In State of the State, Cuomo says Covid must be defeated, but economy can’t be a casualty

Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers the 2021 State of The State Address today, beginning at 11:30 a.m. (Photo by Don Pollard/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. )

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 January 2021 at 2:07 pm

In 11th State of the State Address today, Governor Andrew Cuomo said defeating Covid-19 is critical for the state to get back on its feet and move forward. The governor said the fight against Covid can’t mean crushing the economy and businesses.

The governor offered a seven-point plan for the state in 2021.

“First, we must defeat Covid and beat back the assault as the virus rages in these next few months,” Cuomo said. “It will not be easy. A high-performing hospital system, as well as the diligence of New Yorkers, are the keys to stop the spread.”

The second point: the state must vaccinate 70 to 90 percent of the nearly 20 million New Yorkers – “quickly, safely and fairly,” Cuomo said.

The third point is addressing a short-term economic crisis, a record $15 billion state deficit. Cuomo said a federal government led by President Joe Biden should be more willing to help states and local governments with their big budget deficits. Covid has resulted in a loss of tax revenues and more expenses in fighting the virus.

Legalizing online sports gambling and passing a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program will bring much-needed revenues to the state. Cuomo said the cannabis program also is a social justice issue that will decriminalize unlawful possession of marijuana.

In his fourth point, Cuomo says an economic resurgence is possible. “We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass,” he said. “The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy: smartly and safely. Also, we must energize the lagging private sector and rebuild our economic platform – our transportation system and infrastructure – for the next generation of growth.”

Fifth point, Cuomo proposed making New York the global leader in “the long overdue economic shift to green energy.” Embracing green energy will create thousands of good, secure jobs, Cuomo said.

Sixth point, Cuomo said the state needs anticipate how Covid will transform society and economy, and capitalize on those coming changes.

Cuomo wants the state to pass the Medical Supplies Act. He said the United States was ill-prepared for the global pandemic and faced a severe shortage of basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), leaving frontline health care professionals vulnerable to contracting the disease.

To promote domestic manufacturing of critical medical equipment and to reduce dependency on overseas products, the Medical Supplies Act will prioritize buying American-made PPE and medical supplies.

In the seventh point, New York must address the systemic injustices exposed during this year’s low tide in America – the inequity, the racism, the social abuse, Cuomo said.

One of the proposals calls for eliminating Health Care Premiums for low-income New Yorkers. Covid exposed “persistent, staggering healthcare disparities in this country and in New York State. Blacks, Latinos, Asians and poor communities paid the highest price for Covid-19,” Cuomo said.

Increasing access to affordable healthcare will help address disparities and help ensure that New York emerges from the pandemic stronger and more equitable. Through New York’s successful health insurance exchange, the New York State of Health, low-income families qualify for the state’s Essential Plan for free or with a maximum premium of $20 a month per person.

However, families and individuals still struggle with the expense. To make coverage more affordable for low-income New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo will eliminate these monthly premiums for over 400,000 New Yorkers, saving families nearly $100 million per year in premiums and enrolling 100,000 New Yorkers who are currently uninsured.