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Congressional Corner With Anthony Brindisi

U.S. Representative for New York's 22nd congressional district Anthony Brindisi
Official Portrait 116th Congress

COVID-19 has been devastating for agriculture.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democrat Anthony Brindisi of New York’s 22nd Congressional district continues his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock. 

This interview was recorded September 2.

Alan Chartock: I'm Alan Chartock and I'm here with Anthony Brindisi, my friend, a Congressman from New York's 22nd District. Anthony, I've been reading stories about farmers and what a tough time they're having during the pandemic, including some where milk farmers, and you have lots of them, have they been taking some of the milk and throwing it in the fields because they can't get rid of it?

Congressman Anthony Brindisi: Yeah, the processors have been forced to dump milk. And you have to understand what's going on. It's really because as the economy shut down as restaurants closed, as schools closed in the spring, and early summer, the consumption of dairy went down because restaurants weren't buying, school lunch programs, by and large were, were not at the same capacity they were before the pandemic. So that creates an excess of dairy on the market. And when you have too much dairy and not enough people buying it, you're going to have to dump it. So that's what happened for many of our farmers through no fault of their own. We did get some funding through the CARES Act, to get USDA to make some direct payments to farmers to help them sustain some of the losses that they are seeing. That's one of the things I'm also pushing for in another stimulus package is more support for our farmers. You know, people sometimes take for granted how important it is to sustain these family farms, especially in places like New York. I love the fact that we have so many family farms across New York State, and we can know your farmer, know where your food comes from. I think that's a great thing. And I worry that as many of these family farms go out of business, we're left with nothing but large factory farms where we don't know where the food's coming from, or perhaps it's being trucked in, or shipped in from halfway across the globe. We got to support our family farmers in our state, and keep them going and the aid that we did in the CARES Act, and what we need to continue to do, will help do that.

Anthony Brindisi, the state of the US Postal Service, and mail-in voting has been up in the air. I've talked about it before how my mom used to - when she was in Florida - used to stand by the mailbox and wait for her social security check. Another thing we want to talk about, but this President keeps giving sort of hints that maybe he wants to get rid of the Postal Service and he puts in a guy to help him do that, big contributor who knows very little about the about what he's doing. What are your thoughts on this?

That's it. It's very scary. They're doing everything they can to undermine the Postal Service. And I think by and large, the American people like the Postal Service, they appreciate that service. It's as old as the Constitution. And our founding fathers never intended the Postal Service to be a moneymaker. It's a public service that was meant to help people be able to communicate coast to coast. And the post office has been hit with a number of issues over the years, mostly created by Congress. If we just, you know, the money that we use to buy stamps, funds the operations of the Postal Service. Unfortunately, the Postal Service looks a lot less profitable because of an unfunded mandate that Congress put on the Postal Service years ago that requires them to pre-fund all of their retiree health care. So for people who are not even employed by the Postal Service yet, the Postal Service is paying for their health care and retirement. We don't ask that of any other federal agency. And it puts them in huge amounts of debt. And this pandemic came along and put them even more in debt because of the economy shut down. Businesses cut back on the amount of mail that they sent out, which has put a hurting on the Postal Service. So what do we do about it? Well, I think we do what the president's own bipartisan Postal Commission has recommended. We give them $25 billion to help them get through this period of time where they need to continue operations. Otherwise, and I did a few press conferences with the National Association of Letter Carriers in my district about this. What's going to happen with any slowdown in mail is you're going to see veterans who rely on getting their medications through the VA mail order program, they're going to see a slowdown in that you're going to see seniors who rely on getting medications through the mail, get a slowdown in that small businesses who utilize the Postal Service farmers, artists, whoever utilizes the Postal Service. We don't want to see a slowdown. In my district, one of the big processing centers, they removed four of the large processing machines, which is going to slow down the mail. I think we'll be okay in terms of the election. The Postal Service delivers 430 million pieces of mail a day. I think they can handle ballots. But the question is what happens after the election? And how do we keep this the post office solvent?

Okay, so you know, you want to go and double the amount of money that is going towards community policing. First of all, tell us what community policing is, according to you, and number two, why you want to give them that extra money?

Well, what I what I've proposed is really to invest more in community policing. And what community policing is, is really getting more cops on the beat to be able to be in the community, working with the community, building trust so there are better relationships between police departments and the communities that they're charged with protecting and serving. You know, that's one piece of the puzzle. I would say that we have to look at policing in general, and how do we improve the relationships. And we can do that in a number of ways. We can do that by investing in things like education and mental health care, making sure that officers are given tools to be able to deal with the issues that they confront out in the public nowadays, because they're being asked to do a lot more than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago. Policing has changed. And we want to make sure that we have well-trained departments, that we have departments that are adhering to strict standards, that they're holding bad actors accountable, that they're providing things like body cameras, which have shown to hold bad actors accountable. And to me, it's not an either or. You can support law enforcement, you can support Black Lives Matter. And you want to make sure that we're doing something that we can see a better relationship moving forward here. It's going to come in a number of forms, but we certainly have to improve relationships. And we also have to make sure that we're standing up and calling out destruction and violence, and looting and burning and things like that, that also has no place in society.

Okay, we only have a couple minutes, but I wanted to ask you really quickly about the veterans in the nursing home. So COVID was really quite cruel in the veterans’ nursing homes. What do you say, and I know you're on the Veterans Committee. So what do you think is happening now? What should we be doing to make sure that veterans in nursing homes are safe?

Well, there's a number of things. And you're right. I think it's nursing homes in general, have seen this, but we're doing some oversight on the Veterans Committee in terms of some of the state veteran homes and the VA nursing homes that are out there. It comes down to making sure that we have adequate PPE, that we're providing testing, that we're identifying cases early before they spread out of control in nursing homes, and it takes resources to do that. So, you know, there's funding that had been appropriated. Another piece of the Heroes Act, which unfortunately the Senate has not taken up, which I think would have really helped with nursing homes, is providing things resources to states to provide strike teams to go into nursing homes early, when there are cases reported to identify them. And to make sure that they don't spread throughout the nursing home. It takes funding to do these things. And certainly when you're talking about our most vulnerable populations, our older Americans, we need to make sure we're doing everything we can to provide resources into nursing homes, into veteran nursing homes so COVID doesn't spin out of control.

Yep. Incumbent Congressman, my friend Anthony Brindisi. Thank you so much for giving us this time, Anthony. And we'll come back for one more session before this is all over. So thanks so much. I want to just say that you're running against Claudia Tenney, and we've invited her on the show, but for some reason, she's a little slow getting here. So thanks so much for being with us.

Thanks, Alan.

Dr. Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the University at Albany. He hosts the weekly Capitol Connection series, heard on public radio stations around New York. The program, for almost 12 years, highlighted interviews with Governor Mario Cuomo and now continues with conversations with state political leaders. Dr. Chartock also appears each week on The Media Project and The Roundtable and offers commentary on Morning Edition, weekdays at 7:40 a.m.