The Black Car Fund (BCF) may have been formed to provide workers’ compensation to black car operators in New York State, but the organization has evolved into something much bigger and more important, offering a long list of valuable benefits to its covered drivers at no cost to them. Many of those benefits – including 24/7 telemedicine, vision coverage, dental insurance, a mental health and wellness program, safety education, and discounts on prescriptions, urgent care and diagnostic imaging – almost got cut recently. But thanks to the perseverance of the BCF’s leadership, the New York State Senate and House finally passed legislation on May 24, solidifying The Fund’s ability to continue providing them.
Losing those benefits would have dealt a terrible blow to devastated drivers trying to get back on their feet in a struggling transportation industry. Thankfully, the bipartisan bill, which was sitting on Governor Hochul’s desk as of late-June, is expected to be signed into law any day now.
Meanwhile, the BCF is wasting no time introducing additional new benefits for its covered drivers. As of June 7, the Fund doubled the amount it pays to families of a covered driver who passes away while working. This benefit is paid out separately – and in addition to – any and all other death benefits that a covered driver’s family is entitled to under New York worker’s compensation law.
“We introduced a $50,000 Driver Death Benefit in 2016 but considering all that has happened in the past few years, [the board] felt that increasing the amount to $100,000 was the right thing to do,” explains Ira Goldstein, executive director of the BCF. “In many cases, our covered drivers are immigrants, and the main bread winners in their families, so their loss has dire financial consequences. We wanted to do what we could to ease that burden for as many people as possible.”
According to Mr. Goldstein, the BCF is also working on several additional new benefits, set to go into effect this year – including a new online driver education class that drivers will be paid to complete, as well as several other new benefits, whose details will be announced in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) will be deciding whether or not to continue its cap on new for-hire vehicle (FHV) licenses in August, and it is my sincere hope the TLC’s new Chair, David Do, will give the traditional segments of the industry a much-needed and well-deserved boost by removing the cap for them. It’s clear they were never the cause of the problem that initiated the cap in the first place, so there’s no reason they should continue to suffer as a result of the policy.