A Strong Covid-19 Response Today Can Help Our Long-Term Recovery Tomorrow

Legislative Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay
March 20, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a national emergency, impacting nearly every community across the state and nation. As the public health crisis evolves, urgent measures are being put in place to contain the spread of the disease.

From changing individual personal habits to blanket, statewide mandates - we have all been required to make significant adjustments and establish a “new normal” within our daily routines. Families, businesses, schools and local governments have all felt the direct impact of COVID-19 and the serious precautionary guidelines needed to mitigate the crisis.

This week in the Legislature was no different. As of Friday morning, the number of cases in New York state had grown to 4,152, with New York City (2,469 cases) accounting for more than half of the positive results. The growing number of cases is the direct result of more tests being administered. Just this week, new measures were announced to contain the spread of COVID-19 and assist those facing fiscal challenges. Some of these measures include:

  • a new requirement passed by the Legislature will provide paid sick leave to any employee quarantined as a result of exposure to COVID-19;
  • workplace restrictions allow for only 25% of personnel in businesses classified as “non-essential” to report to the workplace;
  • a 90-day freeze on mortgage payments to homeowners who are experiencing financial hardships (their company has closed, they’ve been laid off or face a reduction in hours) due to COVID-19; and
  • banks will have to temporarily suspend overdraft fees on ATMs and credit cards.


“Social distancing” restrictions are taking a heavy toll, especially on the small business community. Many have been forced to close early or temporarily shut their doors completely, and employees have seen their hours cut or face layoffs. Local businesses are fighting for survival and facing an uncertain future. To provide critical assistance, this week, the Assembly Minority Conference proposed the Small Business Emergency Recovery Act of 2020. The proposal includes:

  • Directing $890 million from the state’s settlement reserve fund to small businesses;
  • Establishing a 0% loan program dedicated to helping small businesses meet payroll commitments;
  • Repurposing available tax credits to existing small businesses;
  • Using all economic development discretionary funding for small businesses within New York state; and
  • Moving deadlines for payment of business taxes 180 days into the future.

The realities now facing our job creators and employees will almost certainly be felt well into the future. If you or someone you know is unemployed due to the business closures or quarantines in place due to this current health crisis, New York State has waived the seven-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits. For more information or to apply, visit https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm


Connecting with health professionals remotely, by phone or video conference will be an instrumental step to help contain COVID-19 and “flatten the curve.” In addition to providing critical information on symptoms or best practices, telehealth services can reduce emergency room visits at a time when hospital capacity will be stressed.

Here at home, Oswego County is one of the few counties that has yet to see a positive case of COVID-19. According the state Department of Health, Jefferson County has one confirmed positive case and Onondaga County has five confirmed cases. Health officials are making themselves available to provide information, address concerns and answer questions related to the virus. Anyone seeking information can call the Oswego County Health Hotline at 315-349-3330, Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the Jefferson County Health Department has information available on their website; (https://co.jefferson.ny.us/departments/PublicHealth) and the Onondaga County Health Department has information available on their website (http://www.ongov.net/health/coronavirus.html).

I hope each of you continues to stay healthy, use best-practices for public health and safety and review the guidance being provided by health officials as we collectively get through this unprecedented challenge.