Gov. Hochul Sworn in as 57th NYS Governor, Delivers Address Outlining Priorities & Appoints Brian Benjamin as Lieutenant Governor

Our newly sworn-in 57th Governor, Kathy Hochul, the first female to hold the office, addressed New Yorkers in a twelve-minute speech yesterday (Tuesday, August 24, 2021) to outline her priorities for the coming days. She opened by harkening back to her family's roots as Irish immigrants noting her father’s work in the steel industry by day and college by night; and, her mother's work with survivors of domestic violence and the courage of her husband and children to support her love of public service. She spoke of her depth of commitment to her constituents and discussed her extensive travel to each county each year in which she listened to constituent concerns from farmers to business owners, worked with elected officials on downtown revitalizations and gun violence prevention, and listened with an open heart to families recount their loss of loved ones to opioid abuses disclosing she lost her nephew. She pointed to the work she has done, standing side-by-side with advocates on issues ranging from fair wages, paid family leave, GENDA, and has been in the trenches battling the pandemic.

Governor Hochul presented the following priorities, which center on combating COVID-19 delta variant, getting rental assistance/direct aid to New Yorkers more quickly, and beginning to change the culture in Albany.

1. COVID-19

  • Priority Number One - Getting children back to school and protecting the environment so they can learn. For months she has consulted with parents, school boards, superintendents and elected officials and will require vaccinations for all personnel with an option to test out weekly for the foreseeable future. Governor Hochul noted the “need [for] partnerships with all levels of government...” to get this job done. New York State will launch a Back To School COVID 19 Testing Program “...to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient.” Governor Hochul’s office issued a press release with an additional back to school testing program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rite Aid and BioReference:https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/first-day-office-governor-hochul-announces-comprehensive- plan-help-ensure-safe-productive

  • Directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking policies for anyone entering schools. Later in the week, Governor Hochul will unveil school related policies which will be concise and consistent to give school districts what they have been asking for.

  • Priority Number Two - Increase COVID—19 vaccination rates. In that regard, Governor Hochul indicated that now that the FDA has granted full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, “New Yorkers can expect new vaccine requirements. More on that soon.”

  • Priority Number Three - Prepare for booster shoots. Consulted with Dr. Fauci last week about the booster and need for individuals to receive booster dose at 8 months. Governor Hochul stressed

 

she is “prepared to whatever is necessary,” including reopening mass vaccination sites. Regular updates on the process will be forthcoming.

2. COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program

• Priority Number Four – COVID rental assistance for New Yorkers that is long
overdue. Governor Hochul is "not satisfied with the pace the relief is getting out the door” for renters, landlords and workers). "No more excuses or delays." Forming partnerships, hiring staff to process applications immediately, assigning a team to identify barriers, noting that "If you
apply and qualify for this money you will not be evicted for a year." The same focus will be given to the state's new Excluded Workers Fund.

3. Getting State Back to Work

Final Priorities – The focus is on getting the state back to work... focused and no distractions, which begins

“... with a dramatic change in culture ... accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line.” Governor Hochul is directing overhaul of State’s policies on sexual harassment and ethics, which includes that all training must be done live. "No more clicking your way through a class." Administration will be reviewing state agencies for compliance. Governor Hochul is ushering in “a new era of transparency.” In that regard, Governor Hochul is directing state entities to review compliance with transparency law and provide public report. This also includes coming up with an expedited process to fulfill all FOIL requests as fast as possible, which have historically moved at a snail's pace. And, finally, ethics training will be developed and mandated for all state employees through executive order.

Governor Hochul noted the Bible passage that states “...there is a time for every purpose under heaven.”This is New York’s time to:

  • “...Escape the oppression of a deadly virus and make our schools and workplaces safe for return

  • ...Build trust between communities and law enforcement

  • ...Invest in mental health resources

  • ...Address the root problems of crime and keep our residents and children safe

  • ...Make greater progress in ending the ugly specter of systemic racism

  • ...Help small businesses and create new jobs for New Yorkers hit hard by the pandemic

  • ...Unleash the power of New York's women, and to make sure that any barriers to success and

    opportunity are eradicated once and for all; and,

  • ...Time to show the world that ever upward is more than just our State's motto. It's who we are. And

    where we are going.”

    Governor Hochul concluded her remarks by referencing the Teddy Roosevelt quote regarding “...the

    man in the arena who is marred by dust, sweat and blood, stark contrast with the timid souls on the sidelines.” Governor Hochul pledged, “You will find me to be direct, straight-talking and decisive. I will not be deterred, and I'm willing to be bloodied and marred in the pursuit of doing what's right for the people of this great State.”

    The transcript and video of Governor Hochul’s address: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-audio- photos-remarks-prepared-governor-hochul-delivers-virtual-address-people-new-york

Appointment of Lieutenant Governor – On Thursday, August 26, 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul announced her appointment of Senator Brian Benjamin (D-Harlem), who has served in the NYS Senate since 2017, to serve as Lieutenant Governor.

Lieutenant Governor Benjamin obtained his undergraduate degree in Public Policy from Brown University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. In his remarks on his appointment Lieutenant Governor Benjamin echoed Governor Hochul’s priorities focusing on combating gun violence, homelessness and affordable housing, and the COVID-19 delta variant. Lieutenant Governor Benjamin established himself as an advocate for criminal justice reform in his tenure in the Senate. ​His Senate biography: https://www.nysenate.gov/senators/brian-benjamin/about