New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has demanded that the federal government bail out his state, or he’ll have to slash funding for hospitals, medical staff, and other local services – whose budgets he’s already cut to the bone.
The governor took aim at the Trump administration’s funding priorities during his Covid-19 press conference on Tuesday, waxing dramatic about political “values” as he accused Washington of shafting state governments with emergency coronavirus bailout packages that favored big banks and megacorporations.
“Why was Washington so quick to fund the corporations and big businesses, but now they have to think about whether they want to fund state governments and local governments?” Cuomo demanded, reminding his audience that local governments in turn fund hospitals, police, schools, and other “essential” services.
If you don’t fund New York state government, you know what that means? That means I have to cut aid to Northwell [Hospitals]. To hospitals. To nurses, to doctors. It means I have to cut aid to local governments that fund police and firefighters. I have to [cut] funding to schools and teachers.
Cuomo already deferred a raise for tens of thousands of state employees last month, including healthcare workers in the state’s prisons and mental health facilities.
The governor slammed Washington’s failure to shovel more money into the states as “offensive,” insisting it flew in the face of the government messaging depicting frontline workers as “heroes of the day,” and implying Congress owed them – and him – a few billion favors. “We give the federal government about 30 billion dollars more every year!” Cuomo protested.
“I understand the large corporations are the ones that fund the political accounts of these officials, but let them remember that they get elected by the people,” he added, demanding Congress and the White House “show the same consideration for the workers that you show for the corporations.”
That line of attack was more than a little ironic for a politician whose detractors have nicknamed him “Governor One Percent” for his unswerving fealty to his deep-pocketed donors. Cuomo’s devotion is such that in last month’s state budget he chose to saddle New York City with an additional $200 million in Medicaid costs rather than adopt any of a possible 14 tax-the-rich measures that could have helped close a yawning budget gap. Many of those measures had upwards of 90 percent support from voters, but their target – the richest .01 percent of state residents – was effectively off-limits.
The governor’s pandemic-era reinvention as a working-class healthcare hero also ignores his administration’s nine-year track record of deep cuts to the state hospital system. Over his tenure, New York lost some 20,000 hospital beds, consolidating, shuttering, and selling off multiple facilities – leaving the system overstressed even before the pandemic arrived.
The CARES Act passed in March provided funding to states from a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund intended to cover all costs associated with the “public health emergency,” and billions more from other Covid-19 bailout programs have gone directly to hospitals. However, Cuomo is seeking more cash to assist with the economic reopening of his state, which has been largely locked down since it became the epicenter of the US Covid-19 epidemic in mid-March. Trump has largely left the decision to close down and reopen state economies to the governors, aside from social-distancing guidelines that expired at the end of last month.
Perhaps hedging his bets on whether the federal government steps up with the money, Cuomo has called in a trio of billionaires to participate in the state’s economic reopening, tasking former Google exec Eric Schmidt with “rebuilding” the state healthcare system, while former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates gets to remake the school system in his image, and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg runs the state contact-tracing program.
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