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NY expected to get more aid in next stimulus package

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) speaks at a

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) speaks at a town hall in the Uniondale Public Library on Feb. 22, 2020. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

WASHINGTON — New York State will get more money in the next coronavirus spending bill, but it might not be as much as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants as he tries to balance his budget, several New York Democratic House lawmakers said this week.

And the money could come soon — if Republican and Democratic congressional leaders can agree on an emergency aid bill that can be passed by unanimous consent in the Senate Thursday and by the House on Friday.

For that bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week proposed adding $250 billion for the popular small-business loan programs already in the recently enacted $2.2 trillion CARES Act relief and stimulus package. 

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded Wednesday that that interim bill also include $150 billion for state and local governments — which could help New York State — and $100 billion for hospitals and a 15% increase in the maximum benefit to supplemental nutrition assistance for families.

As of late Wednesday, the two sides had not announced an agreement.

Meanwhile, Pelosi had already been working on follow-up legislation — separate from McConnell's interim bill — that could cost as much as $1 trillion, and would also include additional money to help stabilize state and local governments.

In a letter Tuesday to the New York congressional delegation, Cuomo complained about the initial CARES Act funds for New York State, arguing that the Medicaid funding mechanism must be fixed and adding, “New York State is broke … and there has been absolutely no help to offset it.”

New York has a lot riding on additional money. The State Legislature approved a state budget last week, but with warnings that many revenue and spending figures — for school aid for other major items — are subject to the continued economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and whether the state receives additional federal money.

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“The governor clearly is banking on a big bailout in the fourth bill, but it’s difficult to believe Congress would actually hand the state enough to close its budget gap of at least $10 billion, along with billions for New York City,” said E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center think tank.

Schumer and other New York Democrats note that they already have secured $150 billion for state and local governments, including $5.1 billion for New York State, $1.5 billion for New York City and nearly $500 million for Long Island.

“Working with my colleagues in the delegation, I’ve secured billions for New York in the coronavirus response legislation passed to date, including more than $10 billion in the CARES Act,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Rye), who chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee, in a statement Tuesday.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Prospect Heights), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, in a statement Tuesday said the CARES Act provides more than $40 billion in assistance to New York through direct payments, unemployment and furloughed worker benefits, forgivable small business loans, health care funding, money to stabilize businesses and the state.

But Lowey and Jeffries said they would continue to seek money to help New York.

“As we work on CARES 2, we are prioritizing more money for states and cities and added flexibility to allow states to use federal funding to plug budget gaps caused by the economic downturn,” said Lowey.

And Jeffries said, “Moving forward, more must be done in the next relief package and the New York delegation is working day and night to complete the mission we started.”

State stabilization funds are likely to be distributed in a manner that allows larger states to get more funding, an advantage to New York, a senior Democratic aide said Tuesday.

But lawmakers said Cuomo faces competition in the next round of funding for states and local governments from the struggling smaller municipalities and towns left out of the CARES Act.

Members of the New Democrats, a group of 104 members focusing on moderate business-friendly policies, acknowledged that New York, as the current U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, needs extra help but that other states and communities also face the fiscal strains of the virus.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), who’s in a leadership post of the centrist New Democrats organization, acknowledged in a phone-call news conference that New York has been hit hard and needs more federal help.

“Our governor has been very vocal about not getting enough in the CARES package to help New York, which is really the front line in the battle,” Rice said. “And I think that there was always an understanding that there was going to have to be an additional package of money that goes directly to states.”

But Rice said the next package must have funds for states other than New York.

“New York is really just going through what a lot of other places around this country are going to go through, so I think that we have to be prepared to not only help New York right now — we're fighting the battles, first and foremost — but get ready to help a lot of other states across the country who are going to need some help,” Rice said.

With Michael Gormley

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