Schumer, Cuomo clash on stimulus benefits

The Associated PressSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., told reporters on Wednesday that he believes the state of New York faired well in negotiations leading up to the Senate’s approval of the $2 trillion federal stimulus legislation. 

ALBANY -- U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered dramatically different takes on the $2 trillion federal stimulus legislation Wednesday.

Cuomo called the compromise legislation “terrible” for New York. But Schumer, whose views were echoed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said the state will benefit from the aid more than other states.

“We have done very well here,” Schumer said during a conference call with New York reporters.

Refering to the governor, Schumer said: “He should be pointing his fire at (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell who was the one who was stopping this (compromise) from happening -- not at the New York delegation.”

“New York should do the best because it is allocated based on how much coronavirus you have,” the senator said. New York, with more than 30,000 positive cases of COVID-19, is the nation’s epicenter for the outbreak.

Cuomo said New York’s state government stood to get about $3.8 billion, which he contended is far shy of the economic damage to the state treasury.

“If we don’t get more funding from the feds, I don’t know how we write the budget,” Cuomo said at an Albany briefing, adding: “How do you plug a $15 billion hole with $3.8 billion?”

Schumer called the governor’s assessment inaccurate, noting the Senate measure sends at least $5 billion to the state, a sum that does not include billions of dollars that will flow to the counties, hospitals and small businesses.

“This is not intended to meet all of the states’ needs today,” Schumer said.

New York had already been facing a budget gap of some $6 billion even before the coronavirus crisis flared up and caused a sudden downturn in the state’s economy, crimping revenues that pay for state services.

The House of Representative was expected to vote on the stimulus legislation this week. But there was concern Wednesday night the compromise could unravel after several Republican senators raised concerns about the jobless benefits woven into the legislation.

Schumer and Gillibrand emphasized the measure offers significant relief to hospitals and small businesses. “The governor is not counting that, but I think you should,” Schumer told New York reporters.

Schumer said the package would deliver $15.5 billion in payments to New York tax filers with another $15 billion headed to health care facilities and state and local governments.

Under the plan, individuals earning $75,000 annually would get $1,200 from the federal government while couples with combined incomes of $150,000 or less would get $2,400. The payments would begin to phase out for those with higher incomes.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, called the legislation “the largest rescue package in American history.”

The package included what Schumer called “unemployment on steroids,” providing relief for those who have lost their jobs, and increases to the federal food stamp program known as SNAP.

The measure provides “generous benefits” for those who have suffered financial hardships by losing their jobs, he said.

The senator said he successfully pushed for getting four months of additional unemployment benefits in a package that initially offered a three-month extension.

Schumer said he also advocated for several “emergency appropriations” adding up to $180 million in new aid for airports, child care programs, community block grants, nutrition programs for senior citizens and home heating assistance.

The package includes a “rescue plan” for small businesses and non-profit organizations, offering $375 billion nationally in forgivable loans and grants. That money is expected to help employers avoid layoffs and pay overhead such as utility bills, rent and mortgage costs, he said.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com.

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