ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that the state would expand its Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute (MERIT) Scholarship, which provides financial aid for college to family members of veterans who died or became disabled in combat or training for combat.
The announcement follows a public outcry over Assembly Democrats’ decision to hold up a bill supplementing the state scholarship to include the families of veterans who died or were injured under different circumstances related to their official duties.
After its decision to block the Gold Star bill sparked outrage from Republicans — including President Donald Trump — and veterans groups, the Assembly majority pointed to the conference’s longtime support of the MERIT scholarship.
Assembly Democrats say the media blitz over the bill was a political maneuver by the chamber’s GOP to make it seem as though the majority conference opposed funding for veterans.
On Monday, State Senate Democrats introduced a modified version of the bill with semantic changes and an effective date of April 2020.
But during a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday, Cuomo said the state had an obligation to address the needs of veterans immediately.