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Hochul rallies business leaders, addresses chronic staffing shortages

Gov. Kathy Hochul, wearing a blue dress, stands at a black podium with the state seal, in front  of a background with "abny" logos on it
Don Pollard
Office of the Governor
Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at Association for a Better New York Power Breakfast on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

Gov. Kathy Hochul told a New York City business group Thursday that she expects office workers to be back at their place of employment full time after the new year. Hochul said it’s essential to reviving the city and state’s flagging economy.

Speaking at the Association for a Better New York, Hochul gave a campaign-style speech where she touted her accomplishments in her three months as governor and laid out her vision for the future. She acknowledged the unease that New Yorkers are feeling as the pandemic lingers and continuing supply chain issues cause product shortages.

But she said she’s hopeful that the economy can revive, and that New York soon will be back to a pre-pandemic normal.

She rallied the crowd of prominent businesses leaders to back her plans.

“Are you with me to persevere and come back stronger, New York?” Hochul said to applause. “And show the world what New York exceptionalism looks like?”

Hochul said one of the key ways to help revive the economy is for workers, many of whom continue to work remotely, to finally return to the office. She set 2022 as a deadline for that to happen.

“How about this New Year’s resolution -- that in the days after New Year’s, that we say, ‘Everybody back in the office,’” Hochul said. “You can have flex time, but we need you back, at least the majority of the week.”

Hochul also addressed chronic staffing shortages that many businesses are experiencing, particularly in the health care field. She said she will try to connect businesses seeking workers with training programs at college campuses. And Hochul pledged to fund the education of 1,000 new nurses.

The governor also previewed elements of her State of the State speech, due in early January. She said she will use some of the money from the newly passed federal infrastructure act to fund more child care programs so that parents can return to work.

Hochul also defended her decision to override recommendations by the federal Centers for Disease Control regarding COVID-19 booster shots, and recommend that essentially, any adult who wants their shot can get one.

“If you feel at risk, and I’d say anybody living in the state of New York is at risk … you have the ability to go into your doctor’s office and say, 'I want the booster (shot),'” Hochul said.

The CDC recommends that the booster shot be limited to those over 65 or with underlying medical conditions, but that advice is expected to be expanded as early as Friday to allow more categories of people to get the shot.

Before Hochul can enact the elements of her plan, she faces a June Democratic primary. Opponents include state Attorney General Tish James, who addressed the business group in October and was also well-received.

Hochul, asked by business leaders about her game plan for the primary, predicted a victory.

“I will win this primary,” she said.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is also running, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi are also among those expressing interest in the job. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August over a sexual harassment scandal, has also not ruled out a run.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.