‘Washington must act smartly’: Cuomo pushes Congress for stimulus to avoid massive state cuts

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Health care workers outside Brooklyn Hospital Center in April. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

With yet another financial stimulus package introduced Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered a message to Congress during his daily press conference: Make a smart deal that helps Americans most in need.

New York and other states across the country, Cuomo said, desperately need a funding bill that not only helps average citizens make ends meet, but also compensates state and local governments for their efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

That bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, was introduced into the House of Representatives on Tuesday. 

The situation is particularly dire for New York, which Cuomo said requires $61 billion in new federal funding to avoid massive cuts in the state budget. Without that infusion in the HEROES Act, the state would likely be forced to deliver 20% cuts to schools, local governments and hospitals.

Cutbacks to medical centers would be particularly dreadful, the governor observed, given that health care workers have been in the heart of the battle against the pandemic from the start. 

“Hospitals are the nurses and doctors who just got us through this, and everyone celebrates them as heroes,” Cuomo said. “If we can’t fund the state, that’s who we’re hurting.”

The House bill, as announced by Westchester/Rockland Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Senator Charle Schumer, would include $67 billion in aid to New York governments, including $34.4 billion to the state, $17.2 billion for New York City and $15.1 billion for other localities. The Senate and president would have to approve the final version of the HEROES Act.

The governor condemned previous federal stimulus bills for being tainted by partisan politics and laden with pork-barrel spending for states that don’t need as much relief as New York. The HEROES Act, Cuomo urged, must not be an opportunity for lawmakers to “bring home the bacon,” but rather a genuine, national effort to bring relief to states and Americans in need.

Cuomo said that he and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, would issue a joint statement on behalf of the National Governors Association calling for the HEROES Act to provide substantial financial relief to states and governments hard hit by COVID-19.

The new bill, Cuomo observed, must also include landlord and renter assistance, infrastructure improvement projects, increased payroll protection to preserve jobs, funds to help cover funeral expenses, and a repeal of the cap on state and local tax exemptions (SALT) that was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017.

The governor also stressed the importance of avoiding “bailout boondoggles” in the HEROES Act. He recalled the financial packages passed during the 2008 financial crisis which enabled banks and large corporations to pass the funding down to employees rather than provide relief to Americans at large.

Cuomo warned of a “new scam” in which corporations might choose to layoff workers and not rehire them after receiving aid. He pushed for the passage of an “Americans first” law that would ensure that any large corporation seeking federal financial help would be denied that assistance if they do not rehire the same number of employees they had before the pandemic.

Members of the New York delegation have agreed to introduce such legislation into Congress, the governor added.