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Cuomo Calls Latest Federal Relief Compromise Plan 'A Downpayment'

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he’s on board with a proposal endorsed by top Democrats in Congress to offer partial relief for states whose economics have been harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said it would only be a stop gap measure.

Cuomo said he has spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a $900 billion aid package. It would extend federal pandemic unemployment benefits for millions of Americans that run out on the day after Christmas. It would also renew small business loans, and provide some relief to cash strapped state and local governments dealing with COVID-19 related expenses.

Cuomo calls it a “first down payment” on what is needed.

“It doesn't come near to the need. It would be a short term bill until March. I would urge them to get this first down payment bill before they leave," Cuomo said. “Just so families have funding for the holiday season and it takes some pressure off state and local governments.”

The state has a $14 billion budget gap, largely due to pandemic related expenses. Cuomo in the past has said the state will need $50 billion over the next two years to be made whole. The governor must present his new budget plan in January, and close the current deficit by March 31.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, rejected the Democrat’s proposal. They instead want a more limited package that offers aid to businesses and grants employers immunity from any COVID related litigation. It would also give some weekly benefits to the unemployed, but does not include any money for state or local governments.

The governor also reported that the state’s positivity rate for the virus was 4.8% on Wednesday, and 61 people died of the disease.

Hospitalizations continue to climb with over 4,000 New Yorkers in the hospital with the coronavirus.

Cuomo said he and state officials are counting the number of hospital beds that might be needed in various regions of the state as the virus surges. State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said there are around 6,000 ICU beds total, and over 2,000 are currently available for COVID-19 patients. There are 376 New Yorkers in the Intensive Care Unit with COVID-19.

Zucker said there have been changes since the first surge of the pandemic last spring, and that has resulted in a decreased need for hospital beds and special care like ventilators.

In March, he said 25% of those in the hospital for COVID-19 ended up in the ICU. Currently, 19% end up in intensive care. In the spring, 85% to 90% of the sickest patients were place on ventilators, and that number is now 45%.

“It's a reflection of the better management of patients who have coronavirus,” said Zucker. “And also people coming into the hospital probably sooner, because they recognize that they may be ill. So those numbers have obviously improved.”

Cuomo said one way to free up more beds is to ban elective surgeries temporarily. Elective surgeries are on hold in Erie County, which has the highest infection rate in the state. Cuomo did not propose ending elective surgeries anywhere else.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.