ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Nine members of the state Assembly – all Democrats – are accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of violating federal law in his handling of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.
That’s according to the New York Post, which says the lawmakers sent a letter to other Assembly members asking for support to strip Cuomo of his emergency pandemic powers.
This comes in the wake of an admission by a top Cuomo aide last week that the administration withheld accurate nursing home death numbers from lawmakers for fear of political fallout from the Donald Trump White House.
The administration was reporting the residents who died in nursing homes, not ones who were taken to hospitals and then died.
The newspaper reports that Assemblymember Ron Kim and Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, both downstate Democrats, are introducing a bill that would repeal the governor’s emergency powers, which the Legislature approved at the start of the pandemic.
According to The Post, the lawmakers believe the governor violated a federal law against obstructing investigations involving health care.
Responding to the story during a conference call Wednesday, the governor said Kim is accusing him of obstructing a federal investigation. Cuomo said his administration paused giving information to the Legislature because it was busy providing data to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“There is no obstruction of justice with not providing the state Legislature with information,” the governor said.
Cuomo also said that he “has had a long and hostile relationship with Assemblyman Ron Kim,” stemming from efforts to pass a law several years ago to protect nail salon workers from harsh working environments.
The governor said Kim first supported the law, then reversed course under pressure from the nail salon industry. Cuomo said Kim was ‘Influenced by campaign money to change his mind.”
Cuomo has been under fire since a scathing report last month from Attorney General Letitia James that said the state underreported nursing home deaths by as much as 50 percent.
That turned out to be more or less accurate. James’ report forced the administration to reveal 13,000 nursing home residents died from COVID-19. Including residents of other long-term-care facilities, the number rises to 15,000.
The administration had been reporting fewer than 9,000 deaths.
Earlier this week, the governor defended his administration’s handling of the data. He took responsibility, but stopped short of apologizing.