April 2, 2020
Brothers and Sisters,
It goes without saying that the last couple of weeks have been chaotic, stressful, emotional and life changing in every way. COVID-19 has upended our lives and thrust us into a new normal, even if for the time being. If we have not been vocal enough, I want to reiterate that the District Council applauds all of you for your commitment to the union, whether that is your choice to remain home with your family to prevent the spread of this vicious virus or putting on your hard hat each day to build out healthcare facilities and other essential projects to help our city beat this virus. We thank you.
As you know, Governor Cuomo has called for all non-essential construction to shut down. It was a major decision to halt construction in a city where our industry is the lifeline of so many. But, these are unprecedented times and with unprecedented times comes hard, thought-out decisions that protect not only one person, but millions of people and thousands of families. Currently, there is a debate as to what should constitute affordable housing. To settle that debate the District Council has reached out to elected numerous times to express concerns, we have had many conversations with public officials reiterating those concerns, and we have sent letters detailing those concerns, which all boil down to one thing—building affordable housing that includes luxury high-rise construction is not essential and it puts our members’ lives at risk.
Despite our consecutive attempts, we have yet to get answers that allow us to rest easy. The fact is, the pandemic will not wait on answers from the government. It knows no boundaries. It’s long-reaching effect is still uncertain, but here is what we are certain of: The District Council is advocating for the safety of our members above all else.
It is our top priority to keep the District Council running through this crisis. With the entire City coming to a standstill and the constructions industry being shut down by a government directive, we have had to make some difficult choices. It is with a heavy heart that we have had to lay off about half of the District Council staff, organizers, and business representatives. While our membership is the heart and soul of the union out on the job sites, these individuals are the beating heart on the inside. Rest assured, the offices will continue operating normally and we will continue to serve the membership with expediency and transparency as we have since the beginning of this crisis. In our 100+ year legacy, we have faced dark days, but we always rise from those ashes. And this crisis is no different. We will rebuild stronger and more resilient as both individuals and as a union. We look forward to when we will be able to see everybody again and the sounds of electric drills are heard on job sites.
We remain vocal about the physical health of our brothers and sisters, we also care about their financial health. We understand the strain this unexpected calamity is causing millions of people across the country. To help members, established financial assistance measures which are available immediately, including access to your annuity funds tax-free. Additionally, the 10% tax penalty assessed to anyone under the age of 59 ½ has been waived and the mandatory 20% withholding tax has been waived. For all updates as it pertains to accessing your funds, including how much you can take out, distributions, and loans, please check the District Council website (www.nycdistrictcouncil.com/) or the Benefit Funds website (www.nyccbf.com/).
As a reminder, the following proactive steps are already available to assist each of you:
- The expiration of certifications is extended by 60 days.
- Pension payments will be sent out as normal.
- March’s vacation payments have been sent out and vacation payments scheduled for June will be sent out approximately one month early (May 1st).
- Co-pays and associated costs related to COVID-19 visits/testing have been waived.
- Members can freeze their name on the OWL for additional 30 days with no doctors note.
- The 7-day waiting period for unemployment has been waived by NYS. There is a direct link on our website here.
- Members who do not feel safe at their job site are now eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Finally, we want you to know that we are all in this together. Never before has there been a situation quite like this in our union, in the city, in this nation, or around the world. Stress is normal. Confusion is normal. But, if you ever feel overwhelmed, please reach out to NYC Well, a confidential 24/7 helpline (nyc.gov/nycwell) or the Council’s MEND program at (212) 366-7590 or email MEND@NYCCBF.org.
May you and your family stay safe and healthy. God Bless.
Joseph A. Geiger