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New York City Council Speaker: State Will 'Need Tens Of Billions Of Dollars'04:50
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The skyline of New York City is seen as people commute between New Jersey and New York on March 25, 2020 in Weehawkeen, New Jersey. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
The skyline of New York City is seen as people commute between New Jersey and New York on March 25, 2020 in Weehawkeen, New Jersey. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

New York is now the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

The number of confirmed cases has surpassed 30,000 in the state, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that it appeared social distancing measures were working.

The governor is also criticizing a $2 trillion emergency relief bill being debated in the Senate, which would be the largest in U.S. history if passed. The bill would send money to hospitals, expand unemployment benefits and give a one-time payment to many Americans.

But Cuomo is calling the bill “troublesome” and says his state needs more federal help. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson agrees.

“I haven’t an opportunity at this point to review all the specifics on the bill, but what I do know is that we are going to need not just a few billion dollars. We are going to need tens of billions of dollars,” Johnson says. “We are now the epicenter in not just the United States, but potentially, the world, and our economy affects the rest of the country’s economy.”

Interview Highlights

On whether the stimulus bill will be enough for New York state and New York City

“The money that we’re seeing that’s going to come in, we want to make sure it’s not just going to go to the big corporations, but it’s going to reach workers, it’s going to reach small businesses. We, the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], which is our transportation authority here, need $4 billion. Our hospitals need tens of billions of dollars.

"So I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but if Gov. Cuomo is saying that he is alarmed, that’s not a good sign and I look forward to viewing to figure out what else we need to advocate for, for New York City. And lastly, I just want to say we want to make sure that no one is left behind. What do I mean by that? Gig economy workers, domestic workers, freelancers, people that don’t typically qualify for unemployment insurance. Small businesses in New York City, they’re the backbone of our economy, and we want to make sure that these dollars are going to their pockets as well.”

On whether social distancing in New York has been working

“I think it is extraordinarily important, and it’s the most important thing that New Yorkers can be doing right now. We basically have three crises that are going on simultaneously. The first is the transmission that is still occurring and the fact that we need to halt it. The second, which we need to do simultaneously, is to increase our hospital capacity, our personal protective equipment stockpile — getting more ventilators, doing those two things at once so that the crest of the wave is not as big as it might be.

"And the third is delivering dollars into the pockets of New Yorkers who are economically ruined overnight. Those are the three things. I’ll say that I think the governor has been extraordinarily effective at leveling with New Yorkers in a calm, measured, thoughtful way on a daily basis, and he’s brought a lot of comfort to people by giving them instructions on what they can do to make a difference on a daily basis.”

 On President Trump’s comments that he wants to see businesses reopen by Easter

“I really don’t even know how he came up with a date like that. You really can’t open the economy in a full way if you have people who are overwhelming the health care system or folks that are scared to be around each other. So I think the most important thing to do is level with people and to give people realistic expectations. We need to listen to public health experts, we listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci. There may be measures we can take to ease some restrictions on folks who recover from the coronavirus, and get them back to work, but we shouldn’t be giving people a false sense of hope. We need to go by the public health experts.

"And then lastly, I just want to say, we need to give folks hope though. And the hope that I want to give New Yorkers is we got through 9/11, we got through the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, we got through Hurricane Sandy. This is a painful, difficult, hard time for New York, but we will get through this. We are one New York — we can do it together.”


Jill Ryan produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on March 25, 2020.

Jeremy Hobson Twitter Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.

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