BUFFALO, N.Y. — NY Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters on Monday afternoon that she will not be extending the COVID-19 state disaster emergency which was scheduled to expire at midnight.
The move comes as the Governor faced mounting criticism from her Republican opponents.
Following an event in New York City, Hochul said she was comfortable in lifting the emergency declaration given where we stand with transmission rates, hospitalizations, and widely available booster shots.
The New York State Legislature granted extraordinary powers to then Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the onset of the pandemic 2-1/2 years ago so that he could act quickly to suspend laws and procure needed supplies without the normal course of legislature review.
However, it also left it pretty much up to the Governor to decide when to end the emergency and relinquish those powers.
Hochul took over as Governor just over a year ago when Cuomo, facing possible impeachment, resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal.
Among other things, the extraordinary powers under continuing emergency declarations which were being renewed monthly by the governor granted the state's chief executive the ability to award no-bid contracts related to the emergency declaration, without approval by the legislature or oversight from the State Comptroller.
NYS Sen. Ed Rath (R-61st District) called Hochul's ending of the emergency declaration "welcome news which was long overdue."
"There's no reason why the governor should have had this unilateral control over the purchasing of goods and services due to the pandemic. Everyone should be involved, otherwise, there's no transparency, no accountability, and no inclusion of the state legislature nor the comptroller's office," Rath told WGRZ-TV.
In recent weeks Hochul received substantial criticism over a more than $300 million contract with a New Jersey firm to supply COVID tests at a price that was more than double what other distributors were offering.
According to the Albany Times Union, the C- E-O of that firm and his family members also happened to donate $300,000 to Hochul's campaign, something Hochul later claimed she had no knowledge of.
Critics also included her Republican opponent in November, Lee Zeldin, who has said if elected he would lift the emergency declaration. Hochul's move comes after a recent poll indicated her once sizeable lead among likely voters is diminishing.