By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
“All coronavirus impact, all the time” is how Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner describes her work since the budget was passed. “Principally it’s about untangling the web at the Department of Labor, helping to get people Unemployment, interpreting the guidance for essential business,” says the Democrat whose 113th District covers parts of Washington and Saratoga Counties.
Things are “getting better” with unemployment claims, she says, but “for some it’s been about a month since they were separated from their employer. People are starting to get concerned, and rightly so…
“I’ve been coaching those who are applying online to set an alarm for 2 a.m. to get on then, when the traffic is less”
Ms. Woerner said she supports New York State’s having extended unemployment benefits from 26 to 39 weeks, and the federal government’s adding $600 weekly, available for up to four months.
“If you are used to living on $50,000 or $60,000 annually and lost your job, that’s a substantial downturn in earnings. That $600 brings you closer to $40,000,” said Ms. Woerner.
“For middle income earners it is absolutely essential. You’re laid off, you have COBRA payments to maintain health insurance, to keep the lights on, mortgage paid, food on the table….
“I hope people realize that it’s not going to last forever, and put some aside.”
She said, “It’s a difficult time for everybody. No one I know wants to be on public assistance. I had a period of that myself and it is humbling.”
“Locally,” Ms. Woerner said on April 17, “we are prepping for a surge maybe seven or eight days from now. It’s possible that we will see an uptick in hospitalizations.
“We have some areas of intensity, but we don’t have the density and contextual issues of a big city. I’m hoping 10 days from now we will be past everything and on the down side of the apex.”
“There will be a summer,” Ms. Woerner assures. “I don’t know if we will have as many fairs and parades and festivals, but we need to stay the course a little while longer. As we say, this too shall pass.”
“People want to go back to work,” Ms. Woerner said. “I am glad we as a state are talking about how to get going again. The longer business is shuttered the more business closures we will see.”
She agrees with Republican colleague Assemblyman Dan Stec that “our situation is different,” especially from the New York City metropolitan region.
However, she said, “I am conscious that we haven’t been doing the same testing. We know that the rate of hospitalization is low relatively speaking. It would be good to be able to know where we have pockets of the virus. You don’t want hot spots to flare up.
“…Unless we are totally clear that we have the public health piece under control, we shouldn’t go back.”
Ms. Woerner is also thinking, “Which businesses should open first, what do we have to have in place, like child care, to make it happen, so we don’t cause more destruction? We have to think our way through this.”
“We have to think what parameters do we want to use? Everybody wearing a mask, limit density in restaurants and stores? Maybe do school in shifts so you have fewer kids in the classroom?”
“I do hope that we are not going to make this an upstate and downstate discussion. We are looking at industries and regional public health issues, like considering the whole Capital Region. How do we open region by region that makes some sense?”
She said, “…There are so many interconnections. I am glad that we are coordinating with six or seven states right now.”
Fostering growth in local farms
Ms. Woerner said, “Ag and Markets is working in the food industry,” and with dairy farmers whose outlets, such as restaurants and schools, have shrunk.
“It’s been a tough couple years for dairy farmers and now — this other hurdle. The federal stimulus page didn’t address the needs of small farms. They’re working hard at Ag and Markets to make that happen.”
She said, “I think this is the time to have a conversation about how much of our food that we consume is produced in New York State. We are dependent on a national and global supply chain, and when there is an interruption, if you don’t have your own capacity, you are up a creek.
“This may be a driver to consider how do we expand our capacity locally to meet more of our own needs.”
“We don’t need to close the borders, but we need to be thinking about independence and self sufficiency. New York State produces enough food to feed 40 percent of its people. What would it take to get that to 60 percent?”
Carrie Woerner: Cuomo doing ‘okay’ & forgives NYC focus
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner says of her fellow Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, “I like the data-driven approach he is using, the matter-of-fact daily briefings.
“I think much of the stay at home and shut down rules were necessary and important, and probably should have been even a week earlier. It is a testament to New Yorkers that they have followed the rules. He has set the tone.”
“I think he’s done an okay job,” Ms. Woerner said. “I don’t agree with him on everything….I don’t know about the golf courses and boat launches being closed.” (They are now allowed to open.)
“Let people get out and fish on the lake. I think that’s a reasonable thing, definitely with the rules of social distancing. Some things he does, I scratch my head.”
“It is obvious,” she says, “so much of his remarks are a reflection of the incredible crisis New York City is facing. Anybody is going to be focused on where there is the greatest problem. I personally take that with a grain of salt, what communities he’s talking about or not.
She said there is a daily call with the Governor’s office where state legislators can raise issues and ask questions, “for clarification on rules like golf courses, or can landscapers work, and that we need more test kits.”
— Cathy DeDe
Saratoga Racetrack: Can it open? Crowd?
Assemblywoman Carrier Woerner says of Saratoga Race Course:
“NYRA [New York Racing Association] is now taking the position that they will open on schedule. I think everybody is hoping that by early July we will be through the worst of this, and the data is pointing there.
“The question is, how does it open? I can’t imagine 24,000 (people) at the track, or 50,000 for Travers, such high density.”
She said NYRA’s Aqueduct race track in New York is operating, “taking bets but without fans in the stands. I hope that’s not the case [at Saratoga]. But it is important to do it thoughtfully.”
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