Op-Ed by NY Congressman Lee Zeldin: The Fight Against Coronavirus

Congressman Lee Zeldin
Congressman Lee Zeldin

NY Congressman Lee Zeldin sent out a message on Monday, March 23 to update his constituents in Suffolk County about the coronavirus crisis and what’s being done to contain its spread, assist those in need and protect the people in his district.

New York is the state hardest hit in the country by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and containing its spread and combatting this outbreak must continue to be a whole-government, top-to-bottom approach.

On the national level, the federal government has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that travelers do not spread the virus in the United States, including travel restrictions from highly affected countries, and has declared a public health emergency that has allowed for the utilization of reserve funding to help support response efforts.

Last week, the Families First Coronavirus Act was signed into law, which, in addition to providing free coronavirus testing and paid sick leave, also provides family leave for caregivers, food assistance for the needy and enhanced unemployment insurance.

The federal government is also wielding the power of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is now authorized to build 4 temporary hospitals in New York, including at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also committing its resources to utilizing the Javits Center in New York City to assist area hospitals in increasing patient capacity.

In addition to taking new steps to ensure medical professionals have the tools they need to confront any outbreak of the coronavirus, including expediting the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the federal government is working to expedite the development of a vaccine, therapeutics and monoclonal antibodies that can be used both to protect from infection and treat people already infected.

This is no time to play politics, and, on Long Island, every level of government is committed to working together. The first drive-thru, free testing center in Suffolk County is open at Stony Brook University, featuring six lanes to accommodate up to 1,000 tests per day. The site is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 888-364-3065. A doctor’s prescription is not required. If you cannot travel to Stony Brook, please contact your medical provider, because additional testing options are now available throughout our Congressional District.

All across our District, Long Islanders are coming together. Small businesses are donating meals to senior centers and those who cannot leave their homes. Organizations like Island Harvest and Long Island Cares are teaming up with school districts across Long Island to put together Grab & Go Meal Distributions at local schools. The United States Postal Service continues to deliver mail, vital prescriptions and more. Truck drivers, grocery store workers, and farmers continue to ensure the healthy and abundant availability of a strong food supply chain.

We are New Yorkers, and there’s no doubt we will emerge stronger than ever, but when this outbreak is over we must ensure that our way of life has been preserved to the best extent possible.

That’s why it was critical that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an emergency declaration last week making Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in the State of New York, including Suffolk County.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per small business and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to the disaster’s impact. For more information, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that the tax filing and payment deadlines were extended from April 15 to July 15 without penalty or interest for the delay.

In addition to waiving interest on federal student loans, the federal government has also announced a 60-day payment deferment for student loans, for all those who are currently in repayment, a critical step especially in the midst of such uncertainty. For more information, including how to contact your student loan provider, visit studentaid.gov.

The ongoing outbreak of coronavirus is an ever-evolving situation and there’s no doubt we can and will do more to rise to meet this challenge. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to make it through this challenging time for our community, state and nation.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives where he serves as a member of the bipartisan Congressional Coronavirus Task Force.

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