Maloney pushes for small biz help in East Village, fearful of a second Great Depression

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney at a Nov. 22 press conference in front of The Strand Bookstore.
Photo by Mark Hallum

For businesses such as the iconic Strand Book Store in the East Village, which has been serving New Yorkers with a steady supply of books for just short of a century, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney would like pandemic insurance to be a thing for future epidemics.

But the message at a press conference on Sunday was not only for her bill, the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA). The congresswoman also called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do his part by bringing the Heroes Act the floor for a vote on Capitol Hill for approval of a second COVID-19 stimulus.

This would replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, provide rent relief to businesses and deliver funding to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as well, Maloney said.

“We are here sending a message to the federal government that we need another COVID relief package for our small businesses and for our people,” Maloney said. “I think we’re heading into another Great Depression. I’m not kidding, I think it’s serious. I think when we go back to Washington there has to be some agreement from both sides of the aisle, a willingness to work together.”

PRIA, or HR 7011, would create a system of public and private compensation for businesses from future health crises that may push commerce to a similar brink, which could slow the nation’s economic recovery. The House Committee on Financial has held a hearing on the bill within the past week and from there it could go to Congress for a full vote.

Nancy Bass Wyden, the owner of The Strand, told reporters that if a spike in COVID-19 cases forces a closure like was seen in the spring, the age-old purveyor of reading material with 30,000 square feet of space may not survive.

“We’d like to be considered a small business and we’ve reached out to everybody for help on a local level… We’ve been trying everything and so far nobody has reached out to let us operate with the proper PPE, whatever they dictate to us so at least we can keep our web orders and some kind of income going in a very safe environment,” said Wyden. “To be honest, I’m exhausted. I’ve been working the shipping department nonstop and just, we have to have help. We’re taking it day-by-day.”

Wyden, who is the wife of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, says she hopes that New York City will continue to be a place of small businesses that contribute to the tapestry of life, but noted that many have already gone under in the eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic began.