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Hochul lets pandemic emergency purchasing power expire, citing COVID figures

Governor Kathy Hochul did not renew a set of emergency powers granted to her office by executive order that allowed her administration to waive certain spending oversight procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those powers expired at midnight on Tuesday marking a new phase in the state’s ever-evolving strategy against the virus.

“I will not renew them at this time,” Hochul said Monday. “We are looking at the numbers right now. We feel comfortable being able to hang them.

These powers allowed the state to relax the normal process of buying and bidding for supplies and suppliers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Normally, these contracts would be reviewed by the Office of the State Comptroller before being approved.

But because of how the state’s COVID-19 strategy required the rapid procurement of items like ventilators and masks, and the approval of contracts for things like testing sites and vaccine doses , then the government. Andrew Cuomo renounced this oversight.

This is allowed during certain public health emergencies or disasters, as they are called in the executive order text set to expire.

Hochul had extended that decree each time it was due to expire since she took office last year.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle initially agreed that authorizing these emergency powers for the governor’s office was the right move at the start of the pandemic, when the rate of transmission was high and little was known about things about the virus.

But as the pandemic dragged on, political opponents in the Hochul and Democrats in the Legislative Assembly called for those powers to expire. They criticized the governor’s ability to make decisions about spending and the state’s response without an additional level of oversight.

Those critics said Monday that Hochul’s decision to allow those powers to expire was long overdue.

“For too long, Governor Hochul has taken advantage of her self-imposed authority and the lack of oversight and scrutiny typically required by state law,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Oswego. “And now all pandemic-related terms must end.”

Barclay, and others, have pointed to a recent history of Albany Time Unionwhich revealed that the state approved $637 million in payments for home COVID-19 testing kits to a company whose CEO hosted a fundraiser for Hochul.

Hochul has said in the past that his campaign donors did not influence state decisions, and the state Department of Health defended the purchase, citing high COVID-19 numbers at the time. of the state payment in January.

The average COVID-19 positivity rate in New York currently sits at 6.56% of tests performed over the past week, down from around 21% at the peak of the Omicron variant.