ALBANY — Lawmakers from across the Empire State want Gov. Cuomo to show he cares.
A collection of New York legislators, NYC Council members and advocates are calling on the governor to release federal coronavirus funds for struggling nonprofits and service providers suffering the economic impacts of the pandemic.
They say the state isn’t acting with urgency when it comes to $4 billion available through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund even though service providers are in desperate need.
“(M)any of the service providers will not survive or will suffer irreparable damage, doing serious harm to the children and adults who depend on them,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to the governor last week.
The call comes after Cuomo announced $88.6 million in federal CARES Act funding was made available to assist child care providers through a grant program.
The money was in addition to $30 million made available in the spring and $48.3 million recently awarded to assist child care providers with reopening or restructuring their physical plans to meet new social distancing requirements, according to the governor’s office.
Separately, the CARES Act established the Corona Virus Relief Fund, which is designed to assist states and local governments in funding COVID-19 related expenses. New York received roughly $5.1 billion from the fund and has used about $1 billion so far.
Advocates and legislators want the state to release money for groups that serve needy New Yorkers, including organizations contracted by the state to provide health care, after school programming, senior services, housing, food delivery, and food pantries, and services for people with disabilities.
“These services, along with several others, are in danger of collapse without urgently needed assistance,” the letter warned. “These services employ and serve large numbers of New Yorkers from communities of color. These communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. We must not allow New York State to actively withhold financial support from them.”
The letter is signed by dozens of Assembly members, including social services chair Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens) and health chair Dick Gottfried (D-Manhattan), Sens. David Carlucci (D-Rockland), chair of the mental health and developmental disabilities committee, and Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), chair of the Senate health committee, along with dozens of their colleagues and more than 185 advocate groups.
Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the state budget department, said the administration shares lawmakers’ frustrations and said there are strict limitations on how the funds can be spent.
“The Federal government has failed to provide New York and other states impacted by COVID-19 with assistance to offset any of the resulting revenue loss," he said. “The State has a $14.5 billion revenue shortfall this year alone, and the funds provided by the Federal government can only be used for narrowly defined COVID-related costs.”
He also noted that the state has already allocated $25 million in CRF money to support food pantries and called on lawmakers to petition their counterparts in Washington for much-needed aid.
“The State will spend every dollar on eligible costs related to the pandemic response, including personal protective equipment, the MTA, testing statewide, and contact tracing,” Klopott said. "Their time would be better spent joining the fight for Federal aid.”
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