“After more than a year of battling COVID-19, our communities have faced significant challenges as this virus changed nearly every facet of our lives. Vaccine distribution shows us that the end is in sight, but our state’s recovery depends on significant investment to address coronavirus-related issues and the long-term problems the pandemic exacerbated.
“As Chair of the Economic Development Committee, I am fighting for an inclusive economic recovery that will include all our families and promote economic, social and racial equity.Assisting small businesses that employ the majority of our families and have been severely impacted by the pandemic while also promoting workforce development is a top priority to ensure our families have jobs. We have proposed a state budget that provides $1 billion for the Small Business Reopening and Relief Program to help small-business owners cover a wide range of expenses. $500 million from this grant program has been set aside for priority-based applications to help communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, such as minority- and women-owned businesses, micro-businesses with 10 employees or less, and veteran-owned and operated businesses.
“The plan also includes $50 million for the COVID-19 Recovery Workforce Initiative to boost career training statewide, which will also prioritize communities that have been hardest-hit during the pandemic, including women, minorities and those on unemployment benefits.
“Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the arts community. Rochester is fortunate to have many arts organizations that represent music, theater, dance, and visual arts. For the Garth Fagan Dance Company to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to the Memorial Art Gallery to the Gay Men’s Chorus our community has many opportunities to educate our children and to entertain our minds. I am pleased to join my colleagues to propose adding $100 million for the creation of a new Arts Recovery and Revitalization Program to assist with the reopening efforts of various arts organizations throughout New York State, as well as to provide financial support for the conversion of new outdoor venue spaces. These are the kinds of investments in our workforce and small businesses that will help ensure New York can recover stronger than ever from these trying times.
“When it comes to our family’s health and their health care, we need smart budget planning to address these issues in a consistent way, year after year. I am supporting a budget proposal which includes restoration of significant funding for Medicaid services that so many rely upon for their health care needs, especially during these trying times. In particular, our budget proposal restores $393 million in public health program cuts, including more than $376 million to proposed Medicaid cuts to make sure we aren’t balancing the budget on the people who need the most help – especially as we try to address the systemic injustices brought to light by the pandemic. The areas that I fought so hard to protect include:
- Restoring $144.58 million to other Medicaid cuts in the executive budget, including:
- Rejecting a $94 million across-the-board cut
- Rejecting a $6.98 million reduction for Office for People with Developmental Disabilities programs
- $43.6 million to delay the carve-out of the pharmacy benefit for 340B and HIV Special Needs Plans providers to fee-for-service for three years
Working the Trillium Health and Strong Health, I fought for restoration of the 340B program which requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide outpatient prescriptions at a reduced price to healthcare organizations that serve a high amount of low-income Medicaid, Medicare and Supplemental Security Income patients and those savings stay with organizations so they are able to provide services to the most vulnerable among us. The executive’s proposed cuts to this program would result in the safety-net hospitals and clinics losing significant dollars that they normally reinvest into health services, and we cannot let that happen.
“The Assembly’s proposal also continues the state’s significant investments in infrastructure upgrades, such as the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs), to improve roads and bridges across the state.In the area of transportation, public transit is vitally important to many of our families thus we are restoring $9.7 million intended for upstate transit systems that were cut by the executive budget.
“When it comes to paying for education at the local level, the Assembly’s plan protects the School Tax Relief (STAR) Program by rejecting an executive budget proposal to close entry into the Enhanced STAR exemption program. Our seniors cannot be priced out of their homes or removed from our communities because of the governor’s new taxing scheme. Currently, when homeowners reach age 65, they may qualify for the Enhanced STAR exemption and receive an increased tax break on their school taxes. The executive proposed turning it into a credit program where seniors would have to wait to receive a check with their savings but pay more upfront. The governor continues to make attempts to change the STAR program; it needs to be left alone.
“Our plan increases education funding by $3.1 billion, improves access to affordable childcare, and includes funding for the Rochester City School District monitor to help improve outcomes for local students. I fought hard last year to get a monitor installed, and I’m encouraged to see that we will continue to provide funding to keep her in place. The Assembly proposal represents an important step forward for our communities, and I’ll continue working to ensure the final budget delivers for our families.”