Update: Coronavirus funding, Abortion Rights, & the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan
At the top of everyone’s minds this week is certainly the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is affecting people worldwide. I want to assure you that the Congress has taken steps to keep us all safe from the spread of this virus and that my office and I are in contact with local and federal agencies so that I can continue to keep you informed on all necessary updates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has great resources online, including this guidance on prevention and treatment.
In addition to passing the bipartisan, bicameral emergency coronavirus response funding package this week, I also stood with abortion rights advocates at the Supreme Court and yesterday attended a field hearing in New York on the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll back protections for unbanked and underbanked communities.
This week, we also saw the rollout of the new Sunnyside Yard Master Plan. I will not stop fighting to ensure that the Sunnyside Yard project meets the current and future needs of Queens residents, is a holistic approach, and is driven by community priorities.
More on all of this and other updates below.
We’re in the middle of a public health emergency, and Congress has a duty to do everything in our power to keep Americans safe. This starts with providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding to help combat the coronavirus. I was proud to vote to pass this spending package on Wednesday. This bill importantly includes nearly $1 billion for the state and local health agencies who are doing some of the most important work, such as lab testing to determine positive cases of coronavirus. Effective testing that is widely available — and affordable — is absolutely critical to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and I’m very pleased that this bill provides the necessary funding to tackle this issue head-on.
Earlier this week, I joined with Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, National Security Subcommittee Chairman Stephen F. Lynch, and Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly in sending letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the testing, diagnoses, and costs of treating the coronavirus. The Oversight Committee will also be holding a hearing on this next week. We need to do all we can to stop the spread of this virus.
Abortion Rights on Trial at the Supreme Court
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in June Medical Services v. Russo. This case is about a Louisiana law that would impose arbitrary restrictions on abortion services and providers that have no medical or scientific justification.
Without access, our constitutionally protected right to abortion is moot – and that is exactly the goal of this Louisiana law. This unnecessary and burdensome law is effectively identical to the Texas law that was struck down just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. These proposed laws are not about women’s health but rather simply part of a nationally coordinated anti-choice campaign to deny patients their right to an abortion. We cannot and will not let that happen.
This law, and those like it across the country, put women’s lives at risk and disproportionately impact women of color and poor women. This is especially cruel in a state like Louisiana that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation. When lawmakers in Louisiana and other states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma pass laws requiring hospital admitting privileges, they know doctors will be denied – and clinics will close. That is the purpose of these laws – to skirt around Roe v. Wade.
The law and legal precedent are on our side. The ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt means that politicians cannot impose these arbitrary restrictions on abortion access that have no health or safety benefits. As we continue to fight these anti-choice efforts across the country and in the courts, I also remain committed to the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act to put an end to laws that seek to cut patients off from reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Access to medical care – including reproductive care – should not depend on your zip code.
Preserving Bank Services for Underserved Communities
On Friday, my friend and colleague Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, held a hearing here in New York on the repercussions of redlining, the Trump Administration’s attempt to gut the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), and the importance of protecting minority banks, credit unions, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) in underserved communities.
The witnesses we heard from are some of our closest allies who share our commitment to ensuring services for unbanked and underbanked communities. Together, we are fighting to preserve the CRA to combat redlining, and to protect the institutions that empower our neighbors and the small businesses that help our communities thrive. We cannot and will not let the Trump Administration gut the CRA and make it even easier for banks to avoid lending to low-income and underserved communities. The Administration’s proposal is so misguided that even the Federal Reserve refused to join it. I’m committed to fighting this deeply harmful proposal because we must ensure that banks continue to lend to those who need it most. Where you live should not determine if you have access to a bank – that should be a given.
Protecting New York from Future Storms like Hurricane Sandy
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently announced the indefinite suspension of a critical NYC coastal resiliency study. The New York and New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Focus Area Feasibility Study (HATS) is critical in enabling New York to best prepare for any future weather events that may cause storm surges and flooding.
I wrote to Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of USACE, this week to urge him to immediately reinstate this study. The decision to cancel this in-progress study is highly unusual and goes against the USACE’s mission to reduce the risk of natural disasters. Long-term mitigation strategies can take decades to implement, and it is crucial that the feasibility study continue without any further delay so that we can best plan and prepare.
The Release of the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan
On Tuesday, the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan was released. I believe that the first step in this decades-long plan must be to prioritize infrastructure investments, and I am encouraged that the Master Plan includes the Sunnyside Station in its first phase.
Long Island Railroad, Amtrak, and NJ Transit are already coming into Long Island City’s Sunnyside Yard, and with Penn Station Access under construction to bring Metro North through the Yard, it would be shortsighted to allow so many transit systems to converge without providing station access for passengers. Creating this transportation hub will allow many new economic opportunities, while servicing a neighborhood that suffers from a lack of investment.
Sunnyside and Long Island City desperately need more schools, libraries, and park space and these needs are only increasing as more people call the neighborhood home. The Master Plan promises that all new housing envisioned will be designated as affordable housing and will include much needed intergenerational housing to meet the needs of families. The Plan also promises investment in open and green space. I will hold all parties accountable to these commitments and will not support any plan that falls short of 100% affordable housing with additional open and green spaces for community use.
Importantly, the agencies listened to experts and made resiliency a strong focus as we move forward. The devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy on Long Island City underscore the importance of making resiliency a priority for all major projects in New York City, and I will work very closely with community leaders and experts to implement the best solutions possible.
Overall, while I am initially encouraged by the proposal for the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan governance entity, it is necessary that this continues to be a community driven process and I will not support plans that abandon this approach. I will continue to be a fierce advocate for an open dialogue that ensures none of our neighborhood’s voices are left out.
An Update on the Never Again Education Act
I am very excited to share that the Never Again Education Act now has 55 total cosponsors in the Senate. With a majority of Senators supporting our efforts to improve Holocaust education across the country, I believe that we will be able to get this bill to the President’s desk.
You can read more about this bill to provide educators with the resources they need to teach about the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism, intolerance, and hate on my website.
Fighting For and With Federal Employees
On Wednesday, I was named an honorary member of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) for my ongoing service to federal employees.
I am so proud to have received this honor from NTEU, an organization that does invaluable work representing the largest number of employees throughout the federal government in addition to their tireless dedication to public service.
We were able to reach an agreement to provide federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, but there is more work to be done. We must ensure that our civil servants have the right to bargain collectively and that they receive the pay and compensation they have earned. We must fight for sufficient and equitable pay increases for federal employees and we must continue to advocate for federal employees to have access to paid leave for medical reasons.
As always, your concerns still and always will remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.
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Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress