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Is New York missing out on $6B in coronavirus aid?

A technicality in last week's stimulus bill might be costing the state billions

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A federal stimulus bill designed to bring $6 billion of aid into New York to help with the coronavirus crisis may not be doing that at all. And apparently, it has everything to do with how the state is handling Medicaid.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer touted the $104 billion aid bill last week, talking about not only $6 billion coming to the state, but $1 billion of that on its way to New York City alone. It would fund additional unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave, and help provide meals and other critical supplies for homebound senior citizens.

Yet, there's one problem with that, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed on Saturday: No money is coming to New York until lawmakers on Capitol Hill fix the bill.

"There was a technical issue with the way the bill was written," Cuomo said during his Saturday news conference update. "New York state does not qualify, and $6 billion is a lot of money. We need the federal delegation to fix that."

The hang-up, Cuomo said, comes from a clause in the law President Trump signed last week that restricted money from going to any state that made changes in Medicaid procedures.

"In this state, since January, I announced the Medicaid redesign team, and they issued their report," Cuomo said. "That changes procedures in the Medicaid program. I've been doing that since January. We can't do a budget without changes to Medicaid." 

Cuomo's $6 billion revelation didn't receive a lot of attention over the weekend, or even an update from the New York congressional delegation. A request for comment Sunday morning to Schumer's office by The Riverdale Press was pending return. But U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel's office said a fix is on its way.

"Rep. Engel is aware of the governor's concerns, and the New York delegation is working on addressing it in the Phase 3 package," his spokesman said. The "Phase 3" package refers to a stimulus bill that has reportedly grown to $2 trillion, that  could include not only direct cash payments to everyone in the country — whether they are affected by the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 or not — but also provides $500 billion in bailout funds for corporations.

The bill has hit some turbulence in the Senate on Sunday, with both sides of the aisle saying they have not yet reached a bipartisan compromise.

But it's not like federal money hasn't been coming into New York, Engel's spokesman said. To date, the state has received $20 million in early rounds of funding from the emergency coronavirus package "with more on the way." 

"Congress is doing everything it can to provide substantial economic relief for Americans in the third package," Engel's spokesman told The Press.

New York also is the first state to be declared a federal major disaster area, unlocking billions of dollars in aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But even that money comes with some strings — like New York being responsible for 25 percent of the total cost.

"The federal government can waive the state's share, as they call it, and waive the 25 percent for each state," Cuomo said during his Sunday news briefing. "I just cannot pay the 25 percent. No state has the capacity to participate like that."

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