Cuomo: GOP silence ‘deafening’ on COVID-19 federal aid

Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Gov. Andrew Cuomo moves to take off his face mask before giving a coronavirus briefing at his Manhattan office on July 20.

U.S. Republican lawmakers were hypocritical and did not represent New Yorkers or the state by staying silent in demanding federal aid for state and local governments, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

The governor railed against federal Republican lawmakers during a telephoned pandemic briefing late Tuesday morning for not speaking out against GOP leaders and demand funding for states and localities after senators on Capitol Hill released a $1 trillion plan late Monday afternoon to bolster the pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy.

“Their silence has been deafening,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I understand political allegiance, but once in a while, they could stand up and actually represent the people of their district. We are talking about the people of their district’s property taxes, aid to education and economic recovery.”

The GOP’s $1 trillion legislative package of coronavirus relief bills would trim extra unemployment benefits, send $1,200 payments to most Americans and shield businesses, schools and other organizations from lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 infections. It did not include state local aid funding, but provides more flexibility for federal COVID-19 money appropriated to states in relief bills earlier this year.

“That does New York no benefit because we don’t need flexibility for money unspent — we don’t have money unspent,” Cuomo said. “We need additional funding. This is designed to help the Republican states who got funding for COVID in the previous bills who can’t spend the money because they don’t have the number of COVID cases. ... This was pure politics.”

The Senate plan comes weeks after negotiations over the $3 trillion federal HEROES Act coronavirus relief package House Democrats passed in May. The lack of funding for localities will cause public transportation fares, tolls and property taxes to increase, Cuomo said, as the state anticipates 20% cuts to school aid.

“It is going to have a dramatic practical effect on New Yorkers,” the governor said. “When it comes to state aid, they’re totally hypocritical.”

The Health Department will investigate a concert held in the town of Southampton that violated the state’s social distancing and crowding orders. Crowds larger than 50 people are illegal in the state while the COVID-19 public health emergency continues. Concerts or similar events are permitted at drive-in movie theaters, but people must stay in their vehicles or area within the designated parking space.

The department will investigate why the town issued a permit for the gathering and why local police did not act when the event violated state law, and other complaints from establishments in the village of Southampton.

“I need the local governments to do their job,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The state government cannot substitute for every local government’s enforcement role — we just don’t have enough resources on the state side.”

State police and the State Liquor Authority visited 644 New York City and Long Island businesses Monday night to ensure establishments enforce the state’s coronavirus mandates, such as social distancing or wearing face masks in public. SLA issued 26 violations in Manhattan and Queens counties.

“Our job is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to control COVID, which we are doing, and anticipate possible future issues that might come along,” the governor said.

Passengers who land in New York airports from one of the 31 states are required to complete the state Health Department’s traveler form before leaving the airport. Department employees greet travelers at the gate in airports to maximize enforcement. Travelers required to self-isolate may be subjected to random telephone or video calls to ensure quarantine.

Cuomo and Govs. Phil Murphy, D-N.J.; and Ned Lamont, D-Conn., imposed a tri-state order at midnight June 25 mandating a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers who arrive in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from states with more than a 10% positive coronavirus test rate, or a positive test rating higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day average. Weekly calculations are completed Monday nights and the list is updated Tuesday morning.

Major League Baseball games are welcome to play in New York stadiums without fans, Cuomo said. The New York Yankees and Mets teams held spring training in the state from their usual spaces in Florida as COVID-19 numbers sharply increased across the Deep South.

Games could be physically played in New York, which continues to have one of the nation’s lowest coronavirus infection and transmission rates, and televised for fans to watch at home.

“I offer to Major League Baseball, if you’re having problems playing in other states, come play here,” said Gov. Cuomo, adding the state has sufficient testing resources and experience. “I think it would be great for the New York state economy. I think it would be good for the nation’s soul. And I think it would be great for New Yorkers and Americans.

“I offer that, for what it is worth, because I would love to see a robust baseball season.”

The state would establish a health protocol for teams to fly in on a private airplane and quarantine in a hotel. Athletes would be tested for COVID-19, and be allowed to play after getting a negative test result.

State officials continue to monitor New York’s COVID-19 numbers as the virus soars in 35 states across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The state reported a slight uptick in virus patients in New York hospitals Monday, bringing the total to 642 hospitalized.

Nine New Yorkers died from the virus Monday, down from 11 Sunday. The state’s virus-related fatalities have fluctuated below 15 per day for several weeks.

The state reported 543 new COVID-19 cases, or about 0.93 percent positive, of the 57,000-plus tests conducted Sunday.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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