With drastic increase in residents’ need for help buying food, McCoy calls for federal support

The Enterprise — Michael Koff
Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, shown here at Tuesday’s county press briefing.

ALBANY COUNTY — Highlighting the increased food insecurity in Albany County, Daniel McCoy, the county’s executive, on Thursday called for federal support with more urgency than his earlier pleas.

In the first week of September, the county’s Department of Social Services had 820 applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

This compares with 135 applications for the same week last year.

“It could be tied into how that federal aid stopped, the extra $600 …,” said McCoy. “This is the barometer for all counties.”

He went on, “As jobs don’t come back and more and more people get laid off, people are going to need more assistance in the county than they ever did before.”

McCoy said of the need for food assistance, “These are huge numbers that we’ve never had before; even with the recent recession of ’08-’09, we didn’t see an uptick of this magnitude.”

As president of the County Executives of the New York State Association of Counties, McCoy sent a letter to Congress, supporting the stimulus-package framework proposed by the bipartisan Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, which has put forth a framework of $500 billion to help states, counties, and other local governments.

McCoy’s letter also called for the funding to be flexible and unrestricted so governments can use it to fill budget deficits created by the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown.

“The funding needs to be flexible, unrestricted to be sure we can close budget [shortfalls] … created by loss of sales-tax revenue and should be based on population,” McCoy said.

He also urged modification of the way funding was distributed in the CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security] Act, adopted in March, which made awards only to counties with more than 500,000 residents.

“We didn’t get a dime,” McCoy said, since Albany County has a population of about 307,000 according to the last federal census.

The lack of federal aid, McCoy said, will lead to state cuts, which will lead to county cuts. “It’s a trickle-down effect to the counties,” he said.

McCoy cited the essential work being done by county health departments in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and asked, “How do you continue to do the great work and you can’t go over the [tax] cap?”

McCoy went on, “We need a bipartisan approach with Republicans and Dems. We can’t continue to let this president continue to divide us among Democrat-run states against Republican-run states. We’re in this together and we need leadership.”

On Friday morning, Congressman Paul Tonko, a Democrat who represents the Capital District, is holding a virtual press conference “to call on the U.S. Senate to advance a meaningful rescue bill to help state and local officials stave off devastating cuts to essential services and protect the jobs of countless teachers, firefighters, healthcare workers, police officers and other essential workers,” says a notice announcing the conference.

It notes that it has been 126 days since the Democrat-dominated House passed the HEROES [Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions] Act, which, the notice says, would provide approximately $1.3 billion in local government funding directly to Capital Region communities.

Particularly with the recent withholding of aid to schools, some state legislators, including Democrat Patricia Fahy, who represents part of Albany County, have called for more taxing of the wealthy to provide funds for high-needs school districts.

On Thursday, Robert Mujika, the state’s budget director, put out a statement, saying, “New Jersey has announced they will pass a millionaire’s tax that raises the tax rate on millionaires to 10.79 percent. Some have suggested New York raise the top tax rate for billionaires and millionaires to 12 percent. The overwhelming majority of billionaires and millionaires in this state live or work in New York City. The combined state and city income tax rate is already 12.6 percent — which is higher than New Jersey’s new top rate or a proposed 12 percent ‘billionaire/millionaire tax rate.’”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that raising taxes on the wealthy puts the state at a competitive disadvantage because people can go to other states and taxes are very high in New York State to begin with.

McCoy on Thursday said, “Over 70 percent of my budget is unfunded mandates, meaning that the State Senate and Assembly tell us what programs we have to run … but they don’t give us the funding.”

He called on the state representatives to “figure out the schools, figure out the problems going around the state of New York but realize we have, still, a health crisis going on, on top of an economic crisis.”

McCoy concluded, “People in this county need these services more than they’ve ever needed them before in life. They need it now. And they’re going to need it going into the future.”

 

UAlbany spike grows

Of the 25 new COVID-19 cases McCoy announced on Thursday, 18 were connected to students at the University at Albany.

According to the SUNY COVID-19 Tracker, a system set up to record cases at all of the state’s 64 colleges and universities, UAlbany has an estimated total for 94 positive cases overall.

The state requires campuses that have more than 100 cases in a two-week period to move to remote teaching for two weeks.

The state is counting these cases in discreet two-week periods, rather than in rolling two-week periods, which Albany County Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen said would make more sense from both an epidemiologic and logic point of view.

For the two-week period beginning Sept. 12, the state tracker reports 45 cases so far. If the campus has more than 55 cases by Sept. 25, it would have to go to remote learning.

Whalen said on Thursday that UAlbany continues to have a “low number of cases on campus compared to overall cases.”

The county’s health department is tallying the cases of students, staff, or faculty that work or live or attend classes on campus.

Whalen described her department’s relationship with UAlbany as “positive and productive.”

McCoy reported on Thursday morning that the county now has 2,750 confirmed COVID-19 cases, an increase of 25 since Wednesday. Twenty-three had close contact with people infected with the disease, including 18 that are connected to UAlbany students. Two of the new cases did not have a clear source of transmission detected at this time.

Currently, 620 county residents are under quarantine, an increase from 571. The five-day average for new daily positives ticked down to 19 from 19.6.

There are now 115 active cases in the county, down from 117 on Wednesday. So far, 10,890 county residents have completed quarantine. Of those who completed quarantine, 2,635 of them had tested positive and recovered.

Seven county residents remain hospitalized with the coronavirus disease 2019, and the county’s hospitalization rate remains at 0.25 percent.

The county’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 134.

More Regional News

  • Once there is a vaccine for COVID-19, the first New Yorkers to receive it will be health-care workers in patient-care settings, long-term-care facility workers, and the at-risk patients in those facilities, according to the state’s plan released on Sunday.

  • In the 102nd Assembly District, Republican Chris Tague is defending his seat against Betsy Kraat, a Democrat.

  • “They surrendered without firing a shot,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the Trump administration’s battle against the coronavirus. “It was the great American surrender. Americans don’t surrender. And they didn’t even put up a fight and what we learned in New York was, if you put up a fight, you would have won because New York won. Other states won also.”

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