New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Economic Recovery

Ben Kallos in Front of Small Business

Ben knows what it is like to be an employee at a small business and what it's like help run a small business, from keeping money flowing in to cover payroll to managing benefits and what seems like unending government regulation. That's why Ben is fighting for an economic recovery led by workers and small businesses. That means raising wages for workers, creating new jobs, and filling every store front.

In the Council Ben Kallos:

Ben has already been fighting for and will win as Borough President:

Fresh Ideas: Economic Recovery

Retirement Security for All

Every New Yorker deserves the right to retire, but two-thirds of workers aren’t participating in retirement plans, largely because their employer doesn’t offer one.

That's why Ben carried legislation authored by former-Public Advocate now-Attorney General Tish James to automatically enroll employees in a plan that puts five percent of their wages into a retirement fund and lets them adjust the amount or opt out. Over the years, since it was introduced Ben took on former President Trump, his henchman Steve Bannon, and two acts of Congress, to get the law passed.

As Borough President, Ben will make sure that it is implemented on time to help 1.5 million workers save for retirement and help small businesses compete.


Learn more about Retirement Security for All.

More Fresh Ideas: Economic Recovery

New York Times coverage of Automatic Benefits and Ben Kallos

No one should go hungry, lose their home, or go without healthcare in New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We are a City with hundreds of programs designed to help those in need.

As you may have read in the New York Times, over the past four years, Ben worked with experts in the Federal government, academia, non-profits, and the private sector to advance legislation and research the regulatory framework to legally provide benefits automatically, so New Yorkers get the benefits they qualify for. In our work, Ben has secured millions in funding to research Automatic Benefits policies and even helped make the software necessary freely available to the public. In December of 2017, the City Council passed a measure to study the feasibility and possible effectiveness of implementing my Automatic Benefits legislation.

The city’s study was completed in 2018 and proved that my Automatic Benefits legislation could  save taxpayer dollars by taking advantage of the legal research, grants, and software that we’ve already secured for the city and this plan. The study has spurred a systematic review of various benefits access initiatives within different City agencies or offices, thereby creating an opportunity to streamline processes. In 2019, the City’s first-ever Benefits Screening API was released, allowing for better access to the 30+ social service benefits that are available to residents.

As Borough President, Ben will take on poverty by making sure every New Yorker who qualifies for benefits gets them.

Fill Empty Store Fronts

Empty storefronts were a blight on Manhattan, even before the pandemic and have only gotten worse.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos authored a letter with Manhattan Borough President calling to implement outdoor dining at the beginning of the pandemic, then co-prime sponsored the law to make it permanent.

Ben has supported legislation to help our small businesses, including sponsoring the Small Business Jobs Survival Act and Commercial Rent Control.

Ben authored legislation to fund improvements to businesses for accessibility and public health with the promise of rent reductions and the right to renew for those who participate. He's also gone further with legislation to force absentee landlords to reveal their names.

As the next Borough President, Ben will follow Gale Brewer's lead, by taking on this issue, and working block by block and storefront by storefront until they are all filled.

 


Learn more about Fill Empty Store Fronts.
Daily News coverage of legislation to raise wages from Ben Kallos

As the Daily News reported, Ben proposed legislation that would facilitate a worker-led recovery by raising wages for 200,000 human service employees who work at non-profits that are contracted to the city.

New York City provides services to millions of youths, seniors, homeless, and veterans in poverty through human service nonprofits whose government contracts ironically pay workers poverty wages. Per my legislation, the Comptroller would work with the human services sector to determine the average wage or adopt a collectively bargained wage for new contracts. Once prevailing wage rates are adopted, the city would be required to fully fund wage increases as part of new contracts, modifications, or renewals increasing overall funds to non-profits providing vital human services.

“We need to actually invest in paying our Black and Brown human service workers and women of color a prevailing wage so that they can afford to live in the city,” said Ben to the Daily News.

Currently, we are operating in a system where social workers, case managers and other human service professionals, sometimes even with advanced degrees, earn significantly less than building services workers or security guards at the same organization. Pay is so low that 60% of those working in the human services sector were utilizing or had a family member utilizing some form of public assistance benefit, such as Medicaid or food stamps. This is because some of the job titles that have benefited most from prevailing wage laws served predominantly blue-collar workers who are mostly male, exacerbating the gender pay gap.

As Borough President Ben will make sure the City finally pays these service providers and their workers the wages they deserve.


Learn more about Raise Wages.
ADA Ramp for Storefront

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Ben introduced two bills to help small businesses stay open and keep them afloat as New York City fights through the economic fallout of Covid-19. The first bill creates a low-interest small grants and loans program that would provide restaurants with up to $250,000 in funding to make restaurants compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The funding could be used for infrastructure changes, ventilation improvements, as well as other public health upgrades to assist those who are at greater risk for developing serious complications from the coronavirus. Not to mention, making entrances and facilities accessible. In exchange for accepting these funds, landlords would have to allow renewals or lower rents. This is a win-win-win, for landlords who buildings will get free and low-cost retrofits, for the 10% of New Yorkers and tourists who are disabled and will have access to more storefronts, and finally for small businesses welcoming new customers and seeing rents lowered.

Universal Internet Guarantee

As a 14-year-old public school student at the Bronx High School of Science, Ben discovered the Internet and loved it. Ben asked teachers if he could use the Internet on computers after school if he agreed to fix them. Within 2-years, Ben began making $15 an hour in 1996 building websites in what the New York Times profiled as the new after-school job.

As a Council Member Ben Kallos has been fighting to bridge the digital divide by giving everyone free or low-cost Internet. Working with then-Public Advocate, now-Attorney General Tish James, Ben Kallos won $14.99 a month Internet for low-income families whose children were eligible for free or reduced school lunch.

As Borough President, Ben will use legislative, franchising, and land use powers to provide a Universal Internet Guarantee.