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Leslie Danks Burke outlines plan to address devastating impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on Southern Tier economy

Leslie Danks Burke, candidate for State Senate called for immediate action to address the devastating economic and social cost of COVID-19 on the 58th Senate district. Her team said it served as a contrast to Sen. Tom O’Mara’s announcement that he and Republican colleagues plan to announce a plan to “Reopen and Reset” in “the weeks and months ahead.”

“Come on, sir. You’ve been in the Senate for 10 years, including eight in the majority. But year after year, you couldn’t get mandate relief, couldn’t get tax breaks for our local businesses, and kept voting to send away money that was specially promised for our schools and our roads and bridges to other parts of the state. To say now that you’ve got a ‘plan to make a plan’ instead of taking real action is entirely unacceptable. As your constituent, it’s past time for you to step up to represent us,” said Danks Burke.
Since the coronavirus put New York State on “pause” in early March, Danks Burke has had extensive conversations with farmers and local business owners, and released several policy plans and calls for immediate action.
Action steps that Danks Burke has specifically outlined over the past few months — but that O’Mara has yet to address — include:
Local Business Relief – including seasonal businesses, farms, and small businesses:
  1. Establish an upstate-specific fund that mimics the NYC small business COVID relief program that (a) provides zero-interest loans for businesses with a smaller number of employees, and (b) grants to cover employee payroll.
  2. Pass legislation requiring insurance companies to make good on “business interruption” claims that local businesses are currently filing and that insurers are denying.
  3. Provide one full year of property tax forgiveness for any seasonal business which loses more than 25% of its annual revenue.
  4. Suspend mortgage or rent payments for 90 days for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
  5. Require all state and local agencies use in-state facilities for conferences and off-site events.
  6. Send vouchers to NYS residents that may be used like cash at in-state tourism venues.
County and Local Government Support:
  1. State investment as a third leg of the stool in recently-established county partnerships with private businesses, where upstate counties with 1% of the population of New York City are currently attempting to carry the same lift as NYC, even though NYC has the benefit of roughly half the state’s population and most of the State’s wealth.
  2. Immediately remove up to three-quarters of the unfunded mandate burden on New York counties by paying for Medicaid at the state level, the way every other state in the US does, instead of paying through county property taxes.
  3. Require that New York State make good on promised Highway and Bridge Trust Fund payments to cover needed upstate road and infrastructure repairs.
Farm-Specific Relief:
  1. Immediately cut property taxes for New York’s small farms so they stay afloat through the crisis and don’t go bankrupt and need to start over from scratch.
  2. Establish in-state preference for purchasing produce for state agencies including SUNY, corrections facilities, and local schools.
  3. Establish now that schools and local governments will buy New York-produced milk products first.
Rural Health Care Solutions:
  1. Temporarily address nursing license requirements so that nursing students under a nurse’s direction may work professionally through the health crisis.
  2. Demand that New York make good on promised funding to community colleges, including nursing programs, which falls short of promises each year.
  3. Save future costs and protect public health by expanding the paid sick leave passed as a stand-alone bill for public and private sector workers forced into coronavirus-related quarantine.
  4. Get rid of Medicaid-for-Profit, move to Universal Care, and cut property taxes by stopping New York’s practice of funding health care through property taxes and sending those tax dollars to for-profit corporations.

Leslie Danks Burke is an attorney and a longtime advocate for education, healthcare, and rural economic development. She is the daughter of farmers and a mother who, together with her husband, is raising two children in this community. A Democrat, she previously ran for State Senate in the 58th in 2016, outraising incumbent Tom O’Mara by over $200,000 and receiving more voter support from outside her party than any other challenger to a sitting incumbent that year — on either side. Since 2016, Danks Burke has remained a powerful advocate for local community engagement and honest government.