ALBANY — President Donald Trump’s suggestion for states to pay a quarter of a weekly unemployment bonus may be a political negotiation tactic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday, after congressional representatives have failed to reach an agreement on the next pandemic relief bill.
Jobless workers had been receiving a $600 weekly bonus since March in addition to regular, weekly unemployment checks. The bonus money ran out at the end of July.
On Saturday, Trump issued an order authorizing $300 in federal payments for the unemployment bonus. The president suggested states should find a quarter of that to help fund the bonus — a cost of roughly $4 billion to New York, the governor said.
“[It’s] just laughable ... It’s just an impossibility,” Gov. Cuomo said Sunday during a conference call with reporters. “None of this is real on the federal side. I don’t know if the president is genuine, or if this is just a tactic in the negotiation. This is irreconcilable for the state. This is just a chapter in the book of Washington-COVID mismanagement.”
Cuomo said Trump’s executive mandates won’t meet the demand as states continue to need federal aid to help localities, burdened by unexpected COVID-19 costs. The state is expected to cut education and health care spending by 20% in next year’s budget without federal assistance.
“Trump’s executive orders will not be a substitute for legislation — take it from someone who has often considered executive order when you can’t get legislation,” Gov. Cuomo said. “What the president has done is made it impossible on the state. ... The whole issue here was getting states funding — state and local funding. You can’t now say to states who have no funding ‘you have to pay 25% of the unemployment insurance costs.’”
The president’s order would redirect $44 billion in disaster relief funds to pay for the unemployment bonus, which would cover about five weeks of extended benefits.
Cuomo and his aides have discussed the expected widespread 20% cuts to local governments throughout the pandemic. On Friday, the governor sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, outlining the urgent need for federal aid to state and local governments.
“They need legislation — it’s the only way to do it,” Gov. Cuomo said. “If the president is not willing to get it passed, it’s going to be an additional failure in a series of failures in this COVID crisis. My advice is, when you are in a hole, stop digging. It’s good advice.”
The state expects a $30 billion budget shortfall over two years — $14 billion in 2020 and an anticipated $16 billion next year — with a roughly $12 billion deficit for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and $3 billion for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Schools must hold three to five public meetings with parents by Aug. 21, who will be allowed to participate remotely, and at least one meeting with teachers to review district reopening guidelines.
“That ... was not just a helpful hint,” Gov. Cuomo said of the mandatory sessions. “If teachers don’t agree to come back it is extraordinarily difficult to operate school. Even in this new COVID crisis creativity, you still need teachers and you still need students to operate a school, best I know. You’re not going to get them back just because the school district says ‘This is what we’re going to do.’
These plans were not sent down from heaven,” he added. “They have to have the conservation with the parents and the teachers. And time is short.”
New York City, the nation’s largest public school district, submitted a second, supplemental reopening plan after officials said the district’s guidance was deficient.
State Health Department employees worked to approve school plans this weekend, Cuomo said, adding he expects to announce an update Monday.
The state’s supplemental enforcement task force, comprised of New York State Police and state Liquor Authority investigators, issued violations to 26 establishments in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn and on Long Island on Saturday night. Queens had the most violations at 16.
“Come on, Queens,” the governor said. “We need the NYPD to step up and help in New York City. And we need local governments across the board to also do their job.
“I’ll repeat myself until they hear me.”
The state had its lowest rate of new cases in one day at 0.78% positive Saturday.
“Congratulations, New Yorkers. Incredible,” Gov. Cuomo said.
Seven New Yorkers died from the virus Saturday, up from five Friday.
The state reported 548 virus patients in the hospital Sunday, down 25, and 131 New Yorkers in intensive care — the lowest since the pandemic began.
The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.