Written by Keith Lobdell in The Sun Community News on March 31, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. | Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R) said she felt New York State was too slow in restricting prisoner transfers between facilities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic during her Tuesday briefing with local media.

“The state was too slow to respond to this,” she said. “It became an issue a few weeks ago, and correction officers were concerned their perspective was not being heard.”

Stefanik said she supported a motion by NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones to restrict transfers to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but correction officers and families are still concerned.

“They were concerned about the transports and also they were not practicing social distancing,” said Stefanik, relating a story from a correctional officer and family.

“He felt he might have contracted the virus,” she said. “They have a family member with a pre-existing condition, so when they go home, they slept in their car and then went back to work in the morning. This is unacceptable. They have to be getting the information they need.”

She added there had been a breakdown of communication between correctional facilities and departments of public health, especially in Franklin and Essex County, where her office had to step in and help streamline the flow of information.

She added the correctional system also had to make sure that there is not a transmission of the disease to the inmates as well.

Limiting travel

Stefanik urged state residents to abide by travel restrictions and proper social distancing, saying online rental companies like Airbnb, who was specifically named, need to “prioritize the public health and should be working closely with counties to make sure we do not have non-essential travel.”

“I am concerned about non-essential travel,” Stefanik said. “Our county officials have been very clear they want to mitigate any non-essential travel into the area. Our hospitals are not in the same position as other hospitals downstate as far as hospital beds available.”

Payment Protection Program

Stefanik talked about the Payment Protection Program for small businesses with under 500 employees, saying parts of the loans to companies would be forgiven if the funds went to payroll expenses, rent or mortgage, and utilities.

“We are going to get a sense in the next couple of weeks about how popular this program is and if we need to ramp it up in future packages,” she said.

Fiscal responsibility

When asked about the deficit the country is currently facing while adding onto it in order to meet the needs of citizens, Stefanik said this emergency proves the need for fiscal responsibility in the good times.

“We need to have a much more fiscally responsible approach so we can react in times of crisis when we need to ramp up spending,” she said. “We need to be able to ramp up support in times of crisis, and when we are not in times of crisis, we need to be fiscally responsible and be good stewards of the taxpayers. Just like families who save up when they have the ability to be prepared in case of an emergency.”

Moving ahead, slowly

“We are taking it day by day,” said Stefanik about those wondering when an end to protective orders may come.

She added many people have stepped forward to volunteer and help those in need.

“We are already seeing volunteers step up in terms of retired health care experts and health care providers,” Stefanik said. “We have volunteers coming forward to deliver meals to the senior families and for the schools. We have people who are stepping up and trying to help bring all hands on deck. I do see people throughout the district going above and beyond in all sorts of ways.

“We also need mental health experts to volunteer if they can because there are a lot of mental health issues that are involved in this time,” Stefanik added.

She also said people can support local businesses.

“Even buying small gift certificates to use at a future time can help our small businesses—ordering takeout for pickup. You would not believe how grateful these companies are when you do this. Also, make sure you are supporting local news outlets as they report on what is going on.”

You can read the full article at https://www.suncommunitynews.com/