Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State address, which began the first of four installments on Monday, spoke more to the federal shortfalls that left New York with a $15 billion deficit and a broad vision of the future after COVID-19.
While plans to harvest revenue from legalized marijuana and sports betting continue to be on the agenda, Cuomo was not explicit as to whether spending cuts are in the cards for 2021 to close the budget gap, but held the onus of providing relief on the federal government for what he charged once again as negligence in preparing for the threat of COVID-19.
“We must plan and start our post-COVID war reconstruction now to seize the advantage and I will be outlining initiatives to do just that over the coming days. The truth is, we cannot stay closed until everyone is vaccinated. The economic, psychological, emotional cost would be incredible,” Cuomo said. “We must begin increasing economic activity and using science to do it, making COVID testing and vaccinations available, so that we can reopen restaurants and art spaces and theaters and commercial businesses.”
The Cuomo administration is aiming to accelerate the vaccination process and use testing to get everyday life back to some plane of normal with a goalpost of 70% to 90% of the population despite previous concerns that too many Americans are reluctant to trust the vaccine to reach that benchmark.
Taking a position of optimism toward the housing and commercial rent crisis which already existed but was exacerbated by COVID-19, Cuomo suggested the rollout of a plan to turn empty commercial space into supportive housing for the homeless population.
“The housing problem in our cities has gotten worse. But, but the crisis of growing vacancies in our commercial property provides an opportunity,” Cuomo said. “We should convert vacant commercial space to supportive and affordable housing, and we should do it. Now, take the negative and make it a positive homeless shelters must be available, safe and secure. It’s not just our moral obligation, it is our legal obligation.”
Cuomo, however, was not forthcoming as to whether or not a plan to put these individuals and families in the unprecedented number of vacant apartments due to an exodus of people from New York City.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo plans to increase broadband access to over 90% of New Yorkers with $500 million in investments along with an overhaul of the state’s power infrastructure for green energy.