Written by Cara Chapman in the Press-Republican on March 27, 2020
PLATTSBURGH — Elected officials need to tackle the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis and the economic hardship it has brought at the same time, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) said.
In a conference call with district media Thursday morning, she discussed her office’s continued focus on public health and putting out the most up-to-date U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
The congresswoman also outlined key provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate Wednesday night.
HOSPITALS, BUSINESS LOANS
The legislation, expected to go before the House Friday, includes more than $100 billion for hospitals and health care workers, plus an additional $16 billion for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The package will also make a large portion of small business loans forgivable, Stefanik continued, and will expand unemployment insurance to self-employed individuals and independent contractors.
And $30 billion will go toward grant funding for educational institutions disrupted by the crisis.
“We’re going to deliver more money to New York than is in this package right now because New York is the epicenter of coronavirus,” Stefanik added.
Stefanik noted that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a record high of more than three million people filed unemployment claims last week.
“The way we should approach this … is support for workers who need it the most, support for businesses who are the backbone of our community.”
The CARES Act includes direct payments to American families: $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and $500 for each child, based on either 2018 or 2019 tax filings, depending on what people have filed.
Those payments could go out the first week of April.
“Time is of the essence,” Stefanik said.
Stefanik said she will vote, in-person, to pass the CARES Act, noting her concern that New York State will not get as much support as she thinks it needs regarding funding for states and localities.
“I think New York’s going to need more relief at the end of the day dealing with this crisis.”
She again expressed her support of remote voting, saying Congress ought to be taking its own advice.
“On a package that’s this significant, when you’re talking about $2 trillion, every member deserves a vote, every district and every state.”
Congress is working through the question of whether the CARES Act stimulus package will be substantial enough, Stefanik said, adding that she thinks there will be future relief packages.
“We know that people need relief now and that’s why there was a sense of urgency to get this done and to get financial support out now to families who need it.”
Stefanik said she has tried to prioritize taking all of the incoming calls from small businesses and families asking about economic relief and when they can get back to work.
Those include conversations with business owners who told her they have never shut their doors since opening decades ago; some say they may not be able to reopen.
The congresswoman also maintains contact with each county’s COVID-19 task force to get an understanding of what their needs are, and her office works closely with county legislatures and boards of supervisors to get a fiscal picture of the district.
Stefanik and the rest of New York’s Congressional delegation were on a call with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Wednesday where she voiced upstate counties’ need for resources and ventilators.
“They did answer positively saying that they are paying close attention and they are going to make sure that upstate and counties in the North Country have what we need,” she continued.
“So it is a team effort working together and I’m working with members of the upstate delegation … to make sure that we get the ventilators, the testing supplies, the PPE that are needed in our community.”
On how critical it is for President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act provisions that would mandate companies to prioritize production of PPE and ventilators, Stefanik said there needs to be a national strategy for procuring those items so that states and hospitals are not competing against each other for them.
She added that manufacturers and businesses in the district are stepping up to either donate or produce some of those supplies.
Regarding Trump’s comments earlier this week that he would like to see the country open and ready to go by Easter, Stefanik said public health has to drive those decisions.
“Each locality and state’s going to be in a different situation.
We’re working with our New York leaders and with health officials at the federal level.”
‘GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER’
In order to take care of herself during this pandemic, Stefanik said she is taking the advice about social distancing, practicing good hygiene, tele-working and avoiding non-essential stops while traveling.
She and her husband, Matthew Manda, recently drove nonstop from Schuylerville to Washington, D.C.
Stefanik has had daily calls with her family members who, she said, are taking this seriously.
“You need to continue encouraging your loved ones and having that connectivity.
When I talk about the small businesses calling, calling, calling the office, that’s why it’s so important that we’re prioritizing those calls, to be calm but also be vigilant and encourage folks that we’re going to get through this together.”
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