New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may want to start repeating his “do your job” finger-wag in the mirror.
The Cuomo administration dragged its feet for weeks after President Trump initially offered states expanded unemployment insurance — and then waited 10 days to apply for the $300-a-week bonus for cash-strapped New Yorkers even after the feds called to walk them through the program and met their demands, The Post has learned.
New York, in fact, only applied to be part of the $44 billion Lost Wages Program after a nudge from The Post last Friday shamed officials for their inaction after more than one-quarter of America’s states had already qualified for the federal aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A Cuomo spokesman initially tried to backdate their request to early Friday morning, Aug. 21, before The Post report exposed the administration’s seeming indifference to the Trump offer of aid later that afternoon. That despite multiple requests from The Post asking whether the governor had applied for the relief, and if not, when he would do so.
But a senior federal government official confirmed that the Empire State officially applied with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Aug. 22 — after 25 other states.
“Instead of taking advantage of federal resources made available by President Trump almost two weeks ago, the governor was busy playing politics, costing hard-working New York families critical resources needed during this global pandemic,” White House official John Horstman told The Post Wednesday.
“President Trump championed policies, like the Lost Wages program, for New York workers while Gov. Cuomo sat idly by, delaying much-needed support for the people in his state.”
Trump authorized the federal unemployment insurance by executive order on Aug. 8 after the $600-a-week payments provided by the CARES Act expired on July 31 and Congress deadlocked on an extension plan.
Cuomo initially opposed Trump’s program as “laughable” and “impossible” when it was first announced because it required that states kick in an additional $100 a week for each unemployed workers — something he said his cash-strapped state couldn’t afford.
That mandate was quickly eased by the US Department of Labor on Aug. 12 — the same day officials in FEMA’s New York office called New York and New Jersey officials to give them an overview of the program, the government source said.
FEMA then met again with New York State officials on Aug. 18, but with millions of New Yorkers in financial crisis from the pandemic and 32,000 dead in the state — the worst toll in the nation — Cuomo’s office still didn’t submit the application until Aug. 22.
They were accepted into the Lost Wages Program the following day, becoming the 26th state to join, two weeks after the first recipients — costing hamstrung New Yorkers the extra $300 benefit for potentially two weeks.
It takes six weeks between approval and the money reaching bank accounts, FEMA said, with Cuomo’s delay putting New York behind dozens of other states.
New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica insisted Wednesday that the administration waited because the federal government didn’t make it clear whether the money was available to everyone, and said that the initial $100 state co-pay represented a $4 billion hit for the cash-strapped Empire State’s budget.
“We did not get clarity on anything until the 17th,” Mujica said. “It was then followed up on the 18th with a call. We applied three days after the last call with FEMA that gave us some of the answers,” he said.
But an Aug. 21 email obtained by The Post shows Cuomo officials still dithering over whether to apply for the benefits.
Mujica wrote to Deputy Director for Federal Policy Sarah Paden: “What do we need to do to apply for this? Get it in motion to apply today.”
Later that day, Mujica boasted in a statement about how the state would consider submitting a program application, after what they described as a victory against the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Arizona and Texas had already paid more than $225 million to their citizens in federal unemployment assistance and a half-dozen states had been approved to join the program.
“Now that the federal government has blinked and will no longer make states provide funding they do not have, New York State will apply for the Lost Wages Assistance program,” Mujica wrote, noting that the feds had lifted the requirement for states to pitch in another $100 per unemployed worker receiving the benefits.
“As Governor Cuomo has said, politics does not impact policy — especially during a pandemic — and if New Yorkers are in need, this administration will do everything we can to support them,” he continued, despite the obvious politicking that had already taken place by that time.
That requirement that the states pitch in, however, was lifted nine days earlier, while the Cuomo officials were still “considering” whether to seek the relief for New York workers.
But by that stage, 14 states had already been approved for the $300-per-week federal assistance, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah and another eight were waiting for approval.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said the funding still wasn’t enough for states staring down economic ruin.
“This program is still a Band-Aid over a bullet hole and we need the feds to do their job and do a real legislative package that will do something for state and local governments,” he said.
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