Friday, April 17, 2020

AG James Continues Enforcement Actions Against Companies that Take Advantage of COVID-19 Pandemic

Four Companies Receive Cease and Desist Orders to Stop the Selling and Marketing of Unauthorized Test Kits and Products

As Coronavirus Goes After People's Health, Attorney General James is Ensuring Scammers Can't Go After Their Wallets

  New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered Hong Kong Royal Resource Technology Company and Rightangled to immediately cease and desist the selling of unauthorized test kits for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The companies have been misrepresenting to consumers that the products can detect if an individual has contracted the virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any COVID-19 tests for home use. The sale of unapproved home test kits may lead consumers to take inadequate quarantine measures placing the health of consumers — themselves and others — in jeopardy. 

Additionally, Attorney General James has ordered Sustainable Forestry Solutions and Genesis II Church of Health & Healing to immediately cease and desist marketing their products as tools that can cure or treat COVID-19. The companies are misleading consumers regarding the effectiveness of their products amidst the pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not identified any specific medicine which prevents or treats this disease, making any claim of Sustainable Forestry Solutions and Genesis II Church of Health & Healing products being effective at combatting and/or treating COVID-19 a violation of New York state law.
“Misrepresenting the effectiveness or authenticity of products relating to COVID-19 is extremely reckless, and puts vulnerable communities at an even greater risk,” said Attorney General James. “By giving consumers false information, all four companies are giving consumers a false sense of security, which can have an adverse effect on the containment and treatment of COVID-19. My office will continue to root out companies that attempt to illegally profit from this pandemic by prioritizing their bottom line over public health.”
Hong Kong Royal Resource Technology Company, Rightangled, Sustainable Forestry Solutions, and Genesis II Church of Health & Healing targeted consumers through a combination of their websites, podcasts, and social media. Each company is ordered to immediately cease and desist making misleading claims about COVID-19-marketed products, and must cease and desist the sale of unauthorized products.
Attorney General James has sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as preventative treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including TV host Wayne Allyn RootAlex Jones, The Silver Edge companyDr. Sherill Sellman, and televangelist Jim Bakker.
Attorney General James has also issued cease and desist notifications to hundreds of businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market. 
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) continues to surveil and monitor businesses across the state for potential scams and price gouging schemes designed to exploit public concern related to the spread of the coronavirus. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam or have witnessed potential price gouging, please report these incidents to the OAG.

Attorney General James Cleanses Internet of Coronavirus-Related Scams

  New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a sweeping effort she initiated in March to scrub the internet of websites seeking to illegally profit and deceive millions of Americans and hundreds of millions more around the world off the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis. Over the last month, dozens of staff members in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) have been reviewing domain names for potential scams attempting to take advantage of fearful consumers. Since March, the OAG has worked in cooperation with domain name registrars across the nation to — upon identification — remove websites selling, marketing, and promoting fraudulent goods and services. Additionally, the OAG has worked with these registrars to “lock” these domain names so they cannot be transferred to other registrars — ensuring they cannot be used to support any additional illegal activity. 

“Unfortunately, the world wide web is filled with criminals and nefarious actors looking to exploit the coronavirus pandemic and take advantage of innocent victims,” said Attorney General James. “The operators of these scam sites are not only stoking fear in the hearts and minds of Americans, but are illegally profiting from their fraudulent deception. Alongside our partners at different domain registrars, we are working to cleanse the internet of these illegal sites one at a time, but we need all consumers to remain vigilant. We must stop these scammers from peddling their fraudulent sites and swindling Americans out of their hard-earned money.”
On March 20th, Attorney General James contacted a number of domain name registrars, including, in an effort to stop the registration and use of internet domain names by individuals and companies trying to unlawfully and fraudulently profit off consumers’ fears around the coronavirus. The registrars have been cooperating with Attorney General James’ investigation, and have acted quickly to take down numerous domain names after receiving information from the OAG about illegal and deceptive activity on websites associated with those domain names. The entities behind these domain names are violating a number of New York State laws, as well as the registrars’ terms of service. 
To date, the OAG has had more than 20 fraudulent websites removed for marketing scams, including, but not limited to, sites:
  • Selling Home Testing Kits: A number of websites have sold home testing kits to test for COVID-19, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any testing kits for home or other personal use.
  • Phishing for Personal Information: A number of websites have tricked consumers into providing personal information, including credit card numbers, for fraudulent purposes.
  • Selling Fake Cures and Remedies: A number of websites have sold products such as vitamin C and air purifiers, fraudulently and without any science-based research supporting claims that they can protect consumers from COVID-19. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine or cure for COVID-19, and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus.
  • Promoting Fraudulent Donation Sites: A number of websites have pretended to be legitimate charities — seeking donations for those in need — when, in reality, they have not been affiliated with any charity. 
Additionally, the OAG’s efforts over the last month have found that a number of websites have not delivered medical supplies and other items ordered by consumers. In one case, a purchasing manager for a hospital in China purchased over $40,000 worth of masks and other medical supplies from a company that not only failed to deliver the supplies, but then disconnected its phone lines. 
In another case associated with a telemarketing phishing scam, a website was created pretending to be a hospital in New York that did not exist. There were fake doctors on the website with made-up names and images pulled from widely-available stock photos of medical professionals. Language from the website was copied directly from other legitimate hospitals. There was an appointments page, where patients were asked to enter their name and contact information to "request" an appointment with a specific doctor or department, but no specific information was subsequently provided about the appointment.
To narrow down and remove the more than 20 sites in question, the OAG used both automated and manual processes to target the most suspect domains. The OAG then identified which domains were active, and then further narrowed down the list to which were deemed suspicious by analyzing website content. The remaining domains were subject to manual review and those selling, marketing, and promoting fraudulent goods and services were marked for removal.
The registration and creation of these fraudulent websites violate a number of laws, including, but not limited to, Executive Law § 63(12) and General Business Law § 349/350. These fraudulent sites have also violated the various domain name registrars’ terms of service for domain registration, which generally prohibit any deceptive or illegal products or services on the website associated with the domain name.
The Office of the Attorney General would like to thank the different registrars for their cooperation with the OAG in preventing bad actors from seeking to profit from the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately, in an effort to protect New Yorkers in the fight against coronavirus scams, Attorney General James sent a letter to last month, calling on the company to immediately remove posts that attempt to price gouge users, or otherwise purport to sell items that provide “immunity” to the coronavirus or allow individuals to test for the disease.
If an individual believes they are a victim of a website-related COVID-19 scam, they should report it immediately to the OAG’s Bureau of Internet and Technology.
At this time, the OAG is not releasing the specific web sites taken down over the last month to avoid drawing attention to them and alerting the individuals behind these illegal operations to the investigation.

Statement from New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer on the FY 2021 Executive Budget

  “In this public health emergency there is nothing more important than providing for the most vulnerable New Yorkers – communities of color, immigrants, seniors, and those experiencing homelessness.

“The Mayor’s budget relies on a mix of savings, reserves, and federal stimulus funds to maintain a balanced budget.  A more robust savings program in prior years would have helped to build up a bigger cushion to protect against cuts that will be devastating in particular to New York City’s youth.
“What is abundantly clear, however, is that in order for us to get on our strongest fiscal footing, we need the federal government to step up. New York City is both the epicenter of this crisis and the financial capital of the country. The national recovery starts here, and the federal government needs to provide wide-ranging, robust financial support in recognition of our central role.
“We look forward to reviewing this budget and ensuring that it secures the social safety net, protects jobs, delivers for all New Yorkers, and sets the stage for our city to rebuild.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Governor Cuomo Outlines Blueprint to Un-PAUSE New York

Blueprint Will Work to Control the Rate of Infection, Strengthen the Health Care System and Ramp Up Testing with Help from the Federal Government While Phasing an Economic Return to a "New Normal"

  Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today outlined a blueprint to un-pause New York, getting people back to work and easing social isolation without triggering renewed spread of the virus. The ultimate plan will be implemented in coordination with other states in the multi-state council.

  1. Do No Harm - Step one is to continue controlling the rate of infection. This includes extending the NY Pause order until May 15th and implementing additional measures to reduce the rate of infection, including requiring masks in public when social distancing is not possible.
  2. Strengthening the healthcare system - Step two is continuing the surge and flex strategy to ensure anyone who needs medical attention gets it, building out the strategic stockpile of PPE and other medical equipment, and sharing resources amongst states and localities.
  3. Testing and Contact Tracing - The best tool to inform decisions and calibrate progress of any phased reopening of the economy is through both diagnostic and antibody testing. The states need the federal government to partner on this effort and bring it to the mass scale that is needed. With the help of an army of investigators, contact tracing needs to be done to help limit the virus spread.
  4. Phased Return to "New Normal" -
    • Evaluating Risk by Industry: The 'Un-Pause NY' approach is designed to open businesses in phases of priority. Businesses considered "more essential" with inherent low risks of infection in the workplace and to customers will be prioritized, followed by other businesses considered "less essential" or those that present a higher risk of infection spread. As the infection rate declines, the pace of reopening businesses will be increased.
    • Precautions and Practices for businesses to consider to guide phased returnto "new normal":  
      • Transport: Ensure employees have means for safe transport (i.e., masks, gloves for public transit) or require telecommuting/work from home.
      • Workplace: Ensure workplaces are designed to include social distancing measures (i.e., desks six feet apart, conference rooms redesigned), telecommuting for those who can and the most vulnerable
      • Customer Interaction: Ensure measures designed to ensure minimal contact with customers, ensure public-interacting employees have necessary protective supplies such as gloves, masks, etc.). Special precautions should be taken for businesses that primarily interact with the most vulnerable populations.
      • Proactive Infection Plan: Ensure protocols in place should an employee develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive (i.e. work from home plan)

"Now that we've shown we can flatten the curve and our efforts to control the spread of the virus are working, we must focus on a smart, effective plan to un-pause New York," Governor Cuomo said. "The first part of the plan is to do no harm - don't let that infection rate go up to the best of your ability and don't lose the progress that we have made. Second, now that we have some stability in our health care system after a weeks-long overdrive, we continue to strengthen that system and ramp up testing and contact tracing to identify those who are sick and isolate them so they don't transmit the virus to others. Then we can focus on phasing an economic return to the new normal - but we need all those activities going on at the same time for our plan to un-pause New York to work."


$20 million fund will reach 20,000 immigrant workers and their families with direct, one-time emergency relief

  Mayor de Blasio today announced a partnership with Open Society Foundations to establish the New York City COVID-19 Immigrant Emergency Relief program, reaffirming the City’s commitment to ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, are included in citywide COVID-19 response and relief efforts. This $20 million donation marks an essential step to provide emergency monetary relief to immigrant workers and their families, who have largely been excluded from federal COVID-19 relief programs.

“Immigrants are the heart of this City – they are our friends, neighbors and colleagues,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This crisis has shown it is now more important than ever for New Yorkers to look out for each other. I want to thank the Open Society Foundations for partnering with us to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of their documentation status, can get the support they need.”

“COVID-19 does not discriminate, but for immigrants, often working on the frontline of this crisis, it is a hardship multiplier for them and their families. We must make sure that everyone in our city, regardless of immigration status, has access to the support they need," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Immigrant New Yorkers are our neighbors, loved ones, and community members. We value and depend on them, and we want them to know that their City will not leave them behind.”

"New York City is the epicenter of the COVID-19, with more cases and casualties than most whole countries. This crisis has laid bare just how much we depend on low-wage workers who stock our grocery shelves, harvest and deliver our food, staff society's essential services. These essential workers are also the people with the least access to services and benefits, many of them beyond the reach of the government's stimulus package. The Open Society Foundations is proud to support NYC and its partner organizations, including National Domestic Workers Alliance, to provide direct relief to these workers, who are literally holding up our society right now, and hope that policymakers going forward will address the structural inequalities they live with every day," said Patrick Gaspard, President of the Open Society Foundations.

The NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City will create a citywide network of community based organizations that will provide direct, one-time emergency relief payments to immigrant families – including undocumented workers – who play a vital role in the City’s workforce and economy.

This initial funding will reach up to 20,000 undocumented workers and their families affected by COVID-19 related job loss and facing financial distress. The citywide network of community based organizations and worker centers will disseminate one-time emergency relief payments to eligible New Yorkers in the following amounts:
    • $400/individual
    • $800 for couple or single parent with children
    • $1,000 for family with multiple adults and children
    • And/or where identified increased additional supports.

This network of community partners will also connect and assist individuals with information or enrollment for other forms of relief and resources such as unemployment, SNAP, cash assistance, or emergency food delivery programs they may be eligible for on a case by case basis and more.

New York City is home to 3.1 million immigrants who comprise about 37 percent of the City’s population and 44 percent of its workforce– including approximately 360,000 undocumented workers and 48,000 undocumented business owners. In 2019, foreign-born New Yorkers, including the undocumented population, contributed about $232 billion to the City’s GDP. Among the one million essential workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic—delivery workers, EMS staff, drivers, health care personnel, and more—half are immigrants.

Undocumented workers and their families—approximately 738,000 New Yorkers, including 218,000 children—remain particularly vulnerable at this time. Over a third of NYC’s undocumented workforce are low income, are ineligible for most safety net assistance, and have been left behind by federal stimulus packages because of their documentation status.

The Open Society Foundations will also provide a $15 million donation to the Fund for Public Schools’ (The Fund) NYC Schools COVID-19 Response Effort to support New York City Department of Education's (DOE) school communities during this challenging timeThis is the largest gift The Fund and DOE have received to date in response to COVID-19 and will support emergency childcare and the remote learning of young and school-age children of essential workers on the frontlines, ranging from medical and emergency personnel to transit workers. 

"This Administration has always worked to ensure equity and inclusion is at  the forefront of everything we do, and why we will not stand idly by as our immigrant communities continue to be cut out of federal support despite being disproportionally impacted by this pandemic," said J. Phillip Thompson, Deputy Mayor of Strategic Policy Initiatives. "Our partnership with Open Society will do what the federal government has failed to do—acknowledge and support the immigrant New Yorkers who are the backbone of our City." 

“Immigrant communities, including undocumented families, have been gravely and disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, but left out of federal stimulus relief. There can be no serious effort to address this moment and this tremendous gap in equity without connecting our fellow New Yorkers to the care and resources they need, regardless of their immigration status,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We are grateful to the Open Society Foundations for this partnership—a critical part of our efforts to support and empower immigrant families who need it most. We hope to build on the Immigrant Emergency Relief Fund Program in New York City and we urge our state and federal counterparts to follow suit and ensure that some of the country’s most essential, and most vulnerable, communities are protected.”

“Throughout this crisis, we’ve spared no effort to ensure our students and families feel safe and supported by their schools and by their city, and we’re so grateful for this generous gift. With the support of the Open Society Foundations and the Fund for Public Schools, we can continue to enhance remote learning efforts for 1.1 million children and provide emergency childcare for essential workers—services New Yorkers need in the difficult months to come,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza.

“As the impacts of COVID-19 ripple throughout our city, it is our duty as a community to ensure that no one gets left behind, especially our immigrant neighbors who are an integral piece of the fabric of New York City," said Toya Williford, Executive Director of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. "When philanthropy comes together with local government and community-based organizations, our ability to help the most vulnerable among us is unparalleled. We are deeply grateful for OSF's commitment to New York City's immigrant communities.”

“Our ability to recover and heal as a community from the impacts of COVID-19 relies on the strength of our partnerships," said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor for COVID Relief. “I want to thank the Open Society Foundation for working with us to prioritize the most vulnerable New Yorkers--the members of our immigrant communities—so they have the support they need to provide for themselves and their families. And this work could not be accomplished without the support of New York City’s non-profit community and I want to thank them for putting themselves on the front-line of this crisis.”


Postal worker shortages have ravaged mail delivery in the Bronx, delaying essential letters and packages and leaving Bronxites in the dark about when they can expect to receive them.

  Nearly twenty elected officials representing the Bronx sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and United States Postmaster General Megan Brennan to highlight serious concerns about inconsistent and unreliable mail service throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The letter represents an escalation from previous efforts to call attention to delivery problems that were first noticed in the 10463 zip code but are now present in many neighborhoods all over the borough.

The letter calls attention to “great concern regarding the health and safety of postal workers and the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on mail delivery in New York City.” The Bronx officials highlight specifically that their constituents have not been receiving updated and transparent information on postal procedures, causing severe distress as crucial letters, bills, checks, medications, and packages are delayed for days or weeks with minimal information from USPS.

Additionally, the Bronx officials highlight health risks posed to postal service employees as a result of nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). Postal workers have been calling out sick in significantly greater numbers than usual, sometimes reducing workforces to less than one-quarter of what is needed to deliver one day’s mail.

The letter includes three specific questions for Vice President Pence and Postmaster General Brennan to answer. First, the Bronx officials ask about how USPS is handling worker shortages to ensure that mail is delivered in a timely manner. Second, they ask about guidelines provided to post offices for ensuring that postal customers throughout the USPS system are kept informed about operations and delays in services. Third, the letter requests a current status of PPE supplies that are available to fulfill USPS’s guarantee that masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer are available to employees upon request.

The letter is available here and was signed by:
  • Congressmembers Adriano Espaillat, Eliot Engel, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
  • Assemblymembers Jeffrey Dinowitz, Michael Benedetto, Michael Blake, Marcos Crespo, Nathalia Fernandez, Latoya Joyner, Victor Pichardo, Karines Reyes, and Jose Rivera
  •  State Senators Jamaal T. Bailey, Alessandra Biaggi, Gustavo Rivera, and Jose M. Serrano
  • Council Members Andrew Cohen and Mark Gjonaj
  • Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of the Assembly Bronx Delegation, said: “There is power in numbers, and right now what the Bronx needs is the power to get a response from the United States Postal Service and the White House Administration. I am sick and tired of these serious problems going unaddressed at a systemwide level. We cannot operate a nationwide postal system by waiting for employees to get sick before making a plan. USPS needs to step up and be leaders here by making sure their workers have readily available PPE so that people can get their mail. Our borough is the canary in the coal mine for USPS, and what we are experiencing with COVID-19 now is what should be expected across the nation over the next several months. Thank you to all of my fellow Bronx advocates for joining me on this letter, and I am hopeful that our constituents will soon have some desperately needed answers about their mail service.”

“The health and safety of postal workers and the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on USPS services and mail delivery is having a tremendous impact on residents throughout New York City,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “Many residents rely on these services to receive critical supplies and other packages that they would otherwise get physically. However, due to the pandemic and lockdown, postal delivery is the only method available to them.  As our community continues to address the ongoing needs that individuals and families face, we must ensure postal services continue as regularly as possible. Additionally, we must ensure the safety and well-being of postal workers and provide the necessary equipment that allows them to continue their jobs amid this ongoing pandemic. These are unprecedented times for our communities and it will take each of working together to provide services that keep our communities functioning as we continue to respond to the daily challenges brought about due to this pandemic.”

Said Congressman Eliot Engel: “The US Postal Service is facing a real crisis. A global pandemic is putting mail carriers and postal employees in danger every day. USPS finances are in dire straits. Mail delivery has become erratic or non-existent in our borough, and the President seems content to let the entire operation wither and die on the vine. We simply can’t let that happen. Medications, pay checks, absentee ballots—the post office delivers all of these items, which are more essential today than ever before. How USPS plans to continue delivery, while keeping their workers safe with PPE and other necessary protocols, must be addressed by the highest members of the Trump Administration. I will continue the fight in Washington to stop Trump from destroying the USPS, but we need a real, tangible plan to keep the mail coming at least several times a week during the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“In order to continue quality postal service for our Bronx residents, we must ensure the safety of those delivering the mail, as essential workers,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “As we all do our part and stay home to flatten the curve, we have become more dependent on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver essential mail and packages. Bronx residents have reached out to our office about the lag time in delivery, which is why we must do all that we can to keep postal workers safe. In light of Governor Cuomo’s recent executive order to make sure postal workers have the proper personal protective equipment, we fully support any safety measures that will aid the indispensable men and women of the U.S. Postal Service.”

State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey said: “Our postal workers go out everyday risking themselves in order to ensure that residents receive their mail. The Bronx has recently seen shortages in customer service and transparency in the postal system. Residents rely heavily on the postal system to receive benefits, crucial information, and bills they need to pay by a certain date. Additionally, we’ve seen our postal workers lack proper PPE, and believe that all workers should have access adequate PPE when delivering mail. I urge Vice President Mike Pence and United State Postmaster General Megan Brennan to increase transparency, and efficiency in our postal system, and ensure that our postal workers have access to adequate PPE.” 

MAYOR DE BLASIO ON COVID-19 - April 16, 2020

  Mayor Bill de Blasio: The crisis we're going through, it's been real tough on all of us. Some families have suffered so much, in particular. The challenge has been so great and on top of it, there's been so much confusion, because no one, no one anywhere, still fully understands this disease that’s afflicted us. So, we're all trying to make sense of that and we're all looking for anything that's clear and concrete in the midst of this fight, in the midst of this painful crisis. So, I want to offer something today that's just crystal clear, and this is about how your city will approach this crisis. How we will approach making sure that we do the things that matter most for New Yorkers. And it's often said that a budget is a statement of values. So, I'll be very, very clear about the values that I'm bringing to this process. This entire administration is bringing to this process, and it really comes down to four things. There are four things that we will focus on. Four things that I care about profoundly as we fight this battle. Four things that we will prioritize in the way we spend our resources.

First of all, keeping New Yorkers, healthy. Number-one job, keeping New Yorkers healthy. Second, keeping you safe. Third, making sure there's food on your table. Fourth, keeping a roof over your head. These are the basics. These are just fundamental basics. And look, even just weeks ago, we would've been trying to talk about a lot of other things, we’d been thinking about a lot of other things. Our lives have changed just so profoundly in very, very little time. But these four things are what people are overwhelmingly focused on, rightfully so. And your government needs to be focused on these four things too. So, things that might've been a priority, you know, two months ago, three months ago, can't be a priority right now. Things that we would love to focus on in peace time, we don't get to focused on in wartime. And this in effect is wartime. But what I can tell you is, these four things, we will spare no expense. I'll spare no effort. Whatever it takes to keep New Yorkers healthy, we'll do it. To keep you safe, we'll do it. To make sure you have enough food to eat. To make sure you have a roof over your head. Whatever it takes, we will protect you. And that's going to be clear in this presentation I make today. And everything we do thereafter when it comes to the city budget, which will be finalized in June. Whatever we do is going to follow these four priorities.

Now, let's be clear, because we're going to talk today about what we need our federal government to do for us, to help us make sure we can protect all New Yorkers. If the federal government fails us in our hour of need, then these four things that we must do get harder and harder to do. If the federal government fails us, then I want to be really clear, the notion of this city recovering, it doesn't work if we can't do the basics. Everyone wants a restart. Everyone wants our economy to recover. I know everyone in Washington feels that too, but it has to be a really clear understanding. If we can't provide the basics for our people, then you can kiss your recovery goodbye. It's as blunt as that. The only way you have recovery, is if places like New York City in particular, the great economic leader and engine of this nation, if we're strong, our nation can be strong. If we're not strong, if our people are not safe, then this nation can't recover. And that's true for cities and states all over the country. So, as this debate starts raging in Washington D.C., I would ask the President, and Leader McConnell, in particular, in the Senate to remember the first thing you should be thinking about is the human cost. The moral question, what should we be doing for our people? What should we be doing for our fellow Americans who are New Yorkers and Americans everywhere to protect their health, their safety, the ability to put food on the table, and a roof over their head? That should be the moral question. That should be the straightforward question. But if they need somehow a pragmatic motivation, if they need a motivation that's about the economy or the restart, then I offer this. If you don't do those basics right, you won't get your restart, so why don't we do it now? Why don't we help people right now? Why don't we make sure that these basics are there for every New Yorker, every American, so we can move forward together?

When you think about what we've had to do over the last weeks, and it feels like it's been months or years, but it's really only been weeks. We had to shut down our retail stores. We had to shut down bars and restaurants. We had to change our life fundamentally in a city that's so famous for all that, all go on, all altered profoundly. We had to close our schools, that painful choice, which has meant such challenge for our families, for our children. And we had to go to shelter in place and social distancing. A way that would've been unimaginable just weeks ago. We made these decisions. I made them, New Yorkers made them too by taking these new rules and living by them, and again, you've been absolutely outstanding in your adherence to these new standards. We made these decisions. They were the right decisions. It was all about keeping people healthy and safe. But it was impossible to ignore, at the time those decisions were being considered, it was impossible to ignore all the other impact it would have on people's lives. The fact that these decisions would mean a lot of people would lose their livelihood, and we didn't know for how long. The fact that our economy would be set back profoundly, that would mean we would have a lot less to work with. We would have a lot less revenue as well to serve our people with. But again, we put the priority on your health and your safety. And now as we're feeling the effects of this crisis, those decisions we had to make, but it all comes back to the sheer ferociousness of this disease, the worst health care crisis in a century. Now, we have to do everything we possibly can to make sure that people are safe, and to protect them in all the ways I've outlined, and that's what this budget is all about.

Now, over the last six years, we talked frequently about preparing for a rainy day. We got much more than a rainy day. We got a pandemic, we got something unimaginable. I've been in many meetings where there was discussion of preparing for a recession. There was discussion of preparing for hurricanes and blizzards, all sorts of challenges. No one foresaw a pandemic of the extent of this. Something we haven't seen in a century on this earth. But getting ready for a rainy day still helped us, because we had created profound reserves, and we'll talk about that. We've had right before this horrible disease struck us, the highest fiscal reserves in the history of New York City, and thank God we did. And that work happened over the last six years, and with the great partnership of the city council that was very devoted to that process of ensuring we had ever-growing reserves. The extent of the problem, however, so unprecedented, is such that it immediately makes clear getting out of this problem will take solutions unlike any we've seen before. They must come from Washington. This is just the honest truth. We will do our share as we are going to see today, over $2 billion in very tough budget cuts, very unfortunate budget cuts, but they had to be done. We're taking the actions that we can take, but the only force that can ensure that we get through this the right way, is the federal government. They have the ability to provide the resources in a way that no one else, no organization, nothing else on earth can help us the way the federal government can, and now it's their hour of decision.

We had those great reserves, and you'll see today, they have been deeply affected by this crisis. We have been making cuts, and those cuts are painful, but they pale in comparison to the challenges ahead, and this is not a solution going forward to cut your way out of this crisis. If you cut your way out of this crisis, it comes at a huge cost in terms of our ability to provide for those four basic things all New Yorkers need. Let's be very clear. If we don't have the resources to ensure people's health and safety, their housing, their food, this becomes a very different city. We have to make sure those basics are there for people. So, where we can cut, we will. But when it comes to protecting New Yorkers, we will not cut that.

Now, the backdrop here is painful the loss of the revenue we need to protect our people. Sales taxes are way down because people aren't going out, they're not buying things, income tax, obviously way down, people have lost jobs, lost income. We believe based on the kind of careful forecasting that our Office of Management and Budget does every year that right now this is a horrible figure and— I'm very sorry I have to tell you this, but over this current fiscal year and next, we will lose $7.4 billion in tax revenue. That's today's estimate. We don't know what the future brings, but that's what we know right now and that's a horrifying figure. And on top of that, we have a lot of new things that we have to do and costs we have to incur to protect people. There are huge new costs in terms of our hospital system, medical personnel, supplies to save lives this all must be a priority and we're spending whatever it takes to make sure people are protected. Food, we talked about this yesterday, $170 million in new spending to make sure that New Yorkers have enough to eat because we now have to ask that question. How many more families won't have enough to eat in this crisis? We have to protect them and we don't know when this crisis ends, we do know it will end that much we can say thank God, but we don't know when. We don't know how and we know that the impacts that's been made on people continues to grow and we know that the loss of revenue could be even greater. So, it's a very sobering situation, but we keep coming back to those basics that's what's going to guide us.

The executive budget I'm presenting today was built for this moment in history and a moment unlike any other, literally the budget totals $89.3 billion for Fiscal Year ‘21. It is balanced. Again, focuses on four things – overwhelmingly health, safety, food, shelter. It’s that simple, health, safety, food, shelter. As I said, we found ways to save we found cuts we could make even if we didn't feel any anything about pain in taking away some of these things. Two billion-plus in cuts through our PEG program that's a mandating that agencies find cuts to their spending additional almost 700 million in other savings we've found so a total of $2.7 billion in savings across both Fiscal Year ‘20 and Fiscal Year ‘21 and there will certainly be more tough choices ahead and to get us through this immediate phase. We are drawing down on our budget reserves, we built them up we hope this day would never come, but it has. Thank God those reserves were carefully built, they will now help us get through if ever there was a time to draw on reserves it's now. And on top of all the challenges brought to us by the coronavirus directly that are part of why we have to draw on those reserves, there's yet another challenge what we've seen already in cuts from the State of New York, $800 million already and we obviously are watching carefully cause we have to be ready for what the future brings in terms of the State budget. Now, the one way that you can get out of this without causing immense human pain and setting back our recovery, the one way is to get the kind of direct federal aid that we deserve.

No New Yorker – no New Yorker is responsible for this horrible crisis, but New York has borne the brunt, we have been the epicenter. When you look at the impact here, anybody with a heart would recognize that the federal government has to come to the rescue. We lead the nation's economy, we're the biggest City in the country, we constantly send resources out to the rest of the country year after year. There are so many reasons why it's clear, but just humanly, this is the reason that should matter the most because people are suffering because no Americans should have to go through what New York is going through and the federal government should be there for us. I remind you federal government was very quick to bail out the banks a decade ago, no questions asked, federal government was very quick to bail out the auto industry. How about bailing out the nation's largest City? How about bailing out the epicenter of this crisis where people have been suffering? That is what our federal government should do for every reason morally, practically as any question of fairness, as any question of how we move forward and we're still waiting. Now, what we're going through is what other cities are more and more going through other States are going through, we're not alone they haven't seen the help they deserve either.

There's been $2.2 trillion in stimulus funding so far – $2.2 trillion – of which only $1.4 billion has been indirect aid to New York City. To give you a comparison, we got $1.4 billion and we're the epicenter of the crisis – 8.6 million people. The airline industry got $58 billion, so corporate bailouts, huge. But a bail out for the place that needs it most has been minimal. I want to be very clear, the leadership that we have seen, and I want to commend Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, I spoke to both of them yesterday, I want to commend them for the work they're doing because they have led the way in pushing for all the elements of the stimulus that were needed, not just for Cities and States, but for everyday people. Those checks are going out to help working people, so much of that came from the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer. We know where the roadblock has consistently, Senator McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate has stood in the way so many of the things needed. He has to hear our plea, he has to understand what it means for human beings that is not allowing the kind of aid to flow that we need, but it's also clearly time for President Trump to speak up. I spoke to the President yesterday, I let them know what's happening in his hometown. I let him know that we're experiencing a huge budget problem and I said to him in the clearest terms, if we don't have any more resources, how can we provide for the safety, the protection, the health of New Yorkers. And I was clear with him and the Vice President that the only way to recovery is if New York City and all our cities are able to come back strong and if they can function as they can't function, there is no recovery.

So, right now, there is an opportunity right this minute, literally negotiations are going on in Washington and what's being called Stimulus 3.5. There's another even bigger stimulus package up ahead, number four later apparently in May. But right now, there are negotiations going on stimulus 3.5 with a focus on small business and paycheck protection. Obviously, our small businesses have gone through hell and only the federal government can help them in the way that's needed. Working people need to know that their livelihoods will be preserved, that piece of this stimulus 3.5 is crucial, if there's a discussion right now, proposal two point, excuse me, of a 250 billion, 250 billion for small business and for working people through paycheck protection. There's 100 billion on the table for hospitals and health care workers crucially needed here and many, many other places and 150 billion and I think it should be at least 150 billion. I know the governors, to our credit, the nation's governors – bipartisan consensus – are calling for even more and we need more. But, right now, even to begin a discussion of 150 billion in locality at aid directly to localities and States. But I'll be clear, that formula must be based on need, it must be based on what localities and States have actually experienced with COVID-19, not just some generic distribution for political purposes, but actually addressing the needs of this City, this State, what people have gone through. You know, if we were talking about a hurricane, we were talking about natural disaster, you wouldn't put money in for the entire nation equally, if the natural disaster help happen in one place, this is a different reality because this disaster of COVID happened many places, but thank God there are some parts of our nation have had very little impact, some parts that have had a moderate impact and then a place like New York that's borne the brunt, that's been the epicenter. This funding must reflect that reality it's just common sense, it's about helping people and about helping us back on our feet.

So, I made clear to the President that its hometown needs him, and I've had this conversation with them before they all New Yorkers, 8.6 million are watching the White House right now to see if the President will lead. Will the President speak up, if the President United States— speaks up, let's be clear, if President Trump raises his voice, the Republican Senate will follow period. Haven't heard his voice yet, I want to give him an opportunity to do the right thing. So, President Trump, here's my appeal to you, help us back on our feet. Tell Mitch McConnell that we need stimulus 3.5 and we need a directly to New York City directly to New York State so we can keep providing the help that people need, keep them healthy, keep them safe. If you lead, the Senate will follow, if you are silent, they will not. It's on you, Mr. President, as true for every City and every State in America as well. So, anyone who wants that national recovery, better take care of the places that have to build that recovery. And that's why we need this stimulus 3.5 and it could be agreed to today – literally today – and passed by the Senate by unanimous consent, and that's what we need.

Now, that is a very broad summary of what we are presenting today in the budget. The details have been posted publicly now, showing you how we made the difficult cuts we had to make – the specific programs and initiatives we had to cut back in this time of crisis. Some of them, thank God – you know, many of them, will be able to hopefully restore one day in better times. But so much of it is also about just the reality, a lot of what we're doing just can't happen now. Any expenditure that was related to people gathering as part of their normal year - there are no gatherings. So, there's a lot you'll see in these cuts that were obvious, a lot that were difficult of course; all that were necessary so that we could keep the resources for those basics I described. So, the facts, the details, are now public. How we got to the specific numbers that now dictate this budget. The toughest part will be ahead and that will all be about what happens in Washington and we have time, thank God, to see Washington decide if they're going to act or not. If they're going to save New York City and America’s cities or not; we have time between now and June for those decisions to be made and they better be made right and that will dictate everything else we have to do.

So, that is a very broad overview of the budget. I want to talk about a few, couple of, few other areas and then we will turn to questions from the media. So, right now as we fight this battle against the coronavirus, we're learning every day more and more about it, more and more about the reality. And one of the things we've talked about in the last week or two is we're seeing some real disparities in how this horrible disease is affecting our city. We're seeing some places hit particularly hard; we're seeing lower income communities hit particularly hard, we're seeing communities where people have not gotten enough health care historically hit hard, communities of color hit very hard, immigrant communities hit hard. So, we're making additional adjustments to our approach and one of them is to increase the number of free hotel rooms available for isolation and quarantine. Right now, 11,000 hotel rooms are being readied for this new effort. And this will be focused on people who need a place because of the reality of their living circumstance. For example, there are many people in multigenerational homes, particularly lower income communities that just don't have a lot of space and if there is a threat that someone might get infected in the home and it might spread amongst the members of that family, we have to guard against that. So, we are making sure that people in those multigenerational homes – many of them overcrowded homes – will have a place to go. If a member of a family, for example, is symptomatic or if a member of a family is high-risk, we will have a hotel room that will allow them to isolate from other members of the family. This is something that's going to help us protect people and slow the spread further. We'll work with community health centers and all of our public hospitals and clinics to identify who needs this particular support. This will begin this coming Wednesday and we will move those who need that help to those hotel rooms.

We're also continuing to make sure the hotel rooms are available for all health care workers. I want to emphasize this, whether they work in public hospitals, whether they work in any of the other types of voluntary hospitals, independent hospitals - any health care worker who needs a place to stay while they're doing their work, who needs to be isolated from their family for fear of spreading the disease to their family and obviously they, these incredibly heroic health care workers are exposing themselves every day to that potential risk and a lot of them do not want to take the risk of bringing it home to their families. Those hotel rooms would be available, regardless of which hospital, there’s 56 hospitals in this fight – regardless of which one you work at - they will be available to you if that's what you choose. And obviously, as we discussed a few days ago, making more rooms available for homeless individuals who are in shelter settings where we need to create more space; wherever it's not possible to have the space that we need, we are going to use hotel rooms as the better option. This is made more possible by the fact that we see the reality with coronavirus somewhat differently, affecting us somewhat differently, today than it was a week or two ago. We are far from out of the woods, but bluntly at this point I had expected a number of these hotels to already have been converted to field hospitals. Our projections told us we might have to use a vast number of hotels - dozens and dozens - to be able to accommodate all the medical needs. So far, thank God that has not been the case and we will not let our guard down; we will always be vigilant. We are never ruling out that this disease might throw us another curve ball, but because there are [inaudible] hotel rooms now available, we're going to turn them to these uses more and more to keep people safe.

Another area where it's been a lot of concern and understandably so, has been about our jail system and keeping everyone safe; the people who work there, our corrections officers and all the other folks who work there, the inmates as well – there's been a real humanitarian concern. Well, what we've been devoted to from the beginning is reducing that jail population in whatever way we appropriately could, whatever way was fair and humanitarian, but also always kept public safety in mind. So, at the beginning of March, there were 5,447 inmates in our jail system and that it bears remembering, was already less than half the number compared to the day I took office when we had over 11,000 inmates – so, beginning of March, 5,447. Three weeks ago, we announced that we had gotten under 5,000 inmates and yesterday. Another historic milestone – jail population is now under 4,000 inmates. That is the lowest in 74 years. You have to go back to 1946, the year after World War II ended to have had so few people in our jail system. And again, under 4,000 people compared to a city of 8.6 million. So, thank God, we're able to find a way to do that the right way and that means there are many fewer people in the space that remains – more ability to socially distance within the jails, more ability to ensure that if people need isolation or quarantine, they can get it and this is how we're going to protect the health of everyone involved and with of course, the extraordinary efforts of our correctional health system, a part of Health + Hospitals. And I thank everyone at correctional health, they don't get a lot of attention, they don't get a lot of kudos, but I want to thank everyone in correctional health who has been making sure that everyone in our jail system, employees, and inmates, are safe. And again to all of our correction officers and everyone that works in our correction system, we know how tough your work is and it's been really tough in this period, but you've stuck to it and you've all worked together to keep people safe and we really appreciate that deeply.

Now, we're at the point where each day I tell you about the indicators that tell us how we're doing and I think you're going to see again that we should never underestimate this disease. We're hoping for sustained progress. We believe these indicators are the truest indicators to tell us where we stand and where we're going and how to approach it. But these indicators tell us a tough truth some days about the fact that it won't be easy, it won't necessarily be fast, it won't be all in a straight line. So, we believe this is the truth and New Yorkers always want the blunt truth and it tells us we've got a lot more work to do, but it's also a reminder that the progress we have made is all because of you and stick to it with those social distancing standards and with shelter in place - stick to it cause we're going to need it. So, in terms of the daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19, unfortunately that number went up. And again, these are based on numbers from two days ago that have been verified - went up from 370 to 386. Daily number of people in ICUs across our Health + Hospital system for suspected  COVID-19 – went up 868 to 887. The percentage of people who have tested positive - went up from 53 percent to 55 percent. And our public health labs testing, the number who tested positive went up from 76 percent to 78 percent. So, this was a tough day; this is not what we're looking for, but we know we're going to do this stage-by-stage, step-by-step. We'll get there and it just reminds us we have to stick to it.

Governor Cuomo Vetoes 53 Legislative Additions to the FY 2021 Enacted Budget

  Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the submission of 53 vetoes in accordance with Article VII of the State Constitution, eliminating pages of unnecessary language from the FY 2021 Enacted Budget. 

The vetoes include various appropriations pertaining to state agency operations, local assistance, and capital projects. More specifically, nineteen appropriations are fully expended, and four additional appropriations have minimal spending authority remaining. Twenty-two appropriations are vetoed on unconstitutional grounds, and eight appropriations are duplicative of other reappropriations for the same purpose. 

The full list of vetoes is available here.

No. 202.17: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency

No. 202.17

E X E C U T I V E  O R D E R 
Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency
WHEREAS, on March 7, 2020, I issued Executive Order Number 202, declaring a State disaster emergency for the entire State of New York; and

WHEREAS, both travel-related cases and community contact transmission of COVID-19 have been documented in New York State and are expected to be continue;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 29-a of Article 2-B of the Executive Law to issue any directive during a disaster emergency necessary to cope with the disaster, I hereby issue the following directives for the period from the date of this Executive Order through May 15, 2020:

·      The directive contained in Executive Order 202.16 related to issuance of no-action or no-filing letters is modified to require such letters be issued by the Attorney General.

·      Effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020 any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.  
G I V E N   under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this fifteenth day of April in the year two thousand twenty.


Secretary to the Governor