ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Kathy Hochul held her first official briefing as New York’s 57th governor. This after a short Q&A with the press after her ceremonial swearing-in on Tuesday morning.
Hochul said she is humbled by the situation. She gestured to the historical significance of her position, nodding to suffragists who fought for women in politics, as well as the sacrifices made and lessons taught by her grandparents, parents, and children.
Hochul skewered the COVID relief process from Washington down, saying she’s “not at all satisfied” with the pace in which funds have been distributed. She praised the work of Pres. Joe Biden and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand but insisted that New Yorkers who qualify for financial assistance need to get their money as soon as possible. “I want the money out now,” she said.
She said she met with legislative leaders in Albany and the group has a unified sense of urgency to get the money out to people in need. Hochul also announced a plan to remove barriers to receive the funds, while hiring more staff to process applications and launching a campaign to reach more New Yokers about rent relief.
She ended the portion of remarks on rent relief with a guarantee, even repeating it to avoid any room for misunderstanding: If you apply and qualify for COVID rent assistance, you will be protected from eviction for a year.
In general, financial assistance from federal legislation earmarked for states and Americans to help with the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been slow to be distributed. It’s a chief criticism of the response efforts, with Hochul one of many insisting funds be released so they can go to those in need, waiting for the help they’ve been promised.
COVID safety in schools
Safely reopening schools amid the pandemic is a top priority for the newly sworn-in Hochul. She outlined several ways she plans to ensure children safely return to the classroom in September, including plans for a mask mandate and vaccine requirement.
“I’m ready to get to work as your governor to solve the big problems that this state faces. Your priorities are my priorities, and right now, that means fighting the delta variant,” she said. “None of us want a rerun of last year’s horrors with COVID-19. Therefore, we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening.”
Hochul said she directed the state Department of Health to implement a universal masking policy for anyone entering school buildings. The state is also working toward implementing a program requiring the COVID vaccine or weekly testing for all school personnel across New York.
“To accomplish this,” Hochul said, “we need partnerships with all levels of government and I’m working now on getting this done.” Additionally, the state will launch a convenient and widely available back-to-school COVID testing program for students and staff, according to the governor.
Hochul said more “concise and consistent” school-related policies would be announced later this week. “Priority No. 1: We get children back to school and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe,” she said.
Christine Quinn, Executive Committee Chair of the New York State Democratic Party—who was also the first woman to serve as NYC Council Speaker described Hochul as an “incredibly hard-working public servant” who knows that the government is best when it goes from the bottom up, rather than the top down.
“She’s a fierce fighter,” Quinn said of Hochul during an interview Tuesday morning in New York City.
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