Hello to all! I hope everyone has been enjoying the cool temperatures and fall foliage. While fall is a beautiful season, it also brings significant concerns that as temperatures continue to drop, the delta variant of COVID-19 could wreak more havoc. As we entered fall last year, there was no in-person school, mask mandates were in place throughout the country, and most indoor activities were not open like they are now. This time around, that’s all different.

The delta variant’s increased transmissibility combined with a real potential for a flu season – which we also avoided last year – could spell trouble. Our best defense against COVID-19 is undoubtedly vaccination. At the moment, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna have all been approved for booster shots and are available to those over 65, as well as those with underlying health conditions. If you are eligible for the booster, or haven’t received your first shot yet, you can easily find a vaccine location on vaccinefinder.nyc.gov. Also, if you would like to receive a free plastic holder to protect your vaccine card, please reach out to us at [email protected]!

Speaking of vaccines, now is the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t already. The flu is always a serious illness, but it can become extremely deadly if you are immunocompromised or if you catch COVID-19 at the same time. I encourage everyone to get their flu shot and you can even get a voucher for a free flu shot, provided by the Independent Drivers Guild, through March 2022. To learn more and get your voucher, visit ny.driversbenefits.org.

Also, don’t forget that the federal mask mandate has not changed. That means that all TLC-licensed drivers are required to wear a mask while in a TLC-licensed vehicle, regardless of your vaccination status. Additionally, all passengers are required to wear a mask for the entirety of the trip, regardless of their vaccination status. Please make sure that your mask fits snugly and that it fully covers your mouth and nose. If you receive more than three consumer complaints about not wearing a mask, or wearing it improperly, the TLC will suspend your license.

The biggest news of November will undoubtedly be the results of the general election on November 2nd. If you’re reading this, you most likely already know who won. It is the black car industry’s hope that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is victorious as we truly believe he is the best choice to lead us. We look forward to working with him as he has always supported small businesses and public safety, and has agreed that trade groups like the Black Car Assistance Corporation (BCAC) and other industry stakeholders need to be more involved by the next administration in the discussions and issues that affect us.

If by any chance you’re reading this on November 1st or 2nd, make sure you go out and vote! You can never take an election for granted and every vote counts!

Having the support of the next administration will be critical to the survival, recovery and growth of the black car industry. In October, The Black Car Fund testified about the state of the black car industry at the City Council’s Transportation Committee hearing. We talked about The Black Car Fund’s benefits that have created an invaluable safety net for drivers but unfortunately, all the benefits in the world can’t change the fact that the traditional black car industry has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, take a look at the congestion surcharge revenue brought to the city by the FHV industry. Compared to 2019 and early 2020, the surcharge amount being generated by the FHV industry is down at least 25%. This figure, while staggering, still doesn’t tell the full story. At the height of the pandemic, traditional black car bases were down as much as 95% in business, while the High-Volume FHVs were down over 80%. Since then, the two main HVFHV operators, Uber & Lyft, have begun to recover, but traditional black car bases have not recovered nearly as well, and are still down between 40-45%, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Without the support of the next administration, there is no doubt that many traditional black car bases will never recover and jobs will be lost.

On a final note, I would like to again remind everyone about the health and wellness related benefits that are available to black car drivers through The Black Car Fund. From telemedicine for the whole family, vision coverage and dental insurance, to prescription, urgent care and diagnostic imaging discounts, and the mental health and wellness program, there are numerous benefits that you could be taking advantage of today, for FREE.

Also, our mobile Vision Van is back! Keep an eye on our social media channels (@nybcf) for updates on its location! If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to visit ny.driversbenefits.org and sign up so that you can begin using these benefits today.

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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