March 27 Legislative Update

Shenker Russo and Clark LLP Legislative Update

This week in Albany…

COVID-19 Update

This morning, Governor Cuomo held another Press Conference updating the state on the COVID-19 situation. During the Press Conference, the Governor announced that he has begun looking at four more sites for potential temporary hospitals. The Governor’s goal is to have at least one temporary hospital in all five boroughs and on Long Island. The Governor also announced updated language on essential businesses on the Empire State Development’s website. Specifically, the new language clarifies which construction is considered essential. The new language states:

  • All non-essential construction must shut down except emergency construction, (e.g. a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site).
  • Essential construction may continue and includes roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or healthcare facilities, affordable housing, and homeless shelters. At every site, if essential or emergency non-essential construction, this includes maintaining social distance, including for purposes of elevators/meals/entry and exit. Sites that cannot maintain distance and safety best practices must close and enforcement will be provided by the state in coordination with the city/local governments. This will include fines of up to $10,000 per violation
  • For purposes of this section, construction work does not include a single worker who is the sole employee/worker on a job site.

The Governor also announced this morning that he will be amending his Executive Order 202 to keep schools closed statewide for another two weeks beginning April 1st. On, or around April 16th, when the new two-week period is set to expire, the state Government will reassess the COVID-19 situation and determine if schools should re-open or remain closed.

Congress passes $2 Trillion Federal Relief Package

On Wednesday, the Senate approved a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at tackling the harmful effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The House followed by passing the package today. Some of the major provisions of the package include:

  • The creation of a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state, local and tribal governments.
  • Direct payments to lower and middle-income Americans. Individual adults will receive $1,200, and married couples will receive $2,400. The payments also include $500 for every child under the age of 17.
  • Expansion of unemployment insurance from three to four months and providing temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week. This is in addition to, and the same time as, regular state and federal UI benefits. This provision also provides part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers with access to unemployment insurance benefits, allows employers to receive an advance tax credit from the Treasury instead of having to be reimbursed on the back end, a $260 billion investment in the unemployment insurance program and the creation of regulatory authority to implement the tax credit advances.
  • $140.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services
  • $4.3 billion to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • $425 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • $200 million to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • Establishment of a $500 billion lending fund for businesses, cities, and states

While we are still working to get clarification on the details of this measure, do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have regarding what was included in the federal stimulus package.

New York State Budget

Despite the current COVID-19 crisis, the New York State Budget negotiations have continued all this week. The Governor has said that the effects of COVID-19 could lead to a revenue shortfall of $10-15 billion, and the Governor has expressed disappointment in the $2 trillion stimulus package, which he says gives New York nothing to address any shortfall in revenue. This has thrown the budget negotiations into uncertainty, but the Governor has now begun pushing for a slimmed-down budget and has suggested a system where the state’s budget is adjusted periodically. The Governor’s proposal would provide the state budget division with the authority to re-evaluate state spending each quarter. This would give the budget division the authority to potentially slash funding earmarked for local governments, schools and other entities as the state’s actual revenue numbers are reported. Despite the Governor suggesting implementing this system, it is unclear whether the State Legislature will approve this proposal or not.

It was previously reported that the State Senate was trying to return to Albany on Thursday and have the budget passed by today. Obviously, that is not what happened. We do know that both Houses and the Governor are working to conclude the budget negotiations as soon as possible and certainly no later than the April 1st deadline. Both Houses are considering passing a Resolution that would allow members to vote on the legislation remotely. This proposal comes on the heels of a fourth member of the Assembly, Assemblyman Brian Miller, announcing today that he has tested positive for COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the State Budget process closely, advocate appropriately on those items of importance to you, and keep you up-to-date with all the latest developments.

Bill Reports

The Legislature introduced 103 bills this week and acted on none. There have been no Committee Agendas announced for next week. The Governor has not acted on any legislation as well.

If nothing is attached, there were no actions on any of your marked bills this week.

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