Risk assessment model would be used for phased-in, safe reopening of local economies by region and business sector
ALBANY – Chautauqua County’s two representatives in Albany have put forward a plan they say will help to reopen the state economy as it struggles amidst the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Senator George Borrello (R-Irving) and Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Ellicott) say their strategy hinges on an application of a regionally based assessment model that would determine risk level based on a variety of factors. Those factors include population density, infection rate and health care capacity. The strategy would also incorporate risk analysis by industry.
Since governor Andrew Cuomo announced the NY on Pause executive order that basically shuts down all non essential businesses, there has been a sharp spike in unemployment and thousands of businesses have been left shuttered. In addition, the crisis is also driving up government budget deficits at both the state and local levels.
The geographical template for the plan would be the state’s existing ten Regional Economic Development Council zones (REDC). Each zone would be evaluated based on a multi-tiered risk assessment that could include factors such as infection level, hospitalization utilization, demographic and trend data, such as the increase or decrease in number of active cases. Risk analysis by business sector would also be conducted, based on the four-level model developed by OSHA, with corresponding guidelines for protecting workers safety.
“Almost like a horror film, the COVID-19 pandemic invaded our world seemingly overnight, and in so doing, changed life as we know it. While our battle with this insidious virus isn’t over, the strength and unity of New Yorkers in meeting this challenge has been extraordinary, helping us ‘flatten the curve’ and ease infection rates in many of our hardest hit downstate areas,” said Borrello. “However, an economic crisis has been unfolding alongside our public health emergency. The shuttering of our businesses has resulted in staggering job losses – 1.2 million residents filed for unemployment over the past five weeks, four times the total number of jobs lost during the Great Recession of 2008.”
“While New York is one state, we cannot ignore the reality that there is a huge gap between infection rates in New York City and its surrounding counties and rural areas of upstate. For example, in Chautauqua County we currently have four active cases and a substantial drop in the number of people in precautionary quarantine. That is just one example, but it is illustrative of the experience of many rural areas,” said Borrello. “Under the plan we are advancing, economies in regions like this could be safely restarted by following safety protocols, putting people back to work and saving many small businesses from having to close their doors forever.”
“Each day that passes puts us in further economic jeopardy. While the governor’s statewide edicts have been done out of an abundance of caution, we cannot restart our economy with the same ‘one-size-fits-all’ process,” said Goodell. “The impact of this pandemic on the various regions of our state has been vastly different and a common-sense plan needs to be tailored to fit the level of risk.”
The proposal is also being supported by Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel.
Senator Borrello and Assemblyman Goodell have submitted their plan to New York State Commissioner of Tax and Finance, Michael Schmidt, who will be part of the Cuomo administration’s team working on restarting the economy.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates on the November ballot that will be opposing Borrello, Goodell and Wendel all took issue with the proposal and sent out a joint media release last Thursday.
Democratic county executive candidate Richard Morrisroe of Dunkirk said that any reopen NY plan needs to include the proper safeguards, metrics and widespread testing.
“While I appreciate the State Senator Borrello and Assemblyman Goodell’s initiative and ideas, they remain too incomplete to push for immediate action,” Morrisroe said. “As a small businessman whose law practice has suffered as a result of the PAUSE in response to the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, I understand the desire to get the economy going again. I truly do. However, the health and safety of Chautauqua County’s citizens must come first.”
The Democrats say the proposal from Borrello and Goodell falls short on two points: 1 – Failing to acknowledge the need for widespread tesing; and 2 – not acknowledging that the economy in Chautauqua County and the Southern Tier is connected to the economies in adjacent regions, including those in nearby Pennsylvania.
“While I appreciate the graduated approach and agree that the level of infection will vary by county and municipality, it will be extremely difficult to open one area and be fully functional while most are still shut down,” Morrisroe said, adding, “Last but not least, in terms of income and sales tax revenue generation statewide, all of upstate, including Western New York and the Southern Tier, depend on the greater New York City area. To say we can carry on without it being operational is to ignore that reality.”
“The checkerboard approach advocated by my opponent for NY Assembly is problematic,” said Democratic assembly candidate Christine Cardinale of Jamestown. “He proposes opening up western New York, but not Erie County or Monroe County with our big city Buffalo and Rochester hubs. The plan also ignores the fact that we are a border state with Erie and Warren County, Pa. It’s pretty easy to understand why this plan does not make any sense. Just look at a map.”
“We need to sit down and find a plan that supports what President Trump and Governor Cuomo are talking about for the reopening of our state and national economy,” added Democratic state senate candidate Frank Puglisi of Lynden. “Our current leaders taking the cowboy approach is not only wrong, it’s extremely dangerous.”