Coronavirus

Did New York get screwed by the stimulus bill?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer disagree. Here’s what the math shows.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media after the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to the media after the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. ERIK S LESSER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Nobody’s ever seemed so mad about getting handed $5.8 billion. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says that New York is getting screwed in the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus bill because the $5.8 billion that’s being directed to the state government doesn’t nearly make up for what the state will end up spending combatting the new coronavirus.

The bill, Cuomo said during a press conference Thursday morning, “did not help local governments or state governments, and it did not address the governmental loss. And the federal officials – the ones who are being honest – will admit that.”

The stimulus bill known as CARES Act passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday night and is expected to pass the House on Friday before being signed into law by President Donald Trump. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator and the lead Democratic negotiator on the stimulus package disagrees with Cuomo. He spent much of the day Thursday talking about how great the bill is for New York, highlighting the billions in direct payments to hospitals and the nearly $4 billion earmarked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The state will end up with “much more than $40 billion” from the package, Schumer told reporters on a call Thursday. “It will go way up.” 

Of course, that’s cold comfort for the governor, who is just days away from the April 1 budget deadline. The state was facing a $6 billion deficit before coronavirus came to New York, and that math is only going to get harder now that New York’s economy has slowed to a trickle. 

So whose math is right? That all depends on which of New York’s needs you’re considering. Hospitals and mass transit are certainly important to New York, and they are badly hurting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cuomo’s right that the aid to the state government specifically falls short of what it will need to close the budget gap opened up by the pandemic and its economic effects.

Cuomo said that the New York state government has spent $1 billion so far fighting the disease known as COVID-19 and will spend that much several times over by the time the crisis is over. And the state is expecting to bring in much less tax revenue – $10 to $15 billion less than otherwise projected because of economic contraction caused by illness and social measures taken to slow the virus’ spread. 

New York City is facing a similar budget crunch, and Mayor Bill de Blasio also wasn’t happy about the approximately $1 billion his city would be getting from Washington. 

“They gave us less than 1 percent of the money that they were giving out to cities and states, and we have a third of the cases in the nation,” de Blasio said Wednesday. “That is just immoral.”

Despite those complaints, Schumer has been effusive in his praise of the bill, telling Politico “it’s one of the most major pieces of legislation we’ve done” on par with Obamacare and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs like Medicare and the Clean Air Act. Among its many provisions, most Americans will be sent $1,200 checks, in order to help the slowed economy.

But Cuomo is primarily concerned with the provision of the bill dealing with state and local government aid – and it seems the governor is justified in his complaints. Politico reported that Schumer himself wanted to include some $750 billion in direct aid for governments into the bill, but was rebuffed by Republicans. Only $150 billion made the final bill. 

Now a House Democratic source confirmed to City & State that there are already talks in Washington of another legislative package that would prioritize money for local governments that have been spending heavily to combat coronavirus. 

So Cuomo bit his tongue at his Thursday press conference. “Emotion is a luxury, and we don’t have the luxury at this time of being emotional about what (Congress) did,” he said, before shifting to the problems he could deal with himself. “In any event,” he said, “we have to do a budget.”

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