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Stefanik supports Trump executive orders, touts Glens Falls Hospital funding

GLENS FALLS — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, said Monday she supports President Donald Trump’s executive orders signed over the weekend to provide COVID-19 relief.

Trump signed orders to allow unemployed workers to receive an additional $400 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit. This is less than the benefit of $600 per week that people had been receiving, which had expired at the end of July. The president is asking states to cover 25% of the benefit.

In addition, he ordered a deferral of the payroll tax and federal student loan payments and a continuation of a freeze on some evictions.

Critics have questioned whether the president has the authority to take this action.

On Monday, during a visit to Glens Falls Hospital, Stefanik said she supported the president’s orders. She said she is disappointed that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., “walked away” from a legislative coronavirus relief package.

“There were multiple proposals from Republicans to come to a compromise. I still think Congress needs to act on a bipartisan COVID bill,” Stefanik said.

Stefanik supports the reduction of the $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit. She said businesses have told her that they are having difficulty finding workers because they are collecting more money in benefits than they were working.

Stefanik said believes that relief for state and local governments is needed and she has sponsored a bipartisan bill called the SMART Act to provide $500 billion for that effort.

Rural hospitals such as Glens Falls Hospital would likely need additional funds, she said.

Stefanik presented a proclamation to the hospital thanking its staff for their efforts during the pandemic. Bill Powers, chairman of the hospital’s board, in turn presented Stefanik with a plaque containing a resolution thanking the congresswoman for her efforts to obtain $44 million in funding for the hospital.

This includes $21 million in advance payments that the hospital was due to receive from Medicare. The hospital’s application was in limbo and Stefanik contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expedite the process.

Stefanik said she is working on additional legislation to forgive that loan.

Glens Falls Hospital also received $23.4 million from the CARES Act federal stimulus package. Included in that is $4.1 million that the hospital received after Stefanik successful lobbied for the funding formula to be rewritten.

The funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration goes to hospitals serving a large percentage of people in rural areas. Hospital spokesman Ray Agnew said the way the census tracts were drawn, Glens Falls Hospital was excluded from this funding.

The hospital has been seeking to apply to be a Sole Community Hospital because it serves so many rural residents. This would give the hospital an immediate 7% boost in Medicare reimbursements and potentially future increases.

However, the hospital has not been eligible because hospitals must be at least 25 miles, or 45 minutes, from another hospital. Saratoga Hospital is about 19 miles away.

Stefanik said it is particularly important for the hospital to have adequate funding because it has such a significant percentage of patients who are seniors.

Agnew said the hospital is “hanging in there” financially. It is starting to see more patients for various services.

“We brought back almost all of our furloughed workers, which is fantastic,” he said.

The hospital had furloughed 337 workers as the pandemic resulted in a shutdown of all elective surgeries.

Agnew said the hospital still struggles because about 80% of the patients are eligible for Medicaid or Medicare and those reimbursements for services are typically lower.

This is the mirror image of other hospitals, which have 20% Medicaid or Medicaid patients.

In a question-and-answer period with reporters on Monday, Stefanik answered questions about election interference and police reform.

She said the United States has to guard against threats of election interference from not only Russia, but China, Iran and North Korea. She has sponsored legislation that would provide funding for state boards of elections to help local precincts improve their election security.

She also said she has sponsored legislation that would ban use of police chokeholds and provide funding for improved police training. Stefanik said it is important for police departments to make sure they have the resources they need.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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