Governor Andrew Cuomo has held briefings for 75 straight days during the pandemic, but the legislative session in Albany – scheduled to run through June – has slowed to a crawl after the budget passed in early April. WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas spoke with 109th district Assemblywoman Pat Fahy about what comes next.
Fahy says she typically works nearly 12 hours a day. And the Albany Democrat says the pandemic hasn’t slowed her down.
Thursday she co-moderated a virtual town hall with 108th district Assemblyman John McDonald, also a Democrat, then joined the entire Assembly majority for a lengthy online conference.
"We spent three and a half hours on a conference call with the Commissioner of Labor, Just trying to address the thousands of individuals who are backlogged in receiving unemployment insurance funds. So while they've already processed two million, every member in the state has a backlog of a hundred to multiple hundreds of individuals who have not been able to access their benefits yet."
Fahy says lawmakers, like everybody else, are anxious to get the economy back on track.
"Technically this is around the time when we would be winding down by the end of June. This year, as with everything else, given the complete tragedy and upheaval of the pandemic that we are all still grappling with, I expect that we could come back at any time this year. Hopefully sooner rather than later. We are in desperate need of that fourth stimulus, these are federal dollars to help address rent relief issues, to help address education, both K-12 and higher ed, let alone a myriad of other issues. And if we do not get those federal dollars for state and local governments, we will be looking at very serious budget cuts that none of us want to do, but as you've read, we are already about 13 billion dollars in the hole or a shortfall for just this year."
Fahy notes there are more than 300 new bills pending, mostly related to the pandemic. She adds lawmakers have "a lot to do when it comes to nursing homes."
"As you know, a colleague has requested an independent investigation of the nursing homes, but I've also got concerns about how, the solutions that were looking at right now: We need to test more, but we also need to make sure that it's done in a way that helps solve the problem, not adds to more problems within the nursing home."
Fahy says she has had a keen interest in what's happening with nursing homes since the pandemic began.
"I should be clear. I'm one that has spoken to the Attorney General's office and looked for serious intervention with regard to the deaths and other tragedies in our nursing homes. At the same time though, I think the current proposal for testing two times a week in all of our nursing homes is not targeted. We still have shortages of tests up here, and the same day that directive came out, our nursing homes and hospitals were told that the Wadsworth lab would no longer even process the tests.
And by the way, the test take three to five days to get results. So I think it's a well-intended try to get at the crisis of the nursing homes, but this is not the way to solve it. We need a more targeted approach. We need to do a round of testing absolutely, and then go from there, to get it where the real problem areas are, among a number of the nursing homes, but far from all of them,"
Fahy says she will know more once the governor releases his proposed budget cuts.
"So good news bad news lots of work to do."