Delgado returns to phone to brief 19th District

RHINEBECK–Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19th) held his third tele-town hall April 3, focusing on federal programs to assist individuals and small businesses harmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The congressman was joined by: Assemblyman Chris Tague (R-102nd); Dan Rickman, deputy director of the federal Small Business Administration regional office in Syracuse; and Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith.

The phone-in town hall ran slightly over one hour, with Rep. Delgado fielding 10 questions overall from constituents in Cobbleskill, Saugerties, Oswego, Columbia, Dutchess and Greene counties. In his opening remarks, Mr. Delgado expressed a “heartfelt thank you to first responders,” adding that people are “grateful for their bravery” and declaring, “New York State is most in need.”

He summarized the state’s situation on that day as more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus illness in 32 counties. He cited relief efforts aimed at locating additional ventilators, with 2000 coming from the military and commitment by General Motors to manufacture 10,000 ventilators per month. He said as of the day of the call that New York had 160,000 ventilators available.

Rep. Delgado listed future goals, to be achieved by June and July, as the ability to test 100,000 individuals daily, with half occurring at “points of care.” Test results would be available in 5 minutes for positive findings and 13 minutes for negative ones. Also, persons who do not show symptoms of Covid-19 would be tested.

Mr. Delgado, who sits on House agriculture and small business committees, touted the $2 trillion CARES Act, which provides direct cash relief for individuals and small businesses impacted by the pandemic as well as sets aside money to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Two questions referenced the plight of farmers. One caller noted that some dairies are dumping milk because a processor for pasteurization has closed. Assemblyman Tague, whose district includes the Columbia County Towns of Stuyvesant and Stockport, suggested a meeting with state officials to explore a temporary waiver of 6-8 weeks on regulations requiring milk pasteurization.

The congressman, who said it took significant lobbying to get farmers recognized as small businesses, cited two programs: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economy Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) that would be beneficial. The former provides loans of up to $10 million to cover up to 8 weeks of payroll costs. Those business loans are forgiven if employees are retained without reduction in salary.

The EIDL provides a cash advance of $10,000 to businesses, non-profits and co-ops within 3 days of filing an application for loans up to $2 million. The loans, which also can be used for payroll costs, carry interest rates of 3.75% and 2.75%, with principal and interest deferment for up to fours years.

But a woman caller from Columbia County said that she had made applications to both programs, last week, and has not received any response, “not even an acknowledgment.”

Mr. Rickman spoke encouragingly, saying the caller should receive the advance “very soon,” noted that the processing of applications take 2-3 weeks; but added, “If you have problems we need to hear from you. We are here to help.”

‘We are playing catch-up.’

Rep. Antonio Delgado

19th Congressional District

Two callers, with children who are first responders, expressed concerns about their safety. Rep. Delgado said that states should not be competing among themselves for personal protection equipment (PPE) and opined that President Trump should utilize the Defense Protection Act to facilitate the manufacture of PPEs and to insure the release of such gear directly to hospitals.

Assemblyman Tague added that state barracks have protection protocols in place, including showers so troopers can change clothes before going home.

Several callers asked about individual relief, how and when it would be transacted. Congressman Delgado acknowledged that two-thirds of American families were living “paycheck to paycheck pre-pandemic.” He said that the CARES Act expands Medicaid eligibility, provides for emergency sick leave and extends unemployment insurance for the first time to part-time and gig workers as well as the self-employed.

In addition to state benefits the federal government will add $600 weekly through July 2020 to unemployment benefits. Rep. Delgado added that Social Security recipients would get stimulus checks “automatically, without making applications.” However veterans with pensions would have to file “a simplified tax form.”

Two callers expressed frustration with the lack of a unified response to Covid-19 and asked why other developed nations countries “can do it but not in the United States.”

The congressman said, “We are playing catch-up.” He called the administration’s failure to stop companies from exporting PPE was “very disturbing” and noted that thousands of stockpiled ventilators were damaged.

Dr. Smith noted that Pandemic Preparedness that provided training drills for first responders was a casualty of a de-funded Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She advocated for a “singular approach” and urged people to follow state and federal directives regarding “sheltering in-place.”

Dr. Smith identified drive-in testing sites in Ulster County at Kingston and Ellenville, where anyone with a prescription can get tested. She also offered two Covid-19 Hot Line numbers, (845) 443-888 and (888) 364 -3065.

Looking to future coronavirus relief legislation, the congressman said that he will push hard for rural broadband, calling it a “necessary utility” in light of schools turning to online learning, small businesses needing to sell online and increased numbers of workers working from home.

The tele-town hall ended on a positive note. Calling these “incredibly difficult and unprecedented times,” Delgado vowed, “We will meet this challenge.”

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