Hello to all! After the weather we’ve had in July, I’m not sure if we’re really looking forward to August, but such is the way with New York Summers. July was a busy and exciting month at The Black Car Fund, but before I get into all that, I think that we should take a moment to talk about the state of COVID-19.

Throughout July, the numbers have sneakily been increasing, particularly due to the BA.5 strain of COVID-19 and its ability to avoid natural immunity and vaccination. The City also did away with its color coded COVID alert system, so many people are unaware that the positivity rate among tests is beginning to near almost 20% in some areas of NYC.

I don’t mean to sound like the bearer of bad news. After all, new vaccines are expected to roll out in the fall and luckily, hospitalizations and deaths have remained very manageable, meaning people are not getting as sick as during the start of the pandemic. However, I would encourage everyone to just be cautious at this time. Also, please don’t forget that the TLC’s mask mandate has not changed, and drivers and passengers are both required to wear masks when traveling in a TLC-licensed vehicle.

In other City news, last month the TLC issued a rare warning to all licensees regarding a company that many of you have probably heard of. In case you missed the notice, the TLC was explicit in stating that this company is not licensed by the TLC to dispatch TLC-licensed vehicles, and that drivers who pick up passengers using the company’s app will be in violation of TLC rules and subject to monetary fines and even license revocation. The TLC also stated that vehicle owners would be in violation of rules and could face fines as high as $10,000.

It’s rare for the TLC to take such a strong stance against a specific company, which I take as a signal that enforcement on this issue will be taken seriously. I advise everyone to take heed of the TLC’s warning.

Another important thing to be aware of is that as of August 1st, speed cameras throughout NYC will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is a big change as previously, the cameras only operated Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 10:00pm.  If you’re driving late at night, or when there is little traffic, it can be very easy to lose track of your speed and the moment those cameras see you going 10 mph or more over the speed limit, they will get you. Please drive carefully and avoid the $50 fines!

Lastly, it appears that congestion pricing is moving forward with full steam. I’m a little surprised about this as it had seemed that a lot of politicians did not want to push the subject during an election year. Nevertheless, the MTA has moved forward with making appointments to the Traffic Mobility Review Board, which will be tasked with determining what the congestion surcharges will be and who, if anyone, will receive exemptions from it. Their appointments were all heavyweights in the business and real estate industries. A bit of good news, however, is that one of the appointees, Kathryn Wilde, stated in an interview that she is not in favor of any exemptions. At the end of the day, the fewer exemptions there are, the better it will be for everyone. The money has to be made up somewhere so every exemption given means that everyone else will have to pay more. This is an issue we will be monitoring closely and I’ll be sure to share any information I get with drivers as soon as possible.

Moving onto news from The Black Car Fund, at the end of July, Governor Hochul signed into law the bill that extended our authority to provide additional health, wellness and education related benefits for another three years. This is a massive victory for drivers throughout New York and ensures that we will be able to continue providing critical protections such as vision coverage, telemedicine coverage, and dental insurance for free to our Covered Drivers. Our dental insurance benefit has already been recently improved to cover even more procedures and, with this three-year extension, we look forward to announcing even more benefits in the coming months.

Also this month, The Black Car Fund Education Center (formerly known as the Black Car Safety Center) will be moving from its location on Crescent Street to a new state of the art facility in Long Island City. This location is massive compared to the old one and includes multiple classrooms, revamped facilities and even free indoor parking, up to capacity. I am very excited for the opening of this new location, which will allow us to provide more classes than ever before. We are also excited to soon announce a new class where drivers will learn about all the benefits we offer, how to access them, as well as receive some additional safety instruction. As always, we want you to be able to Earn While You Learn, so this class will also provide compensation to drivers who complete it. We are putting the final touches on the course now and will soon announce more details. Keep your eye out for that announcement!

Lastly, 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/directdeposit and sign up!

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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