During a budget presentation in the state capital of Albany on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue the incoming Biden administration if it fails to deliver on COVID-19 pandemic aid.
“If Washington doesn’t provide New York state with our $15 billion fair share, we will pursue litigation,” Cuomo said, according to the New York Post. “The legal crisis is legally and ethically Washington’s liability. President Trump is gone. But the damage to New York remains. The COVID assault on New York state in the spring was due to federal negligence.”
The New York Times later reported that Cuomo’s office clarified he was referring to “continuing legal efforts to overturn the cap on state and local income tax deductions,” which federal courts have already rejected and Cuomo’s administration is in the process of appealing.
“This budget is really the economic reconciliation of the COVID crisis, the cost of the COVID crisis,” Cuomo said. “The new federal government didn’t cause the damage, but they are legally, ethically, and politically responsible for correcting it.”
If Biden doesn’t deliver, the Democratic governor said stiff cuts to social services await. Even if the Empire State got just $6 billion of the $15 billion Cuomo cited, it would require a $2 billion cut from school funding, $600 million cut from Medicaid, and 5% across-the-board cuts for local governments, including the Big Apple. Tax hikes on the wealthy would also await, he said.
US President-elect Biden’s proposed $1.12 trillion “American Rescue” relief package, a complement to the smaller relief measures, includes a recent appropriations bill passed by Congress late last month, which earmarks some $350 billion in financial relief for state and local governments - $6 billion of which would go to New York.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States, New York City was the epicenter of the outbreak, suffering roughly 10% of the nation’s COVID-19 cases but 20% of its deaths in March, April, and May, as hospitals overflowed and makeshift morgues were set up on the streets outside.
However, the recent situation in the US is much darker than even those days: in just five weeks, 100,000 Americans have died from the highly infectious respiratory virus, bringing the total close to 400,000 dead since the first case was detected in early 2020. Nationwide, the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases was over 221,000 on Saturday, and the same metric for deaths was 3,344 per day, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cuomo has sparred with New York’s most famous resident, US President Donald Trump, many times since Trump took office in 2017, but in one particularly nasty exchange in November 2020, Trump said that New York would be left out of a national COVID-19 vaccine rollout because of Cuomo’s objections to the government’s vetting process.
"Millions of doses will soon be going out the door," Trump said in a November 13 speech at the White House Rose Garden. “As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York state where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say - I don't think it's good politically, I think it's very bad from a health standpoint - but he wants to take his time with the vaccine. He doesn't trust where the vaccine is coming from ... We won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so."
“We can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately," Trump added. “The governor will let us know when he’s ready."