Hello to all. Following in 2020’s footsteps, 2021 has gotten off to a historic and unprecedented start. From the riots at the Capitol, to the second impeachment of President Trump, to the inauguration of President Biden, the news cycle has been quite busy since the year started. Things have also been busy at The Black Car Fund, and with the black car industry as a whole. There is a lot I want to cover in this month’s article, so I’ll jump right into it.

On a Federal level, the biggest topic of concern for most Americans is what the next COVID-19 stimulus package will include. As you likely know, the last package passed by Congress under the Trump administration included direct stimulus payments of $600 to most Americans, as well as restarted a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans. Under the Biden administration, and with Democratic control of the House and Senate, most expect that the next stimulus package will include an additional $1,400 in direct payments. This will certainly be a help to the many who continue to struggle during these difficult times. Everyone should follow this closely as there will surely be other aspects of the bill, such as unemployment expansion and relief to small business, that will be critically important.

Another issue that is on many people’s minds is the COVID-19 vaccine, and when they will be able to access it. The Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) worked closely with the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) and The Transportation Alliance (TTA) in advocating for transportation workers to be prioritized for access to the vaccine. We strongly supported including passenger ground transportation workers among those given high vaccine priority because they are in an industry essential to the functioning of society. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made recommendations to the CDC, in part with commentary from the IATR and TTA. While ACIP had initially suggested including ground transportation workers in Phase 1B, the CDC’s adopted recommendations placed them in Phase 1C instead.

Over the past couple of weeks, a number of elected officials, including Mayor de Blasio, as well as most of the frontrunning Mayoral candidates, have come out in support of expanding vaccine eligibility to drivers. It remains to be seen what the State ultimately decides, but we will be monitoring the situation closely so we can spread to word to drivers as soon as the vaccine becomes available to them.

In other City News, the TLC has updated its website with a clarification of liability in the event a driver is pulled over for an unbuckled passenger. As you know, a new seat belt law went into effect on November 1st, 2020, which requires all passengers to wear a seat belt, regardless of whether they’re seated in the front or back. Initially, there was confusion about whether drivers would be on the hook for a passenger being unbuckled. Their website now states, “As of November 1, 2020, New York State now requires all passengers to buckle up regardless of where they sit in the vehicle. If passengers do not wear a seat belt, the vehicle can be pulled over and adult passengers may receive a ticket. If a driver is transporting a passenger under the age of 16, and they are not accompanied by a parent or guardian and do not buckle their seatbelt, the driver could receive a ticket.”

Additionally, in order to ensure that passengers are aware of the new seat belt requirements, the TLC is offering a vehicle decal to place on a rear interior window. These decals are being offered at TLC facilities if a driver has an inspection or licensing appointment. Otherwise, decals can be obtained at one of several Seat Belt Decal Distribution Locations. You can find a full list of these locations here!

Now, I have some very exciting news to share. Over the last few months, The Black Car Fund has been hard at work to bring new and expanded health and wellness benefits to our Covered Drivers. In January, we officially launched a new comprehensive suite of benefits, some of which are totally new and all of which are free! As you know, we have offered telemedicine benefits, a mental health & wellness program, and the opportunity to earn while you learn by being paid to take our Wellness STEP program or our enhanced defensive driving class.

However, several new benefits are being added which include:

Vision Insurance

  • Free eye exam once every year
  • Free eyeglasses every year or a 6-month supply of contact lenses
  • 30% discount on a second pair of eyeglasses

Dental Insurance

  • No cost or copays for dental exam, x-rays and cleanings
  • Emergency treatment for tooth pain
  • Discounts on dental work! For example, a crown costs just $50, instead of the usual $600-$2500.

Prescription Discounts

You’ll save an average of 31% off the retail price of generic prescription medications and 15% off the retail price of on brand name prescriptions at thousands of participating pharmacies which include CVS, Duane Reade, RiteAid, Walgreens, Kroger, Walmart, Target, Safeway and more!

Enjoy even bigger savings and free shipping through Mail Order Direct service when you order a 90-day supply of select medications through the CVS Caremark Mail Service Pharmacy.

Urgent Care & Diagnostic Imaging Discounts

  • Access to discounts at participating Urgent Care locations
  • Access to providers who offer 20-80% savings on MRI, CT and PET scans

New York’s drivers are essential to our economy and there’s no question that you keep our city running. I truly believe that you deserve access to benefits, at no cost to you, in order to ensure that you can work and remain healthy. We want to erase the fear that lack of coverage will lead to long periods of unpaid time away from work, or preventable health conditions. I urge everyone to visit https://ny.driversbenefits.org to learn more about all of these benefits, and begin using them! 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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