“This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said today about U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s position that it would be better for states to go bankrupt than for the federal government to help fund their costs of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
McConnell, both in a news release and an appearance on conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, made clear his intention of standing in the way of federal help for the states and argued that the states were just trying get the federal government to pay for employee pension costs. Aid to the states was not included in the latest COVID recovery bill passed by the Senate and sent to the House for its vote today. McConnell made it plain that states should not rely on getting federal funding help if there is another recovery bill.
“This is a much bigger conversation than we’ve had providing assistance for small business because the government shut them out, put them down, put them out of business, or assistance to hospitals which were overwhelmed by the COVID-19 disease. This is a very different decision. These are all taxing authorities, just like we are, and I think that’s why we need to have a fulsome conference-wide discussion among Senate Republicans before we go down this path,” McConnell said.
“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route. It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available,” McConnell told Hewitt. “My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of.”
Cuomo said at an Albany news conference, “How do you not fund police and fire and teachers and schools in the midst of this crisis? Yes, small business is important. So are police and fire and health care workers who are the front line workers. And when you don’t fund the states, then the states can’t fund the services. It makes no sense to me. It also makes no sense that the entire nation is dependent on what the governors do to reopen. We’ve established that. It’s up to this governor, it’s up to this governor, it’s up to this governor. But, then, you’re not going fund the state governments? Do you think I’m going to do it alone? How do you think this is going to work?”
With a photo of U.S. Sen. McConnell’s face displayed on large video screens at either end of the dais from which he was speaking, Cuomo asked, “States are going to declare bankruptcy? That’s how you’re going to bring this economy back? By states declaring bankruptcy? You want to see that (stock) market fall through the cellar? Let New York state declare bankruptcy. Let Michigan declare bankruptcy. Let Illinois declare bankruptcy. Let California declare bankruptcy. You will see a collapse of this national economy. So, just dumb,” Cuomo said.
When McConnell’s office issued a press release recapping his appearance on Hewitt”s radio show, it headlined a paragraph dealing with aid to state and local governments, “On Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” Democrat-controlled states are known as blue states while GOP-controlled states are known as red states.
Cuomo’s reaction came in the wake of a blast at McConnell by Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York. In a Twitter message on Wednesday night, King said, “McConnell’s dismissive remark that States devastated by Coronavirus should go bankrupt rather than get the federal assistance they need and deserve is shameful and indefensible. To say that it is ‘free money’ to provide funds for cops, firefighters and health care workers makes McConnell the Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”
At the news conference, Cuomo announced that the state Department of Health along with Attorney General Letitia James would be launching an investigation into nursing homes to determine whether there have been violations of his executive orders requiring communication with families on COVID-19 test results and deaths.
Numerous questions have been raised about nursing home operations in view of the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in some of the facilities and a relatively high number of deaths.
Cuomo today announced that the state is directing nursing homes to immediately report to the Health Department actions that they have taken to comply with state directives as well as directives issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said that the Health Department will inspect the facilities that have not complied with state and CDC directives, including policies to keep COVID-19 patients separate from the rest of the population, staffing policies and having adequate personal protective equipment. Nursing homes would face a $10,000 fine for each violation along with the possibility of losing their license.
Cuomo had preliminary results of a survey being done to try to determine how prevalent COVID-19 has become among the state’s population. He said that of the first 3,000 people checked, 13.9% tested positive for the disease.
The testing was done over two days at 40 places in 19 counties around the state, primarily at big box stores and grocery stores.
Among females, 12% were positive. For males, the result was 15.9%. In Westchester and Rockland, 11.7% of the people tested were positive for COVID-19. That compared with 16.7% on Long Island, 21.2% in New York City and 3.6% in the rest of the state.
Cuomo said that the preliminary survey results suggest that there could be 2.7 million people infected statewide, and the death rate is 0.5% of the people infected. He said that yesterday there were another 438 deaths in the state from the virus with 35 in nursing homes and 403 in hospitals.
He also said that there likely have been more deaths due to the virus than indicated in the daily totals since it’s not known how many deaths occurring outside of hospitals and nursing homes may have been caused by the virus.
As of this afternoon, Department of Heath statistics showed there had been 15,740 confirmed COVID-19 deaths with 962 in Westchester. There were 349 Rockland residents who died from the virus, 41 deaths in Putnam, 192 Orange County residents who died from the virus, and 60 deaths in Dutchess.
Westchester had 25,959 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 9,828 cases in Rockland, 615 in Putnam, 6,816 in Orange and 2,460 in Dutchess.