By Hellen Zaboulani
On Sunday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- NY) held a press conference to demand that the Federal Emergency Management Agency payout the COVID-19 relief funds it promised NYC. “Today, I am saying to FEMA, no more delays. When the city applies for relief money for Omicron, we can’t wait another two years. We need the money now,” said Schumer, standing outside NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in Manhattan.
As reported by the NY Post, the new mayor, and the Democratic Majority leader reproved the federal government for previous delays in paying allocated funds, and urged FEMA to expedite delivery of the newly-promised nearly $1 billion in coronavirus emergency relief funds it is set to earmark for New York City’s public-hospital system.
“[Health and Hospitals] spent over $2.5 billion to fight COVID during the first surge. You shouldn’t have to worry about how you’re going to be paid. They did their job, darn it, and the federal government needed to do its job,” Adams said. “We saw the hospitals move without hesitating. So why the heck did FEMA hesitate? That is irresponsible and unacceptable. … The lag time that we experienced had financial consequences, and it was real.” Adams added, “We need to move faster and get things done.”
As per the Post, on Wednesday, Schumer announced that FEMA is allocating $924.4 million in reimbursements to the 11 public hospitals and five nursing facilities which had provided care for sick patients during the first critical phase of pandemic in 2020 throughout the five boroughs of NYC.
“We have already told FEMA, get the new money out immediately so our hospitals can do the job they are meant to do,” Schumer said. “The delays we had are unacceptable, both on the public side and the private side, and we’re not going to tolerate that again.” Schumer noted that in October 2020, Health +Hospitals requested reimbursement for about $900 million it spent on hiring extra staff to care for COVID-19 patients — but FEMA had only agreed to reimburse one third of those costs.
Rep Ritchie Torres (D- Bronx) also joined the pair to plea with FEMA not to repeat the delays experienced the first time around. “The bureaucratic reasoning of FEMA was out of touch with the reality that we as New Yorkers were experiencing on the ground,” said Torres. “We all remember the images of overflowing emergency rooms and those refrigerated trucks full of dead bodies.”