The Bottom LineThe Bottom Line

Economics in Brief: NYC Taxi Drivers and 50 Elected Officials Reject “Banker Bailout”

Also, Philadelphia announces its first green bank, and more.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of NY Taxi Workers Alliance

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of NY Taxi Workers Alliance, at the protest Oct 13. (Photo by Oscar Perry Abello)

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NYC Taxi Drivers and 50 Elected Officials Reject “Banker Bailout

Elected officials from the New York State Assembly, State Senate and City Council have announced their support for a city-backed guarantee on taxi medallion debt, rejecting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s relief plan, and some of them joined the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) at a press conference Oct 13. Drivers have been protesting for weeks, calling for a better plan for taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers face a crisis. Years of highly inflated medallion prices caused taxi drivers, most of which are immigrants, to take out mortgages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase one of the city’s 13,587 highly coveted taxi medallions. But competition from Uber and Lyft caused the value of a medallion to fall from $1 million in 2014 to just $125,000 in the following year. The pandemic put an even greater strain on yellow cab drivers financially, and many now owe more money than what their medallions are worth. This debt has been devastating to many with the union stating that some taxi drivers have even committed suicide as a result.

The mayor’s plan involves a $65 million relief fund for drivers, Pix 11 reports. This initiative would provide up to $20,000 in loans with an additional $9,000 in debt payment support, which drivers could pay back at 0% interest.

But the NYTWA calls this plan a “lender bailout” and is calling for debt forgiveness.

Minnesota Companies are Not on the Path to Racial Equity

Despite big pledges to racial equity, only one of Minnesota’s 20 largest companies have taken the first step and conducted a racial equity audit, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports.

Several corporations, including UnitedHealth Group, General Mills Inc. and Ameriprise Financial declined to comment. Others didn’t respond or confirmed that they have not conducted audits. Only Ecolab Inc., which provides water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions, has completed an audit — twice, in fact, in 2018 and 2020.

Audits are the first step towards committing towards equity. Without it, companies are “just trying to avoid accountability, it’s trying to answer a math problem without looking at the equation,” said Jade Ogunnaike, senior campaign manager of nonprofit Color Of Change. “It speaks to people really doing extremely surface-level fixes to racial equity.”

Racial equity audits have seen results. Airbnb, for instance, announced a new policy in 2016 following an audit that would require the company to help any guests who report discrimination find another place to stay. Their anti-discrimination product team also changed the algorithm so that hosts could only see pictures of their guests after reservations were made.

And companies can benefit legally too. Laura Murphy, a former ACLU employee that conducted the audit at Airbnb, says this can help better protect companies “mitigate risks from lawsuits, from regulatory sanctions, from congressional inquiries.”

Philadelphia to Support the City’s Environmental Needs Through its First Green Bank

Philadelphia Green Capital Corp. (PGCC) is the city’s first green bank, Generocity reports.

Green banks refer to nonprofits that focus on financing clean energy initiatives in their community. Access to green energy is an environmental equity issue as nearly half of all Black families across the nation experience energy instability.

So far, PGCC has announced plans to work with the Philadelphia Energy Campaign to help create 10,000 jobs and invest $1 billion in clean energy initiatives. It will also work in tandem with local residents to better understand the city’s needs, and commercial property owners to better access low-cost loans that will allow them to make their properties green.

The addition of a green bank will also be beneficial for the city’s ambitious goals, with Mayor Jim Kenney announcing that he wants Philadelphia to be carbon neutral by 2050.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi.

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for summer 2021. Burga graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in political science and journalism in May of 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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