New York Capital Brief: 

NYC Dining Expands to 35% Capacity

On Friday, Governor Cuomo announced that restaurants in NYC are permitted can increase indoor dining capacity to 35% beginning on February 26th citing the continuing decline in COVID cases post holiday-surge.

Cuomo said this change will align NYC’s indoor dining policy with that of New Jersey, where indoor dining capacity is already 35%.

The state is also opening a number of new rapid testing sites across the city in an effort to boost economic activity as COVID hospitalizations and statewide positivity continues to decline.

State Budget Update

In the early hours of Friday morning, Governor Cuomo released his 30-day amendments to his Executive budget. This statutory procedural process gives the Governor the ability to make modifications to his own proposals before the legislature releases their one-house budgets.

As part of the 30-day amendments, the Governor amended his proposal that establishes a comprehensive adult-use cannabis program in New York to specifically outline how $100 million in Social Equity Funding will be used to target communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.

Among the numerous other amendments is a proposal to establish an emergency rental assistance local government allocation fund that. The purpose of the fund is to allow local governments to dispense federal dollars to residents to assist with rent relief during the pandemic.

The 30-day amendments also propose the delay of middle-class tax cuts and a number of revenue raisers through new taxes.

Phase 1B Eligibility Expanded

Beginning on February 15th, New Yorkers with certain comorbidities and underlying conditions are eligible to schedule COVID vaccination appointments under Phase 1.

“Our vaccine supply is going up, the positivity rate is going down and we’re getting one step closer to winning the war against COVID each day,” Cuomo said in a statement.

4 Additional FEMA Sites Approved for NY

This week, Governor Cuomo announced that at his request, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will establish four additional community-based vaccination sites in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and Yonkers. Appointments at these four vaccination sites will initially be reserved for members of the community in which the sites are located and are expected to vaccinate approximately 1,000 New Yorkers per day beginning in March.

These sites will focus on improving vaccine access in socially vulnerable communities, including communities and populations historically underserved by the traditional health care system and that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Increasing Scrutiny of Gov. COVID-19 Nursing Home Policies

Since the transcript and tape have been released from a meeting between Senate and Assembly Democrats and Cuomo’s Secretary Melissa DeRosa, there has been heightened scrutiny towards the Governor and his administration, particularly around his COVID policies and his handling of nursing homes.

The legislature and Governor are at odds over what the legislature claims is a lack of transparency on actual nursing home deaths, which according to NY’s AG, could be underreported by up to 50%.

Now, members on both sides of the aisle have called for the legislature to revoke Governor Cuomo’s extensive authority over policy-making during the pandemic, giving the legislature an equal role.

NY Micro-Cluster Strategy

Governor Cuomo announced that, due to a significant decline in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks, restrictions are being lifted for 26 orange and yellow zones.  There are several neighborhoods in NYC and Newburgh that will continue to qualify as “yellow” zones, awaiting further progress.

Although the additional cluster restrictions have been relaxed in most parts of the State, existing statewide restrictions still remain in place, including capacity limits for certain businesses and restrictions on mass gatherings.

To locate the remaining COVID hot spots by address, click here.