PLATTSBURGH — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hopes that the next COVID-19 federal relief package — which he referred to as COVID-4 — will feature direct aid to state and local governments.
The senator took questions during a video town hall hosted by the North Country Chamber of Commerce Friday morning.
Schumer encouraged those listening in to reach out to the chamber’s president, Garry Douglas, with specific suggestions for the next round of relief legislation.
“I’m not in the majority so I can’t snap my fingers and make it happen, but I can push hard and we’ve had a pretty good success rate,” Schumer said.
Schumer said he continues to fight for a proposal he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., put forward that would include direct aid to smaller localities.
The formula used would give $7.1 million to Clinton County, $4.4 million to Franklin County, $3.2 million to Essex County, more than $1 million to the city of Plattsburgh, $639,000 to the town of Plattsburgh and $431,000 to the Town of North Elba, he said.
Those figures are based on a $150 billion ask, which could increase, he added.
“The one thing I’d urge you to do is urge your congresspeople … to make sure that the formula that we put forward stays, that they don’t dilute it, so the smaller counties, the smaller towns can get it.”
The senator added that more must be done for both hospitals and farmers.
Schumer said he would like to see more funding for broadband in the next relief package, noting there is $25 million in the CARES Act for distance learning and telemedicine, along with funding for education institutions, which could be used for broadband.
“One of the things this COVID crisis has shown is things we need to do permanently,” Schumer said.
“It sort of shined a magnifying glass on some of the deficiencies the country has, broadband being way up at the top of the list, and so I’m hopeful we can get a lot more for broadband.”
The senator said he recognizes the importance of the upstate economy’s relationship with Canada, and plans to fight to protect it as more restrictions targeted at China are put in place.
“I don’t mind being tough on China,” Schumer said, “but being tough on Canada, our neighbor — which in dairy did take advantage of us, I must admit that — but in most ways we have a very good trading relationship.”
“This idea of walling America off from Canada makes no sense,” he continued. “We’re an integrated economy, we have the longest unguarded border in the world, we’ve had a great relationship.”
Schumer said it was a high priority to ensure that 501(c)(6) organizations, like the North Country Chamber of Commerce, were eligible for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
That program allows for loan forgiveness when the funds are used for payroll or other fixed operating expenses.
Schumer thanked everyone for persisting, adding that New Yorkers have lived through 9/11, the Great Recession and recent storms.
“This is more trouble than we have seen in a long time,” he said.
“It’s a crisis where we’re uncertain — how do you get this (COVID-19), when does it go away, how do you get a vaccine, what’s the right amount of time to stay distant.”
New Yorkers like to come together, but cannot do that now, Schumer said.
“But if we persist, stick together, try to work in as bipartisan a way as possible … we will prevail and we’ll come out of this and I’ll be there by your side as we do.”