Virus Outbreak Congress

In this image from video, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

ALBANY — The $2 trillion federal stimulus legislation addressing the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 emergency provides $15.5 billion in payments to New Yorkers with another $15 billion headed to health care facilities and state and local governments. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said Wednesday morning.

He called the legislation "the largest rescue package in American history."

The relief package included what Schumer called "unemployment on steroids," providing relief for those who have lost their jobs, and increases to the federal food stamp program known as SNAP.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said he had a direct role in negotiating the package.

In a statement released by his Washington office, he said billions of dollars will flow from the federal government to New York hospitals immediately.

“The more than $40 billion dollars of additional help on the way to New York is essential to save lives, preserve paychecks, support small businesses, and much more," Schumer said in a statement. "These critical dollars will inject proverbial medicine into our state, city and localities throughout Upstate New York, to deliver much-needed resources, right now, that can help combat the coronavirus."

He added: "Like all compromise legislation, this bill is far from perfect—but it now does much more for this state, its people and its future than what we began with."

Federal government payments of $1,200 to income-eligible individuals and $2,400 to couples accounts for $15.5 billion of the aid heading to New York, Schumer said.

The package provides "generous benefits" for those who have suffered financial hardships by losing their jobs or have had their income from their roles as freelancers or gig economy workers decline, he said.

The senator said he successfully pushed for getting four months of additional unemployment benefits into a package that initially offered a three-month extension beyond the current six-month limit for jobless benefits.

Schumer said he also advocated for several “emergency appropriations” adding up to $180 million in new aid for airports, child care programs, community block grants, nutrition programs for senior citizens and home heating assistance for poor people.

The package includes a "rescue plan" for small businesses and non-profit organizations, offering $375 billion nationally in forgivable loans and grants. That money is expected to help employers avoid layoffs and pay overhead such as utility bills, rent and mortgage costs, he said.

Schumer put his own name on one element of the plan, dubbing a $150 billion commitment for hospitals across the country "the Schumer Marshall Plan for Our Health Care System."

"The money will be available to fund efforts critical to defeating the virus," Schumer's announcement said. That includes a massive new grant program for hospitals and health care providers, personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more."

New York is the nation's epicenter for the contagion. The overwhelming majority of positive test results so far have been in New York City and its suburbs. But there are growing clusters of the outbreak in Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse and Ulster County.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said earlier this week that the peak of the outbreak is projected to reach New York in the next two to three weeks. The governor is expected to react to the stimulus legislation at his daily briefing.

   

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhi.com.

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