ALBANY — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand stood in front of Albany City Hall Friday afternoon, urging the federal government to pass COVID relief legislation and assist in the economic recovery of local governments.
Democrats Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko of Amsterdam spoke for roughly 30 minutes about the budget deficits local governments are facing due to the pandemic, as well as the laying off of teachers, health-care workers, sanitation workers and firefighters. The two are backing the Direct Support for Communities Act, which Gillibrand introduced in May. She said she’s pushing for its inclusion in the next coronavirus relief package. But since she introduced it, Gillibrand said, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has “refused to bring it to the floor, even for debate, for months.”
“Yet, when [McConnell] released his plans for the latest relief package, aid for state and local governments was nowhere to be found,” Gillibrand said. “This should not be a partisan or controversial issue. No state or town has been untouched by this pandemic and the economic crisis it created.”
Gillibrand said that, without federal assistance, local governments would have to raise taxes on “families who certainly cannot afford it” or cut more jobs during the pandemic. This, she said, would include cuts to front-line workers. She said she will continue to push Republican senators to include $500 billion for local and state governments in the next relief package.
“With one in five adults already out of work, we can’t afford to lose one more job,” Gillibrand said.
Tonko said that state and local leaders have been “sounding the alarm for months” and warning the federal government of possible layoffs without a relief plan.
“We passed the Heroes Act in the House nearly three months ago to deliver the lifeline they need to avoid the most painful of these cuts, including funding for nationwide testing and tracing, safe elections and more than $1 billion in federal aid directly to New York’s Capital Region,” Tonko said. “After months of delays by Republican leaders since then and tens of thousands more American lives lost, we don’t have time for more political games.”
Tonko and Gillibrand were joined by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, Assemblyman John McDonald, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and other community leaders at the event.
Also on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, sent a letter to New York’s congressional delegation about the “urgent need” for state and local aid in the next federal relief package. The state will need $30 billion in aid over the next two years to “meet its obligations,” according to the letter.