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Sen. Charles E. Schumer

October 21, 2020 - 2:40pm

Press release:

As coronavirus cases rise across the country, "sparking worries the next big wave has begun," school districts throughout Upstate New York face a shortage of pediatric rapid tests needed to safely and efficiently continue in-person teaching throughout the winter, and even leaving some districts unsure how students will even be tested at all.

Today, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer revealed that the feds, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is sitting on as much as $9 billion dollars needed right now as part of a more coordinated and robust virus testing regime as new standards require any symptomatic student or family member to have a rapid turnaround test within 48 hours or the school must presume a positive result and begin contact tracing.

The senator said Upstate New York alone will need millions of dollars to conduct sufficient rapid testing and tracing programs in schools to keep students and their families safe from the virus.

Schumer demanded HHS release the testing dollars he helped to originally secure in prior COVID relief legislation right now. Schumer also announced his intention to fight for more of those funds as the possibility of a second wave emerges and as a COVID relief deal, long hamstrung by a divided White House and Senate Leader McConnell, is considered. 

“There’s absolutely no question that the health and safety of all students across Upstate New York is paramount, bar none. However, as any Upstate New Yorker can tell you, with allergy season upon us and flu season around the corner, in order to keep our students safe we’re going to need an influx of rapid tests and we’re going to need them quickly,” Senator Schumer said.

“Right now, the feds are sitting on over $9 billion that can and should be long out the door, being used to ramp up testing and tracing for students across the state. Those dollars should be used to get rapid tests to New York students and ensure peace of mind and some semblance of stability to students, families, and teachers who have already endured a tumultuous year.”

Schumer said that thousands of students and people Upstate will need to be tested every day, should a second wave hit hard, and that an effort like that will cost money the federal government is responsible for. Schumer made the case for applying the lessons learned over the past many months — right now — not after it’s too late.

According to the The New York Times, there were 4,675 new cases of COVID-19 in Upstate New York in the last week and the state reported that some regions are seeing up to a 1.5-percent positivity rate.

“This administration must remember sobering lessons and apply them. I first called for a public health emergency declaration on January 26, 2020 but that call was not heeded and inaction cost us precious time, money — and most critically — it cost this country lives.

The federal government cannot and must not repeat COVID mistakes of the past months. Instead, it must use the dollars it has and the premise of robust testing and tracing to tamp down any second wave of this virus and lead us to a true recovery,” Schumer added. 

Schumer has repeatedly expressed his concerns and fought to improve testing and contact tracing throughout the country and New York State. In March, Schumer wrote to the CDC and FDA regarding federal barriers New York was facing in its effort to fully and quickly test people for COVID-19.

The testing capacity was not sufficient to meet New York’s needs and he urged the CDC and FDA to work with New York health officials. Now, as coronavirus cases across the country are rising again, the feds are sitting on money, billions of dollars, that is critical to delivering a coordinated and robust testing regime needed to offset the chances of a strong second wave of the virus. 

According to the Washington Post, for almost a month, new COVID cases have been trending upward and more than 20 states have hit a new high in their seven-day average of case counts, and more than half of those states set records again last week. The rising numbers are especially concerning because they set the stage for an even greater surge this winter.

The newspaper warned that this upward trend comes before the increased mingling of people expected to arrive with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, much of which could be indoors as the weather cools, thereby increasing the chance of transmission.

September 17, 2020 - 2:20pm

Press release:

Continuing his fight to make a college education more accessible for every New Yorker, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers.

The resolution outlines how the next president should use existing executive authority under the Higher Education Act to substantially cancel student loan debt for students in New York and across the country, and ensure there is no tax liability for federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt collection.

Schumer said addressing the student loan crisis will be one of the first legislative actions he will prioritize in the new 117th Congress in January.

“Millions of young New Yorkers and their families have been crushed by student loan debt greatly impeding their ability to begin careers and build the financial resources needed to build their futures,” Senator Schumer said. “For far too long the sunny, American optimism of our young people has been clouded by crippling student debt.

"Education is supposed to be a ladder up, but studies have shown that student loans hold people back and prevent young college graduates from owning homes or starting small businesses. This holds our entire economy back, which we cannot afford after the financial devastation of COVID. That is why I will prioritize student debt forgiveness in 2021, bringing immediate relief to millions of New Yorkers and boosting our economy.”

Schumer added, “The bottom line is that the cost of college is out of control and paying for it forces millions of students and families to take on crippling debt, which greatly impedes students’ ability to get started and succeed after graduation. It is like starting a long walk with a backpack stuffed with bricks. This plan to cancel student debt on federal loans will substantially lighten that load and give recent graduates a huge boost that will launch them into a much brighter future – that will energize the economy and substantially expand our dwindling middle class.”  

The senator noted that this plan will provide complete forgiveness of student loans for more than 75 percent of borrowers across the country and at least some debt forgiveness for 95 percent of people with student loan debt. This is especially good news for the nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers with outstanding student loans and a cumulative debt of $89.5 billion as of March, according to studentaid.gov.

Schumer explained that student debt cancellation can provide immediate relief to millions who are struggling during this pandemic and recession, and give a boost to our struggling economy through a consumer-driven economic stimulus that can result in greater home-buying rates and housing stability, higher college completion rates, and greater small business formation.

More than 100 community, civil rights, consumer, and student advocacy organizations have already come out in support of using executive authority to cancel student loan debt. 

Congress has already granted the Secretary of Education the legal authority to broadly cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1082(a)), which grants the Secretary the authority to modify, "... compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption."

The Department of Education has reportedly used this authority to implement modest relief for federal student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The resolution aims to:

  • Recognize the Secretary of Education's broad administrative authority to cancel Federal student loan debt under the existing authorities of section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1082(a));
  • Call on the President of the United States to take executive action to administratively cancel up to $50,000 in Federal student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers using existing legal authorities under such section 432(a), and any other authorities available under the law;
  • Encourage the President of the United States, in taking such executive action, to use the executive's authority under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to ensure no tax liability for Federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt cancellation;
  • Encourage the President of the United States, in taking such executive action, to ensure that administrative debt cancellation helps close racial wealth gaps and avoids the bulk of Federal student debt cancellation benefits accruing to the wealthiest borrowers; and
  • Encourage the President of the United States to continue to pause student loan payments and interest accumulation for Federal student loan borrowers for the entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Schumer introduced this resolution along with Senator Warren. The legislation follows their March effort to cancel student loan payments for the duration of the COVID pandemic and provide minimum $10K payoff for all Federal student loan borrowers.

September 16, 2020 - 2:37pm

Press release:

Continuing their tireless advocacy for New York’s hard-hit dairy farmers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to ensure both Canada and Mexico are held accountable to their trade commitments under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which entered into force earlier this year on July 1st.

Specifically, the senators pointed out three harmful dairy trade practices, including Canada’s recent allocation of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for U.S. exports of several categories of dairy products, Canada’s Class 7 pricing program (Class 6 in Ontario) and lack of transparency in milk-pricing regulations, and the need for Mexico to translate its USMCA commitment of safeguarding more than 30 common cheese names for American products, into regulations.

“New York’s dairy farmers are the lifeblood of the Upstate economy, but unfortunately they have been squeezed by the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” Senator Schumer said. “That is why I am calling on Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Perdue to do everything in their power to ensure that Canada and Mexico abide by their dairy trade obligations, allowing Upstate New York dairy farmers to freely sell their product – as agreed to in the new trade agreement with both countries, the USMCA.

"The trade deal entered into force two months ago, and there can be no further delays to ensuring our New York dairy farmers can sell their products, unimpeded by unfair trade barriers, into Canada and Mexico and churn up profits that mitigate the huge losses they have suffered this year.”

“Dairy is New York’s primary agricultural product and our rural economies depend on the survival of the industry, but poor implementation of USMCA provisions on dairy will harm our dairy farmers and make it even harder for them to recover from this crisis,” Senator Gillibrand said. "Secretary Perdue and USTR Ambassador Lighthizer must hold our trading partners accountable and ensure equitable trading practices for America’s dairy farmers.”

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that under USMCA, Canada agreed to an expansion of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for several categories of U.S. dairy products. However, recently, it has come to the senators’ attention that Canada’s recently-released TRQ allocations weaken the intent of the USMCA and will prevent New York dairy farmers from fully benefitting from the agreement’s expanded market access opportunities.

Additionally, the senators said that under the new trade deal, Canada agreed to eliminate Class 6 & 7 pricing within six months. However, as Schumer revealed in June, Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), which represents approximately 4,000 Canadian dairy farmers, requested that Ontario’s tribunal which provides an avenue of appeal on agriculture issues grant restricted access to DFO’s pricing regulations.

The senators argued that with only a few months left until the USMCA six-month deadline to eliminate Class 6 & 7, the lack of transparency and timing of DFO’s request  in combination with the new TRQs, raises questions about whether or not Canada is seeking to circumvent its dairy commitments in USMCA.

The senators also noted that U.S. dairy farmers secured a major victory in the USMCA when Mexico affirmed a list of more than 30 terms for cheese that would remain available as common names for U.S. cheese producers when exporting to Mexico, but with uncertainty remaining over how Mexico will translate its commitment to protect these common cheese names into regulations, U.S. dairy farmers are in danger of losing out on the market share they spent years developing.

August 7, 2020 - 1:23pm

From Sen. Charles Schumer:

After successfully pushing for an extended comment period to allow Upstate New York hemp farmers to share their concerns with the final rule, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay the issuance of a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program final rule until 2022.

This will allow hemp growers and producers across the country and in Upstate New York to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program regulations until that time. Schumer said with the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic across all sectors, implementing additional regulations would crush the budding hemp industry.

“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp in Upstate New York, the feds must do everything they can to nurture its potential," Schumer said. "Regulating this rapidly emerging industry is a must, but the timing of new regulations is important and the current economic crisis must be considered.

"That’s why today I’m urging USDA to delay their issuance of a final rule until 2022 so the hemp industry across the country and in Upstate New York has a chance to grow and create good-paying jobs at a time when jobs are needed the most. Delaying new regulations will help pull New York along in the recovery process as the nation deals with the impacts of the pandemic.”

Allan Gandelman, president of New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association said, “There are over 700 registered hemp farmers across New York who would be negatively affected by the USDA's Interim Final Rule on hemp. The costs and bureaucracy of implementing the new rules as written create unnecessary financial burdens on farmers and our state agencies.

"The existing hemp pilot program has been sufficient in making sure farmers are complaint with all testing and public safety protocols. We would like to see the pilot program extended until 2022 and the USDA modify the program to let hemp become a widespread agricultural commodity like Congress intended by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Schumer explained, prior to the pandemic, the industrial hemp industry had begun to show significant growth in New York, adding a considerable number of good-paying jobs and bringing in significant revenue to the state, making it an indispensable crop in New York’s agricultural future.

Operating under the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers have reported difficulty integrating the Interim Final Rules into their operations, Specifically, Schumer said, the cost of complying with the Rules has proven to be suffocating for the emerging industry.

Compliance costs for reporting alone would be $17,363.40 according to USDA calculations, and testing would add more than $700 per sample.

The senator said these costs are simply too high for the budding industry to shoulder at a time when New York and the entire country is experiencing an economic crisis. Additionally, Schumer noted, implementing the Interim Final Rules now, also requires states to alter their Pilot Program budgets to meet standards, something which states slammed with COVID-related issues simply cannot spare the time and resources for.

Schumer also pointed out in light of COVID concerns, the timing and testing outlined in the Interim Final Rules would likely push farmers to rush harvests and increase the number of people working in facilities at once, leading to higher risk of COVID transmission among workers.

The senator says that delaying implementation until January 2022 and allowing states to continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill will address these issues, protecting both the hemp industry in New York and farm workers from potential COVID spread.

July 30, 2020 - 4:21pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $3,351,732.05 in federal funding to fire departments across New York State to enhance departments’ response capabilities and to help them more effectively protect the health and safety of the public.

The funding was allocated through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).

The City of Batavia is set to get $68,880.95.

“From the peak of the pandemic to normal times, our brave firefighters are always on the front lines, risking their lives to protect their communities,” Senator Schumer said. “These courageous firefighters deserve all the federal support possible to help them do their jobs.

"I’ve fought my whole career to bring more federal resources to support our brave firefighters, and I’m proud to deliver this funding so New York’s fire departments have the resources and equipment to do their jobs and make it through the ensuing economic crisis.”

Senator Gillibrand said “Every day, first responders face dangerous conditions to protect our communities, and we must provide them with the resources needed to stay safe on the job during this health crisis. I am proud to have fought for this critical funding in support of New York’s local fire departments.

"These federal dollars will help offset costs from the COVID-19 emergency and modernize equipment that will protect our firefighters’ health and safety as they do their jobs. I will always fight in the Senate for the resources that our firefighters need to save lives.”

The senators explained that the funding comes as localities face budget shortages and consider staff cuts, including in fire departments. Schumer and Gillibrand said the funding announced today will go directly to fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations, and state fire training academies.

A chart with the AFG breakdown appears below:

Organization Name

City

Funding Amount

Middleburgh, Village of

Middleburgh

$163,000.00

Troy, City of

Troy

$399,457.64

Watervliet, City of

Watervliet

$458,093.29

Greenville Fire District

Scarsdale

$82,599.31

Southwood Volunteer Fire Department Inc.

Jamesville

$40,735.24

New Rochelle, City of

New Rochelle

$159,090.91

Hornell, City of

Hornell

$174,384.76

Coopers Plains-Longacres Volunteer Fire Company Inc.

Coopers Plains

$120,000.00

Poughkeepsie, City of

Poughkeepsie

$33,181.82

Syracuse, City of

Syracuse

$488,195.45

Dundee Village

Dundee

$154,285.71

Fulton, City of

Fulton

$26,505.71

Dewitt Fire District

Syracuse

$64,065.45

East Worcester Hose Co. 1

East Worcester

$24,376.19

Watertown, City of

Watertown

$80,138.18

Lancaster, Village of

Lancaster

$255,171.43

Otter Lake Fire Company Inc.

Forestport

$92,406.67

Oswego, City of

Oswego

$176,206.67

Fulton, City of

Fulton

$86,468.18

Worcester Hose Company Inc.

Worcester

$76,190.48

Tully Joint Fire District

Tully

$89,516.19

Batavia, City of

Batavia

$68,880.95

Auburn, City of

Auburn

$38,781.82

July 24, 2020 - 3:50pm

July 24, 2020

The Honorable Joseph V. Cuffari Inspector General
Department of Homeland Security 245 Murray Lane, SW Washington, D.C., 20528

Dear Inspector General Cuffari:

Yesterday, in a filing in U.S. District Court in New York, the Justice Department was forced to make the extraordinary admission that officials at the Department of Homeland Security had made inaccurate or misleading statements to the court about the Department’s February 2020 decision to bar New Yorkers from several Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. While it has always been obvious that the Department’s action was taken in political retaliation against residents in my state, DHS had maintained – until now – the implausible explanation that New York’s policies were somehow a threat to national security.

The Justice Department has now confirmed the falsity of that explanation, but we do not have a full accounting of why and how false statements were made by DHS officials to the Justice Department, the public, and the court. Lying to a federal court is a very serious matter and there must be accountability for the persons involved. I therefore request that you conduct an immediate investigation and provide answers to the following questions as soon as possible:

  1. Did officials within DHS order, direct, encourage, or suggest that these false statements be made to the Justice Department, the public, or the court?

  2. With whom outside DHS did officials discuss the false narrative, including officials at the White House, Justice Department, and other agencies?

  3. To what extent were discussions of the false narrative by DHS, Justice Department, or White House officials conducted via electronic mail or messaging?

  4. Did White House officials, up to and including the President, order, direct, encourage or suggest that DHS bar New Yorkers from the Trusted Traveler programs and use a false narrative to justify that decision?

Given that the Administration’s actions in this case involve potential violations of criminal law, I urge you to treat this investigation urgently and report your findings as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer United States Senator

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