NEW YORK CITY — A quiet Trump administration rule change that could pull coronavirus disinfection funding for the city’s subways and schools has New York politicians crying foul.
Sen. Chuck Schumer late Thursday led the furor with an attack on new FEMA guidance that changes payments the federal government makes on COVID-19 response efforts.
Schools, public facilities and subways don’t fall under the new rule, meaning New York City will have to pay for disinfecting, PPE and other anti-coronavirus protection measures themselves, Schumer charged.
He called it a “downright dirty plan.”
“An absurd change like this one—that actually takes money away from New York that’s now being used to clean the subways or prepare schools for classes—is a slap in the face to frontline workers, vulnerable seniors and kids,” Schumer said in a statement. “I have spoken with New York State and New York City and they are telling me that disinfection of the MTA, government buildings, and schools will now no longer be eligible expenses, and that PPE for non-medical workers has been strictly limited. This decision is dopey and dangerous and allows the virus to continue to rage and that is unacceptable.”
The apparent rule change coincided with President Donald Trump’s threat to pull federal funding from New York City over “anarchy.” City and state officials blasted it as an illegal political stunt designed to fit his campaign rhetoric that “Democrat” cities are lawless, dangerous and in need of harsh law enforcement crackdowns.
“We’ll see you in court, Mr. President,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said about the threat.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo tied the FEMA change to Trump’s threat to pull federal funding in general. Pulling funding for protective equipment and disinfection efforts on subways and schools shows essential workers that Trump doesn’t value their safety, he said.
“Make no mistake, this is just another attempt by President Trump to hurt New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We won’t be bullied. The subways, buses, and schools have never been cleaner – and despite the federal government’s negligence, the state will continue to work with the MTA and school districts to ensure transit workers, riders, teachers, students, and all New Yorkers remain safe.”
Patrick Foye, MTA’s chairman, was even more blunt.
“The message from this latest punitive measure, coupled with the federal government’s inexplicable failure to provide $12 billion in desperately needed funding is clear — Washington to MTA customers and employees: Drop Dead,” he said in a statement.