(The Center Square) – In the second installment of his State of the State address on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo began detailing his plan for opening up the state’s business sectors that have struggled in the wake of the coronavirus.
The pilot program the state conducted last week with the Buffalo Bills to conduct testing in advance of the NFL team’s home playoff game appeared to go well, and now the state is looking at taking it a step further to reopen other segments of the economy.
“Why can’t we use rapid testing to open restaurants in orange zones, theaters, offices? There are so many options,” the governor said.
The plan, he said, is to open additional rapid testing sites that would enable people to be tested hours before they go to a restaurant or another business. There’s also a plan where major commercial developers would offer similar testing in their office buildings on a regular basis.
The governor called office buildings a key economic engine that will spur more activity.
“Bringing workers back safely will boost ridership on our mass transit, bring customers back to restaurants and stores and return life to our streets,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also touched on restarting theaters and the arts. Starting next month, more than 150 artists have agreed to hold pop-up events statewide. Artists scheduled to participate include comedian Chris Rock, jazz master Wynton Marsalis and the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
New York City’s theaters have remained dark since the pandemic began. The governor said getting them and the city’s culinary scene back up and running is critical to the Big Apple’s revival.
“Without that activity and attraction cities lose much of their appeal,” he added. “What is a city without social, cultural and creative synergies? New York City is not New York without Broadway, and with Zoom, many people have learned they can do business from anywhere. Compound this situation with growing crime and homelessness and we have a national urban crisis.”
Getting the arts restarted will also help revive $120 billion in economic activity and bring jobs back to the state, he added.
The governor cited a National Endowment of the Arts study that showed through September more than half of the actors and dancers were out of work.
“Almost no one has been hurt more by COVID than our artists,” he said.
The Center for Disability Rights, in a statement, took exception with that assessment.
“The governor’s framing completely disregards the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Disability Community, particularly residents in nursing facilities and other institutions who are dying in unprecedented numbers,” the organization said.
Cuomo also touched on other parts of the economy, including interaction with technology. He said that while 98 percent of the state has access to broadband internet, affordability remains a challenge. It’s an issue keeping many from applying for jobs online or connecting with a doctor through telemedicine.
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While the average monthly cost of broadband access exceeds $50, he wants it to be just $15 a month for low-income residents. In addition, he wants a fund set up to help those who can’t afford it at that price.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will work with other stakeholders on that.
“We have seen through COVID low tide in America,” Cuomo said. “Low tide showed the systemic injustice that is pervasive in our society. We must act in this moment to address those disparities.”