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Sen. Schumer Outlines COVID-19 Relief in Syracuse Visit; Walsh and McMahon To Focus On Urgent Needs

Scott Willis

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stopped in Syracuse Tuesday as part of a victory lap of sorts to celebrate much-awaited federal relief for residents, businesses, and municipalities. The House is expected to take a final vote Wednesday on the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

The COVID-19 relief bill is aimed at boosting families and an economy hobbled by the pandemic. Schumer says $1400 checks will start arriving later this month at 700,000 households across the region.

“We have poor people who have lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent or mortgage, and can’t feed their kids. We have a lot of people who haven’t had it that bad but are struggling. There are increasing transportation costs, educations costs and so many different costs,” Schumer said.

Individuals who earn up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000 will receive the checks. Then, Schumer says, they will spend some of that money at stores and restaurants, which in turn helps the economy recover. There’s also money to keep people in their homes.

“Onondaga County will get $10 million in rental assistance and mortgage assistance too. (If) you lose your job and you can’t pay your mortgage or rent, you shouldn’t be kicked out of your home. And the city will get $7 million to fight homelessness because a lot of people lost their homes during this time,” he said.

Schumer says combined with direct aid to local municipalities, transportation networks, and assistance for vaccine clinics, the region should be well positioned for a comeback. 

“Just about every person who lives in Central New York will be positively affected by what we’re doing,” Schumer said. “Their health, dollars in their pocket, the restaurants that they go to, the arts venues they go to, their local governments will not have to say ‘we can no pick up your garbage’ or anything like that. So it’s all to the best.”

There’s also aid to help school districts safely reopen schools and direct aid to restaurants and performance venues. Schumer says in all, the American Rescue Plan’s tentative impact to New York state is $100 billion.

The relief bill is expected to cut child poverty in half nationally, greatly impacting Syracuse, where 44% of children live in poverty. According to Schumer’s office, the plan:

  • Makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increases the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6). An estimated 3.56 million children across New York will benefit from this expanded tax credit, and it will lift 680,000 children in the state above or closer to the poverty line.
  • Strengthens the EITC for childless workers, many of whom are in lower-paid but essential jobs on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response, benefitting 910,000 of these workers in New York.

The estimated $100 billion in New York will be distributed as follows, according to a Schumer press release:

Funds for New York

  • State and Local Fiscal Relief for New York: $23.8 Billion
  • Medicaid FMAP Increase: $2.7 Billion($2.1 billion already delivered from Schumer pushing President Biden to extend through the end of the calendar year, in addition to approximately 600 million from a targeted enhanced FMAP for home and community-based services from this legislation)
  • Transit Agency Funding: $7+ Billion
  • Airport Funding: $418 Million
  • Amtrak Relief: $1.7 Billion (Relief for Amtrak to help maintain operations and other expenditures during the pandemic, especially in New York.)
  • Airline Payroll Support Program Enhancement: $15 Billion (The CARES Act Airline Payroll Support Program which will save thousands of New York airline and airline contractor jobs by keeping workers on payroll without furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits until March 31, 2021 New York will receive sizable share of these funds.)
  • K-12 and Higher Education Funding: $11.9 Billion
  • Child Care and Help for NY Families: $5.3 Billion
  • Enhanced Unemployment Benefits for NYers: $21.7 Billion
  • Direct Payments to NYers: $22 Billion
  • New Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement and Testing: $4 Billion

Funds Available to Businesses Across New York:

  • Small Business, Restaurant, and Live Venue Relief: $57.8 Billion
  • Broadband Connectivity: $632 Million


Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the American Relief Plan will help the city fund crucial programs for residents.

The leaders of Syracuse and Onondaga County say helping residents and businesses hurt by the pandemic is their over-arching priority for tens of millions of dollars in federal relief funds.  Syracuse is set to receive $126 million, and Onondaga County $89 million from American Rescue plan. Mayor Ben Walsh says he’s truly grateful.

“The immediate reaction was one of some relief because we have been so constrained over the past year. But soon thereafter it was focus on the significant need that’s out there that extends far beyond city government,” he said.

County Executive Ryan McMahon is also looking forward to recovery from COVID-19 due to this plan.

“The next phase of the pandemic is recovery, and it will allow us to reactivate our planned investments helping people; addressing poverty, modernizing our infrastructure and economic opportunities, since we know the best way our of poverty is a job,” McMahon said.

McMahon also said that the county plans to make investments in workforce development, while also tackling some of the trauma caused by the pandemic.

“We know mental health is a huge crisis so we are going to do some things to address that. We have to reengage the community on the opioid crisis. Certainly child abuse is an issue that we’re getting our arms around now, and we’re making larger investments in those areas as we speak.”

Both McMahon and Walsh will also use the relief funds to shore up budgets that have been swimming in red ink due to the pandemic-induced economic slowdown. Syracuse has lost $40 million in revenue so far, and Onondaga County has cut $120 million in spending. Walsh says the revenue shortfall could continue, so they need to be prepared.

“This gives us an opportunity to really take a look down the road of the next few years and look at where we’ve been most hurt by the pandemic and make strategic investments so we can ensure that our recovery is sustainable.”

Walsh says department heads won’t be adding staff and expenses that the city can’t afford down the road. At the same time, he says he wants to be in a position to offer as much help as possible to address poverty, infrastructure, struggling tenants and landlords, and the city’s small businesses as they try to recover.