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Monday, New York City Comptroller and mayoral Candidate Scott Stringer announced a new initiative to make COVID-19 vaccinations a critical tool in boosting the local economy, supporting small businesses and increasing MTA ridership by offering free “VaxPacks” to every New Yorker receiving a vaccine shot.

City-funded VaxPacks could include items such as a voucher for a two trip Metrocard; a $20 voucher to use at local New York City restaurants and other small businesses; admissions vouchers to movie theaters, museums or other cultural venues; informational booklets on City services and summer events; or other ways to get out on the town. The program could be funded up front by the City with a $50 million down-payment that would be used to directly reimburse the MTA and any business accepting a VaxPack voucher.

Comptroller Scott Stringer said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged our local economy, as small businesses in every borough struggle to keep their doors open, pay their bills, and maintain a payroll. At the same time, subway and bus ridership has plummeted. Let’s help tackle all these problems at once by leveraging our ongoing vaccination efforts and sending vaccinated New Yorkers away with vouchers that can be redeemed for Metrocards, for a dinner out, a movie or just to support local mom-and-pops.”

“To jumpstart our economic recovery, we need robust and widespread vaccination to protect New Yorkers from COVID-19. And every shot can also be an opportunity to support small businesses and our local economy. That’s why I’m proposing VaxPacks — a plan to give a booster shot to our local economy by getting New Yorkers back on the subway, back to restaurants, back to recreational activities, and back to normalcy. By offering free VaxPacks to vaccinated New Yorkers, we are injecting much needed stimulus into our local economy. It’s time to think creatively and outside-the-box to deliver a safe and successful reopening with an equitable recovery,” Stringer continued.

Stringer’s VaxPack Proposal:

The VaxPack program would raise awareness about the vaccine and herald a robust re-opening of the City economy by helping New Yorkers resume the rhythms of their normal lives and get back into the restaurants, small businesses, and venues that have struggled to stay afloat over the past year. The MTA’s daily ridership remains down about 68% on trains and 57% on buses compared to pre-pandemic levels. Restaurant reservations remain 76% lower than pre-pandemic levels, with as many as 92% of restaurants reporting they were unable to come up with the cash to pay their full December rent. Broadway and other theatres remain shuttered.

Comptroller Stringer urged the City to roll out a VaxPack program as soon as possible and allow individuals already inoculated against the COVID-19 virus to retroactively receive a VaxPack. Under Comptroller Stringer’s proposal, VaxPacks would be distributed after an individual’s final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and would be distributed at City-run vaccination sites to residents of the five boroughs.

For the program to offer targeted and urgent relief to restaurants, Comptroller Stringer urged the vouchers to only be reimbursed at locally-owned restaurants and small businesses. Reimbursements by the city would be made quickly so as not to leave any restaurant or small business out of pocket, or could be deducted from a businesses’ quarterly sales tax payments. Vouchers for two-trip MetroCards would likewise be reimbursed by the City upon first use.

Stringer issued a comprehensive economic agenda designed to get small businesses back on their feet, including proposals to inject $1 billion in federal stimulus into the hands of small businesses and nonprofits, waive City fees, incentivize new businesses to open in high vacancy corridors, and repurpose streetspace for outdoor shopping.

To learn more about Comptroller’s comprehensive economic plan, click here.

Source of original article: Black Star News (www.blackstarnews.com).
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