‘You will see compliance’: Gov. Cuomo threatens to withhold funding to governments and schools
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says state funds will be withheld from
local governments and schools that do not enforce red zone COVID-19 orders.
Cuomo specifically called out Rockland and Orange counties,
the Village of Spring Valley, Palm Tree, and the Town of Ramapo.
says state money will be withheld from those areas if the enforcement of public
health laws continues to be an issue as COVID-19 cases rise. “We could
impound all funds,” says Gov. Cuomo. He says he would rather local enforcement
enforce the rules. “I guarantee a yeshiva gets closed down, and they lose
funding, you will see compliance,” the governor says.
Yeshivas in Orange County's red zone were seemingly still
open Wednesday, despite stepped up enforcement action there this week.
News 12 went to those yeshivas Wednesday afternoon and
instead of being shut down, there were dozens of buses picking up kids at
dismissal and students inside crowded buildings as if it were a normal school
United Talmudical Academy and Congregation Bnai Yoel in
Kiryas Joel both remained open Wednesday, despite executive orders to close and
County inspectors found a third school, Sheri Torah
Goldberger, open in the red zone this week but it appeared closed as of
Wednesday when News 12 was there.
The crackdown promises fines up to $15,000 for schools and
local governments that aren't complying with efforts to lower soaring infection
rates in hot spot communities.
receive millions in state funding each year for various programs but state
officials say that money will be pulled if the schools don't cease and desist.
Leaders in the Hasidic
community say they are being targeted. "The governor's obsession with Orthodox Jews is a sad
joke when you consider that multiple counties across the state with no Orthodox
Jews in it have worse infection rates than Rockland County and Orange
County," says Yossi
Gestetner, the co-founder of Orthodox Jewish
Public Affairs Council.
Gestetner says Gov. Cuomo keeps changing the rules and
targeting his community. He says the governor in July said schools would close
if a region's infection rate goes over 9% using a 7-day rolling average.
According to the state Department of Health, the Mid-Hudson region's 7-day
average is currently 2%.
According to YAFFED, a Jewish Education activism group,
yeshivas receive millions in state funding each year for various programs. Many
yeshivas in New York also operate as child care for younger children and
receive $120 million in separate subsidies for that service.
Ramapo Town Supervisor Michael Specht says he is
anticipating a letter from the governor that will outline further details about
the potential funding cuts.
Specht says the town receives about $400,000 from the state
Rockland County Executive Ed Day called out the Town of
Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley for lacking enforcement.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus says he spoke with the
governor about compliance in Kiryas Joel.
"We discussed Orange County and New York state working
together to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing in Kiryas Joel and the
closure of mass gatherings," said Neuhaus.
local leaders tell News 12 they are making
progress and have seen COVID-19 rates go down the past few days, and they will work with county and state leaders
to the law.
who have spoken to News 12 say it's maddening to see people not following
safety measures. "It drives me mad because we're the ones who are getting
hurt the most and it's not fair to any family and anyone in in this county,"
says Melissa Hoffman, of
Like many people, Jonathan
LaGuerre gets frustrated when he sees people not following COVID-19 safety
guidelines. Especially since he works in the medical field and sees the
consequences. "We have to take all the precautions we can because we're
seeing a spike right now in Monsey and in Spring Valley,
it kind of gets to me because I'm trying to do my best to ensure
everyone's safety," says LaGuerre.
According to the state's latest numbers, Rockland's
infection rate's 7-day rolling average is 4.2%.
Next highest is Chemung County at 5.1% and Steuben County at
4.5%. No clusters zones have been named there.