If the governor’s office has any power to help St. Clare’s Hospital retirees get relief from the crisis with their pension benefits, it certainly hasn’t used it so far.
Despite persistent efforts by those on both sides of the political aisle to find a solution to the retirees’ situation — including litigation, legislation and even a state attorney general’s investigation — the 1,100-plus retirees of the former Schenectady hospital are right now no closer to getting some or all of their pensions restored than they were when they found out they were losing them in 2018.
That needs to change, starting at the top.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo barely paid lip service to their concerns, refusing to acknowledge letters from local lawmakers about the situation and being unwilling to meet with pensioners’ representatives, even as they protested right outside his office.
At one point, incredulously, Cuomo denied being even aware of their situation.
Gov. Kathy Hochul now needs to do what her predecessor would not — take the situation seriously and work with lawmakers and representatives of the retirees on finding solutions.
That means honoring a bipartisan request from Democratic state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Republican state Sen. Jim Tedisco to meet with the pensioners’ representatives to discuss the situation.
Frankly, we’re not sure what can be done to help. A lot of people have been working on finding creative solutions for three years, and still the retirees haven’t gotten relief.
But having the clout of the governor’s office join the collaborative efforts to find funding and to make responsible parties accountable will certainly help open some doors and could lead to other possible solutions.
Due to the covid crisis, all kinds of government financial relief has been made available in the past year-and-a-half to the unemployed, renters, school districts, businesses and others.
Given the renewed emphasis on the importance of the role of healthcare workers, the pandemic might provide an avenue of financial relief to the St. Clare’s pensioners that wasn’t available in the past.
Perhaps there is a new, untapped pool of federal or state money that the governor’s office might be able to get access to.
Maybe the governor’s office could get directly involved in negotiations with private organizations or the Catholic Church hierarchy for financial support.
Maybe she could light a fire under our state’s congressional delegation to do more.
The St. Clare’s workers were unfairly deprived of the secure retirement they rightly earned by helping so many people over so many years.
It’s vitally important for them that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office to take an active interest in this situation and a personal role in finding solutions.
Even with the governor’s involvement, pensioners shouldn’t expect miracles.
But let’s start with a meeting and explore the possibilities.