Following a push from a cadre of local lawmakers, city council unanimously agreed to create a public database that will track COVID-19 relief spending – which, according to pols, will help ensure that funds to fight the virus are distributed equitably between races and socio-economic lines.
“As we learned after Storm Sandy, transparency in emergency and relief spending is essential,” said Coney Island city councilor Mark Treyger in a statement celebrating the passage of the bill. “We will be judged on our ability to provide a fair, just and equitable response to this pandemic.”
COVID-19 Funding Tracker, which was passed on June 25, requires the mayor’s office to “establish and maintain a searchable and interactive online public database” within 90 days to track all expenses exceeding $ 100,000 to fight the spread of the virus and treat infected patients.
Treyger – who co-sponsored the bill with 19 of his colleagues – said that greater transparency would increase accountability for how and where money is allocated, which would shed light on the shortfall funding for poor neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
“It is absolutely essential that we ensure that resources are provided to the hardest hit communities as well as to areas that continue to have disparities that make them more vulnerable,” he said.
Data kept by the city’s Department of Health continues to show higher infection rates in low-income neighborhoods – including Brooklyn, where East New York, Borough Park, Flatbush and Canarsia have the highest numbers infections per 100,000 people.
Alternatively, the three postal codes covering Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Dumbo have the lowest infection rates in Brooklyn – and populations where household incomes are more than double the borough average, according to data from the census.
Treyger pointed to the administration of mayor Bill de Blasio to be partly responsible for the economic disparities between the areas with different infection rates, saying that the town hall had given more aid to “less affected, whiter and richer ”- while failing to provide adequate masks, tests and other necessities for less wealthy communities.
“Coney Island didn’t receive a test site until much later, but we found a site proactively. We had to fight to get masks after the closure of Southern Brooklyn, while Prospect Park had three free distribution sites, ”he said. “We are not included in the list of” hardest hit communities “, while less affected, whiter and richer neighborhoods are included, without explanation from the town hall. ”
Councilor Justin Brannan, of whom was also critical of the lack of resources allocated to the south of Brooklyn, added its approval for the adoption of the recent legislation, affirming that the measure will give the New Yorkers a renewed capacity to plead for the equality in the distribution of the resources.
“As someone who was born and raised in an outer borough and who represents it now, I have too often witnessed the disparity in the way city funding is spent,” said Brannan. “This tracker will be a powerful tool for legislators and civilians alike to be able to hold the city accountable for its spending, at a time when the city’s budget is healthy and especially when it is not.”