Written by Cara Chapman in the Press-Republican on April 24, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik voted in favor of the latest piece of federal COVID-19 relief legislation Thursday.
Components of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act include $310 billion for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which had run out of funds; $60 billion for small business emergency loans and grants; $75 billion for reimbursement to hospitals and health care providers; and $25 billion related to COVID-19 testing, according to a press release from Stefanik’s office.
The bill will additionally allow agricultural enterprises with fewer than 500 employees to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) aid.
“Today, the House once again came together to provide much-needed relief for the American people — small businesses, hardworking families, farmers, hospitals and health care workers,” Stefanik said in a statement.
During a media call prior to the vote Thursday afternoon, Stefanik said she continues to prioritize making sure that federal dollars for hospitals are allocated based on current needs, not 2019 statistics.
She said she had a call with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan earlier this week on the importance of funding hospitals hit hardest, not just by COVID-19 cases but also financially due to state requirements and restrictions.
Stefanik anticipates that the additional 70 percent of CARES (Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Economic Security) Act hospital funding that has yet to be allocated will reflect the increased needs of those facilities.
She was glad that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week that hospitals in areas with a low risk for a COVID-19 surge will be allowed to resume elective outpatient procedures.
AID TO STATES
Stefanik said she disagreed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Kentucky) comments in an interview Wednesday that he would be in favor of allowing states to declare bankruptcy.
She supports direct support to local and state governments, in particular for counties.
“That’s the closest form of government to constituents and they’ve born the brunt of these public health costs and the guidance coming down from New York State to the counties.”
Any direct federal aid to New York State should not be a “blank check” to allow the state “to deal with its fiscal irresponsibility prior to this crisis,” Stefanik said.
The state had faced a $6 billion budget deficit even before the COVID-19 outbreak hit.
Stefanik said the state’s budget, which was approved earlier this month, did not prioritize the needs of hospitals or health care workers.
Funding the state receives should be targeted toward COVID-19-related economic consequences, she reiterated.
“But there is no question that New York is in a unique set of circumstances given that we’ve been the epicenter of COVID-19, so I do think state support from the federal level is critical,” she said.
“We absolutely have to provide federal relief, like we did during Hurricane Sandy, like we did post-9/11, and it should be targeted for states that were hit the hardest by COVID-19.”
On when upstate regions could reopen, Stefanik deferred to public health officials and spoke to the need for increased testing capabilities in the North Country.
“I think that decision needs to be made by data and by local county public health officials giving their best recommendations.”
She noted that President Donald Trump’s administration has committed to doubling New York State’s testing capabilities from 20,000 to 40,000 tests a day.
The preliminary results of the state’s antibody test sampling conducted earlier this week supports the need for a regional approach to reopening, Stefanik said.
She is pleased the state is planning for that option, and called decisions to allow access to boat launches and reopen golf courses with social distancing measures a good start.
Stefanik said businesses want to do the right thing and take precautionary steps to protect public health, including limiting the number of customers in a restaurant and enforcing social distancing.
“I think that will help us gradually get back to work, but the uncertainty and the frustration is definitely palpable.”
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