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Politics week in review

NOTEBOOK: Stefanik spars with Cuomo staff on request to probe nursing home deaths

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Protesters speak out against Cuomo

Protesters gather in Centennial Circle on Sunday in Glens Falls to demonstrate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo's shutdown policies related to COVID-19.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is in a war of words with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff, after she blamed the governor for the high number of nursing home deaths in the state.

Stefanik joined the other Republican New York members of the House of Representatives in calling for an investigation into the state’s adherence to safety and health regulations for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanik said that health care workers have been placed at a significantly higher risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

On Friday, she tweeted: “Today I joined my (New York GOP) colleagues in the House to call for a federal investigation of Cuomo’s failed nursing home policies. NOW they admit they unethically changed the way they report nursing home deaths. An INEXCUSABLE tragedy for NY — NEED ANSWERS.”

Stefanik also appeared on Fox News on Friday to call for the probe to the state’s handling of the crisis.

The state has estimated that more than 5,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died from the coronavirus. A report from the conservative-leaning Daily Caller said that New York could be underreporting the deaths because the state in early May changed statistics about nursing home deaths to exclude people who died in a hospital, according to the paper.

Rich Azzopardi, the governor’s senior adviser, said the state’s accounting was consistent with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We urge Ms. Stefanik to do something we understand is uncomfortable for her: stop political pandering and fearmongering. In theory, she should be above this,” he told Fox News.

Stefanik’s campaign released a statement, urging the governor to examine the mistakes his administration made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefanik recognized for bipartisanship

Stefanik has been named the 14th most bipartisan member of the House of Representatives by a nonprofit organization.

The Lugar Center developed the rankings based upon how often a member of Congress co-sponsors a bill introduced by the opposite party and how often the member’s own bills attract cross-party sponsors, according to its website.

“When I ran for Congress in 2014, I promised to work with anyone with ideas — regardless of party lines — to deliver results to the North Country. I have kept that promise since I was sworn into office,” Stefanik said in a news release. “It is a true honor to be ranked in the top 5% most bipartisan members of Congress by The Lugar Center.”

Hudson Headwaters funding

Hudson Headwaters Health Network is receiving nearly $1.45 million in federal funding for novel coronavirus testing.

This is part of a $16.5 million in emergency aid that is headed to New York, according to a news release from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Alzheimer’s legislation

Stefanik is a co-sponsor of legislation to protect seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia from scams.

The bill would direct the Department of Justice to develop best practices for law enforcement, firefighters, emergency personnel and medical professionals about how to interact with people living with dementia who are experiencing a health crisis, may have been targeted by fraud or in need of general care, according to a news release.

“Our North Country seniors, especially those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, are particularly vulnerable during a public health pandemic,” Stefanik said in a news release. “Unfortunately, bad actors have taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and are preying on seniors in the form of scams.”

Testing prisoners for COVID-19

Stefanik has joined her colleagues in sending a letter to the Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshal Service requesting that all inmates are tested for COVID-19 and confirmed negative before they are transferred to any Bureau of Prisons quarantine location.

The BOP is only screening for symptoms and moving inmates who are not showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, according to a news release.

Expanding telemedicine

Stefanik has co-sponsored legislation to provide emergency funding of $50 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to help expand the use of telehealth services.

The funding would require HHS to share recommendations about how to improve access to telehealth services in nursing facilities during the pandemic and establishes a grant program to allow nursing facilities to facilitate “virtual visits” with loved ones during the pandemic.

“This legislation will be crucial in helping our seniors stay better connected to their health care providers and their families throughout this unprecedented time,” Stefanik said in a news release.

Voter organization endorses Cobb

NY-21 Democratic candidate Tedra Cobb has picked up the endorsement of the Voter Protection Project.

The organization, founded in 2019, has the goal of ending partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and voter suppression across the country.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that federal courts cannot regulate gerrymandering, the VPP has been backing candidates that are committed to voter equality.

“Instead of making voting more accessible and secure for the 2020 election, Rep. Elise Stefanik has consistently championed Donald Trump’s reckless agenda to undercut the right of people to vote,” said Voter Protection Project President Matt Liebman in a news release.

Liebman cited Cobb’s efforts to pass an ethics law when she served in the St. Lawrence County Legislature and support for efforts to improve government transparency.

“The right to vote is the foundational principle of our democracy. The only way we can ensure the security of our democracy is to protect and expand voting rights and access for all Americans,” Cobb said in a news release.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or and follow his blog


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