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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

NY Senate Majority Leader Briefs Westchester Jewish Community

On Wednesday, October 13, UJA of Westchester and the Westchester Jewish Council hosted a virtual conversation with New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to discuss the state’s legislative priorities and economic recovery efforts, while learning how UJA-Federation and the Westchester Jewish Council work to strengthen the Jewish community.

UJA-Westchester’s Government Relations Committee Chair Karen Everett thanked the senator as “an ardent advocate and stalwart partner for our state agenda, focused on supporting the non-profit community and enhancing human services for vulnerable New Yorkers. We are particularly appreciative of your vigorous support for helping vulnerable Holocaust survivors. With your support, New York State invested $2.5 million last fiscal year to provide supportive services to survivors living in poverty. This was an extremely important investment to help mitigate the challenges faced by survivors’ needs that the COVID crisis made even more complicated, and certainly more profound.”

Stewart-Cousins commented, “If we were in person, right about now, I’d be walking in, waving, and trying to get my coffee and doing all the things that we do. The fact that we’re still able to do what we do on Zoom is a tribute to our innovative technology and the fact that the need exists for us to get together.”

Stewart-Cousins began with, “As a leader of senators who understand that sexual harassment and the bravery of women who come forward, these things have to be stopped, addressed, and confronted.”

She continued, “Between all that was floating around in March, whether it was nursing home numbers or the Mario Cuomo Bridge, I knew that it was time, because of the work that we had to do, to say, step aside and let us move forward. We were able to move from that chapter, and it’s good because we have a new governor, someone who I have worked with since she became lieutenant governor. She’s been very supportive in many ways. She’s traveled to all our districts. She knows where she needs to be effective. I think it really starts a new framework.”

Stewart-Cousins noted that due to the rules of succession, she actually served as lieutenant governor for two weeks. She revealed, “I had no desire to be lieutenant governor.” She enjoys her role as leader of the Senate, since “it is a role that puts me in the room as a policymaker, and as we all talk about the three men in a room, now it is two women and one man. We have come quite a long way.”

Regarding the state budget, Stewart-Cousins stated, “We were going to really practice what we were preaching, and we’ve been in austerity year after year. The governor would tell us we have billions of dollars in deficit, and this billions of dollars would automatically translate into cuts for the most vulnerable.”

Stewart-Cousins continued, “This wasn’t anything that [we] wanted to continue going down the path of, especially since we understood that this was our opportunity while everybody was watching, to really address things that needed to be addressed. That was the mindset going into the budget. We still have a deficit; we found ways to, to create revenue to sustain some of our ongoing priorities.”

“We injected billions into the education system with an eye towards repairing the damage that had been done to those most vulnerable school districts, as well as creating an opportunity for us to sustain school districts around the state, and it’s going to be phased in over three years,” she added. “We were able to add, here in our region, 800 universal pre-K slots. We were able to put in over $4 million in this region alone. We have a three-year phase in so that we will have universal pre-K available statewide in the next three years.” Stewart-Cousins also noted that Yonkers will receive about $5 million from settlements of opioid addiction cases.

“Other things that we were able to do include sustaining our not-for-profits and social services work. We put in the budget an additional $25 million to deal with the rise in hate crimes and certainly antisemitism.” Stewart-Cousins concluded, “We understand that united is how we actually get the important things done.”

By Judy Berger

 

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