Hello to all. March has certainly come in like a lion, and it remains to be seen if it will go out like a lamb. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it has been a typical busy month, so let’s get into it…

First, an update on congestion pricing. While the TRO has been lifted and it appears highly unlikely that the case will succeed, the case has not been dismissed yet and the surcharge must be collected and paid to the State. The second phase of congestion pricing – which would include a congestion fee on passenger vehicles, delivery trucks, etc. – has been more problematic. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly included it in their one house budgets, while the Governor has deemed it a priority issue. The momentum pendulum keeps swinging back and forth, with the latest swing being opposition to congestion pricing by the legislators from counties surrounding New York City. It remains to be seen if it will be included in the final budget.

I would like to take this opportunity to focus on new driver benefits which not everyone is aware of:

On March 20th, the Black Car Fund and the Independent Drivers Guild held a very successful seminar for base managers to inform them about the new driver benefits, which include the vision plan and telemedicine program. These are free programs for drivers. If you are a driver, then you know that spending long hours on the road can put an extra strain on your eyes, especially at night. As a black car driver, you are entitled to a full eye exam once a year, as well as a free pair of glasses, if needed.

The telemedicine program is also a valuable benefit. It provides you AND your family with a free consultation with a doctor by telephone or video conference, even if it is not related to a workers’ compensation claim. This way, if your injury or illness is minor, you do not have to waste time at the doctor’s office. Follow-up treatments, like prescriptions, are not covered if it is not related to a workers’ comp claim.

Click here if you are a driver and want to learn more about the benefits: https://driversbenefits.org/.

If you are a base operator and you would like to learn more about how Drivers Benefits can help your drivers get access to their free benefits, contact christina@workersbenefitfund.com. You can view the presentation from the March 20th meeting here: https://bit.ly/2HKKKoh.

As you are probably aware, there were several driver suicides in the past 18 months. Driving in New York City is one of the most stressful jobs there is. The Black Car Fund and the Independent Drivers Guild partnered to address this mental health crisis by creating the IDG Wellness and Counseling Center. There is a 24/7 hotline for immediate assistance (718-841-7330), weekly discussion circles with other drivers to provide support, as well as individual and family counseling. Soon to be added are classes on financial planning, English as a second language and “know your rights.” ALL OF THESE SERVICES ARE FREE.

Click here to get more information on this new and potentially lifesaving program: https://drivingguild.org/wellness-drivingguild-org/.

If you want to see NY1 News’ coverage of the Wellness and Counseling Center, please click here: https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2019/03/12/stressed-out-uber–e-hail-drivers-vent-in-group-therapy-session.

As I write this column, Commissioner Meera Joshi is finishing her last day on the job at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. While the black car industry did not always agree with her, she was probably the most honest and accessible commissioner in recent memory. We wish her well in her new venture.

Taking over for Commissioner Joshi is Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen. Formerly, the Deputy Commissioner of Policy and External Affairs, he is a seasoned veteran of City government and has the full support of the TLC Board and staff. I believe he has the right experience and demeanor to finish the many projects that the agency has to complete. We wish him well.

Until next time!

Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira J. Goldstein is the Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund and Advisor to the Black Car Assistance Corp. (BCAC).

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