Written by Michael Goot in The Post-Star on April 6, 2020

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is asking that farmers be made eligible for funding through the coronavirus stimulus bill.

Last week, Stefanik signed onto a letter to Small Business Administration and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, asking that farms be able to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans. The letter seeks support for dairy farmers in particular who have seen a decline in milk prices and loss of access to local and regional markets.

“Our farmers are in serious need of immediate assistance,” Stefanik said in a news release. “I have spoken directly with farmers throughout the North Country and understand the significant role that they play within our communities and local economies.”

Checks will come without filing

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Stefanik are praising the U.S. Treasury Department for reversing its requirement that seniors receiving Social Security file a tax return to receive their stimulus check from the COVID-19 stimulus package.

“I’m grateful to U.S. Treasury for reversing this policy, as filing tax returns is an often confusing and intensive process,” Stefanik said in a news release.

“I’m glad the IRS heeded my call and reversed course, because asking vulnerable individuals living in the epicenter of this global pandemic to jump through unnecessary hoops to get their much-needed cash assistance is irresponsible,” Schumer said in a news release.

More stimulus funding sought

Speaking of the stimulus package, Stefanik is asking that New York receive a larger share of the money in any further federal COVID-19 relief legislation.

The last stimulus package allocated money to state and local governments based upon population and not the amount of cases or impact on the state, according to a news release. There was a minimum allocation of $1.2 billion, which Stefanik said gave low-population states a disproportionate share of the funds.

“Future legislative relief packages need to reflect the severe impact this crisis has had on New York and our state and local budgets when allocating critical resources,” she said.

Seeking more health care funds

Stefanik has joined other members of the New York and New Jersey congressional delegations asking that the secretary of Health and Human Services prioritize funding for regional hospitals.

“Our health care professionals and facilities across New York state are facing an unprecedented challenge with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing each day,” Stefanik said in a news release. “They need critical federal support to help them prepare for surge capacity, increase their workforce, and obtain essential resources like personal protective equipment and testing supplies.”

Stefanik is also seeking more funds for community health centers.

Supporting Northern Border Regional Commission

Stefanik on Friday introduced legislation to make grant funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission more accessible.

The bill would allow the commission to temporarily contribute 100% of the cost of the projects that are awarded funding. Typically, grant recipients need to match 20% of the cost.

Locally, the village of Lake George received $500,000 toward the $24 million cost of its new wastewater treatment plant.

Schumer calls for medical equipment ‘czar’

Schumer on Thursday sent a letter to President Donald Trump, asking him to appoint a senior military officer to implement a government-wide plan for the increased production, procurement and distribution of critically needed medical devices and equipment.

Schumer said the president should use his authority under the Defense Production Act to address this issue.

“While companies that volunteer to produce ventilators and PPE are to be commended and are appreciated, America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic,” Schumer said in the letter. “It is long past the time for your administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem.”

Stec criticizes ventilator decision

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, is among the politicians criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to transfer ventilators from upstate to downstate, if they are needed, to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Stec said this follows a decision by the governor to relocate COVID-19 patients from New York City to the North Country and upstate hospitals, if necessary as a last resort.

Stec said he understands that New York City is reaching the apex of infection, but he believes the state needs to limit movement of people from New York City and surrounding hot spots.

“Our ventilators and protection equipment must remain here with us for when North Country and upstate hospitals need to use them to care for our residents,” he said in a news release. “Our hospitals already possess precious few ventilators and PPE, and we are going to need all of them to care for our vulnerable population. We can’t have these vital resources taken from us and be expected to care for a deluge of downstate patients, as well as our own.”

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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