Written by Pat Bradley for WAMC Northeast Public Radio on March 24, 2020

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik wants the federal government to protect the businesses and workers in her district as debate continues over a pandemic rescue bill in the Senate. The 21st District Republican also wants rural medical facilities assured that they will receive the necessary equipment to keep their personnel safe as the coronavirus spreads from urban areas to her rural district.

Congresswoman Stefanik began her call outlining her priorities, which include distributing the most current guidance from the CDC, the New York State Department of Health and county public health offices. “We think it’s very important, and I particularly think it’s very important, to make sure that people know where to go for reliable information and reliable health recommendations. There’s a lot of rumors and misinformation being spread. We want to continue to urge everyone to go to the CDC, New York Department of Health and county Public Health offices.”

Stefanik says she and officials from across the 21st District are seeking information from the state regarding priorities for the distribution of the Personal Protective Equipment or PPE’s that healthcare workers need. “The priority from my perspective is there’s a lot of focus on the epicenter which is downstate. Our health care workers, health care providers and physicians need protective personal equipment. They also need the masks immediately. I’ve put in requests directly with the governor’s office to ensure that our needs in upstate are met.”

Congresswoman Stefanik said she is holding frequent calls with medical and educational facilities, county public health task forces, and Offices on Aging across northern New York She said she has also talked with tribal leaders of the Akwasasne Mohawk tribe whose reservation straddles the recently closed U.S.-Canada border. And she has followed concerns of the military personnel at Fort Drum in the western portion of her district. Stefanik also outlined her district priorities for the coronavirus rescue bill under negotiation in the Senate. “We need to absolutely be focused on economic relief and a rescue package for small businesses. Not just low interest loans but forgivable loans for small businesses who take that immediate funding to cover their payroll costs. In addition we are going to need significant financial support for rural hospitals and health care providers and community health centers. Another element of this third legislative package is a stabilization fund which will help our counties as quickly as possible. And then lastly, support for self-employed individuals and independent contractors.”

Many states have been implementing Shelter-in-Place orders but Stefanik isn’t sure it would be appropriate nationally. “We’ve seen the economic challenges and consequences. Obviously the priority absolutely should be public health. and we are taking those steps in New York State. I do get concerned though when I see media coverage of the crowded beaches in Florida for example. We have to take this seriously as a country. But I think you know, New York State has been my priority and I think the state has done a good job. But that’s why we need this economic relief package so quickly because there is a significant economic cost.”

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik hopes to provide regular updates on the impact of the coronavirus on New York’s 21st district.

You can read the full article at https://www.wamc.org/