As Gov. Kathy Hochul continues to pave her own path as New York’s leading politico, advocacy groups are imploring the Democrat to scrap leftover policies and proposals of her controversial predecessor Andrew Cuomo — who resigned in August following sexual misconduct allegations by 11 women — from this year’s record-setting budget.
In recent weeks, various demonstrations have been held urging Hochul, who faces primary challenges from both moderate and progressive flanks of the party, to repeal a pre-pandemic Cuomo-era proposal that would result in $2.5 billion in cuts to the state’s Medicaid program, set to be implemented in 2023.
On the two-year anniversary of New York’s first COVID-19 case on March 1, rally cries of “save our safety nets!” could be heard outside the governor’s Third Avenue office in Manhattan.
Advocates and patients believe the plan would hurt the state’s 340B program, which sells prescription drugs at a reduced price to safety net providers such as community health centers, who in turn provide services such as housing, mental health and nutrition assistance to the low-income population. Safety-net providers were instrumental during the pandemic from providing essential care and lifesaving services to the city’s most vulnerable population to getting majority of patients vaccinated, advocates say. One of the biggest groups at risk, if 340B was cut, are residents with HIV and AIDS infections.
Another effort gaining steam, thanks to a statewide coalition of advocacy groups and Albany lawmakers, is ending “Cuomo-style economic development,” which coalition members say favors the real estate developers and the state’s richest over working-class New Yorkers.
“It’s time to end Cuomo-style corporate giveaways,” said Carolyn Martinez-Class, campaign coordinator for Invest in Our New York. “It is unconscionable that instead of paying them forward, Governor Hochul’s 2023 proposed budget takes the state’s billions of dollars in surplus and gives it away to corporations and developers.”
The Strong Economy for All Coalition take particular umbrage with regional economic development councils, a process championed by Cuomo, that awarded grants on a local basis from the state. Hochul indicated in September that she was willing to explore different alternatives to stimulate statewide job growth.
“I don’t feel constrained that that’s the model we have to stay with,” Hochul said. “I’m willing to hear from the members, all of you, should we be doing something differently.”
The former three-term governor may be persona non grata in some circles of the state, but Cuomo did make his first public address about his resignation and the allegations against him at an East Flatbush church in Brooklyn over the weekend. The second-generation politician blamed “cancel culture” for his rapid and ignominious fall from grace last summer.
“They wanted to do with politics that which they couldn’t do with the law. They used cancel culture to effectively overturn an election,” Cuomo told congregants of the God’s Battalion of Prayer church on March 6.
It’s unknown if Cuomo plans to run for his old post or another elected position, as he is not barred from doing so since he was not criminally convicted or removed from office.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at email@example.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.