It’s a terrifying and confusing time. Drivers are considered “essential,” but there’s very little work to be had. Efforts to bail out drivers and businesses have been slow and clumsy. There’s also a tremendous amount of misinformation out there, confusing people.
We’ve never seen anything like this pandemic, at least in our lifetimes – and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for an industry that was already struggling terribly.
My advice: If you’re going to tough it out and try to work, take advantage of the resources and guidance made available to you from The New York Black Car Fund (BCF), the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) and the law firm, Windels Marx Lane and Mittendorf.
And take COVID-19 very seriously.
That means sanitizing your vehicle between every ride, wearing your mask when clients are in the car and possibly even providing riders with fresh disposable masks and gloves, assuming they are available. For this industry to even begin to bounce back, the city obviously needs to start returning to normal – which means either a vaccine or significantly ramped up testing – and people need to have confidence that drivers are doing everything they can to provide “safe” service.
Throughout this issue, there is advice and links to financial assistance. Please read through it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask for help – particularly from the IDG, which is comprised mostly of fellow drivers, so they understand better than anyone how you are feeling and what you are going through.
The IDG has been working directly with the BCF to provide drivers from all segments of the industry with cleaning supplies and protective equipment – including masks, gloves and bottles of hand sanitizer. They have handed out more than 20,000 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, from locations approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), where drivers are picking up side-work delivering meals to homebound New Yorkers.
The TLC also began providing some of those same supplies, but I’ve been deeply disappointed in how slow they were to react, and by the fact that they haven’t taken more of leadership position helping drivers amid this madness.
Please, also take advantage of the telemedicine benefits provided by the BCF through Drivers Benefits. If you have any symptoms, stop working immediately and do not hesitate to reach out for an expert opinion from a medical professional.
Windels Marx also deserves tremendous recognition for their work with the Black Car Assistance Corporation Corp. (BCAC) and the IDG, helping drivers navigate the very confusing financial assistance being provided through programs like the New York State Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), now available to Independent Contractors and other workers ordinarily ineligible for unemployment benefits.
I am in no way exaggerating when I say that NYC’s professional drivers are heroes and deserve to be treated as such. We can’t let the City or the citizens of New York forget that FACT. The best way to ensure that happens is to follow all safety and health protocols. In the meantime, please take advantage of all the resources available to you.
Stay Safe and Well!
Victims of COVID-19
We are deeply saddened to report the passing of people from our industry due to COVID-19. We are sure there are more, but the following were brought to our attention. If you know someone from our industry who recently died and you would like to pay tribute to them on the pages of Black Car News, please contact me directly via email at [email protected] or you can call me at 856.751.0656.
Mohamed M. Ibrahim, Valera Global
On April 21, Mohamed M. Ibrahim, a driver for Valera Global since 1990, succumbed to COVID-19.
“Mohamed was genuinely a sweetheart of a guy,” said Valera owner, David Eckstein. “His ever-present smile and quick laugh are still in my head and my heart, which he touched through the years and through all the ups and downs we’ve all have had to deal with. He was one of our best and most respected chauffeurs. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this extremely difficult time.”
Muddabbir Chowdhury, Henry Limousine
On March 29, Muddabbir Chowdhury, a 68-year old mechanic for Henry Limousine passed away from complications caused by COVID-19. A GoFundMe campaign was started for his wife and two sons, who he tragically left behind. It can be found here.
“Muddabbir was a mechanic and loyal employee for over 15 years,” said Avi Mazouz, owner of Henry Limousine. “We started a GoFundMe campaign for his family to help them during this time and more importantly, to help his son continue paying for college. It was Mr. Chowdury’s dream to see his son graduate from college and any donations would be greatly appreciated.”