Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has managed to visit each of New York's 62 counties this year even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's the 22nd year the Democrat has done so in a row. In light of the pandemic, he opted for one-on-one meetings instead of meeting with large groups.
Schumer told The Associated Press on Monday that he's tried to use what he's learned from visits with health care workers, small business owners and other constituents to shape federal COVID-19 packages. He said New York has received billions in federal aid alone.
“I talked to people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” he said. “I saw people who were gig workers, part-time workers, and they weren't included in unemployment.”
Still, Congress has failed for months to pass another round of COVID-19 relief aid, which could extend emergency unemployment assistance and provide more forgivable loans to small businesses.
Schumer said his recent visits to the Finger Lakes and northern counties underscored the need for more relief. He said schools are trying to teach students without wireless internet, while families are hurting as unemployment assistance runs out.
“We’re working hard to make it happen — working very hard — before we adjourn,” he said. The Senate has planned to adjourn Dec. 18.
President Donald Trump has expressed openness to making a deal, and fellow Republicans have called for a liability shield for reopening businesses. Democrats in Congress have said Republican offers don't include a national testing strategy, aid for states facing budgetary shortfalls, or enough funding for child care and unemployment assistance.
“My basic view is that we need a bill that meets the needs of New York and America,” Schumer said.
New York's restrictions shutting down many businesses in March and April rocked the state's economy, which has struggled to regain jobs. The statewide unemployment rate was 9.6% in October, essentially flat from 9.7% in September but up from 3.9% in October 2019.