Hello to all! Spring has sprung and I’m sure we’re all happy for the warmer weather. March was a very eventful month and there’s a lot to catch you all up on. I’ll jump right into it.
March kicked off with surprising news of Aloysee Heredia-Jarmoszuk resigning from her post after a story broke about her expletive-ridden tirade against TLC staff during a virtual call. Videos and audio featuring Jarmoszuk came out after a lawsuit was brought against her and the city in December, alleging that she fostered a hostile work environment and routinely bullied employees at the agency.
A short time after her resignation, the Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, Ryan Wanttaja, was named Acting Commissioner. It’s not surprising that, with an Acting Commissioner and several vacancies on its Board, the TLC decided to extend the moratorium on new FHV licenses for another 6 months. In late March, the TLC released its biannual report related to the issuance of new FHV licenses and pointed to several statistics to justify the decision; such as FHV trip volumes still being down compared to pre-pandemic levels and the fact that nearly 30,000 licensed FHVs did not perform trips for high-volume companies. Their next review is expected to be released in September.
Another big piece of news was the announcement that Uber is partnering with yellow cabs to allow passengers to hail them through the Uber mobile app. Passengers will have the option to select one of roughly 14,000 licensed taxis directly from their phone. Uber says it expects to pilot the offering this spring and launch a full rollout during the summer.
This is a major boost for yellow cabs that have been struggling after the collapse of the medallion market. Demand for rides is continuing to increase, especially as we get into these warmer months, so this will have a minimal impact on current Uber drivers while also providing a valuable opportunity for yellow cabs.
Also in late March, the MTA said that it expects to have federal approval for its downtown Manhattan congestion pricing plan by the end of this year, setting up a launch of the new fees by the end of 2023. Originally scheduled to start in January 2021, the program was delayed by President Donald Trump’s administration. After President Joe Biden took office, the MTA got the go-ahead to conduct an environmental review.
It’s not too surprising that the end of 2023 is being targeted because at the end of the day, no one who drives is going to be happy about having to pay more money to drive in Manhattan. With elections coming up, it’s obvious that pushing for a faster timeline wouldn’t be too popular with many people.
Speaking of timelines, another topic that needs to be discussed is The Black Car Fund and the looming legislative deadline for the additional health related benefits we provide. As you might recall, in 2019, legislation was passed that formally authorized us to use a portion of the passenger surcharge to provide health related benefits such as 24/7 telemedicine coverage, a vision plan and dental insurance. This legislation came with something called a “sunset provision” which in this case was a three-year timeline before the bill essentially “expires”. If this happens, then The Black Car Fund will no longer be authorized to provide these free additional benefits. That is why we are working with the Independent Drivers Guild to have new legislation passed that will extend this sunset provision so that we can continue providing these benefits.
State Senator Diane Savino has introduced this legislation on the Senate side of New York’s legislature and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz has introduced it on the Assembly side. The best way to ensure that lawmakers will pass this legislation is to sign up for Drivers Benefits and take advantage of the numerous FREE health, wellness and education benefits we provide. Visit ny.driversbenefits.org now to sign up, learn more and start using your benefits now!
On a final note, don’t forget that if you’re a Covered Driver with an accepted Workers’ Compensation claim and have been receiving your indemnity payments by paper check, you can now receive them via Direct Deposit! If you would like to enroll in Direct Deposit, please visit www.nybcf.org/directdepositand sign up!
Until next time!