A recent study by the NYC Comptroller’s office shows that New York City’s essential frontline workers in the battle against Covid-19 are more than just healthcare workers, and their needs extend beyond masks and protective equipment.

Included amongst the brave first responders responsible for carrying New York through this current pandemic are janitors, grocery clerks, child care staff, EMS workers, bus and truck drivers– many of whom also are overworked; many of whom are foreign-born; and many of whom live in Brooklyn.

Photo: Peter Wilhelm from Pixabay

“My office is laser-focused on supporting all frontline workers who are on the ground during this critical time, but who are too often ignored, underpaid, and overworked,” wrote NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, in the report. “That’s why last week, we crunched the numbers and analyzed who these workers are, where they live, where they’re from, how they get to work, their child ​care and health care needs, and their financial stresses.”

According to the report, most of these workers are women and people of color, reliant on public transportation including subways and buses to get to and from work. Oftentimes, these workers are living at or below the poverty line with children in the household struggling to make ends meet.

Nineteen percent of frontline workers are non-citizens, often placing them in a precarious position during a time of arbitrary ICE crackdowns.

Fifty-nine percent are renters, including 74 percent of those working in cleaning services, 68 percent in social services, and 66 percent in food and drug stores. Most live in Queens and Brooklyn — in neighborhoods that are already historically disadvantaged, transit-starved, and service-deprived.

“The fact is that these New Yorkers are risking their own health and that of their families by putting their lives on the frontlines of this fight against the virus every single day, and we need to have their backs,” Stringer wrote.


The comptroller’s report offered some recommendations for all of New York City’s Covid-19 frontline workers, including healthcare workers:

  • Provide free protective gear and priority access to COVID-19 testing when symptoms warrant
  • Create access to hotel rooms and housing
  • Expand Hazard pay
  • Guarantee health care
  • Extend unemployment and other benefits
  • Maintain regular and reliable subway and bus services all day long
  • Implement a flat fee of $2.75 for all MetroNorth and LIRR trips in the city with free transfers on subways and buses
  • Ensure the federal stimulus funds the MTA
  • Provide free CitiBike, expand biking, and increase safety measures for pedestrians
  • Expand accessible child care
  • Ensure deep cleaning of workplaces following a confirmed infection
  • Expand pathways to citizenship

The Comptroller’s office also launched a Community Action Center for frontline workers in need of assistance. The center can be reached by calling (212) 669-3916 or emailing action@comptroller.nyc.gov.

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