Testimony Before the Committee on Civil Service and Labor of the New York City Council

By Victor Wong, Director, Business Outreach

Good morning/afternoon. My name is Victor Wong and I am the Director of Business Outreach at the Partnership for New York City. Today, I am speaking on behalf of a new network of small business leaders known as GoBizNYC.

GoBizNYC already represents over 25,000 small businesses across the five boroughs – that’s more than one in ten of our city’s small businesses. Our network includes chambers of commerce, local development corporations, merchant associations, business improvement districts, and industry associations. Our mission is to strengthen the voice of small, immigrant, and minority-owned business and to create an environment where small businesses can create more jobs and build our city’s neighborhood economies.

Local Law No. 46 deliberately exempted small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, recognizing that these employers would face the biggest issues dealing with a new set of expenses as well as government regulations and oversight. The bill also included a phase-in period for businesses with 15-19 employees, giving them an additional 18 months to comply.

Intro. 0001 expands coverage to include businesses with as few as 5 employees and eliminates the time to prepare for implementation of the new law. It would require full compliance from even small employers by April 1st of this year. Although businesses with 20 or more employees will have had nearly a year to understand and prepare for the new law, smaller employers will be blindsided.

Within a few weeks of the passage of this bill, many small businesses will almost certainly be in violation of the law and susceptible to fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Failure to provide time for outreach, education, and compliance with this legislation is setting up these small businesses for penalties. We are confident that this is not the intention of the Mayor, the Council, or advocates of the legislation, but it is inevitable if the date of compliance remains April 1st.

Moreover, the Department of Consumer Affairs has still not hired the staff that will administer this program and no regulations or educational materials have been prepared or disseminated. The city needs to allocate adequate time and resources to effectively reach out to and educate small businesses across the five boroughs and help them become compliant with the law. Given that the city has 175,000 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and that nearly half of them are owned by immigrants who do not necessarily speak English, this is no small task.

We urge the Council to provide at least until the end of the year before businesses with fewer than 20 employees are expected to comply with the legislation. In addition, we suggest adding a provision for education and outreach to small employers and their employees to ensure that both groups are well-informed about the law and know how to report abuses. GoBizNYC and other small business organizations are fully prepared to help with this education and outreach and we hope the legislation will provide the opportunity and resources for this. We hope the sick leave initiative will be a successful partnership with employers and not simply another costly imposition that makes it harder to be a responsible and profitable small business in New York City. Thank you.

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