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Katko, Brindisi urge immediate release of federal stimulus funds to hospitals

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Rep. John Katko's office

Central New York Reps. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) are urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to immediately disperse emergency funding to local hospitals from the $2 trillion stimulus bill, signed by President Donald Trump, last week. From that bill, $100 billion is going to public health and social services. Even though some hospital beds remain empty, in preparation for a rush of coronavirus patients, Katko said local hospitals are feeling a huge financial pinch, losing money every day. Hospitals have limited cash on hand, and have had to cancel elective surgeries, which Katko said is their financial lifeblood.

“Whether they get the funds now or two weeks from now, may make a difference in whether they are able to keep going," Katko said. "I know that sounds stark, but that’s the reality some of these hospitals are facing.”

Katko said upstate New York is not getting enough supplies, like personal protective equipment, to fight the coronavirus. He said the full extent of the crisis upstate is unclear, because rural counties are not getting enough tests. Katko said he’s flagged the issue with FEMA and national leaders.

Nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the past two weeks. But Kako said no one is surprised by those numbers, because businesses have been forced to close due to the coronavirus. Katko said help is coming. The $2 trillion stimulus bill is giving direct payments to most Americans, plus $600 a week to the unemployed.

“The number is shocking but we anticipated it,” Katko said. “So, it’s absolutely crucial that we get this money to people now, for the hospitals now, and for people on the frontlines now, that being individuals.”

Katko said the hope is that direct payments and unemployment benefits will start going out to Americans in the next week or two, but he stressed that he was unsure. He said those with electronic deposits for tax payments and returns, will likely get their funds first.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.