Candidates Stefanik & Cobb want to see economic restart, but disagree on assisting the public
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
Congressional candidates Elise Stefanik and Tedra Cobb are both eager to see the economy restart, but disagree on how to assist the public.
Back to work
Cobb, a Democrat from Canton who is challenging Stefanik for the 21st Congressional District seat for a second time, says the unemployment bonus benefit, which puts an extra $600 into the pockets of those receiving unemployment must be extended.
She said many people have lost their jobs in St. Lawrence and nearby counties. “The North Country is always a bit slower in terms of recovery economically,” she said, adding that it’s important that the North Country isn’t left behind.
Republican Stefanik opposes extending the unemployment benefit. She says it’s time instead to incentivize working.
“Back-to-work bonuses, I think the incentives have to be for getting people back to work as quickly as possible,” she said. Stefanik said in speaking with local businesses, a major problem she has heard is they are having trouble finding help, because the unemployment benefit pays more than their wage or salary.
Cobb said the government at the state and federal levels has done some things right but said the divisiveness in Congress has hurt the roll-out of assistance to people who need it.
While she is supportive of the trillion dollar packages to assist people and businesses who were left without incomes during the COVID-19 lockdown, she was critical on some points.
Cobb said the roll-out of the Paycheck Protection Program and small business loans were too convoluted.
“Government has to make access to the Paycheck Protection Program and SBA loans easier,” she said. “We heard countless stories of small businesses stuck in an endless cycle where they were desperately waiting for funding,” she said.
Cobb said applications were left unchecked for weeks and in some cases months.
“We’ve got to simplify the process,” she said.
Cobb said the pandemic has also shed a light on the nation’s health care system and suggested that future aid packages need to benefit the healthcare industry.
She said state and local governments are also in desperate need of federal funding.
“New York State is going to be in serious trouble. We know that,” she said. “And New York State has been begging the federal government for help,” she said.
Cobb said she fears local schools and municipalities will be left behind.
Stefanik said the paycheck protection program and small business loans rolled out by the federal government have been critical in stabilizing the economy throughout the pandemic shutdowns.
Stefanik admitted that the rollout could have gone better, but said she worked with many local businesses and with her colleagues to remove red tape and modify the criteria for receiving benefits to make sure they were working for all businesses in need.
Stefanik said New York was hit particularly hard by the pandemic shutdown, but she pointed to the governor as the source of the problem.
“How New York state designated which businesses were able to stay open and which weren’t was very arbitrary,” she said. “I saw in the county that I live in, in Saratoga County, that Home Depot and Loews had a huge line out the door every weekend day, but the smaller independent businesses who are selling gardening supplies, etcetera, retail shops, it was devastating for them.”
Stefanik said she worked with local businesses to update guidance to ensure smaller forgotten businesses were eligible. She also worked to ensure the guidance made sense for tourist industries.
Cobb said she questioned if enough money was targeted for small businesses, noting that some large corporations received massive amounts of funding.
Stefanik said there were some bad actors who received benefits, but said in most cases the money was returned.
Cobb says to move forward toward stability healthcare needs to be a major focus. She said that healthcare plays a significant role in the North Country’s economy. She also called for major infrastructure investment.
Cobb said the pandemic shutdown exposed weaknesses and inequity in the North Country region. She pointed out that when schools closed many people did not have access to broadband internet needed to meet with their educators in an online format.
She said the federal government must look at non-competitive renewable block grants, and how to incentivize private-public partnerships.
She said it’s time to invest in infrastructure to ensure the economy can recover.
Stefanik said she wants to ensure that local governments have the resources they need moving forward. She was critical of New York State’s practice of passing Medicaid costs on to county governments. She said she intends to ensure counties, not the state, get the money that was intended to provide relief.
Since the interview the governor did agree to release the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funds to county governments.
Stefanik said she expects legislation in July will also focus on ensuring local governments aren’t forgotten as New York State continues to reopen.
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