Political Odds & Ends, Nov. 23, 2021

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Meng, Malliotakis Call Out FEMA for Low Ida Aid

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis

U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-Queens) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) yesterday urged the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to address the low amounts of disaster aid that the agency has provided to New Yorkers who sustained extensive damage from the recent flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

In a letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, the Congresswomen said they have been contacted by constituents who have received extremely low payouts for major devastation that the storm caused to their homes. These FEMA payments do not even come close to meeting their repair needs. In just two of the many cases, a local resident received just $5,000 for $30,000 in damages, and another got only $5,500 for $50,000 in damages.

“The remnants of Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on our region with my congressional district among the hardest hit by the unprecedented flooding,” said Meng. “Many of those I represent continue to struggle with making repairs and replacing their belongings, and the small payouts by FEMA are only making it harder for these individuals to get back on their feet. FEMA must do better. We call on the agency to immediately fix this problem so that constituents can move forward with recovering from the storm and getting their lives back on track.”

“The remnants of Hurricane Ida caused serious damage to residents in my community and the current FEMA payouts don’t even come close to covering the cost of their repairs,” said Malliotakis. “I urge FEMA to immediately address this issue and review appeals more thoroughly to provide residents the aid they deserve.”

The letter by Meng and Malliotakis also asks FEMA to reduce barriers that Limited English Proficient communities have faced in seeking disaster relief, specifically requesting that the agency hire an individual with appropriate language skills to help with the process.

Addabbo’s COVID Antibody Testing Comes to Forest Hills 

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.

State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Queens) is bringing the popular free COVID-19 Antibody Testing Event series to Forest Hills in December. 

The test that will be given is a rapid IgG/IgM antibody test, which is done using a nearly painless finger prick to draw a small bead of blood that is transferred for processing. After about a 10-minute wait, patients are given a form with a write-up of their results that is signed by the technician that performed the test. These IgG/IgM tests can detect and differentiate between the presence of the short-term (IgM) and the long-term (IgG) antibodies. 

“I am always impressed with how popular these antibody testing events are each time I host one,” Addabbo said. “The last event we held in Belle Harbor brought out 70 people to get their antibody tests. I have been trying to bring Valhalla Medics into the different communities within my district, and I am happy to be able to come to Forest Hills next month with this fantastic, free event. I want to thank Valhalla Medics for their continued partnership on these events, as well as the Bukharian Jewish Community Center for opening up their space for us.” 

The Valhalla Medics will administer the free tests between 12 noon-2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19, at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center, 106-16 70th Avenue in Forest Hills.

No insurance is necessary to take part in the testing event. Anyone who wishes to participate in the event and get their free rapid antibody test is urged to register by calling Addabbo’s office at 718-738-1111 to secure a spot. Walk-ups will also be welcomed.

Kim Leads Hearing on Protecting Older Adults

Assemblymember Ron Kim (Photo by Yuhline, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Assemblymember Ron Kim

Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Queens), chair of the Committee on Aging, yesterday led a public committee hearing to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on programs and support services for older adults and their caregivers. 

The hearing sought to examine the availability, effectiveness, and efficiency of essential programs and services for older adults and their caregivers. Testimonies were submitted by Lifespan, the Association on Aging, the Asian American Federation, and the NY Courts.

As committee chair, Kim presides over a variety of programs for older adults and their caregivers. These include Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly Program (EISEP), Community Services for the Elderly (CSE) program, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, social adult day programs, caregiver resource centers, the Elder Abuse Education and Outreach Program, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase (SCRIE) program, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), and locally-based meals-on-wheels programs.

“Today’s hearing was an important first step toward evaluating how our older adults were impacted by the state’s response to COVID-19. It is no secret that the pandemic wrought havoc on our elders and I am grateful for all of those who were on the ground working tirelessly through unbearable conditions to protect our seniors,” said Kim.

“However, it is a fact that for too long our state has undervalued and devalued care work. Those responsible for safeguarding our most vulnerable populations are routinely underpaid and overworked, and that must change. Unless we completely transform value systems, our seniors will continue to be abandoned and neglected. Until then, I will not stop working with my colleagues to support our partners and all of New York’s caregivers who labor tirelessly for the sake of our older adults,” he added.

PA Williams Response to Fed Approval of 9-8-8 Mental Health Crisis Line

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams yesterday said the federal approval of a 9-8-8 number for suicide prevention and mental health crises is a welcome and potentially lifesaving measure. 

“New York and the nation are experiencing a mental health crisis compounded – but not caused – by the pandemic, and easing access to support services is vital. At the same time, it is not intended as a comprehensive outlet for mental health emergencies, and it is not a replacement or substitute for a 3 digit number that dispatches rapid, non-police emergency response teams to respond to these crises, a tool that my office has repeatedly called for and pursued legislatively, and which the de Blasio administration has not supported,” said Williams.

“If the Mayor wants to celebrate federal action on this issue, he should embrace fundamental reforms on a city level, where he has prevented the very progress we have been pushing. I have appreciated this administration’s focus on mental health and wellness, as this issue is personal to me and so many New Yorkers, but the execution of that focus has often been ineffective or inadequate. 

“As I’ve previously discussed, we need a robust approach to mental health crises that centers a healthcare approach, not a criminal one, in addition to broad wraparound services that help preempt and prevent emergencies. In his last weeks in office, the Mayor should focus on finally laying that foundation here in the city,” he added.

AOC Celebrates Inclusion of Items in Build Back Better Bill

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens/Bronx) yesterday celebrated last week’s House passage of the Build Back Better Act, which included several pieces of legislation she introduced and has tirelessly advocated for— including the Civilian Climate Corps, the Green New Deal for Public Housing, limiting the Faircloth Amendment, and funding for high-speed rail.

Among these items are the Civilian Climate Corps. Build Back Better funds this through a combined investment of $30 billion in both personnel and project funding. The creation of a new Civilian Climate Corps would create 300,000 green jobs aimed at conserving public lands, bolstering community resilience, and addressing the changing climate, all while putting good-paying union jobs within reach for more Americans. 

The Green New Deal for Public Housing. Build Back Better includes $65 billion for public housing which can be used to clear NYCHA’s maintenance backlog. The funds made available may also be used for green retrofits and resilience building, a hallmark of the Green New Deal for Public Housing. Learn more about the bill here.

Additional Funding for High-Speed Rail: AOC secured $10 billion for high-speed rail corridor assistance to support planning and development of a public high-speed rail project. This comes after she called for additional funding for high-speed rail back in June. This federal commitment to these modern and proven transportation systems will dramatically improve our environment, reduce inequity, and help grow cities and sustain vibrant downtowns across the nation.

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