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HomeCoronavirusNY Governor Cuomo: Trump's Actions Akin to Handing an Anchor to a Drowning Man

NY Governor Cuomo: Trump’s Actions Akin to Handing an Anchor to a Drowning Man

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Speaks with Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear about President Trump’s Recent Executive Orders and Failings

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear makes an appearance today on NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s second tele-Press Conference for the day. The subject of the discussion would be President Trump’s recent failings in assisting America’s states through his recent executive orders.

On Saturday, August 8, 2020, the president signed several executive orders which were to help the American public survive through the COVID-19 Crisis. It would be done in light of the failed attempts of Congress to get the Senate to put through legislation that would help Americans, States and other Local Governments.

The Memoranda signed put forth by Trump are:

As a response, Governor Cuomo went so far as to likening the President’s attempts to “handing the drowning man an anchor” because of the added financial burdens that would be brought on through his supposed solutions.

The Governor also brought attention to the argument made long ago about this all being a ‘blue state problem’. Yet, clearly this was no longer such a situation considering how the situation as it stands today.

“It was a New York, it was a California, it was Illinois, it was Michigan, so it was a blue state problem,” said Governor Cuomo. “That’s no longer true. It’s now a blue and red problem, Texas, Florida, etcetera. States have expended a lot of money to deal with COVID.”

Following is the Audio with the related transcript thereafter:


Governor Cuomo: Thanks guys very much. You have two governors today. I’d like to welcome Governor Andy Beshear from Kentucky to join me today. Governor Beshear and I have worked together through the Governors Association. I’ve been watching him and the good work he’s been doing. I’m a big fan of his. I’ve been watching his career. There are a couple of parallels – former Attorney General and the son of a governor. Son of a governor. Andy’s father, Governor Steve Beshear, was the 61st governor of Kentucky, 2007 to 2015. So we have a lot in common.

We want to make some comments about the current situation with President Trump and the Executive Order and the legislation that we hope they pass in Washington. I’m now serving as Chairman of the National Governors Association. I’ve been speaking to governors, Democratic and Republican, all across the board today and I think the concerns are fairly consistent.

States have significant financial deficits all across the board. Now this originally started as more of a blue state problem when COVID began. It was a New York, it was a California, it was Illinois, it was Michigan, so it was a blue state problem. That’s no longer true. It’s now a blue and red problem, Texas, Florida, etcetera. States have expended a lot of money to deal with COVID. States have seen significant economic loss because of COVID and they have serious financial issues. We have been talking about them for months, literally. I was the Vice Chairman of the National Governors Association before we did a statement on every CARES Act that they passed, saying we need state and local funding. They kept saying, don’t worry, don’t worry, the next time, the next time, the next time.

We’re now down to the final piece of legislation. This piece of legislation, the big fight was whether or not there would be assistance to state and local governments and we said there will be no economic recovery without assistance to the state governments. Every economist of all stripes said that. The research from the last recession said that if they had done more to help state governments recover the recovery would have been faster all across the board.

New York State, we need $30 billion over the next two years just to get to a hole. We need $12 billion for the MTA or they’ll raise fares and tolls; if we don’t get 3 billion dollars for the Port Authority, they’ll have to stop construction on the airport. So that’s what the conversation was. Now in the Senate they didn’t want to put in funding for state and local government. They – remember where they started – this was a blue state problem and the states could go bankrupt, they weren’t going to bail out blue states. That was still the discussion. The conversation broke down and then the President issues an Executive Order because he wants to address the unemployment issue and by the Executive Order makes the situation more complicated and virtually impossible. First of all, I understand the temptation to do Executive Orders and the ease of doing Executive Orders I’m sure Governor Beshear also enjoys Executive Orders. We also understand the limit of an Executive Order. You cannot make a law with an Executive Order. You can’t avoid legislation that would require- you can’t do with an Executive Order that which would be required by legislation. And his Executive Order actually would increase the cost on the states.

Now first, the Executive Order will be challenged in court. I don’t believe, I think there’s serious legal questions. It’ll be challenged. No one will get anything, and the situation will get even worse than it is in the country today. But even if you got past the legal challenges, you make it impossible for a state. It would cost New York State 4 billion dollars between now and December to pay 25 percent of the unemployment insurance. His executive order says the unemployment insurance could be $400 but the state has to pay 100 of the 400 – that’s 4.2 billion dollars. We started with a 30-billion-dollar hole and your solution is to cost me another 4 billion dollars? Thank you. That’s handing the drowning man an anchor. “Hold onto this maybe it’ll help.” No, not an anchor does not help a drowning man. So, I hope this was just a tactic by the president but if he thinks this is a resolution, this only makes a bad situation worse. And this is a president who’s trying to show leadership because the American people are demanding leadership in the midst of this crisis and this only sets him back. My advice to the President is, when you are in a hole – stop digging. This Executive Order only digs the hole deeper. It’s the last thing the people of this country needed.

Let me turn it over to my colleague, Governor Beshear. Andy, thank you for everything. Thanks for being with us today. And thank you for the job you’re doing. I love watching you. I love working with you. And again, thank you for all the help— you’ve been working together as a colleague. Kentucky Governor Beshear.

Governor Beshear: Thank you, Governor Cuomo. And for those on the call, I’m the Andy with a slightly different accent. I think we all know by now that COVID is not a red state or a blue state challenge. It is a 50-state challenge. It has turned every part of our lives upside down and I will tell you— I have felt that not just from being a governor, but from being the dad of two young children and the challenges it creates for all of us. It changed the way we work. It’s made massive and likely permanent challenges in our healthcare system. It’s changing the way we’re having raising our kids right now. I’ve become a math tutor, and apparently, I was meant to go into government instead of math tutoring and it’s hit our economy very hard. Here in Kentucky and across the country we are seeing the highest short-term unemployment certainly of my lifetime and our question now is, do we want this economic recession do be a short-term recession, which I believe it can be – one where we can bounce back as we come out of this virus -, or do we fail to take the steps we need to take and our recession goes longer and possibly turns into depression? We’ve already seen some of the steps that we can take that help our states cope with this downturn and put ourselves in a position to make sure we can come out of this. That we can get our economy up and running as soon as we have that vaccine and ultimately, we can get it administered throughout our population.

I want to make sure I mention that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has worked well with the federal government during this pandemic and we’ve worked well with the federal administration. Just a couple weeks ago, we had Dr. Birx down in Kentucky. She made some strong but correct recommendations to us that we are using and we are working hand-in-hand both with her and the entire federal administration. And so, my motivation today is not to criticize and it is not to suggest that the President’s Executive Order wasn’t intended to help but simply to make the point that it’s not workable in its current form. We know that the $600 additional unemployment payment worked. I can show you our last fiscal budget, which ended, and where we would have ended in the red and we ended in a solid financial position and we can attribute a significant amount of that to the correct federal actions in providing that additional $600, which when put in was supported by the federal administration and others.

In Kentucky, people are spending those dollars. It is something to keep our economy afloat and our automotive sector and retail and across just about every other area of our economy, and it’s absolutely critical that it or the largest portion of it that they’re willing to authorize continue. That will be the difference between whether we are just dealing with this for months or for years. The current form where states would be expected to do a 25 percent match is something virtually no state can afford or if they break down the current version can afford for very long. In Kentucky, while the federal government were paying $300 of the $400, we’d be looking at $48 to $60 million a month. But based on calculations as how much money was set aside, the federal program might only last 5 weeks, meaning states would be left picking up that full $400, looking at the last three months to get through the year, we’d be looking at over $1.5 billion, something that’s just not possible for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

That this is something that pushes further Congressional action, maybe it’s a move that needed to happen, but I think it’s important to know that it’s not red states and blue states – look, I’m a Democratic Governor in a state that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also from. This is just about what it’s going to take to help our people get through a very difficult time to make sure that they can stay in their homes and afford the food they need for their kids and also keep an economy moving in a way where we’re able to deal with this one-in-a-100-year pandemic successfully, not just from a healthcare standpoint but also with rebounding with our economy. I think it’s really important that we see ultimately a Congressional solution, and I’d like to see it at the $600 level but if it’s at $400 it needs to be fully federally-funded with administrative cost attached to it. Right now in the current Executive Order, it’s silent on administrative costs, which would hit the states. States may have some state law issue they have to address to put dollars into that program and a lot of other uncertainty. Right now we’re faced with do we enter an agreement when we’re not even going to see the guidance expected for another month? But our people need the help right now.

So I think what the President and what Congress have the opportunity to do, at whatever level up that $600 they’re willing, is a need to do it through the current system that is out there, that was developed for the $600. In Kentucky, we’re dealing with an icy infrastructure for an unemployment system that was put in in the year 2000.

When we make major changes on where dollars come from or how they have to be handled, that can take weeks to months that our people don’t have. From an administrative standpoint, whatever dollar level is going to be decided on needs to work through the current system that was set up under that initial $600 program. Otherwise, it’s going to take longer to get in the hands of Kentuckians and individuals all around the country.

I come from a standpoint that I’m sure the President and others come from in that any plan we put in, needs to work. The very first thing we all do to evaluate on any plan, whether it helps red states or blue states, or it’s Democratic or Republican, it’s just whether it will work. Right now, we’re either going to need some changes in the Executive Order or Congressional action to make sure we have something that actually works to help our people.

Again, my comments today I hope are not seen in any way as a criticism of the attempt by the President and his administration to move this ball forward, but just knowing in it’s current form that it’s unworkable and that states, whether we speak out or not, we need changes to make sure that we can keep providing for our people. If we don’t, our people who are already suffering under the threat of COVID or active infection from COVID, are going to suffer economically and our states are going to suffer economically.

This is something that we all should be able to come together on. If a one in every hundred year pandemic can’t get us out of horse trading and simply doing the right thing, I’m not sure what can. I think it’s time as patriotic Americans that we all come to the table and we just do the right thing.

Back to you, Governor Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo: Thank very much, Governor Beshear. Very well said. The Governor’s point on that it is unworkable is very placed. We had a meeting with the National Governor’s Association last week. Virtually every governor pointed to the fact that administering the unemployment insurance process is very, very hard.

Every time they make a change in Washington that requires a state to change the administration, it takes weeks to implement. We just went through, nationwide, I’m sure it was in Kentucky, I know it was in New York – we had to implement the last federal bill and then there was a backup in changing the entire administration facility. You have to change the SALT, you have to do additional information. It took weeks and everybody knows that there was then a backup and we had a lot of Americans who were unhappy.

So Governor Beshear’s point is workability. Don’t redesign the mouse trap because the state’s won’t be able to implement that for weeks and time is not on our side and you have that on top of the financial cost that you’re asking states to pay, which they can’t pay in any event.

Governor Beshear, thank you very much. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for being with us today. I hope to see you soon. It would have been nice to see you up in Portland, Maine for the Governor’s Association, but we’ll find another opportunity.

If you head North, give me a holler and when I head South I’ll do the same. Thank you for being with me. Thank you, Governor.

Governor Beshear: Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Next time I see you, we’ll bring you some quality Kentucky bourbon. Thanks.

Governor Cuomo: Thank you, Governor.

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