Cuomo calls for hazard pay for coronavirus frontline workers after reporting another 478 deaths in N.Y.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo(Mike Groll/AP)
Gov. Cuomo called on the federal government Monday to boost wages for healthcare workers, cops, firefighters and others on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus outbreak, as another 478 New Yorkers died overnight from the respiratory contagion.
In his daily briefing from Albany, Cuomo said Congress should ensure that the next COVID-19 emergency funding package bankrolls a 50% hazard pay bonus for all workers that fit into the “essential” employment category.
“Thanks is nice, but recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is appropriate,” Cuomo said. “They’re the ones that are carrying us through this crisis, and this crisis is not over."
In addition to first responders and hospital staff, “essential” workers includes grocery store clerks, teachers and transit workers, among others.
The governor noted that a large number of those workers are people of color.
“We see the infection rate among African-Americans and brown Americans higher proportionally than other groups — why? Because they were out there exposing themselves, that’s why," he said.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats are currently squabbling over how much federal cash to earmark for a small business loan program that ran dry in just two weeks after fielding millions of applications.
“Fund all those businesses," Cuomo said, “but at the same time don’t forget teachers and polices officers and firefighters and transit workers and healthcare workers and nursing home staff.”
Cuomo’s request for cash bonuses to front-line workers came after another 478 people in New York died from the virus overnight, bringing the state’s total death toll to 14,347.
Twenty-three of the latest victims died in nursing homes, which have been particularly hard-hit, according to data released by the New York State Department of Health.
Cuomo called New York’s daily death toll “horrifically high,” but noted that it has tracked downwards for over a week. Monday was the first time in weeks that the daily death count fell below 500.
He also said daily hospitalizations and intubations are going down, suggesting the worst is over for New York.
Though New York appears to have reached its apex, Cuomo reiterated he’s in no rush to reopen the state’s economy and took a jab at anti-social distancing protesters who have gathered in large groups across the nation in recent days.
“You don’t need protesters to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work and we have to get the economy going, and we have to get get out of our homes," Cuomo said. “The question is going to become how, when, how fast, and what do we mean in terms of reopening?”
Though Cuomo didn’t mention it specifically, a Facebook group called “ReOpen New York State” is calling on people to swarm the streets around the state Capitol in Albany on Wednesday.
Cuomo suggested such demonstrations are narrow-minded and said patience is key in reopening the economy. Any rash decision, the governor said, could result in disastrous consequences.
“What we do today will determine tomorrow,” he said. “If we make smart decisions, you will see smart outcomes in two weeks. We make bad decisions, you will see bad outcomes in two weeks.”
New York’s stay-at-home order, which requires all non-essential businesses and schools to stay closed, is in effect until May 15.