Sen. Chuck Schumer on Tuesday called for FEMA to release funds owed to Long Island hospitals for expenses incurred during the pandemic. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas/John Paraskevas

Long Island hospitals urgently need the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release more than half a billion dollars in pandemic relief funds as quickly as possible, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Across Long Island, hospitals "are still waiting for millions of dollars in pandemic relief reimbursement" from FEMA’s public assistance program, Schumer said at a news conference at Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue.

The amounts owed to Long Island hospitals and the companies that own them add up to nearly $520 million, including roughly $200 million for Manhattan-based NYU Langone Health, $150 million for New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, $140 million for Stony Brook Medicine and $25 million for NuHealth, which operates Nassau University Medical Center, according to Schumer.

The agency is "so overwhelmed because of COVID, not just here in New York, but across the country," Schumer said in a telephone interview. Schumer said he has met with top officials at FEMA "and we’re making good progress."

However, Schumer said he has not been told when the funds will be released. The agency has been working hard to release the funds, but "we’re asking them to speed it up," Schumer said. "These hospitals need this money." FEMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The 306-bed Long Island Community Hospital is awaiting $4.6 million, Schumer said.

"For a smaller institution like this, that's a lot," Schumer said of Long Island’s last remaining independent hospital. The facility’s merger with NYU Langone Health is expected to close next month.

The money "is desperately needed by all hospitals" in the region, said Richard Margulis, president and CEO of Long Island Community Hospital. "This is about expenses that we had to incur, that we were not prepared for, during this pandemic."

In addition to the skyrocketing costs due to the pandemic, local hospitals "could never have anticipated the losses" due to surgical procedures that had to be canceled during the worst of the pandemic, Dr. Marc Adler, chief medical officer at NYU Langone, said at the news conference.

The funding "is a welcome and necessary lifeline to ensure that no long-term damage is incurred to our nation’s health care providers," Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, the state’s largest health care system, said in a statement.

FEMA’s public assistance program reimburses hospitals for expenses related to the COVID-19 crisis, including equipment, staff and reconfiguring hospitals to cope with the onslaught of critically ill patients.

The program so far has released $140 million to NYU Langone and $45 million to Northwell, among other payments to health care systems that serve Long Island, according to Schumer’s staff.

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