Queens Lawmakers on the Move May 11, 2020

Queens County City Council News

Meng Hails Approval State Plan to Operate Pandemic Benefits Transfer Program

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village, Rego Park) yesterday hailed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service approval of the state’s plan to operate the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program. 

The P-EBT program provides free breakfast and lunch benefits to current Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households and non-SNAP households, which include children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals, through the State’s SNAP EBT card system.

“With over 55 million students at home and over 124,000 public and private schools closed, making sure students who have food at home is critical for their health,” said Meng. “Food insecurity during this public health crisis is deeply alarming and it is why I wrote to President Trump urging him to provide more funding for critical safety net programs in New York City, including this Pandemic-EBT designation. Now that New York State has been approved, I am confident that New York families will be one step closer to food security in this tough time.”

New York State estimates nearly 1.3 million households will benefit under the P-EBT program.

PA Williams Gives Thumbs Up to Mayor’s Plan for Social Distancing Ambassadors

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams yesterday said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of additional ‘social distancing ambassadors’ after NYPD data showed clear racial disparity in social distancing enforcement actions by police was a step in the right direction.  

“As a citywide elected leader who comes from the communities that are being disproportionately targeted, who has seen the impact of over-policing for many years magnified in this pandemic, even I was shocked to see the egregious degree of disparity in social distancing enforcement in the limited data that this administration – which came in on a platform of reforming that over-policing – was finally pushed to release,” said Williams.

“It was what we had suspected, feared, and warned against, only worse. So I was glad to see the administration finally announce some changes we had called for  – to hand out more masks and less summonses, to engage civilian agencies as ambassadors, and to expand community outreach. It’s not enough to correct the immediate disparities or the long term inequities – but some progress would still be welcome, if it weren’t so overdue while time is not a luxury we have.

“Successful implementation of an approach that is not centered around law enforcement and penalization means working from the bottom up, not the top down. Through a dialogue, not just a decree. The administration needs to bring community stakeholders to the table following this announcement, to discuss the realities of enacting this policy. Beyond that, it needs to employ local leaders such as clergy, and credible messengers with deep ties to their neighborhoods, with a focus on engagement and education, but not enforcement. 

“It needs to amplify that personal engagement by broadcasting key public health messages, while formalizing a more robust plan for utilizing specific city agencies. And it needs to act proactively, not reactively, to racial disparities amid the COVID-19 crisis by heeding the calls of all who have seen them long before this pandemic.”

Cuomo Notifies Other States of Emerging COVID-Related Illness in Children

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday announced New York State is notifying 49 other states across the country of emerging cases of COVID-related illness in children. 

The State is currently investigating 85 reported cases in New York where children – predominantly school-aged – are experiencing symptoms similar to an atypical Kawasaki disease or a toxic shock-like syndrome possibly due to COVID-19. The illness has taken the lives of three young New Yorkers and an additional two deaths are currently under investigation.

Cuomo also announced he will issue an Executive Order mandating that all nursing homes and adult care facilities test all personnel for COVID-19 two times per week and report any positive test results to the State Department of Health by the next day. The Executive Order also mandates that hospitals cannot discharge a patient to a nursing home unless that patient tests negative for COVID-19. 

All nursing home and adult care facility administrators will be required to submit a plan on how they will accomplish this testing and a certificate of compliance with this Executive Order to the State Department of Health by Friday,, May 15.

The Governor also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services is distributing a promising treatment called Remdesivir that has been shown to help patients infected with COVID-19 recover more quickly. The Department of Health and Human Services has sent New York enough antiviral to treat 2,900 people at 15 hospitals and will send more doses in the coming weeks to treat 500 more patients, including children, at additional New York Hospitals.

Schumer Demands Answers On Whether Vets Are Being Used for COVID Testing

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) yesterday demanded answers on whether vets are being used for clandestine COVID-19 testing. 

Schumer said a recent bulk order of the drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being tested to treat COVID, spurs questions, but the lack of answers about the entire shipment—where exactly it went and why—has veterans groups concerned and alarmed.

“When it comes to the testing and treatment of vets with these chloroquine drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, families are left with more questions than answers,” said Schumer.

“The VA needs to provide full details on the recent bulk order, the status of any testing and the notification process to families. Recent actions by the VA have spurred serious questions and the fact that the VA has yet to answer them is deeply concerning. If vets are being given this risky drug, New York families—and all families—have a right to know what is going on and what’s intended for the future.”

Schumer said that if vets in New York, or anywhere else, are being given this risky drug(s) then families and the public have a right to fully know. He detailed questions he wants the VA to answer on behalf of veterans groups by June 1, and he cited New York’s 79 VA facilities as he made the case for transparency. 

Schumer added that any testing and treatment of vets for COVID-19 must be rooted in medical science above all else.

Jeffries Announced Churches Testing Sites

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Brooklyn) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in partnership with Northwell Health, announced that 24 churches in predominantly minority communities will become temporary COVID-19 testing sites.

“We know that this is an extraordinary pandemic and it requires an extraordinary governmental response at all levels of government, it’s all hands on deck at the city, the state and the federal level. And the New York delegation is committed to continuing to work with you to make sure that we can drive the federal resources into New York State to match the level of infection, pain, suffering and death that we’ve all had to endure. It’s an all of government moment and, of course, an all of America moment, as you’ve encouraged all of us to dig deeper here in New York and throughout.

“In that spirit, we know that the houses of worship, the spiritual community, has always been there to help the community get through a storm. These churches have been there through the crack cocaine epidemic to welcome people in while others were rejecting them. Our churches have been there, for instance, to address the high rates of gun violence in our community through gun buyback programs, taking thousands of guns off the streets in their congregation buildings. We also know that these houses of worships, our churches, our spiritual leaders, have been there to partner with the state and with law enforcement organizations like the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office through Begin Again initiatives to address old warrants and summons and citations that can impact the ability of people from communities of color to be able to get all of the opportunities to benefit from our full economy.

“So, now at this moment, thanks to their continued engagement and your leadership and willingness to partner, we can address this COVID-19 pandemic with these houses of worship and religious leaders who have the credibility, the authenticity and the capacity to reach those in the community who need to be tested. Because, at the end of the day, this is not over for any of us until it’s over for all of us. As you’ve indicated, we know that communities of color have been hit particularly hard. We are disproportionately overrepresented amongst our essential frontline workers, live in dense environments and have historically been under-resourced throughout the nation.

“This testing initiative will be incredibly essential to ensure we can turn the corner in communities of color such as those that I represent as well as those represented, of course, by great members of the delegation like Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke, Greg Meeks, Adriano Espaillat and so many others,” said Jeffries.

Van Bramer Gives COVID Community Report 

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside) in his weekly e-newsletter noted there are anumber of people in the community who have banded together and worked with neighbors to make sure that people who are in need have what is necessary. 

“If you need help or want to volunteer to help those in need, please reach out through any of these links,” he wrote.

“On top of the distributions for masks that I have been doing and will continue to do, the Mayor’s office is handing out masks at Queensbridge and Astoria Parks this weekend. If you need a mask, please feel free to go and pick one up. If your organization would like to request masks, please email me at jvanbramer@council.nyc.gov. Please keep in mind that supplies provided to my office are limited.”