Because of the coronavirus, New York’s D.C. delegation is working overtime.
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 May 11th.
Alan Chartock: Anthony Brindisi, the congressman from New York's beautiful 22nd congressional district. How do you get along with all your congressional neighbors, you know, like in the next district over to the east?
Representative Anthony Brindisi: We actually get along very well. I'm surrounded by a number of representatives here in my district. To my east, I have Congressman Delgado. To the north, I have Congresswoman Stefanik. To my West, I have Congressman Katko. And to my Southwest here, my immediate colleague in the southern tier is Congressman Reed. So we get along very well. I've worked with them all over the last year and a half. Congressman Delgado and I work a lot on agricultural issues being on the AG committee, helping to support our farmers do a lot of work with Congresswoman Stefanik We both sit on the Armed Services Committee. So we have some areas there that that overlap. We work together on as well as in agriculture. John Katko, and I are probably the two that work together the most. John and I both represent the central New York Region, and we share a county. So we're constantly working together on every issue, it seems like and as well as Congressman Reed. He and I are members of the bipartisan problem solvers caucus. That's 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans in the House, it's a bipartisan caucus, and he's the Republican co-chair, and we work together on a number of issues as well. So I would say that there's good working relationships across the aisle, among most members in the delegation, and I enjoy working with all of them.
Okay, now everybody's talking about reopening. If the 22nd District, your district reopens, what would that look like? What do you, what would you be afraid of?
Well, one thing I am afraid of is we don't follow the advice of public health experts and do something too quickly, which could result in second wave of this pandemic coming through. And then even further damage to our economy. Across the board with the governor's leadership here, it looks like New York is going at a very cautious approach here in terms of reopening. It’s being done on a regional basis, which is the right thing to do. Because New York is, obviously the city has been hit much harder than upstate New York, and you have to have different timelines in terms of reopening. But I've talked to the county leaders in each county, in the congressional district that I represent, and they're all working collaboratively on a reopening plan, which ultimately has to be approved by the state. And it's gonna be done in phases, which is the right thing to do. And then we got to really be cautious and monitor this thing. As part of any reopening, we have to have much more aggressive testing. There hasn't been enough testing out there. We’ve got to have contact tracing, we got to make sure we have enough supplies, and hospital capacity for our frontline workers. My big fear is that many of these states across the country are moving too rapidly here without meeting the guidelines that were put in place by the White House, the Coronavirus response task force there as well as the CDC, and then moving without meeting these guidelines, which could be very dangerous because as you're seeing in other countries across the world right now, South Korea is having a another problem with some nightclubs. They’re seeing a flare up. So you got to do this in a thoughtful way. And make sure that you're leading with the guidance of the public health experts, not politics.
The Americans got 1,200 dollars in stimulus checks. And businesses have received paycheck protection grants so they can avoid layoffs. But there's talk that we may have to get to 2021 before we have a vaccine, so what economic stimulus steps did the federal government take to help people who are out of work?
Well, there's been a number of things that have been done already. You mentioned a few of them. They're the direct stimulus payments, the paycheck Protection Program, the PPP, that's for small businesses to be able to cover payroll and other expenses during this time period. There was an expansion of the unemployment, an additional $600 per week on employment from the federal government. But it looks like it's not going to be enough. This certainly is lasting longer than was anticipated. And we're going to have to take further fiscal and monetary actions to try and help get the economy back on track. That's something that the House is working on right now. We're due back pretty soon to vote. Another coronavirus response act and in that, I assume there's going to be a significant amount assistance for state and local governments, more assistance for small businesses, more assistance for individuals and families. That's all taking shape right now. And more, more may have to be done. We have to be mindful of this. I'll say this, though my preference is that any spending that's done right now, in terms of the federal response should be directed towards COVID-19 and the fallout as a result of the coronavirus. I don't think it's a time to be spending on other wish list type items out there that are Democratic or Republican priorities from before this. We have to be focusing on the response to this pandemic, and that's what we should be appropriating money for. Right now.
Is there one, I hate to call you on this, but is there one such act that you think people are maybe heading for that they shouldn't be at a time when we should be you know, concentrating on the virus
There's been I've sat on a number of conference calls over the last couple of weeks just listening to members of Congress from across the country, and everyone has their own wish list or priority type of item in there. So it's hard to pinpoint one, there's been so many that have been mentioned. But obviously, the people that are hurting most right now are the folks who are out of work and the small businesses that are shut down, and the frontline workers who are out there keeping us safe. So we have to be very targeted here in the aid that we appropriate, mindful of the fact that we are spending a lot of money right now that we're going to have to confront in terms of debt and deficits later on.
Okay, you're on the Agriculture Committee. I want to ask you this. You mentioned it before, has this virus thing been rough on the farmers.
This is one of the greatest crisis to face our farmers in many, many years. And for my area where dairy is the number one commodity, it's been very, very rough on dairy farmers because of the drop in demand in dairy among restaurants as well as school lunch programs. So there's an excess supply out there right now, which has caused prices to plummet. And that's putting a lot of strain on our dairy farmers across the state right now. We did appropriate money in the CARES Act for USDA, US Department of Agriculture, to make some direct payments to farmers, as well as purchase up some excess supply of products, because there still is a lot of demand out there. Maybe it's not necessarily in the restaurant industry or among the school lunch programs, however, food banks are seeing a record amount of demand, the need for food in senior nutrition programs and things like that. All are experiencing high demand. So USDA has funding available to them to purchase all kinds of agricultural products to get it towards food banks, and not- for-profits, or faith groups who are feeding people who are who are hungry right now. I've been a little upset with USDA at the pace that they're moving to get this money out to farmers, in my opinion it’s not gone fast enough, and we may lose some small and medium sized farms here across the state because of this pandemic. And that would be awful to see that happen, because it's such an important part of our way of life here in upstate New York. And for those of us that like to eat local and know where our food is coming from, you know, we want to see these small and mid-sized farmers stay in business.
Congressman Anthony Brindisi. He a first term democrat from New York's 22nd congressional district. We appreciate the fact that you come on and talk to us, Anthony, and we'll be looking forward to the next one. Thanks.
Thanks, Alan. Great to be with you.