GLOVERSVILLE — The economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has hit many business people hard, forcing them to struggle to stay afloat. Ralph Iorio, 71, a tailor for 48 years, is one of those people.
“I maybe made $400 during the last four months,” he said.
With little to no business during the shutdown, Iorio spent some of his time creating white cotton face masks — over 500 of them — which he distributed for free during the worst months of the economic shutdown. He said they take about 15 minutes each to stitch. He said he favors ones with bands snug enough to allow them to be worn without having to use the ears to hold them up.
On Friday, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schyulerville, and a host of other politicians honored Iorio for his efforts in battling the pandemic.
Local and state officials, including Gloversville Mayor Vince DeSantis, 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds, 118th District Assemblyman Robert, R-Johnstown, and state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, joined with Stefanik at Ralph’s Tailor Shop to laud Iorio’s good deeds.
Iorio was born in Italy. He emigrated to the U.S., where his mother was born, when he was 17. He’s operated a small business in New York state, mostly in Gloversville, for 48 years, and he’s sometimes referred to as the last tailor in Gloversville.
All of the officials, except Simonds, wore masks during the visit and the presentation of a congressional certificate to Iorio.
“Can you make me a suit out of masks?” Tedisco quipped while he eyed a sports jacket on Iorio’s sales rack.
“We can do anything,” Iorio replied.
Iorio said assistance from the U.S. CARES Act, which for the first time ever provided unemployment benefits for small business owners, was the key to his business surviving.
“If it wasn’t for the $600 [pandemic unemployment bonus], I never would have made it,” he said.
Later, Stefanik talked national policy and COVID relief efforts in Washington.
She said wants to see the Republican-controlled Senate pass a bill that would extend unemployment benefits and provide aid to New York state and its municipalities. The House and Senate are currently stalemated over a bill to continue to address the economic fallout from COVID. Stefanik had voted against the $3 trillion Heroes Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. That measure included $1 trillion in local government aid with tens of millions of dollars earmarked for local governments in Fulton and Montgomery counties.
Stefanik has proposed her own bill in the House that would provide $500 billion in local government aid. On Friday she said she is pleased to see the Senate is considering a similarly sized local government aid package. But she was less certain about any continuation of the $600 pandemic unemployment bonus.
“I have concerns about the Democratic proposal, which would extend it through January 2021,” she said. “We need to incentivize people getting back to work, and in some cases, as I’ve talked to small businesses, that additional $600 has limited their ability to hire folks back because they were earning a lesser amount prior. I support having some additional unemployment assistance tied to previous wages, as an incentive to get back to work.”
She also discussed other national issues.
Stefanik has split sharply with President Donald J. Trump on issues of trade and NATO’s defensive posture against Russia. Stefanik, who is co-chair of Trump’s re-election campaign in New York state, reiterated her strong support for the 45th president.
“My colleagues in Congress in the New York [Republican] delegation are also co-chairs, and we are working with the Trump campaign to ensure that he does well,” she said. “He won my district by double digits. He won most upstate districts by double digits.”
Stefanik is running for her fourth term representing New York’s 21st Congressional District against former St. Lawrence County Democratic Legislator Tedra Cobb, a rematch of the 2018 election.
While she is known as one of the few Republicans in Congress willing to break with Trump on policy issues — voting against his tax cut in 2017, criticizing his use of trade tariffs and opposing his abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and planned redeployment of troops out of Germany — Stefanik rose to national prominence as one of Trump’s staunchest defenders during the House of Representatives impeachment hearings last fall. Since then, Trump has issued tweets praising Stefanik as a rising GOP star, and gave her a personal shout-out during his indoor rally in Tulsa on June 20.
On Friday, Stefanik criticized Trump’s decision to reinstate the 10-percent tariffs on imports of non-alloyed aluminum from Canada.
“The United States and Canada have a strong economic partnership and trading relationship. This decision will slow the rate of our economic recovery from COVID-19, particularly for the manufacturers along the northern border in the North Country,” Stefanik said in a news release. “Instead, our focus must be on working with our allies to address China’s overcapacity and the subsidized aluminum they continue to dump on the world market. I urge the administration to reverse this reinstatement so we can focus on restoring our economy while holding unfriendly nations – like China – accountable.”
Stefanik, whose district contains the Fort Drum Army post in Watertown, said Trump’s decision to withdraw 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany is a mistake.
“I think we need to have a very strong posture when it comes to countering Russia, and specifically strong ties with our NATO allies,” she said.
On Friday U.S. intelligence officials made public their assessment that Russia is attempting to interfere in the November election to help President Trump and denigrate his Democratic opponent former Vice President Joe Biden. The same report concluded China prefers Trump be defeated, but has not yet taken aggressive action to support Biden.
Stefanik co-sponsored an election security bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2019 aimed at strengthening U.S. defense against Russian election interference as well as interference from other countries. The Republican majority in the U.S. Senate has never allowed a vote or debate on Stefanik’s House election bill.
She said her election security bill would also provide funding to help address some of Trump’s concerns about mail-in voter fraud. She publicly called for her Republican colleagues in the Senate to allow a vote on her bill. “The Senate should take it up,” she said.