NEW YORK — U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill de Blasio chastised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for leaving Washington this weekend and demanded he pass the current coronavirus stimulus bill as soon as the Senate returns to session Monday.
“It was disgraceful that Leader McConnell left town last night … We could have had this done already, but he left,” Schumer said Saturday from the Blue Room of City Hall. “I am calling on [him] to move this package immediately when we return on Monday — as is.”
The bill, negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Friday night, would provide 14 days of paid sick leave, three months of family leave, free coronavirus testing and strengthened food assistance for the elderly and students whose schools shutdown. It will also provide billions more in federal Medicaid funding, including $1 billion for New York City and a total of $6.2 billion for the state.
Schumer said the Medicaid allocation “will probably help the state solve some of their Medicaid problems,” referring to a $2.5 billion gap that had preoccupied lawmakers before the virus was even confirmed in New York.
The bill, which President Donald Trump said he would “fully support,” will allow cities and the state “to use other dollars that might have had to go to Medicaid to go to all the needs that you are talking about.”
The potential infusion of funding comes as Albany prepares to pass the state budget next week, ahead of the March 31 deadline.
De Blasio called the bill “progress” and also called for its passage.
“We have not been used to a lot functioning on the federal level in recent weeks — this is something that actually is progress and is moving,” he said.
The mayor again defended his decision to keep city schools open, despite pressure by the United Federation of Teachers and a slate of local officials, including Council Speaker Corey Johnson, to shutter the system as coronavirus cases spread exponentially. Some teachers have threatened to protest if the mayor keeps schools open.
“When you close, you create a series of additional new problems in terms of health and safety,” de Blasio said, adding it could require health care providers and first responders to stay home to watch their kids.
De Blasio has also raised concern over the impact closing schools can have on childrens’ education and the risk of having “hundreds of thousands” of teenagers without adult supervision. He’s said if they were to close, it would be unlikely they reopen this school year.
“I think we have a lot to balance and I’m holding where we are right now,” he said.
Shortly after defending his decision, de Blasio was handed an update confirming a student who attends I.S. 27 public school in Staten Island had tested positive for the coronavirus. He did not attend school the past week while showing symptoms. The school is currently being cleaned and its doors will open Monday, de Blasio said.
New York City had its first confirmed death from the virus Saturday. There are currently 183 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York City, de Blasio said. Thirty people are hospitalized with 19 in intensive care.