Good morning from home…

The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to change things at the state and federal levels.

This past Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill, by a 96-0 margin. There was plenty of last-minute drama in both the Senate and the House, including the Kentucky congressman, Thomas Massie’s attempt to require House members to take a recorded tally as opposed to a voice vote, which was ultimately unsuccessful when the House approved the package. But his threat compelled dozens, if not hundreds, of lawmakers to return to Capitol Hill from their home districts amid a pandemic. Former secretary of State John Kerry tweeted that the congressman had “tested positive for being an asshole” and “must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.” 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo lashed out at the bill as “a drop in the bucket” for his state—which now has over 59,000 coronavirus cases—and held an emergency call with New York’s House delegation, demanding they push for a stronger package. This was followed, soon after, by Senator Chuck Schumer organizing his own call with the same House members to help rally support for the bill. Schumer, one of the lead negotiators on the legislation in the first place, appeared more successful as the House passed it by an overwhelming voice vote—including strong support from the New York delegation—on Friday. President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law later that day.

Meanwhile, as New Yorkers across the state join hands and come together to support each other, New York’s two most powerful elected officials continued to spar. Cuomo rejected $6 billion in federal funding, claiming language attached to the appropriation would limit New York’s ability to make changes and cuts to the state’s Medicaid program and has very publicly blamed Schumer. In his briefing today, Cuomo said, “I say to Sen. Schumer it would be nice if he actually passed a piece of legislation that is good for the state of New York.” Schumer, of course, has a different take. His office put out a statement detailing $112 billion for New York in the most recent stimulus package—the $40 billion “plus” including $25 billion in direct aid to our hospitals, $33 billion for small businesses, $1 billion to New York State schools, billions to individuals—touting a commitment from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to work directly with New York State to spend down the money. Although never close, Schumer and Cuomo reached a détente early in Cuomo’s gubernatorial tenure premised on the fact that a political fight between the two of them would only serve to bring them both down, while potentially damaging their mutual constituents. Any further deterioration of that peace agreement will certainly harm New York and New Yorkers. It could not come at a worse time.

In the same briefing today, Cuomo extended his New York on Pause Order through April 15. This is the directive that all non-essential businesses statewide must close in-office personnel functions and that bans all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason. The Governor said that this order will be reassessed come April 15.

New York’s Fiscal Year ends on March 31. In discussions this week regarding a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Cuomo and his top budget aide, Robert Mujica, stated that the budget will likely include a plan to allow for quarterly adjustments based on revenue, adding that current projections show a $15 billion loss in State revenue. Cuomo intends these adjustments to be made unilaterally by the Executive Branch however the Assembly floated a proposal in which the Legislature could overrule or modify those budget adjustments within a certain timeframe.

The New York State Senate held a three-minute-long session yesterday to pass Resolution No. 3108. The resolution would allow for remote voting during “state-declared” emergencies and is effective for the 2020 session only. The Assembly is scheduled to convene at 1:00 pm today. According to a press release from Assembly Speaker Heastie, they will pass the resolution (E.854) on temporary voting procedures, introduced by Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes. Chamber rules will “allow for expedited voting”, future remote voting and immediately allow for fast roll calls. 

The important legislation passed in Washington this week–the CARES Act–provides an unprecedented level of emergency assistance for seven main groups impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic: individuals, small businesses, big corporations, hospitals and public health, federal safety net, state and local governments, and education. The first federal response package was passed just a little over three weeks ago, providing $8.3 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations to provide immediate support to combat COVID-19 spread, pursue medical remedies, and support health care infrastructure. The second response came in the $100 billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a week and a half later, adding refundable tax credit for two weeks of paid sick leave, refundable tax credit for 10 weeks of paid family medical leave, emergency grants for unemployment insurance, and nutrition assistance waivers. The CARES Act, passed on Friday, is the third aid package and is meant to keep businesses and individuals afloat during an unprecedented freeze on the majority of American life.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already spoken with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss issues she wants addressed in a Phase Four coronavirus relief package, including expanding who qualifies for paid family and medical leave, stronger OSHA protections for workers, action to protect pensions, increased SNAP funding, more funding for state and local governments, and ensuring free coronavirus treatment. The goal of Phase 4 is an economic jumpstart. We know that Republicans in the Senate are pushing for Phase 4 to include regulatory reform, more corporate tax relief, and an “infrastructure plan that pulls government and the private sector together to improve transportation and other core infrastructure needs.”

The timeline on the Phase Four package will become clearer in the coming weeks, but it is likely to be the first order of business when the House and Senate return to Washington after April 20th.

Jack O’Donnell

America’s Make-or-Break Week

Congress has passed a $2 trillion rescue plan but before those funds start to flow, American companies from the owner of a single liquor store in Boston to corporate giants like Macy’sInc., must decide what to do about April’s bills: Which obligations do they pay and which can they put off? How many employees can they afford to keep on the payroll? Can they get a break on rent? The decisions they make this week could shape how deeply the economy is damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. [Read more.]


Three Ex-Aides to Cuomo Take Key Roles Amid Pandemic

Though the health consequences of COVID-19 may be months from receding, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday said that he is already putting in motion a plan to help restart New York’s flailing economy and is enlisting former top aides in those efforts. Cuomo, in his third term as governor, is getting the volunteer assistance of ex-secretaries to the governor William Mulrow and Steven Cohen, to help with what the governor called the “NYS Forward Plan.” [Read more.]

Dr. Fauci Doughnuts Are Selling Like Hotcakes at Donuts Delite

You’re America’s top infectious disease expert. You’ve served as an adviser to every president since Ronald Reagan. You’re unquestionably “the star,” to use President Trump’s term, of the U.S. coronavirus task force’s televised daily briefings. So where do you go from there? Directly onto a doughnut. [Read more.]

Opinion: First Things First—This Year, the State Budget Should Focus on the Coronavirus Emergency; Other Policy Can Wait

Having the governor jam all kinds of non-fiscal policy changes into the state budget has never been a good way to make laws. That rule is bolded and underlined this year. A coronavirus-hobbled state is staring at a $15 billion-and-growing deficit; attacking it while trying to rescue recession-plagued workers and businesses are jobs one, two and three. [Read more.]

Bill de Blasio Had His Worst Week As Mayor

“For the vast majority of New Yorkers, life is going on pretty normally right now,” Bill de Blasio said on Morning Joe March 10, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 1,000. “We want to encourage that.” He added that there was a “misperception” that the disease “hangs in the air waiting to catch you. No, it takes direct person-to-person contact.” [Read more.]

Abbey Road Fixed While Lockdown Curbs Tourism

Is there a more famous traffic crossing on the planet than the one on Abbey Road? (No, seriously: Is there?) The lack of tourists in London right now has finally given the city’s government a chance to restore Abbey Road to its former glory. [Read more.]

Special Election in 27th District Will Fall on Date of GOP Primary

On the same day in June, Christopher L. Jacobs will appear on two separate ballots for the same 27th Congressional District seat – one in a special election to immediately fill the seat until Dec. 31, and one in the Republican primary to determine that party’s candidate in the November election to fill the seat Jan. 1. That means some people will have the opportunity to vote for – or against – him twice in one day for the same seat. [Read more.]

The 10 Best Breads in the World

Bread has sustained cultures across the globe, and we all have our favorites. Bread is personal. [Read more.]

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