New York Congressman Antonio Delgado held a telephone town hall Friday. The Democrat from the 19th District was joined by a few others to help address questions and concerns about the pandemic.
During his third telephone town hall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Delgado delivered an update about federal coronavirus stimulus packages, including the most recent $2.2 trillion aid package President Trump signed at the end of March, known as the CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Lori (Laurie?) from Cobleskill in Schoharie County is concerned about farmers.
“But I’m getting very concerned about farmers that are dumping milk because New York state has rules that won’t allow them to sell it unpasteurized, and they work every single day and they’re busting their butts and they’re just dumping their product on the ground outside,” Lori (Laurie?) says. “I know my assemblyman Chris Tague, thank you very much, has worked very hard at representing the dairy and farm industry in this county; and I just want to know since you keep mentioning the farmer thing, what’s being done for those guys? It’s important.”
Delgado, in part, responds, followed by Republican state Assemblyman Chris Tague.
“I’m also concerned, I should say, with the SBA’s recent finding that farmers are not eligible for the SBA’s Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan program I alluded to during my remarks with regards to small businesses,” Delgado says. “I led an 86-person bipartisan member letter calling for the SBA to change this rule and to allow farmers to access this disaster loan program that currently small businesses are able to access. And, as of right now, we believe that farmers are eligible for the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program I spoke about but it’s unclear as to whether or not this is indeed the case. And I am working very hard to make sure we get clarification on that.”
“We have also been doing some research in my office to see if these farmers will quality for the SBA. The only other thing that I think that we might be able to do together, along with Senator Seward’s staff, is put a joint statement and letter to the governor to see what could be done to the Department of Agriculture in New York state to help these farmers for the next 6-8 weeks, those that are dumping the milk,” Tague says. “The other thing is is to see if there’s a possibility of waiving those regulations during this pandemic to make sure that these folks’ milk gets picked up.”
Delgado spoke about a number of programs in the aid package, including the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides Small Business Association loans of up to 2.5 times an employer’s monthly payroll to cover a wide range of expenses during the immediate crisis. Dan Rickman is deputy district director for the SBA in Syracuse. He says the Paycheck Protection Program provides immediate assistance and went live Friday. Speaking Friday evening during Delgado’s call, Rickman had some numbers.
“Since 5 p.m., I’m happy to share that over 12,000 loans have been approved and for up to, over $3.7 billion across the county. So I’ll be real excited to see when we get our local data so we can start speaking to those local efforts,” Rickman says. “But, the fact of the matter is folks are able to apply for this program today, to apply for the up to eight weeks of funding for their payroll so that they can rehire their employees if they’ve had to lay them off due to closing their businesses down or, indeed, maintaining those paychecks.”
He says small businesses may still apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Rickman also had advice for farmers apropos of the agricultural concerns voiced earlier.
“Certainly it’s challenging that agricultural concerns are not eligible for the EIDL program, the Economic Injury Disaster loans,” says Rickman. “They are eligible for PPP, so I would encourage agricultural concerns to take advantage of that fact as soon as they can.”
Delgado responded to a concern about access to testing and PPE, or personal protective equipment.
“The Administration has yet to take steps to stop U.S. aid and private companies from exporting millions of masks and other PPE daily despite the desperate need of hospitals and healthcare facilities here at home. So I am very troubled by that reality, and I would hope and urge the Administration to take steps to prevent that from happening," Delgado says. "We are at the epicenter, as a country, of what’s ongoing worldwide with the most cases, and we have the most cases here in New York. So we really need to make sure that where there are PPE that PPE is being provided where it needs to go. It’s even more disturbing that, in the news this week, thousands of ventilators in our national stockpile are damaged, and we didn’t really maintain this equipment.
Tague says he worked with Delgado to return constituents from abroad to the U.S., to an area represented by both Tague and Delgado. And he offered closing remarks during the call.
“One of the biggest frustrations I have is some people still aren’t taking this seriously. I can tell you firsthand I have two personal dear friends that are both fighting for their life right now in an ICU unit. Both are on respirators, and it cuts very close to home,” Tague says. “I want everybody to know that my office is working 24/7. You can contact us; even if you don’t live in my district, we will get the information to the person it should go to, another representative for your district, and we will continue to work with the congressman.”
“We know how to rally around each other. We know it and we’ve done it and we’ve done it well. We know how to care .We have big hearts. We are compassionate, and we know how to love. And so all of that is going to be tested right now,” Delgado says. “But I am highly confident that we will meet this challenge in the days and in the months ahead.”
Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith also spoke on the call.