Weekly Update: NYS COVID Recovery, Census Oversight, A New Garden for Queensbridge
Today, as we mark another year gone since September 11, 2001, we remember all those who lost their lives to hatred — those who perished that fateful day and the survivors and first responders who became sick from the toxins at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the Shanksville crash site over the last nineteen years. As our nation battles COVID-19, I want to encourage every survivor and first responder to sign up for the World Trade Center Health Program so that they can get the care and monitoring they need and deserve. You can register and learn more here. These heroes and their families should also make sure they are signed up for the Victim Compensation Fund. You can make a claim and learn more about the VCF here. These programs are the least we can provide as a grateful nation which pledged to “Never Forget.”
On Tuesday, I asked the Trump Administration to provide Congress with its plans to distribute a COVID vaccine once it is developed. On Thursday, I chaired an Oversight Committee hearing on the importance of extending census deadlines to ensure a full, fair, and accurate count. I also joined with more than 2,200 Queensbridge residents and community members in calling for the creation of a new community garden.
At this week’s Financial Services Committee hearing, I highlighted the need for Congress to include state and local funding in the next COVID package to ensure cities like New York can recover from this economic and health crisis. On Thursday, I joined with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to release a staff report detailing extensive abuses of taxpayer funds totaling nearly $6 million by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma.
And today, I called on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to suspend a $250 million communications contract awarded to Fors Marsh Group to create what appears to be a political propaganda campaign about the coronavirus crisis.
More on all of this below.
Demanding Information on the Administration’s Plan to Distribute a COVID Vaccine
On Tuesday, I asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for information about its plans to deploy a coronavirus vaccine after licensure or authorization. Specially, we are looking for information on HHS’s preparations for distribution, plans to prioritize the vaccine for at-risk populations, efforts to ensure public transparency and increase vaccine confidence, and safeguards to ensure decisions are made free from political considerations.
You can read the full letter to HHS from me, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James E. Clyburn, and Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy Chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi here.
Oversight Hearing on the Census
Watch Chairwoman Maloney's opening statement here.
Yesterday’s Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing focused on the need for legislative action to extend the statutory deadlines for the Census in light of the coronavirus crisis.
During the hearing, Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chairman Jamie Raskin and I released a series of staff reports warning that states with an undercount of just 1% in the 2020 Census — including states with significant populations who vote Republican — stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding every year unless the Senate extends the statutory deadlines to address delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Without action by the Senate, the Census Bureau is being forced to cut critical data collection and processing measures, compromising the accuracy and completeness of the 2020 Census. Read more about the hearing here.
Fighting for a New Community Garden at Queensbridge
On Thursday, I joined with Lashawn “Suga Ray” Marston, Stan Morse, and more than 2,200 Queensbridge residents and community members in urging NYCHA Chairman Gregory P. Russ to convert the empty lot located directly north of the pedestrian path that runs between 12th Street and 21st Avenue near 41st Road into a community garden. According to the Automated Register Information System (ACRIS), the lot is managed by NYCHA.
This plot of land has long been underutilized, and its conversion into a public garden would be of great benefit to the Queensbridge community. Several groups and individuals have expressed an interest in working with the community to provide educational and other programming in this space.
You can read my full letter to NYCHA Chairman Russ here.
COVID Relief Must Include Funding for Cities and States
Thursday’s Financial Services Committee hearing focused on why Congress needs to provide financial support for cities and states as we recover from the health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. New York was one of the first and hardest hit states by COVID-19, taking the lives of more than 25,000 of our friends and neighbors and disrupting our way of life. The pandemic’s toll on New York’s economy has created an insurmountable budget deficit that the state cannot solve by itself. Read more about the hearing and watch my question line here.
Report: Extensive Abuse of Taxpayer Funds at CMS
After a 17-month investigation, I joined with my colleagues to release a staff report detailing extensive abuse of taxpayer funds totaling nearly $6 million by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma. Administrator Verma retained private communications consultants with strong ties to Republican political circles in order to arrange media appearances, secure profile pieces, book private meetings and lunches, chauffeur her during out-of-town travel, and handle a communications strategy focused on boosting her public profile and personal brand beyond her role as CMS Administrator. The consultants charged rates of up to $380 an hour, far exceeding the salaries of federal employees, who were sidelined by the Administrator, her aides, and the consultants.
This report was authored by the staffs of the Oversight Committee, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). You can read more here.
Taxpayer Funds Shouldn’t Be Used for Political Propaganda
This morning, I joined with Rep. James E. Clyburn, the Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, in calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to suspend a $250 million communications contract awarded to Fors Marsh Group to create public service announcements (PSAs) relating to the coronavirus crisis.
Rather than focus on planning and executing a national strategy to contain the coronavirus, the Trump Administration appears to be using a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money to fund a political propaganda campaign just two months before a presidential election. This is completely unacceptable. You can read our full letter to Secretary Azar here.
New York Fashion Week
Fashion week and the fashion and garment industries are synonymous with our city because they play such a big role not only in our culture but also our economy. This is a Fashion Week unlike any other, with many shows and presentations online. But, if there’s one thing that the industry has proven during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that it is a force of both resiliency and ingenuity.
Earlier this year, I organized Fashion for the Frontlines, a coalition of New York City designers, manufacturers, and industry leaders to support the city’s garment industry and understand the nexus between technology and fashion. In March and April, when New York City needed PPE, this group quickly transformed their manufacturing capabilities to aid our city at that critical moment. Fashion for the Frontlines mobilized Garment District factories - that would have otherwise been forced to close - to manufacture and distribute masks and non-surgical gowns to frontline medical professionals throughout New York City. I am proud of New York’s fashion industry for quickly pivoting to virtual shows, presentations, and being leaders for our city and nation as we rebuild from COVID-19.
COVID in NYC Update
Indoor Dining to Resume September 30
This week, Mayor de Blasio announced that NYC will resume indoor dining at 25% capacity on September 30. There will be strict health and safety precautions taken including temperature checks at the door, placing tables 6 feet apart, and mandatory masks excluding when the party is seated at their table. For contact tracing purposes, one person in each party must leave their information. For hygiene, restaurants must meet the state's air filtration requirements. In addition, there will be no bar service or bar reopening; however, drinks can be served at the table. All restaurants are required to close by midnight.
On September 21, NYC public schools will open for in-person teaching.
This week, I joined a conversation with Council Member Ben Kallos and Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Adrienne Austin to answer questions from parents and review the new guidelines for returning to school. To ensure the maximum number of students have access to in-person instruction at each school while following health and safety plans, students will rotate in groups between in-person and remote learning. In August, families were notified of their child’s specific classroom/remote learning program schedule.
To fully comply with the CDC and New York State’s physical distancing requirements that reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, schools will operate at significantly reduced capacity for in-person instruction, with, on average, between one-third and one-half of the student population attending at one time. Additional measures will also be put in place such as opening COVID-19 testing tents near schools. More than 10% of students and teachers will get a nose swab once a month.
Unless given a specific medical exemption, students must wear face shields at all times. Schools will also be required to have signage posted marking 6 foot space markings and directional signs in classrooms, offices, and in ALL indoor and outdoor areas in which social distancing may not be obvious. Hand sanitizer dispensers must be available in high traffic areas and all students will be provided with appropriate PPE. Wellness barriers will be placed in the general office and at the main school safety desk. School buildings will undergo a nightly sanitization process. Breakfast and lunch will be served in classrooms, unless otherwise noted, to adhere to social distancing guidelines and reduce interaction between groups of students.
If your child is learning remotely, parents will have the option of enrolling them in in-person learning throughout the school year. Students will be taught by teachers at their school and will have appropriate support from school faculty and staff to transition them into remote learning.
You can request a remote learning device from the DOE here.
To read the full reopening plan, please visit the NYC Schools website.
As always, your concerns still and always remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.
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Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress