New York Congressman Antonio Delgado and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan held a Facebook live town hall Thursday afternoon. The Democrats updated residents on the latest efforts from the House and county to address COVID-19.
Delgado, of the 19th District, says there’s no set return date to Washington.
“When you really strip life down, you realize what matters most are your family, obviously your health, your community, and that’s pretty much what really matters, really matters, and what connects us is the love,” Delgado says.
He says the emergency $8.3 billion coronavirus spending bill that President Trump signed earlier this month includes funding for testing and ensures people can access testing for free. Still, he says, there is a great need to bolster testing capacity. And he mentions a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey that is now law.
“We just got through the House and was signed by the Senate and the president, the Families First bill. This bill does a number of things, including, as I noted, the family leave, the sick leave, expansion of unemployment insurance, expansion of Medicaid, helping out our first responders.”
Delgado says he fields a lot of calls about how to keep small businesses afloat and retain employees. During the town hall, he received an update.
“I’ve just learned the SBA [Small Business Administration] just declared all of New York state a disaster zone,” Delgado says.
Delgado, member of the House Small Business Committee, introduced the Small Business Repayment Relief Act of 2020 Thursday.
“So if you already have SBA loans that you’re working on or utilizing right now small business owner, we are hoping to waive your payments on those loans for the next six months,” Delgado says. “And if you get a new loan moving forward, separate and apart from the disaster loan, that, too, that repayment will be waived, and by waived, not deferred, the government will pay for it, will be waived for the next six months.”
Delgado, who also sits on the House Agriculture Committee, says he’s been working to seek relief for farmers in his sprawling 11-county district. And he spoke of a new policy from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“Our seniors who are on Medicare right now, you have the ability, CMS did away with the, or is allowing now seniors to meet with their physicians on Skype, on FaceTime, any other platforms,” says Delgado. “And, ordinarily, HIPAA might get in the way with some of the encryption stuff but, given the situation, CMS has waived that dynamic.”
Hospital bed capacity is a big issue, and Delgado says he’s working to help ensure there are more beds available in New York, especially in rural areas. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan delivered an update.
“We are still at nine confirmed cases in Ulster County. We are now rapidly upping our testing capacity. We tested a significant number yesterday. We are on track to open likely two testing sites in the county by Monday. So we’re pushing very hard on that,” Ryan says. “We still are experiencing a serious shortage on a lot of supplies, particularly personal protective equipment — PPE — these N95 masks, face shields, tieback suits, gowns.”
Meantime, Ryan added another change to the county list.
“I’ve been hearing a lot from our tourism industry. They’ve been one of the hardest hit. Mohonk is closed for 14 days. Rocking Horse Ranch has had to do a significant amount of employee furloughs,” Ryan says. “So we decided, and I ordered this morning, we’re going to give a 30-day extension at least, minimum 30-day extension on our occupancy tax collection.”
Ryan and Delgado talked about the Census.
“As everybody’s homebound, they should be receiving Census information via mail, and…” says Ryan.
“Fill it out,” Delgado says.
“Fill it out, please. This is critically important,” Ryan says. “I mean this is actually, the situation we’re in is a perfect example of why the Census matters.
“Yes,” says Delgado.
“All the aid from the federal level all the way on down is allocated based on population, which is tracked by Census,” says Ryan.
“I think now we have reached a point where there is a collective sense of what we should not be doing,” Delgado says. “There’s a collective sense that we…”
“I hope, except for some kids down in Florida on Spring Break,” Ryan quipped.
Several residents asked about support for gig workers, saying they feel invisible. Delgado says there is an ongoing conversation in Washington about including all types of workers in the next relief package. Delgado will hold a telephone town hall Friday evening, his first via telephone. He has held 35 in-person town halls since taking office.