Cuomo: Federal funding needed for hazard pay and more testing 

Photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor
Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to provide hazard pay for essential public workers on the front lines, proposing a 50 percent bonus for these workers. Congress and the White House are finalizing a new aid bill aimed at helping small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government Monday to increase funding for states to help with budget deficits, provide hazard pay to essential workers and fix problems with the national supply chain for testing equipment.

Without adequate funding from the federal government, Cuomo believes the state will likely be forced to cut funding to schools, local governments and hospitals to make up for the billions of dollars in lost revenue caused by the economic shutdown. 

New York faces an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion budget deficit coming out of the last fiscal year and from added COVID-19 impacts. 

“They want to fund small businesses, financial services, airlines and hotels,” Cuomo said on Monday. “That’s great, but at the same time, don’t forget teachers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers, healthcare workers and nursing home staff. You shouldn’t make us choose.”

Cuomo went a step further to propose a 50 percent pay bonus for all essential frontline workers as hazard pay. With 40 percent of these workers being people of color, two-thirds women and one-third coming from low-income households, according to Cuomo.

“The economy did not shut down, it only shut down for those who have the luxury of staying at home,” Cuomo said. “The essential workers…had to work. They had to expose themselves to the virus, pay them what they deserve.”

With the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths slightly declining, New York has likely moved past the plateau of COVID-19 infections. Officials and residents are beginning to look to how and when the economy can safely reopen.

While the numbers are starting to decline they are still high — there were 478 reported deaths and 4,726 new cases in New York on Sunday.

Widespread testing could be the first step to mitigating the spread of the virus and slowly opening the state back up. However, the state governments are in charge of testing, with most state labs without the necessary equipment from national manufacturers. Cuomo also called on the federal government to assist the states with these national supply chain issues.

“It’s not an issue of funding,” Cuomo explained, “I have offered to pay, and manufacturers have told me they can’t get the chemicals from China, they can’t make the equipment fast enough.”

Another form of testing, antibody testing, is another key element for New York’s plan to reopen the economy. Testing for COVID-19 antibodies will determine who has contracted the virus, recovered and built immunity. Those who are immune to the virus will likely be able to safely return to work. 

New York began a large-scale antibody testing survey yesterday, with a goal of sampling 3,000 people.