WASHINGTON — New York could get as much as $2 billion more in FEMA emergency money for the coronavirus pandemic in the massive relief plan that President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
The $1.9 trillion "American Rescue Plan" will invest $30 billion into FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund which will, among other things, pay for 100% federal reimbursement for COVID-19 emergency responses by state and local governments, the Biden transition team said.
That means that areas such as New York where the president has declared a COVID-19 emergency disaster will not have to cover 25% of the costs as is required for most FEMA emergency disaster funding.
"This is good news to New York. This is sort of an indication of better things to come," Schumer said in a phone interview. "This will mean $2 billion to New York between the state and local governments, and a significant amount should find its way to Long Island."
As the coronavirus spiked in New York last year, President Donald Trump declared a COVID-19 emergency for the state in March. FEMA has obligated $5.9 billion to the state and New York City, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s January monthly report on COVID-19 funding.
FEMA had waived the requirement that state and local governments contribute 25% of the expenditures covered by federal disaster funds for Superstorm Sandy, Schumer said, but Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to allow it for the pandemic.
"Nearly a year ago, President Trump promised FEMA would reimburse 100% of New York's expenses, but, like many of his promises, the president reneged, and New Yorkers suffered," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement thanking Biden and Schumer.
"I tried to get Trump to do this for the last six months. I must have called him personally about it two or three times. I talked to Mnuchin on a weekly basis. They never did it," Schumer said. "So, New York and its localities ended up paying a significant chunk."
The Biden plan also includes $350 billion for state, local and territorial governments, a smaller dollar amount than House Democrats included it the HEROES Act that they passed in May. Republicans have resisted including any money for those governments in relief bills.
"I’ve spoken to Joe Biden several times, as recently as yesterday, and a long conversation on Friday, and told him that his proposal has to have direct state and local aid and money," Schumer said.
Democrats now have an opportunity to pass a more expensive and generous coronavirus aid bill now that they will control the White House, the House and the Senate for at least the next two years.
Schumer will become majority leader on Jan. 20 in an evenly divided Senate with the vice president’s tiebreaking vote.
While he still will face the task of winning over 10 Republicans to end filibusters, he also can use a procedure called reconciliation to pass budget-related measures.
Schumer has been pushing Biden and his team to propose a bigger bill than the package that reportedly will be less than $2 trillion in a bid to win over Republican support for what could be a first major bill.