U.S. Rep. Tom Reed has many concerns about the latest stimulus bill House Democrats have put forward — particularly issues he did not see connected to the coronavirus crisis.
House Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are proposing a $3 trillion relief package that would include nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments.
Reed, in his weekly telephone press conference with reporters from around the 23rd Congressional District Wednesday, called the House bill “a partisan exercise” without any input from House Republicans, the Senate or the White House.
For example, Reed said, “cannabis” is mentioned 70 times in the bill — Democrats see legal marijuana sales as a boon to minority and women business owners — while it includes an order to release federal prisoners over age 50 and those with diabetes, and it authorizes states to conduct voting by mail.
Also, Reed said, the state and local taxes (SALT) provisions in the 2018 Republican tax cuts would be suspended for three years under the Democrats’ bill, deportations would be shelved and undocumented immigrants would be entitled to stimulus money.
“It goes far beyond addressing coronavirus,” Reed said. “I don’t know if (the Democrats) have the votes” for the bill.
He said the legislation didn’t go far enough for the most-progressive of the Democratic Party, while the more moderate party members are concerned about putting their political futures on the line for a bill fraught with potentially controversial add-ins.
Reed complained the Democrats’ bill did not have a “maintenance of effort” provision to keep governors from preempting federal relief to counties, cities, schools, towns and villages. Firefighters and education were exempted. Reed said he wanted “protections from budget shenanigans.”
Reed said he was glad to see the state and local government aid in the House Democrats’ bill, but he said he could support between $300 billion and $500 billion instead of the $1 trillion Democrats had proposed.
New York state wouldn’t get anywhere near the $61 billion Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking for, Reed said. The state deficit, he said, is not related to COVID-19 in its entirety.
A state and local government relief bill of $1 trillion “is not going to get signed into law,” Reed said, acknowledging that it’s clear that “multiple phases of relief will be necessary.”
Besides state and local governments, Reed said he hopes the last stimulus bill includes funding for bonuses for frontline workers in the coronavirus pandemic.
Reed said he participated in press conferences in Rochester, Buffalo and Jamestown on Tuesday with Republicans from the state Senate and Assembly, pushing the governor to open the economy more rapidly.
The Western New York District, which includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties, can’t reopen until Bufalo and the Erie County metropolitan area can meet the governor’s metrics for reopening.
As a region, the counties met five of the seven metrics, but did not have 14 days of declining hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
Three regions in the state, including the Finger Lakes, have met the state requirements to reopen under Phase 1 protocols that start with construction and manufacturing.
“I have not given up hope” of reopening soon, he said. “We are doing our best. We want to make sure people are working together” to reopen. More cooperation will be needed to keep things open and progressing to the next phase, he added.
People “are ready to get back to work,” Reed said. “I encourage the governor to listen to them.”
Reed said another order from the governor will require the testing of nursing home residents and employees twice a week. He said he’s not sure that is doable, or what it would accomplish. “More common sense needs to be deployed here,” Reed added.
Nearly one-third of the COVID-19 deaths in New York have been in nursing homes.
What about the recent development that COVID-19 has caused a Kowasaki-like disease in some children? It causes a red rash and has killed three in New York. More than 100 New York children being treated for the disease have either tested positive for COVID-19, or its antibodies.
Reed said it is an added concern. “The CDC and others are on this,” he added.
There have been hundreds of cases of COVID-19 across the 11-county 23rd Congressional District and 60 deaths, Reed said.