Sep 21, 2020
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Conference Call Transcript September 21
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a briefing via conference call on September 21 to provide coronavirus updates. He responded to the DOJ’s announcement deeming NYC an “anarchist jurisdiction.” Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Some tests yesterday. 573 were positive. That’s 0.98%. Only one New Yorker passed away from COVID yesterday. That’s the lowest number we’ve had since this began. And I once again want to thank all New Yorkers for their extraordinary efforts, the spirit of community, the spirit of unity. The efforts they’re making literally have saved thousands of lives. So the health that you’re protecting is not just yours and your families. You’re protecting all New Yorkers’ health.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (00:43)
And it’s not just a question of rhetoric, it’s reality. Only one New Yorker passed away. We won’t stop until that number is zero. But when you look at what’s going on around the country, you look at what’s going on around the world, it’s a really extraordinary accomplishment that New Yorkers have achieved, and I congratulate them.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:09)
458 were hospitalized. That’s relatively unchanged. 134 in ICU. That’s about where it was. 66 patients were intubated. That’s up six from the day before.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (01:25)
On the continuing enforcement, how do we keep down the infection rate? We stay disciplined. The bars, colleges have been presenting an issue for us. We have the state police SLA task force. They found 18 violation, two in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, one in Manhattan, eight in Nassau, five in Suffolk. They’ve been focusing primarily downstate, the task force, but overall, the compliance has gotten much better because we did over 4,000 visits. And I want to thank the task force for doing extraordinary work. Over 4,000 visits, 18 violations of those 4,000. So overall, the compliance is good, but this has always been about the bad apple, right? So we caution New Yorkers about that on a continuing basis.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (02:34)
I put out a statement on the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That’s a tremendous loss for the nation. She was generational of role model and champion. We are going to do a statue in Brooklyn for her. She is a Brooklyn native, and we’re very proud of that. I’m going to announce a commission that will work on the statue and exactly how we want it depicted. I’ll be doing that this week. We’re looking at possible locations. We’re considering Brooklyn Bridge Park on a site that would overlook the Statue of Liberty. So we’re considering that.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (03:28)
Obviously I think the attempt to fill the vacancy in this rushed, highly political, highly partisan manner is the exact worst thing that this nation can be doing now. It stresses the division. It further polarizes. It further politicizes. You’re talking about just destroying credibility of fundamental democratic institutions, which is the last thing this nation needs at this precarious time.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (04:07)
The President talked about the anarchist jurisdictions. This is a continuation of his political theme, which is that he’s the law and order candidate. I understand the politics, but when you try to manipulate and distort government agencies to play politics, which is what the Trump administration has done from day one, it’s what the salt taxes were, just taking from Democratic States to give to Republicans. It’s what the Trusted Traveler Program was, which has been outed by the US Attorney in the Southern District. So this is more of the same.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:01)
If you remember, the Trump administration tried this once before. It’s not a new play. A couple of years ago, they said sanctuary cities would not get federal criminal justice monies, the Byrne JAG monies. And we said it was illegal and unconstitutional. We sued them and we won. The federal court said they could not take the federal money that was appropriated by Congress. New York City has about $7 billion in federal funding, which is much higher than the other cities he’s named. Seattle only gets about $365 million. Not only, it’s a lot of money, but compared to New York City, it’s not. Portland, Oregon, $252 million. New York City is $7.4 billion.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (05:58)
Congress appropriates funds with specific legal requirements. So New York City gets HOME money, H-O-M-E, from HUD. That’s affordable housing money. It’s appropriated with specific laws about the administration of that money. It gets Community Development Block Grant funding, CDBG, from HUD. There are specific legal requirements on that funding. The President can’t supersede the law and say, “I’m going to make those funds basically discretionary funds,” which is what he would have to do. He’d basically say, “I control all federal funding.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (06:48)
He doesn’t control federal funding. The federal law controls federal funding and the federal law is very specific. A jurisdiction gets affordable housing money if it does this. A jurisdiction gets community development money if it does this. A jurisdiction gets Title I education funding if it does is this. And the President is not above the law. That’s the Constitution of the United States.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:21)
Policing is a power by the Constitution that is left to the states. That’s the 10th Amendment. It is left to the states. New York City is a creature of state law. And the state, New York state has the constitutional authority for policing power.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (07:42)
So just like sanctuary cities when he did it a couple of years ago and lost, if they actually do this, we will challenge it legally and he will lose once again because we’ve seen this play before. But again, it’s just for the politics and part of his campaign rhetoric.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:06)
Also, FYI, for your information, over the weekend, I signed an executive order extending the Commercial Eviction Executive Order, which extends the executive order that says a business cannot be evicted from a space because they can’t pay the rent as a result of the pandemic. That executive order fins until October 20th.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:36)
The Residential Eviction Executive Order continues to be effective. We said that is effective until the end of the crisis and the crisis is still ongoing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (08:57)
With that, I have Melissa DeRosa, Robert Mojica, Gareth Rhodes, and Beth Garvey with me, and we’ll take any questions, operator.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question at this time, please press star, followed by the number one on your telephone keypad. Again, that is star, followed by the number one on your telephone keypad. We’ll pause for just a moment to compile the Q&A roster.
Our first question is from Andrew Siff from WNBC. Your line is open.
Andrew Siff: (09:43)
Hey, Governor, good morning. I wanted to ask about New York City schools. You had expressed some doubts and hesitations in previous weeks, but now Mike Mulgrew from the teacher’s union said today he feels much more competent that schools can open in person in New York City. I’m wondering if you share that confidence or if you have any hesitation in the kids going back, most of them, next week?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:07)
Well, Andrew, a couple of things. We have 700 school districts in the state. We said there is state guidance and there is state oversight of all 700 school districts, right? The school districts came up with a plan. New York City came up with a plan that was pursuant to state guidance, and we said New York City could implement that plan. They started. It then changed. They modified the date, et cetera.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (10:35)
The two points on the New York City plan. Number one, I’ve urged all school districts, New York City included, stability, predictability is very important. In other words, parents plan their lives around their children. And if their children are going to be in school, that’s one situation. If your children are not going to be in school, that’s another situation. And coming up with a plan and then stick to it.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:15)
The changes are not helpful. I said the plan should be stable and predictable. I understand the questions for a school district in opening, but better you come up with a plan that is more predictable and more stable, and then you stick to it. I don’t think it’s helpful when they change dates and they change the plan because then there’s just a ripple effect and then people have to readjust their lives, employers have to readjust their schedules, et cetera.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (11:58)
The state will have an ongoing monitoring. We will have a dashboard that goes up where, every day, the parents can monitor what is happening in their school district. The school district will report, “This is how many tests we did. This is the percent positive of the tests we did,” et cetera.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:26)
So we’re not asking parents to operate on blind faith. The school districts put out a plan, “We planned this, we planned this, we planned this, we planned this.” Great. We’ll then have the actual results that can be put out on a daily basis so parents will know what’s actually.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (12:49)
And for New York City, they say they have a plan. They say this time the plan is going to work. Many of the school districts say the same thing. Fine. We’ll know if it’s working, right? Child safety, teacher safety is paramount. And we all hope the plans work, but we also want to know if the plans are working. We’re going to be prudent and cautious with the health of our children.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (13:27)
So we’ll know. We won’t have to guess. You’ll have the results and you’ll see if the plan is being implemented as proposed.
Thank you. The next question is from Keith McShane. Your line is open.
Keith McShane: (13:50)
Hi, Governor. I just quickly wanted to get your impression of how western New York is doing. The caution flag has been out in recent weeks and just wanted to get your impression of how they’re doing right now.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:07)
Are you saying, Keith, in New York state or New York City?
Keith McShane: (14:11)
Sorry, western New York.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:13)
Oh, western New York. I’m sorry. Look, western New York, let me get you the number for western New York in a second. We’ve had the caution flag out. We have dispatch teams. We’ve worked very hard on the messaging around compliance. We’ve stepped up efforts on bars, et cetera. We stepped up conversations with the colleges to do enforcement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (14:45)
And it appears to be having an effect. The numbers are… I’ll get you the number for today. What’s today’s number again? Western New York is at 1.6 today and they’ve been under 2% for a couple of weeks. So it appears to be stabilized right now. We would like to get it down further, but it’s day by day, right? This whole situation has been day by day, stone to stone across the morass. You’re only as good as your performance yesterday, right? You’re you’re only as good as your last win.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (15:34)
So it appears stabilized. We’d like to get it down, but we’re going to keep the caution flag out because it is higher than we would like to see it. We would like to see that number under one. That’s our ideal is to be under one. And we strive for our ideal and that’s under one, and they’re at 1.6.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (16:01)
Let me have the numbers of the past few days. Stay with me one second, Keith. 1.6, 1.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5, 1.1, 1.4, 1.2. Thank you, Keith.
The next question is from Victor Ocasio from Newsday. Your line is open.
Victor Ocasio: (16:36)
Good morning, Governor. Thank you for taking my question. On Friday, one of the state vendors, KeyBank, which handles payments for unemployed New Yorkers receiving both regular UI and PUA, they had some errors and issues that resulted in an hour’s long delay for everyone, regardless of whether they use a debit card or a direct deposit account for their unemployment. This is for the LWA funds specifically. And there was a delay of several hours and it seemed that most folks who had direct deposit were taken care of, but going on into Friday night and it appear Saturday morning, many debit card holders still hadn’t received their LWA funds. And some accounts on social media suggest a few people even now are still waiting on that.
Victor Ocasio: (17:27)
In terms of as a state vendor, I mean, what is your message to KeyBank? Have you gotten any assurances that this isn’t going to happen with the second half, the remaining half of LWA funds?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (17:41)
Yeah. Let me, I know Melissa DeRosa knows the most recent information, let me turn it over to Melissa.
Melissa DeRosa: (17:48)
So yes, the issue, to the extent that there was an issue on Friday moving the additional $300, it was on KeyBank’s side. We have had conversations with KeyBank. I think that saying we’ve had conversations is downplaying it. They’ve been read The Riot Act. We have been assured that this is not going to happen again. We were also told that the issue was rectified by the end of the day on Friday. So if you’re saying that there are still some people on social media this morning, they should reach out to the Department of Labor directly, and we’ll also make sure that the Department of Labor issues it update as of this morning. But we have been assured by KeyBank that this will not happen again. And should this happen again, we may consider no longer working with KeyBank.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:38)
Thank you. Again, as a reminder, if you would like to ask a question, please press star one on your telephone keypad.
The next question is from Marcia Kramer from WCBS TV.
Marcia Kramer: (18:51)
Good morning, Governor, how are you doing?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (18:54)
How are you, Marcia Kramer?
Marcia Kramer: (18:59)
So I’m interested in your reaction again to the fact that the President is still trying to take away funds from New York City by calling us an anarchist state. I wonder why he’s made New York City such a particular target given the fact that he is a New Yorker, he has property here, and taking away funds from New York City would certainly affect the properties that he has here. Like what’s going on?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:29)
Well, you’re asking for a psychological analysis of the President of the United States, which, first, I don’t have the credentials to offer, and second, if I offered my personal opinion, it would require about an hour and a half conversation.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (19:50)
But suffice it to say, first, he’s not a New Yorker. He changed his residence to Florida. Why? Because he’s a political opportunist first and foremost. Before a New Yorker, before anything else, he’s a political opportunist. He moved his residence to Florida because Florida is a swing state and he thinks it’ll help him politically. He moved his residence to Florida because he was rejected by New York. He was rejected personally. He was rejected professionally. He was rejected unequivocally by the election.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (20:35)
You see overwhelmingly the New York City and New York state voters rejected him. The people who know the President the best like him least. That’s true about New Yorkers. It’s true about his own family, right? His sister, a former federal judge, his niece. So yeah, the people who know him best like him least, and then he moved to Florida because of the rejection and because it was politically opportunistic for him.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (21:13)
I don’t believe this actually… Yes, he owns land in New York. Why isn’t he concerned about that? I think he’s more concerned with remaining President of the United States and he thinks his political opportunity is to try to divide this nation. He is the law and order candidate. “These cities, look at what’s going on in the cities. People are unhappy. There’s anger in the cities. I’ll keep you safe from people in the cities”. And there’s all sorts of code that goes to that, right? And I don’t really think that they believe any of this is going to work, right? They did the same thing with sanctuary cities. “They’re sanctuary cities. We’re going to pull back all the federal funding. They’re not going to get the criminal justice funding.” They lost. They lost in federal court.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:16)
So is it going to happen? No, because it’s illegal and it’s unconstitutional, but it’s politics. It’s politics for the next few weeks going up to the November election. That’s all this is.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:33)
Operator, let’s take one more question.
Your final question is from Jesse McKinley from New York Times.
Jesse McKinley: (22:41)
Hi Governor, how are you?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (22:42)
Jesse McKinley: (22:45)
Quick question on the upcoming November election. We’ve been talking to county boards of elections across the state. They seem to be struggling to get ready for this, both financially and staffing wise. Some have gone so far to ask from private sources for funding to kind of get over the hump. Is there anything the state can do? Anything you’re considering doing to help county board of elections get ready for what will be a very hotly contested election?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (23:17)
Jesse, I have Beth Garvey with me who knows the more recent information. Let me turn it over to Beth first and then I’ll comment.
Beth Garvey: (23:29)
Yeah. So we had money allocated to us under the CARES Act that we utilized to help expand under absentee voting, vote by mail, and postage prepaid ballots for the primary. That funding, there’s still only a limited amount remaining. There are additional grants from other sources that are available that the state board has been applying for. And again, the boards of elections, the county administers always the elections and this was always planned for this November.
Beth Garvey: (24:09)
And one other thing, just a reminder, Jesse, the Governor did an executive order a couple of weeks back mandating that every board of elections has to prepare a staffing plan that they have to turn in. Because when we did the primary, we offered, to anybody who needed resources, resources by way of additional bodies, volunteers, National Guard. We only got a couple of requests. We did fulfill those requests. And now, learning from that experience, we want to know exactly what they believe they need this time so that we can help them identify the bodies and identify the resources.
Beth Garvey: (24:41)
So rather than just throw out numbers haphazardly, actually putting together a plan, understanding the experience from the primary, learning from it, and applying [inaudible 00:24:49] in a smart way that doesn’t just waste taxpayer dollars, but accomplishes what we need to for the election.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (24:54)
Yeah, Jesse, look, the situation is the boards of elections are doing something different this year, right? And we went through one election and that election showed a lot of issues for the local boards. We said to them learn from that experience, tell us what you need. That’s what the staffing plan is, tell us what you need, right?
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (25:24)
The board of elections, basically, it’s a person power function, staffing function. That’s the main factor in running the election for them. If you need people to help administer, then tell us and we’ll help you get the bodies, right? It’s a specific period of time. We can use National Guard personnel to help. We can use other state employees to help, right? You have a lot of local government employees right now who, because of COVID, et cetera, the agencies are doing less work.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (26:09)
So we have personnel that we can make available, but they have to tell us what they need, and they have to be organized. It’s actually harder than it sounds. “I need help.” Okay, what do you need and we will help you get it. But you have to be organized enough to be able to tell us what you need. “We need people.” Okay, how many people do you need? We’ve asked them that question. They responses we’ve gotten, we’ve filled. We don’t have any open responses of people who say, “We need bodies,” that we haven’t filled. And today, they’re supposed to give us their final staffing plan. And if they need bodies, we can provide them bodies.
Governor Andrew Cuomo: (27:16)
Okay, operator, thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Have a good day.
Thank you, Governor. Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s conference call with Governor Cuomo. Thank you for your participation and have a wonderful day.