With restaurants in New Jersey and Nassau County reopening for indoor dining, with limited seating, Governor Andrew Cuomo is still undecided about when New York City eateries can do the same and one Queens senator is calling for the timeline to be expedited by promoting the need for employees to safely return to work and Labor Day weekend would be a good time to start.

As the country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses remain partially or fully shut down with another 1.5 million New Yorkers filing for unemployment in July. State Senator Joseph Addabbo says this has caused higher-than-usual unemployment rates since March. According to the New York State labor statistics for July 2020, the unemployment rate in New York City was at 19.8 percent.

“Restaurants and bars in New York City have been able to operate with outdoor seating, but that is not nearly enough to allow them to continue surviving the pandemic,” Addabbo said. “By not allowing indoor dining, especially when just over the border in  Nassau County allows it and with the cold weather approaching, it will cripple many businesses. Our city and county continue to meet the low COVID criteria set forth by Governor Cuomo that would allow them to open their doors. We need a plan to safely bring indoor dining back so our local restaurants and bars can not only survive, but thrive again.”

Between July 2019 and July 2020, the biggest industry that lost jobs across the state is the leisure and hospitality sector, according to state statistics. Within that sector, job losses were greatest in accommodation and food services, with a loss of 329,000 jobs, with the food services and drinking places being hardest hit with 256,00 jobs lost over the one-year period.

Addabbo pointed out that according to the governor, New York had witnessed over 20 straight days with an infection rate below 1 percent. He added that Queens’ positivity rate seven-day average was actually slightly lower than that of Nassau County.

Another job sector that has recently lost thousands of jobs is the state’s casinos, which have been shuttered since March. Addabbo believes that downstate casinos could create credible reopening plans that include the required safety protocols.

Much like the restaurants and bars in the city seeing their neighbors in Nassau operating with indoor dining, the state’s casinos are watching other casinos on the land of New York Native American tribes opening and operating safely, while also losing New York State revenue to the reopened New Jersey casinos. The shuttered casinos in New York are also not providing much-needed educational funds, as the state faces looking budget cuts.

“It is truly unfortunate to see so many casino workers being laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Addabbo, who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. “Casinos across the state are suffering from the shutdown as they are being forced to layoff their furloughed workers. Over 4,000 casino employees, including 955 employees at Resorts World Casino New York City in my district, received WARN letters, alerting them to their pending unemployment. If we do not reopen the casinos, we need to take action to help protect the gaming industry in the state during this pandemic, which in turn will help their employees who make running the casino possible.”

Because of these reasons, Addbbo believes it is imperative that Cuomo looks into reopening the state’s casinos. Addabbo adds that casinos have a good blueprint to follow on reopening since New York’s upstate tribal casinos have been open since June without any major virus issues.

“This Labor Day we should honor the great strides workers have made in helping us navigate through this pandemic,” Addabbo said. “We should also assist those who want to safely return to work and provide for their families. As long as measures can be taken to protect one’s health, I believe we should implement indoor dining and reopen our entertainment businesses, such as our casinos.”