A New York City-appointed panel is seeking a $500 million bailout to help taxi drivers trapped in unscrupulous medallion loans, The New York Times reported on Wednesday (Jan. 15).
A group is asking for the creation of a new public-private partnership to take over the debt that the drivers took on to buy medallions — city-issued permits that are required to own cabs.
Almost all NYC cab drivers are immigrants and were charged inflated prices for the medallion loans, leaving many on the verge of bankruptcy.
State and city leaders are planning to announce legislation on Friday (Jan. 17) that would relieve medallion owners from tax liability for debt forgiveness.
“We know that folks in this industry have suffered tremendously,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who appointed most of the panel’s members, told the Times.
“I’m really excited that after six months of painstaking work and effort, the task force is going to be releasing a variety of recommendations that we think could stabilize the industry, plan for the future and help alleviate the suffering,” he added.
“This is the most optimistic I have ever felt about solving this crisis,” said Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, adding that several donors have already expressed interest. “We’re going to win,” said Ms. Desai.
The panel is expected to issue a report and a proposal before January is over.
Taxi drivers said the financial crisis is totally the fault of Uber and Lyft.
In August, Lyft, Uber and Via proposed a plan to assist New York City’s taxi medallion owners through a $100 million relief fund paid over five years.
The city rejected the offer, which was contingent on NYC dropping regulations that would limit the number of ride-hailing drivers in the city.
Analysis of data from the Taxi and Limousine Commission from blogger Todd Schneider found that in February 2017, ride-hailing services made 65 percent more pickups than taxis did.