Assemblyman Burke: Continuing to Support New Yorkers Throughout COVID-19 Pandemic

This year has presented a whole slew of unprecedented challenges that hit our communities hard and took a significant toll on our families. The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of over 30,000 New Yorkers and sickened many more, and left millions of residents out of work and struggling to pay their bills or put food on the table. These past few months, my colleagues in the Assembly and I have been hard at work passing legislation to help families and businesses get through this crisis.

Along with the public health crisis, COVID-19 has caused an increase in housing insecurity as a result of widespread unemployment, leaving workers without the income they need to pay their rent or make ends meet. To ensure residents aren’t forced out of their homes through no fault of their own, my Assembly colleagues and I passed legislation to enact an emergency rent relief program to support renters who lost income due to COVID-19 and meet certain income requirements (Ch. 125 of 2020). During the early weeks of the pandemic, we saw countless instances of exorbitant price increases on essential goods. To protect Western New Yorkers from predatory business practices, I helped pass legislation to prohibit price gouging of essential medical supplies and consumer goods used to promote the health and welfare of the public (Ch. 90 of 2020).

To help small businesses impacted by necessary shutdowns, we passed legislation to allow industrial development agencies (IDAs) to issue short-term loans of up to $25,000 to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have been affected by COVID-19 (Ch.109 of 2020). Furthermore, my colleagues and I passed legislation to ensure that all workers subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order receive paid sick leave, family leave and employee benefits (Ch. 25 of 2020).

Despite the overwhelming urgency of the pandemic response, we must continue working to improve and strengthen Western New York communities. That’s why I introduced a bill that would prevent the sale of plastic products labeled as “biodegradable,” “degradable” or “decomposable” except under specific conditions, as well as a measure to protect Lake Erie by establishing a bill of rights and instituting fines for violations of those rights (A.9628, A.6313). Additionally, I introduced legislation to grant Erie County park officers the status of peace officer, which would allow them to issue appearance tickets, and permit farm distillers to sell New York State-labeled alcoholic beverages at retail for consumption (A.10812, A.6618). Finally, to further strengthen environmental protections, I introduced a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to reimburse property owners for up to 50% of project costs that affect shoreline residents (A.9607).

These past few months have been incredibly challenging and stressful. That being said, I’m so grateful that our communities have risen to the challenge by following social distancing guidelines and coming together to help those in need. Together, we will get through this, and I want to assure you I will always fight for legislation that puts the health and safety of our families first. As always, my door is open. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 716-608-6099 or