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DJ New York City Mayoral Candidates Propose Paths to Job Recovery

· 02/06/2021 10:39
By Katie Honan

More than three dozen New York City mayoral candidates are vying for one of the toughest jobs in the country: leading the nation's largest city back to pre-pandemic employment levels while trying to find the funding to do so.

In the run-up to the June 22 primary, candidates have been detailing their visions for the city's economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, which wiped out nearly 878,000 jobs in the second quarter of 2020, according to the city's Independent Budget Office. Although an estimated 20% of those jobs returned by the third quarter, pre-pandemic levels of employment might not return for years, the IBO says.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to leave office at the end of this year due to term limits.

Some Democratic mayoral candidates have proposed job-creation programs tied to state and federal funding for infrastructure projects. Others have pitched proposals that call for more support of small businesses and funding for youth employment. Many of the candidates' proposals come with hefty price tags and rely on federal and state funding.

Maya Wiley, a Democratic candidate and former counsel to Mr. de Blasio, unveiled her "New Deal New York" proposal last month, which plans to create 100,000 new jobs over five years, focusing on infrastructure improvements like the Great Depression-era plan. The overall project costs $10 billion and will be financed through unspent capital funds, as well as taking on debt, according to her campaign.

"I still feel the fear of New Yorkers for our city's economy crippled by COVID-19," she tweeted when she announced her plan. "But we are big & bold and we are coming back! Stronger! Fairer!"

Andrew Yang's recovery plan is tied to vaccinations and a universal-basic income proposal for the poorest New Yorkers, modeled after the national program he introduced when he ran for president, he has said.

Ray McGuire, a Democratic candidate and former vice chairman at Citigroup Inc., has unveiled a plan that aims to bring back a half-million jobs. He proposes using city-funded subsidies to cover half of the pay for thousands of workers at small businesses that were hit-hard by Covid-19.

The wage-subsidy program is estimated to cost $900 million, according to his campaign. Mr. McGuire plans to pay for it through federal and state funding, and with public-private partnerships, his campaign said.

Shaun Donovan, a Democratic candidate and former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, has pledged to bring back 500,000 jobs within four years, in part by investing state and federal money into capital projects.

He also has pitched the "15-minute neighborhood," which he says works to improve the hundreds of neighborhoods throughout the city with better business corridors, safer streets and transit improvements.

"It will take hard work and determination, but we do more than simply rebuild our city's economy," he said after releasing the plan.

The mayor's race has so far been dominated by Democratic candidates, but in recent weeks more Republicans have officially launched their campaigns. Few of the Republicans have appeared in forums or have yet to lay out specific job-recovery plans.

The future mayor will likely have to search for funding beyond state and federal aid to finance priorities, current and former city officials say. The winner also will have to address the city's fiscal burdens, which many political observers consider the most challenging in the city's history given all of the uncertainty.

City officials have estimated a $10.5 billion revenue deficit through the next fiscal year, and that figure could grow. The new mayor also will have to present a preliminary budget just weeks after being sworn in, and will likely have to make tough budget cuts or even decide on layoffs of government workers.

"At some point, a reckoning is going to occur," said Seth Pinsky, the executive director of the 92nd Street Y and the former president of the city's Economic Development Corporation under former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Eric Adams, a Democratic candidate and former police officer who is currently the Brooklyn borough president, released a list of more than 100 steps for the city's recovery. It includes a weekly tax-free day to encourage local shopping, and hiring an efficiency czar in city government to look for opportunities to cut agency budgets and save money. He also called for the city to freeze hiring for two years.

Barika Williams, the executive director of the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development, said her organization and others are focused on a fair recovery throughout the city. Despite all of their proposals, the mayoral candidates face many unknowns, she said.

Manhattan's central business district has been transformed by remote working, and it remains unclear when employees will return in large numbers to offices. Tourism, one of the largest economic drivers in the city, is still well below pre-pandemic levels, with an uncertain outlook.

Mr. de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been hopeful for renewed support for New York under President Biden, and both have also pegged the city and state's recovery to widespread vaccinations. The mayor set a goal of vaccinating five million New Yorkers by June, but that is contingent on supplies from the federal government. Mr. de Blasio's first goal of administering one million doses by the end of January was missed because of a lack of shots.

"Things are bad," Ms. Williams said. "We don't know how bad they're going to be."

Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 06, 2021 10:39 ET (15:39 GMT)

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