Written by Lucas Willard for WAMC Northeast Public Radio on April 16, 2020

Northern New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. The Republican answered questions about the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Congress is currently in recess. But on a call with reporters Wednesday, New York’s 21st District Congresswoman Elise Stefanik urged leaders in Washington bring lawmakers together remotely.

The Republican addressed the issue when WAMC asked about the fate of the U.S. Postal Service, after the White House rejected a deal to bail out the service, according to a recent report from the Washington Post.

“From a district like mine, when you think about the number and the high percentage of seniors, they rely on that door-to-door service for their prescription drugs for life-saving deliveries, so we need to make sure that we’re supporting that, and I think that’s another reason why – and I didn’t touch on this – I think it’s important that Speaker Pelosi and Leader McConnell transition to the 21st Century and allow us to…while we may not be able to meet in person, we can still legislate and work some of these issues out rather than punting them until May when they’ve arbitrarily set this date that we may be called back into session. I really think it’s important we use technology to update and get with the times,” said Stefanik.

Stefanik joined other national Republicans in going after Democratic leadership for “holding up” Paycheck Protection Program dollars. Stefanik said she wants a “clean bill” to continue supporting the Small Business Administration loans.

“We need that money now. And I’m disappointed that it’s been held up by Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer. That money will run out before the end of the week and I think we should pass that cleanly, considering that Congress is not in session right now,” said Stefanik.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders have attacked Republicans for doing the same. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday tweeted that the Senate GOP is blocking the funding, as Democrats want more funding for economic injury loans, to include small farms in the program, and to ensure the money goes to minority-owned businesses and under-served areas.  

Stefanik has signed onto a bipartisan letter to the Department of Agriculture with other members of the New York delegation requesting relief for dairy farmers.

The members are requesting reimbursements for dumped milk, for the agency to distribute dairy products to food banks and to allow grocery stores to donate milk locally, among other items.

As hospitals in her district struggle with revenue due to the cancellation of elective surgeries, Stefanik wants the Department of Health and Human Services to review how it is disbursing CARES Act funding to rural hospitals.

She supports the position of the Health Care Association of New York State, which said last week the federal government’s methodology for disbursement in the first round of funding “did nothing to prioritize support for COVID-19 hot spots like New York, and it leaves behind hospitals that serve higher shares of Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, uninsured, and pediatric patient populations.”

“That is not reflective of where they are today and the significant costs that…the significant budget hole that they have because of the elimination of elective surgeries at this time. So the call from HANYS, which I support, is to ensure that HHS uses more accurate data to further identify the need of hospitals in New York,” said Stefanik.

Stefanik supports President Trump’s decision to withhold and review funding to the World Health Organization during the pandemic. She criticized the organization’s early response and early messaging from the Chinese government regarding the virus.

“We are in such a crisis right now. We should not be funding an organization that is putting out misinformation that is having an impact not just on lives in the United States, but loss of lives and economic wreckage across the globe,” said Stefanik.

Democrats have pushed back. In a statement on Tuesday, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said:

“Halting payments to the WHO because of China’s failure to alert the public about coronavirus is a blatant ploy by the president to cast blame elsewhere for his own inaction.”

As states begin to look to ways to consider re-opening, Stefanik said she wants Vermont to join the seven-state regional coalition spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo. When asked about President Trump’s comments that he has “total” authority to reopen states, followed by his walk-back claiming that he is “authorizing” governors to do the job, Stefanik reiterated her support for a regional approach.

“There is a role, though, for the CDC, for the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA to continue leading ad updating with guidance. That is important to continue to play that role, particularly from those people and task force leaders like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx,” said Stefanik.

Stefanik said, overall, she considers the relationship between the president and governors to be positive.

You can read the full article at https://www.wamc.org/