© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Schumer pushes feds to release FEMA money to New York hospitals to fight Omicron

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Alex Brandon
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was joined by New York Mayor Eric Adams and U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres on Sunday at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan to push the federal government to send COVID relief payments to Northwell Health and other private hospital systems on Long Island that have been affected by the surge in Omicron cases.

Northwell Health is New York's largest healthcare provider that serves New York City, Long Island and Westchester. They’ve been waiting over a year to receive some of the $9 billion from the Provider Relief Fund.

Schumer said that he would like the funds to make their way to Northwell and other systems in the upcoming weeks or a few months.

“We need it and it's going to pay for a lot of COVID expenses,” Schumer said. “We all know our hospitals are under duress right now because of Omicron.”

The money that the hospitals receive will be a reimbursement of all the hospital costs leading up to the Omicron variant. FEMA is now starting the reimbursement process after Schumer pressed them to get it done.

New York City’s Health + Hospital Corporation sent in a reimbursement request to FEMA in October 2020 asking for $900 million to cover the cost of hiring extra staff and expand capacity to treat patients with COVID.

Schumer said FEMA came up with some “crazy rules” during the first year of the pandemic.

“They said if you built a new building we can reimburse you, but if you use your existing building we aren’t going to reimburse you,” Schumer said. “One of the rules was if you use the bed inside the hospital that was a regular bed for COVID, they wouldn’t reimburse you but if you built a new unit, which would’ve been wasteful, they would reimburse you. It made no sense.”

Schumer said that the delays on both the public and private side were unacceptable and will not be tolerated anymore. So far, Omicron has cost H+H $111 million and that number is going to keep increasing as time goes on.

“We need that money now,” Schumer said. “We don’t need the mayor having to tell other departments we can’t give you money because we have an emergency. We need it for everybody.”

Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of H+H, also joined Schumer on Sunday.

“Omicron has posed problems that are different from the other waves, primarily that we have lost so many staff to Omicron,” Katz said. “About a quarter of staff are out sick that are needed there for us to focus on bringing in outside staff. The $111 million that the mayor has graciously provided us with is being used right now to supplement staffing so that we can continue to run and make a mission happen.”

Mayor Adams said that H+H spent over $2.5 billion to fight COVID during the first surge. A majority of that money was spent from March to May of 2020.

With the funds announced last week, New York City public hospitals will have received $1.19 billion during the pandemic, Schumer said.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.