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Reed’s Unemployment Benefit Criticism Belongs In Washington Too

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo over unemployment benefits would make a lot more sense if it came with criticism of Congress as well.

On Friday, the congressman slammed Cuomo for refusing to opt into a $400 enhanced unemployment benefit outlined by recent executive orders from President Donald Trump. The orders outline a process by which the federal government will cover $300 of the $400 benefit, with states covering the remaining $100. Reed said states have the option to count their existing unemployment benefit payouts towards the $100 they owe, which means partnering with the federal government often adds no extra cost to the state.

“The governor should immediately reconsider this short-sided refusal because real people are suffering. Why should New Yorkers’ wallets be held hostage by the Governor’s partisan politics and the state’s long-term financial mismanagement when other states are happily distributing much-need aid to their communities?” Reed said. “We will continue to fight for a bipartisan stimulus deal at the federal level that delivers comprehensive relief. In the meantime, however, Governor Cuomo should put his personal pride aside and work with the administration on a proven solution that ensures New Yorkers gain access to the critical financial relief they deserve.”

We don’t disagree with Reed’s characterization of state finances. The state might be in better shape had it not spent money foolishly over the past decade or so. But that’s revisionist history right now and, frankly, not terribly productive.

Cuomo has reasons for not jumping at President Trump’s offer, and they’re frankly pretty good ones. New York borrowed $1.1 billion from the federal government as recently as June to pay for the surge of COVID-19 unemployment claims with authorization to borrow up to $4 billion. Frankly, the state doesn’t have the money to pay a quarter of the cost for the president’s program. In the end, the president set aside the $100 payment requirement and New York opted into the program.

Rather than play the political blame game, our federal representatives should have done more to come to an agreement before taking a recess. It’s ironic Reed says Cuomo is letting pride get the better of the governor, because this whole pandemic unemployment benefit mess started because Congressional Republicans and Democrats let their political pride get the best of them in an election year. We agree with Reed that real people are suffering and that a solution is needed. While Reed prefers to throw arrows at Cuomo, we wonder why the same arrows aren’t being slung at the occupants of Republican and Democrat offices in Washington, D.C. After all, it was federal officials’ inability to come to agreement on a pandemic unemployment insurance extension that prompted President Trump to act on his own in the first place.

For every finger Reed points at Albany, two are pointed squarely at Washington, D.C. — which is where the blame for the pandemic unemployment program’s lapse belongs.

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