kim and Former Amazon Employee and Activist Christian Smalls.
Watch the Town Hall here.
The panel discussed ways the City and State can support small businesses and workers, how government has fallen short through the pandemic, and how to bring women back into the workforce:
"We've lost so many jobs in this city - 520,000 in our small business sector alone. Yet, the government has been awarding billion dollar corporations with PPP, tax breaks and other subsidies, while small businesses, the very heartbeat of our neighborhoods, suffer," Jimmy Van Bramer said. "We want to make sure that a just economic recovery centers people, centers workers, centers businesses and worker rights. We need rent relief, we need commercial rent control, and we need the Small Business Jobs Survival Act - all those are being fought by the real estate industry."
"Supporting women largely comes from a place where we need greater access to capital - that's true of minority- and women-owned businesses alike. We have a hard time accessing loans and accessing grants and resources in order to get going. For women who happen to be mothers, we have deep childcare issues, and now, that situation is worse and much more urgent. I drafted legislation before the pandemic to create a payroll tax to pay for childcare, and that's something we are pushing now," Senator Jessica Ramos said.
"Everything we do should be centered around workers: Why do we have an economy that constantly focuses on the very top? We talk about buying local, but do we actually invest in our local economy? Our small businesses are shut down - 60 to 65 percent are not going to come back because they did not have any support. We're investing in the wrong place: If we invest in our people, if we invest in care, if we invest in mom and pops and local cooperatives, we're leaving less of a carbon footprint - it's all connected," Assembly Member Ron Kim said.
"The Attorney General's lawsuit is going to be significant for all whistleblowers. We sometimes get a bad rap, we get scrutinized. Being in the public during this pandemic changed my life forever, and I think this lawsuit is validating the fact I was telling the truth the entire time," Former Amazon Employee and Activist Christian Smalls said.
Small businesses have felt the brunt of COVID-19's economic impact: Roughly one-third of the 240,000 small businesses in New York City may never reopen, according to the Partnership for New York City. As Van Bramer wrote in an Op-Ed this week in the Queens Post, the pandemic exacerbated long-term trends for small businesses in New York City, and they must be the focus of our economic recovery in New York City. Van Bramer's vision prioritizes small businesses rather than big corporations who refuse to pay their fair share, neglect workers, and make money off their suffering.
Background on Van Bramer
Jimmy Van Bramer, born and raised in Astoria, Queens, is the Deputy Leader of the New York City Council. He was first elected to the New York City Council on November 3, 2009, and re-elected in both 2013 and 2017. Van Bramer is a founding member of the progressive caucus of the New York City Council.
He works tirelessly to fight for working people, equality for all, and the importance of improving quality of life in our community- values instilled by his parents. His father, William Van Bramer, was a lifelong member of Printers' and Pressman's Union Local 2, and his mother Elizabeth Van Bramer helped support the family - even through bouts of homelessness and food insecurity - by working as a meat wrapper and cashier at local supermarkets, and was a member of Local 1893 of the International Brotherhood of Painters.
His first foray into organizing was when he was a St. John's University student in 1993, leading a queer group of students who fought to be officially recognized by the largest catholic university in the country. Later, he organized for Ed Sedarbaum's 1998 State Senate race, gravitating towards the nascent movement to elect queer people in Queens and starting his personal decades long fight with the Queens County Democratic Party machine.
In 1998, he was an organizer with Citizen Action of New York to create what-is-now today's current New York City campaign finance system with matching funds. At the same time, he led civil disobedience actions with Irish LGBTQ folks trying to march in the city's St. Patrick's Day parades, which previously banned openly queer groups from marching.
In 2001, he stepped forward as the insurgent candidate against the Queens machine for City Council, coming in second. In the ensuing years, he worked as an organizer for the Queens Public Library and joined the board of the Queens Council on the Arts. In 2009, Van Bramer won his City Council election against Queens County machine pick Deirdre Feerick. He similarly bucked the machine to back Melissa Mark-Viverito for Speaker.
He was a leader in the opposition to $3 billion of tax subsidies for Amazon HQ2 and was the first Queens elected official to endorse Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney.
He currently lives in Sunnyside Gardens with his husband Dan Hendrick. Jimmy married Dan on July 28, 2012, becoming the first openly-gay elected official to get married in the borough of Queens.