Written by Michael Goot in The Post-Star on April 28, 2020

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr, asking them to bring a case against China to the International Court of Justice for the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanik accused the country of withholding critical information to cover up the impact of the virus, causing it to spread worldwide and kill nearly 200,000 people and cost trillions of dollars. She said the country violated an agreement to abide by the 2005 International Health Regulations.

“The International Health Regulations — which China agreed to abide by — require countries to provide timely information to the WHO about public health emergencies in order to prevent global pandemics,” Stefanik said in a news release. “China must be held accountable for the devastating loss of life they have caused by lying and intentionally suppressing critical facts needed to combat COVID-19 early on in this pandemic.”

NY-21 Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb said Monday that she agreed that the United States should hold China accountable for its handling of COVID-19. However, federal officials in this country also need to be held accountable.

“There were ample, ample signs that this needed to be taken more seriously, stretching back for many months. Signs that were ignored,” Cobb said.

Among the issues in this country were federal officials downplaying the severity of the virus and not working with states to provide personal protective equipment and ventilators, according to Cobb.

“We need to understand what happened, so it doesn’t ever happen again. This is about people’s lives,” she said.

Stefanik named to recovery task force

Stefanik has been appointed to the Northeast Congressional COVID-19 Regional Recovery Task Force.

The bipartisan task force will meet virtually every week to discuss when and how Americans can get back to work safely, how to replenish the stockpiles of personal protective equipment and coordinate future stockpiling of ventilators, gowns and other equipment among federal, state and local governments and hospitals; and how to access reliable virus and antibody tests, according to a news release.

Other goals are developing a plan for efficient contact tracing; containing the pandemic and preventing future waves of outbreak; addressing societal fears around returning to public space; voting safely; and ensuring that production of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies is returned to the United States from China.

Seasonal businesses eligible for more funding

The U.S. Department of Treasury has updated its formula used to calculate the maximum loan amount businesses are eligible to receive under the Paycheck Protection Program.

The program provides loans that will be forgiven as long as the small businesses use them to pay employees, rent or other expenses. Initially, the federal government said the calculation must be based upon payroll as of February, when many seasonal businesses are not in operation.

Stefanik had lobbied for the change. Now, the maximum loan amount can be determined using the average monthly payroll from any 12-week period between May 1, 2019, and Sept. 15, 2019, according to a news release.

Student loan relief sought

Stefanik is introducing legislation that would extend temporary relief from student loan payments to the roughly 7.2 million borrowers who took out loans under the Federal Family Education Loan program, which was discontinued in 2010.

These borrowers are currently not eligible to receive this benefit because their federal student loans are not held by the U.S. Department of Education.

Stefanik seeks money for school-based health centers

Stefanik is requesting $100 million in funding for a new grant program to support school-based health centers.

Stefanik is seeking the funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration for these centers, which have been forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These facilities address needs of adolescents and their families, especially in locations where other health services are located far away.

Schumer wants crackdown on at-home test kits

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Sunday urged the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on at-home kits that claim to test for the presence of COVID-19.

Schumer wants more oversight of the marketplace, ramped-up inspections and cease-and-desist actions against bad actors.

“While the coronavirus itself continues to risk infecting people, varying at-home test kits for the virus’s antibodies, and even the disease itself, are now infecting the internet and the consumer marketplace. However, the vast, vast majority of these ‘kits’ are unproven, untested and totally unregulated by the FDA, and that’s dangerous,” Schumer said in a news release.

Braymer picks up endorsements

Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer has picked up two endorsements in her campaign for the 114th Assembly District seat.

Braymer has been endorsed by Eleanor’s Legacy, the statewide women’s political organization, and Equality New York Action PAC, which is dedicated to supporting candidates in New York who are committed to the civil rights and needs of the LGBTQI community.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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