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Hochul urged to keep donor-friendly COVID emergency in place


Governor Kathy Hochul is facing heavy criticism for keeping in place a COVID-19 state of emergency that dates back to her predecessor and which some say largely benefits her campaign donors.

Hochul renewed the months-long state of emergency that suspended state procurement rules that, the Times Union reported on Tuesdaylet a rapid-testing company called Digital Gadgets — run by a campaign donor — get $637 million in business without a state Department of Health tender since December.

“We have these finance laws for a reason. They’re there to keep taxpayers from overpaying because the state is playing favorites with contractors,” Bill Hammond, senior health care policy researcher at government watchdog Empire Center for Health, told The Post. Public Policy.

Company owner Charlie Tebele and his family have given nearly $300,000 to Hochul as she runs for office against Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Bryan Lesswing, senior adviser for Hochul, championed the venture with the company, which he said provided the testing needed to keep schools open.

“The state reached out to multiple vendors to acquire enough tests to distribute to schools to protect New York’s teachers, students, and parents, and Digital Gadgets was the only vendor able to meet this urgent need. Digital Gadgets delivered successfully completed all the tests the state needed within the requested time frame,” he said in an email.

Governor Kathy Hochul has extended New York’s COVID-19 state of emergency order.
Paul Martinca

The controversial donations are the latest example of people with business before the state making large donations to Hochul, who pledged to make state government more transparent and accountable after taking over from the Andrew Cuomo scandal last August .

Hochul has come under fire for other moves benefiting her campaign donors, including intervention of his administration in a state liquor license renewal and his support for a new $1.4 billion stadium for his beloved Buffalo Bills paid for with $600 million in state money.

“The more we learn about it, the clearer it becomes that it will only make Albany’s culture of corruption far more toxic than ever before,” Zeldin said in a statement.

“Each month, Kathy Hochul unilaterally expands her own COVID emergency powers without legislative approval, resulting in new corners she can cut to reward her campaign donors with massive government contracts,” he said. added.

Critics have pointed out that the emergency order benefits COVID testing company Digital Gadgets which donated to Hochul's gubernatorial campaign.
Critics pointed out that the emergency order benefits COVID testing company Digital Gadgets, which donated to Hochul’s campaign.
Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

Hochul issued a decree last September this allowed him to relax state rules on hospital purchasing and staffing to increase hospital and testing capacity as the omicron wave swept through the state.

A second order in November made it even easier for the state to source supplies without worrying about bidding requirements or typical state comptroller oversight of contracts.

“When New York was faced with an increase in cases due to the surge of Omicron late last year, the state moved quickly to protect New Yorkers by distributing home testing to schools, nursing homes and adult care facilities, local governments and nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations,” Lesswing said in a statement.

New cases of COVID-19 hit 90,000 in one day last December as the omicron variant swept the state, but state data on positive tests for the virus has stabilized at around 5,000 cases a day in recent months.

The month-long drop in cases fueled growing accusations of executive overreach from Republicans in the state Legislature.

“Today, the Governor ruled for over 19 million people in New York City that there is still a ‘state of emergency’ regarding COVID. She knows that’s not true. That’s is just another desperate attempt to cling to one-sided power, like its predecessor before it. Robert Ortt, Republican Minority Leader in the State Senate tweeted July 14th.

The GOP candidate opposing Hochul, Representative Lee Zeldin, said the extension of the state of emergency proves that it
Hochul’s opponent, Representative Lee Zeldin, said extending the state of emergency proves it “will only make Albany’s culture of corruption far more toxic than ever.”
William Farrington

The state of emergency has allowed the Hochul administration to recruit additional staff for veterans, maintain a COVID hotline, and roll out pop-up vaccination and testing sites among new variants, according to the report. Hochul administration.

New York City and several surrounding counties remain areas of high coronavirus transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control — a fact that the Hochul administration says justifies the ongoing suspension of normal rules on public procurement and healthcare personnel.

“During this ongoing pandemic and amid emerging variants, the emergency order provides the state with the flexibility to protect vulnerable New Yorkers and respond quickly to urgent needs,” Lesswing said in a later statement.

But critics say the current workload means the governor should let executive orders maintaining the state of emergency expire.

“We’re kind of boiling, aren’t we? And we have been dealing with this virus in various forms for more than two years. She’s had plenty of time to regularize her purchasing practices,” Hammond said.