ALBANY — New York is setting aside $30 million to help counties across the state boost coronavirus contact tracing and combat the flu while scrapping plans for a $3 billion environmental bond.
The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, which was set to be on the ballot in November, fell victim to COVID-19 fueled economic uncertainty.
“We’re going to postpone the environmental bond issue hopefully one year to next year,” Cuomo said during a call with reporters. “I don’t think it would be financially prudent to do it at this time.”
New York is currently facing a $13 billion budget gap due to lost tax revenue and battling the outbreak, according to the governor.
The bond is part of a $33 billion, 5-year plan to combat climate change, reduce flood risks and restore fish and wildlife habitats.
The last time the state took on such an expansive environmental capital initiative was in 1996 when New York enacted the $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.
“Removing the Bond Act from this year’s ballot is shortsighted and strips New Yorkers of the opportunity to voice their support for clean water, clean energy, and green jobs,” said Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates NY. “As New York navigates the recovery to the pandemic, it must ensure New Yorkers have clean water drink and clean air to breathe. This is not a good start.”
Cuomo also announced that the state will provide $30 million to counties to boost contact tracing and prepare for flu vaccines at already overburdened labs.
“People will need flu tests and also want COVID tests,” the governor said. “We want the counties to be ready.”
The state conducted more than 73,000 coronavirus tests on Wednesday and reported 777 positives, a 1.06% infection rate. Another 13 New Yorkers died from the virus, Cuomo said. Statewide, 586 people are hospitalized with the virus, the lowest number since March 17.
“That is all great, great news,” he said.
Another 41 bars and restaurants were hit with violations on Wednesday for failing to follow state coronavirus safety guidelines. Cuomo has repeatedly admonished throngs of young people who have congregated outside establishments across the city to drink and socialize, often not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
The state reported an uptick in infections among twenty-somethings.
“The phenomenon of increasing infection rate among young people … is not a New York phenomenon,” Cuomo said. “It’s an international phenomenon. The World Health Organization has warned about it.”
Twenty of the 41 establishments ticketed on Wednesday were located in Manhattan and face the possibility of losing their liquor license.