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Capital Region State Lawmakers Host Virtual Town Hall On The New Budget

File: New York State Assemblymembers John McDonald and Pat Fahy
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Assemblymembers John McDonald & Pat Fahy

Capital Region state Assemblymembers Pat Fahy and John McDonald held a virtual public town hall Wednesday on New York's new $177 billion budget.
 
The Democratic lawmakers appeared on Facebook Live to present a summary of New York state's recently enacted budget.
 
Among other things, the spending plan requires paid sick leave, legalizes e-bikes and scales back cash bail reforms.
 
With the rise of the coronavirus, New York's finances are on shaky ground, with projections estimating a loss of revenue between $10 billion and $15 billion in the new fiscal year. Fahy enumerated some of the provisions in the new budget.
 
"Thankfully, we had authorized a $2.5 billion statewide in capital for housing last year, the year before so that work will continue again. It is not enough. We have a housing crisis throughout the state, but at least that has not been cut and we are pleased even if we didn't do new additions. We restored the displaced homemaker program that had been cut, a very important program for women in particular, who become single parents, the home visiting programs, those are programs when a woman has a child or even is pregnant with a child, to have somebody visit and make sure, do preventative work with with the family, about giving early starts, if you will to children. Refugee programs that we have right here in Albany along with a few other upstate cities that have really fueled some wonderful diversity within our neighborhoods and in our schools. Unfortunately, that was cut from $2 million statewide down to $1 million."
 
The list goes on, including a mention of the anticipated Medicaid funding shortfall that threatened county finances.
 
"We started the year with over a $6 billion cut, which has only gotten worse. The good news is we are not shifting that cost on to county governments."
 
McDonald says COVID-19 is a shock to the state’s economic fortunes.
 
"What we're finding out is that we are spending our staff particularly, are constantly on the phone helping people with unemployment. But also we're encouraging people that if you've lost your job and lost your health insurance, you only have 60 days to enroll in the New York State of Health, and depending on where you're at, will determine what level benefit. Many people will end up in Medicaid and therefore we're gonna need more support when it comes to that. And that's the right thing to do."
 
Fahy and McDonald fielded questions from a virtual audience and both lawmakers say the engagement was successful.
 
Fahy tells WAMC it’s important to stay connected with constituents despite social distancing, and more virtual town halls are planned.

mcdonald-fahy_raw_4-8.mp3
Complete audio of the Fahy-McDonald Virtual Town Hall 04-08-20

The PowerPoint used in the presentation: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_sarBUbi0J2Si12bWd5cnN5VGJfNzJycElzLW9lX3hadUtn/view?usp=sharing

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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