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Coronavirus

Constantinides Slams U.S. Senate Decision to Politicize COVID-19 Relief

April 24, 2020

ASTORIA – New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides on April 23 condemned U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to effectively tell New York City to drop dead — denying the Big Apple much-needed federal relief through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Majority Leader McConnell’s remarks that he will stop ‘Blue State Bailouts’ is an example of neglect, inhumanity, and a betrayal of his duties as a public servant,” said

Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22. “‘E Pluribus Unum’ is a credo of this nation for a reason. Americans stand up for each other when we need it, and it’s time for Senator McConnell to stand up for ALL Americans in this time of need. New York City is an economic driver for the entire nation — not to mention the epicenter of this crisis.

“We are home to more than half a million public housing residents, who rely on federal support and are suffering right now. At this critical moment in our country, history will look back unfavorably on those who played politics with the lives of their fellow citizens. Shame on McConnell and the rest of the Senate Republicans.”

On Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican, whose state receives more federal funds than it puts into the system, released a statement with the headline “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.” It was a stark politicization of the coronavirus outbreak, which has gripped the entire United States like it has few other countries. McConnell’s decision to leave New York State for dead, after raking in billions in tax revenue every year, was panned even by more conservative members of his party.

Just hours earlier, Constantinides sent a letter to congressional leadership that asked for any federal aid for New York City to prioritize public housing residents. He specifically asked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to pour enough funds into the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to cancel rent for residents put out of work due to the coronavirus. NYCHA continues to collect rent from more than 500,000 residents, although many have been financially impacted by this crisis.

The issue was recently underscored by Saturday Night Live star Michael Che, who paid rent for 160 residents of the NYCHA development where his late grandmother lived. Even then, he noted, it was a “drop in the bucket” and called on elected officials to help out New York’s most at-risk residents.

“Many are unable to pay rent because of a loss of work, while stay-home orders have prevented at-risk residents from going out to make their payments,” Constantinides wrote to McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Astoria Houses residents have received past-due notices, as well as little guidance on what will happen with their rent. With anxiety over a loss of employment, staying home for long periods of time, and the potential of falling ill to a serious virus, the last thing people should worry about is where they are going to live.”

Rent makes up barely one-third of NYCHA’s annual revenue, while a vast majority of the rest comes from federal support. Constantinides argued the federal share should be increased to give a six-month rent reprieve for impacted NYCHA residents. Nearly 40% of tenants were employed before the current crisis — with the remaining share relying on Social Security, veterans’ benefits, or other support — yet that number has surely dropped as 750,000 New York State residents declared bankruptcy in just a few weeks.

Constantinides today again said Congressional leadership should not give up on critically needed aid for New York City, which will no doubt face a long-term economic crisis without federal support.

Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on three additional committees: Sanitation, Resiliency, and Technology.

For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.

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