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Cuomo: School funding may be cut in half without federal COVID-19 aid

Eileen Buckley

State funding for schools in New York could be slashed by nearly 50% if the federal government doesn’t send billions of dollars in aid for the state’s efforts in responding to COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Sunday.

Cuomo, through legislation approved in this year’s state budget, has the power to reduce funding for schools and localities if the state’s revenues are lower than expected.

The budget, passed in early April, already left school aid flat compared to last year’s spending. But Cuomo said that, without money from the federal government, schools may have to work with less than what was set aside for them in the state budget.

“If we don’t get federal assistance, you’re looking at education cuts of close to 50% in the state of New York, where school districts would only get half the aid than they got from the state last year,” Cuomo said.

That would place a major burden on school districts, which are already considering layoffs later this year without an increase in education aid, officials have said.

The National Governors Association, of which Cuomo is vice chair, is asking the federal government to allocate $500 billion in aid for states to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected New York more severely than other states.

Cuomo made the comments at his daily press briefing, which he gave Sunday in Nassau County.

While New York continues to work with surrounding states on a long-term plan to open the economy, Cuomo said Sunday that the state Department of Health will begin testing thousands of people around the state for antibodies, which could show an immunity to the disease.

Cuomo said that'll happen over the next week, during which the state has the capacity to test about 14,000 people for antibodies. Those results will be used to help inform the state about the share of the population that’s contracted the virus, but may not have been identified.

“That will tell us for the first time, what percent of the population has actually had the coronavirus and is now, at least short term, immune to the coronavirus,” Cuomo said.

Credit Office of the Governor
Net number of hospitalizations in New York State as of Saturday.

As of Sunday, a total of 242,786 had tested positive for the disease in New York, according to state data.

New York continued to see a series of positive trends related to the disease overnight, Cuomo told reporters.

The net number of hospitalizations continued to decline, with 754 fewer compared to Friday. That brings the net number of hospitalizations, as of Saturday, to 16,213. Of those, 4,134 people were intubated. That’s a decline of 112 from Friday.

An additional 1,664 people were discharged from the hospital Saturday according to state data.

The number of deaths related to COVID-19 was lower Saturday than in recent days, with 507 additional fatalities. That brings the total number of deaths related to the disease to 13,869 in New York, as of Saturday.

Cuomo cautioned that, while the numbers appear to be headed in the right direction, the disease is far from over in New York.

“We controlled the beast. We apexed. We plateaued. It’s coming down the other side. That is good news,” Cuomo said. “But the beast is still alive. We did not kill the beast. And the beast can rise up again. We know that.”

Chip Partner, a spokesman for the University of Rochester Medical Center, said that at that facility, "I’m looking at a curve that’s flattened, and so we're all holding our collective breath." 

Both he and Veronica Chiesi-Brown, a spokeswoman for Rochester Regional Health, said it's probably too early to know if the numbers are a trend, and it's definitely too early to say it's time to reopen and go back to normal.

Dan Clark is host and producer at New York NOW. WXXI Health Reporter Brett Dahlberg also contributed to this story.