Congratulations to all the students, educators, and parents who made it through remote learning this semester! I know it was not easy. This may have been some of the hardest learning, teaching, and parenting in human history. But dedicated teachers, resilient students, and infinitely patient parents have done so much to make it work.
There are so many critical and unanswered questions — and so much understandable anxiety — about how schools can open in the fall. I’ll have a lot more to say about that soon (and will be eager to hear what you have to say as well). But for today, hopefully you and your families can celebrate the end of the school year and get a little rest from the Zoom classroom routine.
One good feature of NYC’s public schools will be continuing this summer: Because we fought to adopt “universal free lunch,” every NYC public school family will get a Pandemic EBT card with $420 per student to pay for groceries this summer. Thanks to the hard work of Community Food Advocates (with support from the NYC Council Progressive Caucus) to win that fight back in 2017, in order to remove the stigma of school lunch, these funds will support families to buy food while students are not in the classroom.
Every family who receives one of these cards – we’re looking forward to getting ours – can and should use it. Everyone needs healthy food. We really want to make sure that these federal funds are going to local NYC businesses. And it’s great to have the chance to be part of a universal program to help make sure all people have what they need to survive and thrive (if you believe in “Medicare for All” think about this as a very small trial run). P-EBT comes on a debit card and can be used at many grocery stores and every NYC greenmarket (and you can use the great Fresh EBT app to locate them and check your balance).
If you want to share or donate your Pandemic EBT funds, we’ve helped set up an easy way for you to do it. Pandemic EBT cards are non-transferrable, so you can’t transfer your card to someone else or return your card to the government. So we’ve arranged with several grocery stores in the district for people to use their EBT cards to purchase food directly for emergency food providers and mutual aid groups in our neighborhood. You can use your card at Rossman Fruit & Vegetable District in South Slope to buy food for South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, at Bingo Wholesale in Borough Park to purchase for Masbia Soup Kitchen, or order online or over the phone from the Windsor Terrace Food Coop for People In Need.
Visit bit.ly/p-EBT to get their addresses, and learn more about how to share your EBT with local emergency food providers and mutual aid groups. And let us know if you do!
(And of course, you can also use your P-EBT card to buy food for your family at your regular grocery store, and then donate a comparable amount of money to a local soup kitchen or other human service provider).
With school out and Phase 2 underway, the summer seems to be getting off to a cautiously good start in NYC (even as COVID-19 cases in many other states are rising dramatically). Beaches are opening next week, day camps will be able to use city parks, outdoor dining is making our neighborhoods feel alive again. Diligent mask-wearing and social distancing will be needed to keep it so, even as more activities become available to us.
Last but certainly not least, the ongoing lack of guidance to day care centers, limited summer camp possibilities, and huge cuts to City-funded summer youth activities makes this a very hard time for working families. There is simply no way that our city can fully reopen without affordable child care for parents. As of now, the majority of child care centers in NYC remain closed awaiting guidance from the Department of Health, the budget for summer youth jobs and city-funded summer camps is on the Mayor’s chopping block, and no one yet knows what the fall will look like.
Along with Councilmember Debi Rose, I am continuing to push the city to make a plan for day care centers, and the state to fully use the federal funds available to help the child care industry stay afloat. We gave the de Blasio Administration a deadline of today to give us an answer, and we’ll keep you posted.
The Brooklyn Coalition for Early Childhood Programs is hosting a family-friend protest tomorrow from 11 to 2 pm, at Lincoln Terrace Park (Eastern Parkway and Buffalo Ave) to demand more federal funding to save the childcare industry. More information and ways to take action here.
City and State Updates
- Latest impacts: As of yesterday, there have been 210,523 cases in NYC. More than 54,564 people have been hospitalized. We have lost 17,715 people from the virus, and another 4,669 are presumed to have died from the virus as well.
- Beaches open: As of July 1 NYC beaches will be open for swimming. Lifeguards will be on duty. Beach goers should continue to observe social distancing and wear masks in transit on the way to and at the beach, but thankfully New Yorkers will be able to catch a breeze and cool off.
- Grab-and-go meals: The city will continue offering free grab-and-go meals at school sites through the summer.
- Day Camps: Private day camps have now been cleared to use city parks, permits are expected to be processed in the next few days. The City Council is still fighting to get funding restored for public day camps to ensure equitable access to summer childcare and recreation.
- Childcare funding: The Governor announced this week that $65 million of the $134 million in federal CARES Act funding will be made available for childcare providers to help facilities get prepared to reopen, woefully insufficient according to childcare providers already operating with thin margins that have been closed for months.
- Traveler quarantine: Governor Cuomo and neighboring state leaders in New Jersey and Connecticut are demanding that visitors from states with an uptick in COVID-19 cases quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
- Alternate Side Parking: The Mayor announced that starting June 29, Alternate Side Parking will be in effect again, but cars will only need to be moved once a week. On blocks where the signs say two ASP times, only the second day will be in effect. More detail here.
- The Budget: City Council is still negotiating the budget with the Mayor, which is due by the end of the month. You can read how I’m thinking about the budget here, and I’ll have more to say on it soon.