Written by Cara Chapman in the Press-Republican on May 1, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) characterized comments from Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a press briefing Thursday as an “inexcusable attack.”
When a reporter asked if any decisions had been made about summer camps, referencing a letter that Stefanik and other representatives had sent to Cuomo’s office asking for official guidanceon the subject, the governor criticized federal electeds.
“What you can say to Rep. Elise Stefanik and all our great Washington representatives (is) we could provide rental assistance for people who can’t pay rent, we could provide child care for essential workers, we are now,” he said.
“You know what it takes? Money. Funding. Money.”
Cuomo said federal relief legislation provided the state nothing for those programs or for police, firefighters, schools, teachers or “the massive governmental operation we have to put together with all of these things.”
“So when one of them says, ‘I have a great idea, why don’t we do this for every person,’ I would suggest maybe you say to them, ‘Oh, are you providing any funding to do that? Because the state has a $13 billion deficit.'”
ASKED FOR GUIDANCE
In a conference call with media Thursday, Stefanik said the governor needs to take his own advice to New Yorkers about not being political.
“Rather than responding to a basic question about summer camps’ public health guidance, he instead chose to attack me by name.”
Questions surrounding summer camps have come up in calls with Hamilton, Essex, Lewis and other counties, Stefanik said.
The letter sent to Cuomo’s office — which was also signed by Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury), Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gillilland (R-Willsboro) and Clinton County Legislature Chair Mark Henry (R-Area 3) — requested that the state provide direction to counties and municipalities on summer camp operations in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, given that “many summer camps begin their preparations and early operations in May.”
The reps also pointed out campers and staff could arrive from COVID-19 hot sports around the northeastern U.S., adding that the revenue generated by the camps helps support communities throughout the year.
“This was a regional, non-political letter working, hopefully, proactively with New York State and the governor absolutely failed and was embarrassing in his political attack,” Stefanik said.
The congresswoman also took issue with Cuomo’s assertion that the federal government had given the state nothing, saying he was “flat out wrong” and that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act had provided the state $7.5 billion in funding.
“The New York Congressional delegation has been united on a bipartisan basis, working to get additional funds on top of that to go directly to, not just the state government, but also to our counties, who are bearing the brunt of that,” Stefanik said.
“We have been clear and consistent, not only delivering federal funds but also advocating for more federal funds because we understand that New York State is the epicenter.”
Stefanik still wanted an answer on the summer camp issue for county public health officials.
Though certain camps, like Camp Dudley in Westport, have suspended their programs for this summer, many North Country camps have yet to make decisions about their operations, Stefanik said.
Local electeds and county public health officials were expecting that some of the camps would start bringing in their workforce in May, and had requested additional guidance.
Metrics to look at include the level of positives, making sure the workforce isn’t coming from hot spots, and the camps’ locations and access to health care, Stefanik said.
“I think that’s a good thing as a region that our local electeds and county public health were being proactive rather than sitting here after the camps start ramping up in May with their workforce and then we get to June not having answers.”
Stefanik said she had yet to receive a response to the letter other than the governor’s comments.
Cuomo did deflect the summer camp question to his budget director, Robert Mujica.
“As we phase in and decide on reopening in certain parts of the state,” Mujica said, “one of the things we’re looking at is looking at whether or not we’re going to have day care, what kinds of child care will be provided, and whether camps will be able to open for the purpose of providing child care to the extent that we’re putting people back to work in a limited basis, but those are part of those discussions right now.”
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