Assemblymember McMahon: Assembly's COVID-19 Package Looks Out for Schools, Libraries and Volunteers

Assemblymember Karen McMahon (D-Amherst/Pendleton) announced she helped pass a package of bills to provide further support to New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic in the first remote session of the New York State Assembly in history. The package supports volunteer emergency responders, as well helps to ensure that school districts and libraries receive the state aid they’re due.

“Our daily lives and routines have been drastically uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” McMahon said. “While many students are now learning from home and in-person services have been suspended, that doesn’t mean the institutions that so diligently help our children blossom and learn deserve any less. Schools and libraries that were forced to close their doors shouldn’t be financially penalized for measures to protect our families. The legislation I helped pass today will help ensure our children can continue to get the quality education they deserve while we weather this storm, as well as in the future.”

The legislative package includes a measure to help ensure school districts won’t be penalized for closing during the 2019-20 school year in response to COVID-19 (A.10189-A). State education law requires school districts to be in session for 180 days or risk losing state aid. The legislation would ensure that schools that have closed due to COVID-19 without the presence of a state or local state of emergency will not have state aid withheld. Another bill would extend library project deadlines by 12 months for libraries that received library construction grant funds in the last three fiscal years and are unable to complete the project during the proscribed period due to COVID-19 shutdowns (A.10465).

McMahon also helped pass a measure that would allow volunteer firefighters and emergency responders to earn five points per month toward their departments’ length of service award programs (LOSAP), which are pension-like programs (A.10438-A). New York State requires that volunteers earn 50 points in a given year to receive these benefits, which can be received by completing training courses or drills, teaching fire prevention classes or responding to calls.1 The current public health crisis has reduced training opportunities and dispatches, as well as requires vulnerable individuals to stay home, and has made it difficult for volunteers to earn the 50 points necessary to qualify for LOSAP benefits.

“Volunteer firefighters and emergency responders sacrifice their health, safety and time to keep us safe, not only during a pandemic, but year-round,” McMahon said. “The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak shouldn’t keep these hardworking volunteers from receiving the benefits they’ve earned.”