Immigrant families set up a long lunch table in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office this afternoon, but with no food called “the Empty Plate Lunch” to highlight food insecurity in Black, Brown and immigrant communities.
The demonstrators called upon the governor to support a billionaires tax to help make up for what many immigrants have done without because they didn’t qualify for stimulus money, but were suffering because of the loss of their jobs. Many of the protestors brought their children and extended families.
The demonstrators, organized by Make the Road New York, were joined by several state legislators who were calling on the governor to tax the wealthy to help make up for massive losses to immigrants and minorities hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Demonstrators demanded Governor Cuomo immediately raise a Billionaires’ Tax (S.8277 / A.01041) to pay for state aid for workers excluded from federal aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of the “empty plates,” came about because Gov. Cuomo cited his daily conversations with wealthy New Yorkers in the Hamptons in which he said, “I literally talk to people all day long who are in their Hamptons houses….we’ll go to dinner, I’ll buy you a drink. Come over, I’ll cook.”
“Governor Cuomo, I would love to invite you to lunch. But I have no food to give. I have no money with which to buy it. I wait in food lines all day, only to get to the end and see them run out,” said Juana Alvarez, a member of Make the Road New York. “This is my new reality. When will you show me the same concern and kindness that you do for your billionaire friends? What do they know of this hunger?”
A new report by Make the Road NY and Hester Street found that more than five months after the crisis began, 66% of the surveyed immigrant, Black, and Brown New Yorkers remain unemployed, 85 percent were concerned about paying rent, and over 60 percent of US citizens and 98 percent of undocumented immigrants received no federal or state assistance. Meanwhile, the net worth of New York’s 118 billionaires increased by $77 billion during coronavirus, or 15 percent, from March 18th to May 15th. At present, New York’s 118 billionaires have a combined net worth of $600 billion.
Leaders also said while many people suffered during COVID-19, others made billions off the market and taking advantage of the crisis. Meanwhile, the group says, their data reveals that more than 65% of immigrant, Black, and Brown New Yorkers remain unemployed, 85% concerned about paying rent.
Assemblywoman Carmen Della Rosa of Manhattan said she and Assemblymember Jessica Ramos are sponsors of the billionaires tax and she said there is “no reason why billionaires can’t pay their fair share.”
“There’s a 118 billionaires in New York State, that have become richer as our communities suffer with COVID,” Della Rosa said. “The funds would create $5.5 billion in New York State and of those funds we seek to create an excluded worker bail-out fund so that the workers who have not been able to qualify for federal stimulus, those workers who have not been able to get employment assistance would have an income that is given to them on a monthly basis, so that they can make up the loss that they’ve had due to the COVID pandemic.”
The legislation is still pending but is stalemated in the legislature.