New York Capital Brief: September 24, 2020
This week, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released five audits of the Department of Health’s Medicaid program that identified approximately $706.6 million in “unnecessary, improper, or questionable” payments. These audits come just as Governor Cuomo and the Legislature contend with solutions to bridge the growing budget deficit, which is partially driven by Medicaid spending and further worsened by the COVID pandemic.
“The state is facing budget gaps of billions of dollars because of the COVID-19 crisis and needs to find cost savings wherever it can,” DiNapoli said. “Hundreds of millions of dollars could be saved with better financial and management controls over the state’s Medicaid program. In recent years, my auditors have identified billions of dollars in waste in the program. Our oversight of the program will continue in earnest as DOH can do much more to save taxpayer dollars.”
On Tuesday, the NY Senate held a virtual joint public hearing to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on prisons and jails. The legislative panel questioned NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) leadership on their facilities’ response to the epidemic, including COVID testing protocols for incarcerated individuals, staff, and visitors.
Later in the hearing, the legislative panel heard testimonies from criminal justice advocacy groups and formerly incarcerated individuals who criticized the Departments lack of adequate testing and PPE distribution in NY correctional facilities.
The advocacy groups provided data that portrays New York trailing other states in testing incarcerated individuals for COVID-19, showing that less than 30% of the incarcerated population had been tested prior to Monday’s hearing. DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci assured that safety is their top priority and they are significantly increasing the rate at which the Department conducts COVID testing in all correctional facilities around New York.
Women Candidates Running for NY Legislature
In the upcoming legislative elections in New York, a record total of 119 women are expected to be on the ballot, likely leading towards a greater gender balance in Albany next year. The last record was set in 2018 when 105 women ran for a seat in the legislature, 69 of which were successful.
This year, the Republican party may see a slight boost in women-representation, with 31 of the 151 GOP candidates being women.
On the other side of the aisle, Assembly Democrats are the closer than any conference in New York history to reach a perfectly balanced ticket. Out of the 141 Democrats running for a seat, 46% are women.
62 women are almost guaranteed a seat in the legislature come January, due to these women running unopposed, against another woman, or in noncompetitive districts.
On June 25, Governor Cuomo, along with CT Governor Lamont and NJ Governor Murphy, implemented a tri-state travel advisory which requires anyone who is returning from a “restricted state” to quarantine for 14 days. This week, Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Wyoming were added to the list.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted its directive recommending travelers coming from states with a high rate of coronavirus cases self-quarantine for 14 days to stem the spread of COVID, Governor Cuomo indicated that New York’s travel advisory won’t be lifted any tim