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Sen. Charles Schumer

July 8, 2020 - 3:52pm

Press release:

Standing at the Union Tavern restaurant in Irondequoit and on the heels of a successful five-week, short-term extension for the original Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer unveiled the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, or "P4" Act, which seeks to provide additional relief for New York’s smallest businesses that have been severely impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumer explained that his proposed legislation would provide much-needed relief to Rochester-Finger Lakes small business owners by extending the PPP loan period to the end of the year and providing the option for a second PPP loan for eligible small businesses that are in need of additional assistance to survive.

Specifically, "P4" second loans will allow for businesses to access funds worth 250 percent of monthly payroll costs, up to a maximum of $2 million. Small businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 100 employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed borrowers, and rural and historically underserved communities will be eligible for this second round of assistance, in an effort to get critical federal aid to the most in-need businesses that have lost 50 percent or more of revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These second PPP loans would be fully forgivable similar to the first PPP loans as long as all requirements are met in the use of funds. Schumer said that the next stimulus package must target assistance to hard-hit Rochester-Finger Lakes small businesses like Union Tavern, and those in historically underserved communities.

Citing data from the New York State Department of Labor, Schumer further explained that the private sector job count in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region fell by 88,100 or 19 percent, to 374,500 during the 12-month period ending in May 2020.

”The PPP has been a lifeline for Rochester-Finger Lakes Region small businesses struggling to stay afloat during these turbulent times, and last week, I fought to ensure that the program would continue to support our hard-working New Yorkers for at least another month,” Senator Schumer said. “However, as New York seeks to recover from the crisis, we need to do even more for businesses hardest-hit by the pandemic.

"This legislation will bring much-needed changes to the existing PPP program to make loans more accessible to the smallest businesses and nonprofits in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region that are struggling the most and make a second round of relief possible for businesses that need the extra support.”

The senator said that his "P4" legislation will reserve 20 percent of PPP funds for employers with 10 or fewer employees and ensure priority processing for such businesses and nonprofits, in conjunction with priority processing for underserved and rural borrowers across the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, including veterans. To further make sure that the funding is reserved for the hardest-hit small businesses, the "P4" loan will not be available to publicly traded companies.

Schumer noted that Rochester-Finger Lakes Region labor statistics show that for the 12-month period ending May 2020, the private sector job count in the Rochester metro area fell by 88,100, or 19.0 percent, to 374,500. Schumer explained that this data points to a critical need for federal support to revive the region’s economy, including aid to help small businesses weather the crisis and to put them on a road to recovery as the lynchpins of our communities.

Schumer was joined by leading Rochester-Finger Lakes region stakeholders including Melissa Marquez, CEO of the Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union who share these sentiments and recognize the importance of this critical legislation for PPP reform that targets hurting businesses.

As one of the Rochester region’s few Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) approved by the Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) to make PPP loans, Genesee co-op has assisted dozens of minority-owned small business secure a PPP but estimates they have only met 20 percent of the need that now exists among minority or un-banked small businesses in the Rochester region.

The Senator was also joined by Kelly Bush, co-owner of the Union Tavern and president of the Rochester Chapter of the NYS Restaurant Association, Mark Taylor, CEO of Apogee Exhibits in Macedon, which employs 25 workers and makes trade show displays and marketing materials for clients across the country, and Mark Cuddy Artistic Director of Geva Theatre Center.

They shared their firsthand experiences with the Paycheck Protection Program with Senator Schumer and joined him in his push for additional aid for hurting Rochester-Finger Lakes region businesses.

Kelly Bush, co-owner of the Union Tavern and President of the Rochester Chapter of the NYS Restaurant Association said, “As a small business owner facing a shuttered business in early March, securing a PPP was a game changer to help us survive through those first few months. But with realities still beyond our control and continued future uncertainties, enabling us to access a second PPP would be a lifeline for our business and countless others in the Rochester Finger Lakes region that cannot operate at regular capacity due to the pandemic. We appreciate Senator Schumer pushing this legislation to support of our industry so that small businesses can keep their doors open and employees on the job.”

Mark Taylor, CEO of Apogee Exhibits in Macedon, said, “We are part of the live events industry. An industry that contributes over 100 billion dollars to the economy when these events take place. When conventions and other events happen it sets into motion the work of countless small business owners, their employees, and sole proprietors. From carpenters and electricians and other trades, to hotels and hospitality, and other small businesses such as restaurants. All of these small businesses are crucial to restarting our economy, but they'll need additional help. We appreciate Senator Schumer for his advocacy of the small businesses of our economy and our nation."

Mark Cuddy, artistic director of Geva Theatre Center, said, “On March 12th Geva Theatre Center sold its last ticket as theaters closed down across the country. That means we have had zero ticket revenue for almost four months, and will not for the next 4-6 months. Even when a time comes for reopening we will be reduced in capacity to 35-40 percent of seats. We cannot survive in this model. Our 52 resident full-time staff and over a hundred guest artists cannot survive. Their families cannot survive. The restaurants and hotels who serve our patrons cannot survive. The PPP loan was a lifeline, and Senator Schumer’s Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program would be a remarkable ray of hope for our most vulnerable sectors.”

Details on the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program Act, or "P4," appear below. "P4" loans:

  • May be as large as 2.5-times monthly payroll costs, just as under initial PPP loans, but may not be any larger than $2 million. (Affiliated businesses with separate locations may pursue separate P4 loans, but in aggregate the loans may not exceed $2 million.)

Allow borrowers to apply for forgiveness as early as eight weeks after the loan is disbursed and they have fulfilled payroll requirements, rather than make them opt-in to eight weeks or wait until the earlier of 24 weeks or Dec. 31, which needlessly increases the cost of the loan as interest accrues, tying up money that could be deployed for paychecks.

  • Are not available to publicly traded companies.
  • Except as otherwise mentioned, are subject to the same terms, conditions, and forgiveness criteria as initial PPP loans.
  • Provide lenders a minimum processing fee of $2,500 per P4 loan to ensure lenders do not lose money by processing small-dollar loans or cherry pick larger loans.

To increase access to PPP (initial and P4) assistance to underserved businesses, the bill reserves the lesser of $25 billion or 20 percent of PPP funds for employers with 10 or fewer employees, along with priority processing for such firms, harmonized with priority processing for underserved and rural borrowers.

The bill also requires SBA within five days to issue guidance, as required by the CARES Act, which instructs lenders to give priority in loan processing and disbursement to underserved and rural borrowers, including veterans. It also requires SBA to update the PPP loan application to collect demographic information on PPP recipients.

July 1, 2020 - 12:38pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded $691,000 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funds to Greater Rochester International Airport, Perry-Warsaw Airport, and Genesee County Airport.

The senators said that the funding will be used for a variety of airport safety and quality improvement projects, including extending taxiways, constructing snow removal equipment, and removing non-hazard obstructions

“Air travel in and out of the greater Rochester region is vital to the connectivity and success of the regional economy, which is why, as the region reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that we provide the funding necessary to keep the airports safe and efficient,” Senator Schumer said. “I’m proud to deliver this funding and will continue to fight to make sure Rochester has the help it needs to revive and thrive.”

“As communities in New York prepare to reopen, this critical funding will help local airports in the greater Rochester region provide high-quality and safe travel experiences,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This funding is key to ensuring the continued economic stability and success of this region. I will continue fighting for the resources our airports across New York need to safely reopen, rebuild, and transition into a post-coronavirus era.”

Specifically, Greater Rochester International Airport will receive $100,000, Perry-Warsaw Airport will receive $465,000, and Genesee County Airport will receive $126,000. A portion of the funding to each airport comes from FAA CARES Act grants, which Schumer had a direct hand in negotiating.

June 29, 2020 - 3:51pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $220 million in Congressionally appropriated State Revolving Funds (SRFs) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for New York State that will revitalize water infrastructure projects to protect surface water and provide safe drinking water to Upstate communities.

The senators emphasized the necessity of the funding, which comes at a critical time for New York as the state recovers from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“New York has some of the oldest sewer systems in the country, and last year, nearly 200 waterways that provide drinking water in the state were found to contain contaminants flagged as dangerous by the EPA,” Senator Schumer said. “This federal funding will help address the hazard that aging water infrastructure presents to the health of thousands of New Yorkers.

"I will continue to fight tooth and nail to make sure that New York gets every dollar it needs to replace and repair every inch of waterway that will keep New Yorkers safe and healthy.”

“Access to clean water is a right, and New York’s communities deserve clean drinking water and wastewater systems they can trust,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This EPA funding is great news for the New York Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and will improve the quality of vital water infrastructure, enhance our water recycling system, and protect our state’s lakes and rivers.

"I will continue fighting for the resources needed to enhance public health and provide New Yorkers with access to safe and reliable water.”  

Specifically, the Senators said, $175 million out of the total funding is being allocated toward the New York Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program, which provides low-interest loans and principle forgiveness for the improvement of water quality protection infrastructure projects that include modernizing wastewater infrastructure, implementing water reuse and recycling, and addressing stormwater.

Since its inception in 1990, the CWSRF, in conjunction with the New York Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, has provided $28.5 billion in low-cost financing.

Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand added that $45 million out of the total funding is going toward the New York Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program which provides low-interest loans and principal forgiveness for the construction of drinking water and infrastructure projects, and for the administration of small system technical assistance, source water protection, capacity development, and operator certification.

The DWSRF has provided $6.3 billion to assist public water systems across the state.

The federal funding allocated by the EPA will be distributed by New York State, which will contribute an additional 20 percent to match the federal grants.

The Senators have fought for years to secure sufficient funding for the CWSRF and DWSRF, fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to cut funding for the program by hundreds of millions of dollars. Most recently they secured $4 billion for the EPA’s State and Tribal Assistance Grants Program which provides money to the CWSRF and DWSRF, among other vital environmental programs.

June 25, 2020 - 2:43pm

Press release:

After fiercely advocating for federal aid to New York’s dairy farmers in the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today urged United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to quickly raise concerns about Canada evading its commitments under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Canada agree to eliminate harmful dairy trade practices, including its Class 7 pricing program (Class 6 in Ontario) and lack of transparency in milk-pricing regulations. Both were explicitly addressed in the agreement, which enters into force next week on July 1.

“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 to do everything in his power to ensure that Canada abides by its dairy trade obligations and eliminates its unfair and harmful pricing programs and practices that unfairly impeded Upstate New York dairy farmers from freely selling their product – as agreed to in the new trade agreement with Canada, the USMCA.

As the trade deal enters into force next week, it is imperative that our New York dairy farmers are able to sell their products into Canada and churn up profits that mitigate the huge losses they have suffered this year.”

“USMCA requires Canada to provide new market access for American dairy products and to eliminate its destructive Classes 6 and 7 milk pricing schemes,” said Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president for Policy Strategy and International Trade with the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council. “While not unexpected, Canada’s efforts to manipulate its agreed upon trade obligations to protect its tightly controlled dairy market are unacceptable.

"Canada needs to live up to the commitments it made to the U.S. on dairy. America’s dairy industry appreciates Senator Schumer for his leadership on this issue and we support Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Purdue as the U.S. works to hold Canada accountable to its commitments under USMCA.”

“Cayuga Milk Ingredients applauds the efforts of New York’s Senator Schumer for raising concerns over Canada’s recent request for dairy pricing secrecy within the Ontario Provincial Tribunal and their most recent administration of TRQs," said Kevin J. Ellis, CEO Cayuga Milk Ingredients. "On both issues, Canada is showing they have no desire to act in good faith with respect to the trade commitments they made underneath USMCA.

"Cayuga Milk Ingredients suffered a loss of nearly $24 million of sales in 2016 when Canada implemented a National Class 7 pricing scheme that was specifically and intentionally designed to stop the importation of ultra-filtered milk. Based on these latest events, it appears Canada cannot be trusted to honor its trade commitments with the United States,”

Craig Alexander, senior director, Milk Planning and Regulatory Affairs at O-AT-KA Milk Products in Batavia, said, “A foundation principle of the new USMCA pertaining to Canada was transparency of pricing formulation and the elimination of its Class 7 pricing. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s push for Canada to live up to its commitments in this agreement.

"Canada should not obscure information on pricing now in order to artificially create a pricing environment that will keep us at a disadvantage once these USMCA provisions go into force. Furthermore, Canada’s implementation of TRQs negotiated as part of USMCA and reserving increased access almost entirely to existing Canadian dairy companies is evidence that Canada has not changed its past history of circumventing trade agreements.

"If Canada simply held up their end of the deal on eliminating Class 7 and fair implementation of TRQs, we could again get a fair shake at the opportunities to serve the Canadian market going forward.”

Schumer explained that under USMCA, Canada agreed to eliminate Class 6 & 7 pricing within six months. However, the Senator revealed, Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), which represents approximately 4,000 Canadian dairy farmers, has recently requested that Ontario’s tribunal, which provides an avenue of appeal on agriculture issues, grant restricted access to DFO’s pricing regulations.

Schumer argued that with only a few days left until the USMCA is set to enter into force, the lack of transparency and timing of DFO’s request raises questions about whether or not Canada is seeking to circumvent its dairy commitments in USMCA.

Additionally, Schumer pointed out, under USMCA, Canada agreed to an expansion of tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for several categories of U.S. dairy products. However, the U.S. dairy industry has raised concerns that Canada’s recently released TRQ allocations weaken the intent of USMCA and will prevent New York dairy farmers from fully benefiting from the agreement’s expanded market access opportunities.

June 15, 2020 - 2:43pm

Press release:

Citing a recent New York State report that details a very troubling 33-percent rise in domestic violence cases across New York amid COVID-19, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer demanded the United States Senate take up the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the House with bipartisan support all the way back in April of 2019.

Schumer demanded Leader Mitch McConnell take VAWA "off the shelf" and rightfully pass it in the Senate. Specifically, the Senator revealed, in Upstate New York, domestic violence shelter occupancy rates rose to 78 percent in April 2020, up from 59 percent in April 2019, a 19-percent increase.

Schumer said that New York is not alone in worrisome statistics, either. Other states, like Texas and Illinois, according to The New York Times, have seen similar domestic violence surges and capital resources for many programs could dry up fast.

“The data from New York’s report mirrors similar statistics across other parts of the country that are also seeing a rise in domestic violence amid the coronavirus pandemic," Senator Schumer said. "It’s up to all of us to heed the warning in these numbers and not allow a pandemic to fuel an epidemic of domestic violence so many have devoted their lives to preventing.

"Since I first helped write the Violence Against Women’s Act in 1994, countless individuals have been saved. Whether the funds provided local shelters, counseling or other critical efforts, the law has given so many a second chance and we cannot rest until the Senate acts, the law is fully reauthorized and the help New York and other states need on the way.”

According to New York’s domestic violence task force, “…in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, data reported by law enforcement and domestic violence service providers pointed to an increase in domestic violence, with the New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline recording a 33 percent increase in calls for April 2020 compared to April 2019, and shelter occupancy rates upstate rising to 78 percent in April 2020, versus 59 percent in April 2019.

Schumer reiterated that that the coronavirus pandemic cannot be allowed to fuel an epidemic of domestic violence that so many have joined together to prevent as he made the case for new action. He said that passing the full VAWA package will unlock the full federal funding New York needs to achieve its immediate needs to help stop the violence.

Schumer detailed New York’s immediate needs given the 33-percent spike in reported violence:

1)    Local programming for survivors’ safety, including the use of new technology and mobile platforms

2)    Housing stability and navigation services

3)    Transportation

According to the report, “funding should be flexible to meet a range of needs, including housing costs, safety measures and allocations for essential needs that might present barriers to safety and housing stability, such as debt or car repair expenses. Support should have more flexible parameters, should meet survivors’ needs as quickly as possible, and should be available until survivors feel safe.

"Program outcomes should be based on survivors’ safety and housing stability over the longterm. Further, the state should continue its commitment to partnering with the philanthropic and advocacy community, collaborating to leverage support, fill in the gaps where existing funds fall short and foster further innovation.”

“Right now, because of the uncertainty around the Violence Against Women’s Act’s future reauthorization we have states preparing to turn over the couch cushions for this life-saving funding, and that cannot sustain,”Schumer added. “Philanthropy is certainly one way to 'fill in the gaps' but existing federal funding cannot be allowed to simply ‘fall short.' That’s why we need the Senate to act here, because government has a job to do and lives to save.”

Schumer cited the Finger Lakes Region to show how just one area of the state has benefited from VAWA.

Within the last five years, organizations across Rochester and the Finger Lakes received more than $8.8 million in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act.

Specifically, $650,000 was awarded to aid law enforcement in combatting domestic violence; $299,708 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $425,000 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $794,667 was awarded to provide housing for victims of domestic violence; $750,000 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); $3,266,665 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV); $1,222,000 was awarded to provide assistance to underserved populations; $425,000 was awarded to assist those in rural communities; and $1,000,000 was awarded to support families who have been affected by domestic violence.

Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester voiced their support for Senator Schumer’s efforts.

Meaghan de Chateauvieux, president & CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester said, “When a survivor steps forward in our community seeking safety from abuse, VAWA is what makes it possible for our local agencies to work together in a coordinated and comprehensive way to keep families safe.

"Willow serves over 7,000 survivors each year and relies on our VAWA-funded community partnerships. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s push because VAWA is the cornerstone of our local coordinated response to domestic violence and has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence.”

The original 1994 VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, has been reauthorized three times—in 2000, 2005 and 2013— with unanimous Senate approval the first two times. Since its enactment, the bill has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent. Additionally, the legislation, over the course of its history, has provided more than $7 billion in federal funding towards reducing these types of violence.

Beyond reauthorizing all of the current grant programs under the original VAWA and those established by previous reauthorizations, the House-passed VAWA reauthorization also includes a number of new provisions to aid and support victims of domestic and sexual violence. Some of the most essential include:

  • Establishing a survey among District and State Attorney Offices that receive funding from VAWA grant programs to track the rates of rape cases.
  • Increasing funding for the Services, Training Officers and Prosecutors (STOP) grant program, which promotes a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to enhancing advocacy and improving the criminal justice system’s response to violent crimes against women. The program encourages the development and improvement of effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to address violent crimes against women and the development and improvement of advocacy and services in cases involving violent crimes against women.
  • Enhancing the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program by supporting educational institutions seeking to develop and distribute educational materials to students related to prevention.
  • Boosting housing protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, a provision in the reauthorization bill ensures that in the event of separation from a spouse, survivors retain access to housing. The bill also increases opportunities under transitional housing grant programs for organizations that operate in underserved and low-income communities.
  • Promoting the economic security and stability of victims of domestic and sexual violence. One of the ways the VAWA reauthorization bill would do this would be by authorizing funding for a Government Accountability Office study on the economic implications of domestic violence and the best possible solution to these implications for victims.
April 26, 2020 - 1:45pm

Press release:

Citing an all-out explosion of unproven, untested and unregulated do-it-yourself, at-home coronavirus test kits now for sale across the internet, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer demanded, today, that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) begin a crackdown focused on more oversight of the marketplace, ramped-up inspections and cease and desist actions against bad actors.

Schumer said a simple “Google” search on these kits now results in a bombardment of antibody and other coronavirus tests that are simply not validated for accuracy by the FDA.

“While the coronavirus itself continues to risk infecting people, varying at-home test kits for the virus’s antibodies, and even the disease itself, are now infecting the internet and the consumer marketplace," Senator Schumer said. "However, the vast, vast majority of these ‘kits’ are unproven, untested and totally unregulated by the FDA, and that’s dangerous.

"That is why I am publicly calling on the FDA to institute a crackdown on these kits now exploding across the internet. The agency (FDA) must raise the bar, move heaven and earth and stand up for consumers who are vulnerable, uncertain and anxious with all that is going on.”

Schumer said that as part of returning to normal, consumers — especially New Yorkers — could be hard hit by faulty tests that mislead an already uncertain public.

He said that the FDA must immediately move heaven and earth to ensure this emerging testing marketplace does not become riddled with shoddy at-home kits that are not backed by the FDA and the best available science. Schumer also said New Yorkers are currently purchasing these kits and that the feds must act swiftly or risk turning a pandemic into a false sense of security epidemic that hurts hot spots like New York which must rely upon testing accuracy to fully return to normal.

“The authenticity and accuracy of any at-home testing kits must be paramount at the FDA, because consumers are not only willing to buy them, but they are willing to rely upon them," Schumer added. "Shoddy tests could spell disaster for hot spot states like New York because if there is anything New York and other places will require to turn the page on this virus, it’s rooted in testing accuracy, and these unregulated kits pose serious risk to the overall recovery."

According to CNN, the “FDA has granted emergency use authorization to only four antibody tests, and there are dozens more awaiting the same authorization. The FDA has also opened a separate process for more than 100 other non-FDA approved tests to be checked for accuracy.”

Schumer says, despite this, at-home coronavirus antibody and virus test kits are for sale across the internet, seemingly unchecked.

Experts across the government have said antibody tests will likely play an important role in the reopening of the economy and the next chapter of public health. Schumer says the FDA cannot offer any regulatory flexibility to some test makers and rigidity for others.

He said the only way to ensure test kit standards are rooted in science and accuracy is to ramp up oversight, inspections and cease and desist actions before unproven products risk turning a pandemic into a false sense of security epidemic that hurts hot spots like New York dependent on accuracy.

“Right now, only formally approved tests should be available for sale to consumers,” Schumer said. “The stakes are too high to let bad actors prey on vulnerable New Yorkers and add even more anxiety and uncertainty to this crisis.”

Schumer’s letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn appears below:

Dear Commissioner Hahn:

The array of misinformation about the coronavirus is a danger to public health and an impediment to a swift and full reopening of our country. One of the most dangerous elements of this misinformation is the volume of unapproved COVID-19 tests available online, many of them claiming they are able to conduct an authentic test at home. As you very well know, these tests are not currently approved. I have grave concerns that New Yorkers, understandably frustrated and desperate because of the broad testing shortage across the country, are turning to these unapproved tests. If such a test is unreliable or administered incorrectly, and a person falsely believes they do not have COVID-19 or have antibodies, that presents a danger to their family and their community. 

I appreciate the work that FDA has done thus far, including in its March 20 announcement, in pushing back against these unauthorized tests. However, more must be done. A simple online search, as well as anecdotal evidence from people in New York City, shows that these tests are still easily available and people are buying them. Given how high the stakes are right now, the administration must use all its resources and authority to immediately get these tests off the market. 

I request answers to the following questions:

1.     What is the FDA doing since its March 20 announcement to continue to crackdown on these tests?

2.     Does FDA have sufficient resources to monitor and respond to the availability of these unauthorized tests?

3.     What is FDA doing, in coordination with the White House and its press efforts, to educate the public that authorized tests should not be used?

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

April 15, 2020 - 4:45pm

From Senator Charles E. Schumer:

As coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread throughout the country, making New York its epicenter with over 10,000 deaths, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to immediately clarify its plan to address the lack over oversight and inspection of the American food supply system – to restore peace of mind to millions.

Last month, the FDA announced the temporary suspension of domestic routine surveillance facility inspections and the relaxation of compliance requirements for food producers.

According to Schumer, as the virus continues to spread throughout the United States, the nation’s grocery and food industries were not spared. Schumer’s concerns over the FDA’s rollbacks were exacerbated by recent reports  of outbreaks in food distribution facilities, processing plants, warehouses, and grocery stores around the nation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is reaching alarming new levels every day, leaving no part of life untouched and millions of Americans perpetually concerned,” Senator Schumer said. “In the midst of all that we are facing, New Yorkers deserve to have the peace of mind that the food on their tables is safe to eat.

"Contaminated food sickens and kills thousands of Americans every year and the challenge of this virus must not be an excuse to let our guard down when it comes to keeping our food supply safe for consumers. The FDA must not scale back essential food-safety inspections and must maintain food-production requirements and guarantee the safety of our food supply in these trying times."

Schumer’s call for adequate oversight and inspection of the domestic food supply follows reports that the FDA has suspended routine surveillance facility inspections and relaxed compliance requirements. The senator demanded to know how the FDA was guaranteeing food safety for Americans, especially during a time where New Yorkers are depending on a reliable food supply.

The Center for Diseases Control estimates that roughly one in six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses every year, even with the FDA’s usual regulations in place.

Salmonella alone causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the United States, costing about $350 million annually. A salmonella outbreak linked to papaya sickened 24 people in New York last year.

March 28, 2020 - 1:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in Sen. Charles Schumer, news, covid-19.

Press release:

From the three passed Congressional bills in response to the coronavirus emergency, and the FEMA Major Disaster Declaration, which was aggressively advocated for by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York State and state-funded agencies have already received, or will soon receive, at least $15.9 billion in direct federal aid.

New York can and should put these funds to work to fight the coronavirus public health emergency and to address its budget challenges.

CARES ACT/Coronavirus 3: $10.2 Billion

  • State Relief Fund: $5.1B
  • MTA: $3.8B

Education funding going directly to NYS:

  • Education Stabilization Fund: $1.16B
  • Child Care Community Grants: $162.4M

Coronavirus 2 Families First Legislation:

  • FMAP: $5.2B ($6.7B in aid shared with NYC/counties that pay a share of Medicaid)

FEMA Disaster Declaration: $426 million

  • New York State has obligated $426 million from the Disaster Relief Fund for COVID-19. Congress just appropriated $45 billion in new dollars for the DRF which will ensure that New York State gets billions in FEMA reimbursement for COVID-19.

TOTAL IN MARCH: $15.9B

$5.1 billion in state and local aid via State Relief Fund

Despite strong opposition from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who pushed for no state & local aid, Sen. Schumer secured substantial support for New York and its largest municipalities. The CARES Act provides $7.5 billion in aid to New York governments, including $5.2 billion to the state, $1.5 billion to New York City, and proportional amounts to the largest counties. Secretary Mnuchin, on a 3/26 call with the nation’s governors, pledged to give maximum flexibility on the implementation of this legislation, and to allow for a broad range of expenses and rapid deployment of funds to states in need.

$3.8 billion to the MTA

The MTA is primarily funded via New York’s budget. Schumer fought massive GOP opposition to secure $25 billion in Federal Transit Administration formula funds and maximized New York’s share.

$5.2 billion in Emergency FMAP aid

On March 14, Congress passed the second coronavirus response legislation, which provided $6.7 billion in Emergency FMAP aid to New York State ($5.2 billion) and the counties and NYC ($1.5 billion), which share the Medicaid payment burden. The federal share of Medicaid payment was increased to 56.2 percent. There is no legal or procedural barrier to New York accepting these funds.

$1.16 billion in the Education Stabilization Fund and $162.4 million in Child Care Grants

These two streams of funding address critical needs at the state and local level. The Education Stabilization Fund includes primary, secondary and university levels.

MORE ON FMAP

As part of the Coronavirus 2/Families First legislation, House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi included a “Maintenance of Effort” (MOE) provision to guard against (mainly Republican) states that are hostile to Medicaid from receiving billions in aid and then cutting the Medicaid program.

The Cuomo administration has indicated it wishes to cut costs in its Medicaid program next year and has made a number of cost-cutting proposals via its Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT), which must be approved, rejected or altered by the legislature in the budget.

Some of the MRT proposals, like provider cuts, do not run afoul of the MOE, others, like program cuts, may run afoul of it. It is important to note that New York has indicated it is voluntarily delaying the potential provider cuts.

To guarantee receiving the $5.2 billion in FMAP funds now, it could also choose to delay the proposed program cuts, until the eFMAP funds are dispersed, as part of the pending budget.

ADDITIONAL WAYS THE CARES ACT WILL HELP NEW YORK MEET FINANCIAL CHALLENGES

States Access to Treasury Lending: As part of the $450 billion that we have authorized for use by the Treasury to inject capital into our system and provide needed liquidity to many different industries, we insisted that one such vehicle specifically provide liquidity to state and local governments. The Secretary committed to including an explicit reference to the importance of such a facility in the text of the bill.

The bill states that the Secretary shall “seek the implementation of a program or facility… that provides liquidity to the financial system that supports lending to States and municipalities.” Therefore, we believe that the Fed is likely to establish a facility in which market participants that will provide lending to states and municipalities at low-rates and generous terms. The establishment of this facility will provide states with access to much needed capital and serve as another resource for them to help stabilize their budgets and unforeseen needs.

FEMA: New York State has obligated $426 million from the Disaster Relief Fund for COVID-19. C-3 just appropriated $45 billion in new dollars for the DRF which will ensure that New York State gets billions in reimbursement for COVID-19.

FEMA eligible expenses (partial):

  • Management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety
  • Emergency medical care
  • Movement of supplies and persons
  • Security and law enforcement
  • Communications of general health and safety information to the public
  • Search and rescue to locate and recover members of the population requiring assistance
March 25, 2020 - 3:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in Sen. Charles Schumer, Corona 3, coronavirus, covid-19.

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer formally announced today (March 25) the expected passage of the latest COVID-19 emergency package he directly negotiated, delivering $40B+ dollars to the state and its citizens.

In reaching an agreement, the Senate will help New York address the coronavirus crisis, support our local communities, and most importantly put workers first.

“This is not a moment of celebration but rather one of necessity,” Senator Schumer said. “The more than $40 billion dollars of additional help on the way to New York is essential to save lives, preserve paychecks, support small businesses, and much more.

"These critical dollars will inject proverbial medicine into our state, city and localities throughout Upstate New York, to deliver much-needed resources, right now, that can help combat the coronavirus. Like all compromise legislation, this bill is far from perfect — but it now does much more for this state, its people and its future than what we began with.”

'Unemployment Insurance on Steroids'

First, this relief package includes a dramatic and historic expansion and reform of the unemployment insurance program, something Schumer has called "Unemployment Insurance (UI) on steroids." He conceived this plan with an understanding of how the modern New York economy functions and to provide more generous benefits during this crisis to a greater number of New Yorkers, including those who have non-traditional employment like freelancers and gig workers.

The extended and expanded UI program in this agreement increases the maximum unemployment benefit amount by $600 per week above one’s base unemployment compensation benefit and ensures that workers who are laid off or out of work, on average, will receive their full pay for four months, a full quarter.

It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for small, medium or large businesses, along with the self-employed and workers in the gig economy, who might travel from Long Island or Upstate to work in the city each day. The $260 billion dollar plan will deliver at least $15 billion directly to New York. Payments of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples accounts for another $15.5B to New York.

'Marshall Plan for Hospitals'

The second major priority of Schumer’s negotiating was to deliver a Marshall Plan for our hospitals and other medical facilities so they can provide necessary care during this pandemic. Schumer was able to create this plan and include more than $150 billion for it nationally. Given the New York is the national epicenter of the pandemic, billions of dollars will begin flowing to New York right away.

The money will be available to fund efforts critical to defeating the virus. That includes a massive new grant program for hospitals and health care providers, personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, emergency operation centers and more.

Additional funding is also dedicated to delivering Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the funding they need during this crisis, and new investments in our country’s Strategic National Stockpile, surge capacity and medical research into COVID-19.

Stablizing the Ones Hardest Hit

Third, Schumer, a proud fighter for state and local governments, negotiated a special program to deliver relief to those entities, to help stabilize the ones hardest hit by the virus, like Westchester. An expenditure relief fund of roughly $150 billion dollars will deliver at least $7.5 billion to New York, with more than $168 million going to Westchester County, over $159 million headed toward Erie County, and more than $128 million for Monroe County.

Small Business Rescue Plan

Fourth, Schumer, a longtime champion of small businesses across New York negotiated a small business rescue plan that allocates more than $375 billion to forgivable loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits so they can maintain their existing workforce and help pay other expenses during this crisis, like rent, a mortgage or utilities.

The self-employed, independent contractors, and sole proprietors are eligible for assistance. New York, with its 2.2 million small businesses and tens-of-thousands of nonprofits can expect to see billions of dollars once companies and organizations begin to apply for those funds.

NYS small businesses that currently have more than 19,000 existing SBA loans will also have relief from the burden of paying those loans with a new policy of the SBA instead paying the principal, interest, and fees for a six-month period.

'Emergency Appropriations'

Finally, Schumer negotiated several “emergency appropriations” totaling $180 million that range from:

  • Billions for hard-hit airports;
  • Expanded benefits to SNAP;
  • Increased Community Development Block Grants, which helps all our municipalities;
  • Funding for child care, of which New York would receive an additional $162 million;
  • Nutrition for seniors;
  • Nearly $1 billion dollars to help heat homes when income becomes a problem
  • And $1.5 billion for the National Guard to support to the hardest hit States and territories, like New York where approximately 2,200 members of the National Guard have been activated, amongst other things. New York will see tens of billions od dollars from this account, as well.

Since Sunday, Schumer made several significant improvements to the bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell first introduced. Here are some of the improvements:

  • Four months of more unemployment insurance instead of 3 months;
  • $55 billion increase in the Schumer "Marshall Plan" for our Health Care System;
  • $6.3 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile for critical medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and life-saving medicine;
  • $150 billion for a state and local Coronavirus Relief Fund;
  • $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for operating costs once a small business or nonprofit has applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan;
  • $17 billion for SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans;
  • $30 billion in emergency education funding and $25 billion in emergency transit funding;
  • $30 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to state and local governments, as well as private nonprofits providing critical and essential services;
  • $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the ongoing functionality of school districts and institutions;
  • Make rent, mortgage and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness;
  • Ban stock buybacks for the term of the government assistance plus one year on any company receiving a government loan from the bill;
  • Establish robust worker protections attached to all federal loans for businesses;
  • Create real-time public reporting of Treasury transactions under the Act, including terms of loans, investments or other assistance to corporations;
  • Add a retention tax credit for employers to encourage businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis;
  • Provide income tax exclusion for individuals who are receiving student loan repayment assistance from their employer;
  • Eliminated $3 billion bailout for Big Oil;
  • Eliminated “secret bailout” provision that would have allowed bailouts to corporations to be concealed for six months;
  • Saved hundreds of thousands of airline industry jobs and prohibited airlines from stock buybacks and CEO bonuses.
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