Hello to all. I hope everyone has been staying safe and enjoying the summer responsibly. New York continues to be doing well, considering we were once the epicenter of the pandemic. I wrote last month about how so many states were consistently posting record levels of new COVID-19 cases, and sadly, the situation across the country continues to worsen. We are slowly approaching 100,000 new confirmed cases per day as a country, and this has only made our situation in New York feel tenuous.

Although we are firmly in Phase 4 in New York City, the reality is not what many of us expected when the reopening phases began back in June. The dire situation across the country has made us take a much more cautioned approach. So, while we may be in Phase 4, there is still no indoor dining or drinking, malls and museums remain closed, and gyms and movie theaters don’t have an opening date in sight. Going forward, Governor Cuomo has made it clear that the overall situation remains fluid here, as the state will continue closely monitoring the pandemic and make further reopening decisions based on the best available data.

Over the last few weeks, many offices and businesses have at least partially reopened and, little by little, workers are starting to go back to work. As a driver and essential worker, however, you have likely been back to work for months, if you even stopped at all.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must restate that one of the best things you can do to keep yourself and your passengers safe while driving is to install a temporary partition in your vehicle. Remember, the TLC is allowing all licensed cars to install temporary partitions through one of their approved installers. To be clear, there were never previous restrictions on black cars installing partitions, however, the TLC is requiring everyone to use one of their approved installers.

The newly updated list of approved installers can be accessed by clicking here!

On the Federal level, Congress and the Senate are gearing up to pass the next stimulus package, which may become known as the CARES Act 2. While there are still no details on it at this time, it is strongly expected that another direct payment to Americans will be included in the package. Whether it will be another $1,200 remains to be seen, but ultimately, it’s something everyone should be paying attention to. It’s also expected that the next stimulus package will include features such as extending enhanced unemployment benefits past July, extending the Paycheck Protection Loans program, and possibly even rental assistance.

Here at the Black Car Fund, we have been focused on spreading awareness of the Telemedicine and Mental Wellness benefits we provide to our Covered Drivers. We want to make sure everyone knows that these benefits are available to them and are entirely free.

The mental wellness benefit, in particular, has been very important during this pandemic. Because of this, we expanded it by hiring additional personnel to work cases. We are also ready to resume our Enhanced Defensive Driving and Wellness STEP courses as soon as we are able to from both a legal, and safety standpoint. They will certainly be in high demand when they resume so we encourage you to stay connected with us on social media so you can find out as soon as they’re back. We are active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and our handle is @nybcf across all these platforms. You should also stay tuned for more information about all of our benefits, as we hope to be able to add new ones in the very near future.

In other news, the TLC just announced that they have implemented new protocols to address driver assaults by investigating incidents, connecting drivers to victim services, and assisting and advocating for criminal investigations. As of July 21, once the TLC is notified that a driver is the victim of a verbal or physical assault, their new Driver Assault Response Plan kicks in, which includes the Commissioner’s office, the Office of Inclusion, Enforcement and Public Affairs units of the TLC. After gathering information about the incident, they will contact the driver or their family to follow up and ensure a report was filed with the NYPD.

To be frank, these are all things that should have already been implemented and taking place, but in this day and age, any helpful, positive action the City takes is welcome. The TLC asks that if you have been a victim of a crime or harassment, that you report it to them by contacting them at [email protected].

You should also make sure you’re aware of your rights as a driver. For instance, if a passenger refuses to wear a face covering and does not have a medical condition preventing them from wearing one, you can refuse them service. You can also refuse to drive anyone who is clearly intoxicated or who verbally assaults or harasses you. Many drivers know this, but you’d be surprised how many aren’t sure about it.

As we continue through this summer, I ask you all to continue staying safe out there. One look at the rest of the country and it’s clear that this is no time to let our guards down. The next month will be very telling about the direction we’re headed in with this virus and I hope that the news will be good when I sit down to write next month’s article. Take care and until next time!

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Article by Ira Goldstein

Ira Goldstein is Executive Director of the New York Black Car Fund, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Car Assistance Corporation and Treasurer of the Coalition of Transportation Associations.

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