Empire Center analysts are closely monitoring and reporting on the unfolding federal, state and local policy response to this coronavirus pandemic.

Our latest work, Empire Upward, outlines seven steps state officials must begin now to promote the recovery and renewal of New York’s economy. 

In reverse chronological order, here are our latest blog posts, reports and media commentaries on the subject:

New York’s Nursing Home Nightmare
The true toll of coronavirus in New York’s nursing homes remains hidden from public view. The Health Department’s official tally of more than 6,500 deaths counts only residents who died physically within the homes, leaving out potentially thousands more who died after being transferred to hospitals. This understates the human loss and impedes efforts to learn critical lessons from a public health catastrophe. To obtain the full truth, the Empire Center has filed suit against the Health Department under the Freedom of Information Law.

Charting NY’s fiscal collapse screen-shot-2020-04-26-at-3-32-32-pm-1477757
E.J. McMahon and Bill Hammond, April 26
The Cuomo administration has gotten around to sharing detailed estimates of the pandemic’s impact on the state budget enacted almost a month ago—but the latest update from the Division of the Budget (DOB) raises about as many questions as it answers.

Amid Covid, a shaky state budget screen-shot-2020-01-23-at-6-30-41-pm-3369382
E.J. McMahon and Ken Girardin, April 3
New York has just enacted a pandemic-crisis budget that might as well have been written in disappearing ink—shakily “balanced” on hopes of a huge federal bailout and ultimately backstopped by the potential for unprecedented deficit borrowing.

With Hopes Dashed for “Blue Wave” Bailout, Cuomo Needs to Deal With Budget Shortfall
E.J. McMahon, Blog, November 4
Show SummaryWith the national election results still unclear, Governor Cuomo can no longer put off tough decisions on how to balance New York’s pandemic-ravaged state budget.

A Fight Over COVID’s Toll in Nursing Homes Highlights FOIL Weaknesses
Bill Hammond, Blog, October 28
Show SummaryThe legal fight over coronavirus data from New York nursing homes is putting a spotlight on weaknesses in the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Here’s Why Coronavirus Infection Rates Are Rising as ‘Positivity’ Stays Stable
Bill Hammond, Blog, October 27
Show SummaryA growing disconnect between two coronavirus benchmarks – the positivity rate and the infection rate – is stirring confusion about New York’s pandemic outlook.

In Pandemic Recovery, New York’s Tax Base Is More Fragile Than Ever
E.J. McMahon, Blog, October 22
Show SummaryNew York’s exceptionally wealthy state tax base is also exceptionally fragile, due to its heavy dependence on the highly volatile (and portable) investment-driven incomes of Wall Street workers and fund managers.

‘Clusters’ Drive a Widespread Surge in New York’s Coronavirus Infection Rates
Bill Hammond, Blog, October 9
Show SummaryNew York’s coronavirus infection rates have surged to their highest levels since May, pushing 10 counties – including Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange – above a threshold that the Cuomo administration uses to justify travel restrictions on other states.

It’s Official: New York State’s Second Quarter Economic Crash Was the Worst on Record
E.J. McMahon, Blog, October 2
Show SummaryFurther evidence of the massive damage done to New York’s economy by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown has emerged in the latest gross domestic product (GDP) data from the federal Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Affairs.

Sluggish Reopening: NY’s Private Job Count Down 1.1 Million From Pre-Pandemic Level
E.J. McMahon, Blog, September 21
Show SummarySix months into the novel coronavirus pandemic, New York State’s private-sector employment recovery was the slowest in the 48 contiguous states—and getting slower.

Empire Center Sues Cuomo Administration for Withholding Nursing Home COVID Data
Press Release, September 18
Show SummaryThe Empire Center today filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health (DOH) after DOH refused to release records showing the full count of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents, including those that occurred after patients were transferred to hospitals.

New York State Has Dug Itself Into Its Deepest Hole On Record
E.J. McMahon, Blog, September 16
Show Summary“State’s Financial Hole Deepens” is the headline on Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s press release accompanying the August cash flow report.

The CDC’s Nursing Home Death Count Is Even Less Complete Than New York’s
Bill Hammond, Blog, September 8
Show SummaryAs the Cuomo administration takes heat for withholding data on coronavirus in nursing homes, it’s worth noting that the federal government’s reporting is also flawed and incomplete.

The Health Department Stalls a FOIL Request for the Full COVID Death Toll in Nursing Homes
Bill Hammond, Blog, September 1
Show SummaryThe state Health Department is offering a new explanation for why it won’t provide the full death toll of coronavirus in nursing homes: it can’t find the records.

Experts Weigh in on How to Save New York City Post-Coronavirus
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, August 17
Show SummaryNew York City is in crisis. Nearly a third of the city is unemployed, according to a New School analysis, businesses are shuttering, residents are fleeing.

New York’s Post-Pandemic State Budget Picture Is Looking Worse
E.J. McMahon, Blog, August 14
Show SummaryGovernor Cuomo continues to burn while pols in Washington fiddle around the issue of providing more aid to states and localities in yet another federal stimulus bill. Meanwhile, New York State’s plummeting revenues still haven’t hit their post-pandemic bottom, according to the First Quarterly Update to the state’s FY 2021 Financial Plan.

New York Medicaid Spending Is Projected to Jump 9% in Fiscal Year 2021
Bill Hammond, Blog, August 14
Show SummaryDespite a round of cost-cutting this spring, New York’s Medicaid spending is on track to jump by a remarkable 9 percent this year thanks to a massive influx of federal aid.

State Pension Fund Lost Money in 2020, Pointing to Higher Costs Ahead
E.J. McMahon, Blog, July 30
Show SummaryNew York State’s biggest public pension lost money on its investments during the fiscal year that ended March 31—a completely unsurprising result, given the coronavirus crisis and its impact on financial markets in early spring.

New York’s Medicaid Roller Coaster Takes an Unusual Turn
Bill Hammond, Blog, July 16
Show SummaryThe state’s Medicaid spending was significantly lower than projected in the first quarter, but that’s not necessarily a positive sign for state finances.

Filling in the Blanks of New York’s Coronavirus Pandemic
Bill Hammond, Blog, July 15
Show SummaryBecause New York was hit with the coronavirus early, before testing was widely available, its official count of infections – at just over 400,000 – vastly understates the scale of its outbreak.

Cuomo Administration Ducks Important Questions on Nursing Homes
Bill Hammond, Blog, July 8
Show SummaryA new report from the state Health Department tries to deflect blame for thousands of coronavirus deaths in the state’s nursing homes – but undermines its own case by withholding data and engaging in tendentious analysis.

New Data Confirms New York State’s Q1 Economic Plunge
E.J. McMahon, Blog, July 7
Show SummaryNew York’s economy ended the first quarter of this year in virtual free fall, the latest federal data show.

Nursing Home Vacancy Rate Soars, Hinting at a Higher Coronavirus Toll
Bill Hammond, Blog, June 30
Show SummaryThe vacancy rate in New York’s nursing homes has more than doubled since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that the death toll among residents may be thousands higher than officially reported.

NY’s Personal Income Pulse Weakened in First Quarter
E.J. McMahon, Blog, June 23
Show SummaryPersonal income growth in New York nearly flatlined in the first quarter of this year, a period that included the start of the economic shutdown triggered by the state’s response to the coronavirus crisis, according to data released today by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Private Jobs Recovery was Glacial in NY as Reopening Began in May
E.J. McMahon, Blog, June 18
Show SummaryUnlike its rapidly improving COVID-19 case numbers, New York’s economic recovery began at a painfully slow rate during the normally buoyant month of May.

Unsure of COVID Impact, NY Insurers Roll Dice on Rate Hikes
Bill Hammond, Blog, June 16
Show SummaryThe health insurance industry’s rate applications for 2021, posted this month by state officials, reveal deep uncertainty about the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on medical costs.

As Local Sales Taxes Crash, Cuomo Rolls Out Police Mandate
E.J. McMahon, Blog, June 12
Show SummaryThe pandemic-driven fall in local sales tax revenues accelerated in May, falling more than 32 percent from last year’s levels, the state comptroller’s office reported today.

Cuomo’s Stall: Gov Keeps Holding Off on Budget Cuts
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, May 27
Show SummaryOn April 2, with New York’s COVID-19 curve still rising ominously, state lawmakers wrapped up a budget almost unchanged from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pre-pandemic January proposal. With the economy in a coma and revenues crashing, the plan obviously was awash in red ink.

New York’s job base is wrecked 
E.J. McMahon, Blog, May 22
Show SummaryIt’s official: the viral lockdown has been an economic catastrophe of historic proportions for New York State.

Cuomo looks outside to track virus
Ken Girardin, Blog, May 22
Show SummaryNew York State is deploying several thousand contact tracers, workers tasked with interviewing COVID-stricken residents and notifying the people they may have infected. But Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking a notable step that will likely make the effort faster and more efficient: he’s having someone else do the hiring.

Hospitalization rising in some areas
Bill Hammond, Blog, May 20
Show SummaryCoronavirus hospitalizations are surging in parts of upstate, including three regions that the Cuomo administration authorized to begin reopening today.

Uneven ‘relief’ for NY providers
Bill Hammond, Blog, May 19
Show SummaryA review of federal emergency payments to New York health-care providers reveals a striking disparity: Four of Manhattan’s most prosperous private hospitals collected more individually than the 11 city-owned hospitals combined.

Teachers work hard to stop working
Ken Girardin, Blog, May 19
Show SummaryNew York’s statewide teachers union is exploiting a lack of direction from Governor Andrew Cuomo to force an early end to the school year.

NY jobless filings near 2 million
E.J. McMahon, Blog, May 15
Show SummaryMeasured by COVID-19 cases, New York’s coronavirus crisis has been overwhelmingly concentrated downstate—but upstate has hardly been immune to the consequences of the widespread economic shutdown ordered to contain the spread of the virus.

Cuomo Blowing $$$ Balloons
E.J. McMahon, Blog, May 14
Show SummaryNew York State’s fiscal outlook is easily the worst since the Great Depression—but that hasn’t stopped Governor Cuomo from inflating the state’s already awful budget numbers.

Essential Plan surplus hits $3B
Bill Hammond, Blog, May 5
Show SummaryAs Governor Cuomo pleads for financial help from Washington, one of his state’s programs is sitting on $3 billion in unspent federal aid: the Essential Plan.

A grim toll gets worse
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 30
Show SummaryThe full toll of the coronavirus pandemic in New York is likely thousands higher than the official death tallies, according to newly released federal data.

More fiscal turmoil for Medicaid
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 24
Show SummaryIn a sign of pandemic-related strain on state finances, the Cuomo administration is postponing a series of multi-billion-dollar Medicaid payments over the next three months.

NYSUT wants a pony
Ken Girardin, Blog, April 24
Show SummaryNew York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has a $1 trillion list of federal stimulus funding proposals—with specifics that illustrate both the union’s thirst for taxpayer money and its desire to influence public policy well beyond the classroom walls.

Upstate escapes the worst
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 22
Show SummaryWith the coronavirus pandemic hitting some parts of New York much harder than others, Governor Cuomo has signaled that he will begin to relax shutdown restrictions in low-virus parts of the state.

Fed aid has begun flowing to NY
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 22
Show SummaryWhile Governor Cuomo continues to press for a bigger all-purpose federal bailout of the coronavirus-clobbered state budget, New York State already has reaped $5.5 billion in added federal aid from two emergency stimulus bills enacted by Congress last month, according to a report issued today by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office.

Washington shouldn’t fund NY’s “normal” budgets
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, April 21
Show SummaryWith the coronavirus lockdown continuing to erode tax revenues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has turned up the volume on his demands for a federal bailout of the New York state budget. In a weekend briefing, the governor repeated his estimate that the Empire State will need help closing a deficit of $10 billion to $15 billion. “I don’t have any funding to do what I normally do,” he said.

Why is NYC the epicenter?
Bill Hammond, New York Daily News, April 17
Show SummaryIn case it wasn’t obvious from the headlines and body count, New York is currently suffering more severely from the coronavirus epidemic than almost anywhere else.

NY outlook: worse than 2008-09
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 16
Show SummaryThe outlook for New York’s economy shapes up as the grimmest on record, according to the latest employment statistics, economic surveys and forecasts.

Why New York?
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 15
Show SummaryIt’s increasingly apparent that New York is suffering more severely from the coronavirus pandemic than any other part of the U.S. and most of the rest of the world – raising stark questions for city and state leaders.

Tax week rebooted
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 15
Show SummaryThe case for fully restoring itemized federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), now on Governor Cuomo’s federal pandemic bailout wishlist, is even weaker now than it was before the crisis crashed the economy and vastly expanded the federal budget deficit.

Cuomo freezing state pay
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 9
Show SummaryGovernor Cuomo is invoking his “emergency” powers to unilaterally defer a 2 percent pay hike otherwise scheduled for most unionized state government workers during the new fiscal year.

Covid-19 testing rates vary by region
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 7
Show SummaryDownstate New Yorkers are three times more likely than upstaters to have been tested for Covid-19 – and four times more likely to have been positive when checked.

State knew of UI shortcoming
Ken Girardin, Blog, April 7
Show SummaryThe coronavirus pandemic has been an acid test for government, revealing bureaucratic incompetencies, unnecessary regulations—and, in Albany, an agency that has failed to perform one of its central functions.

DOH posts age & county data
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 5
Show SummaryThe state Health Department released additional coronavirus data on Saturday that gives a clearer picture of which counties and age groups have been hardest hit by the pandemic so far. The figures are summarized in the charts below.

Winning last year’s battle
Bill Hammond, Blog, April 3
Show SummaryThe new state budget finally takes credible steps to address the Medicaid crisis of recent history. What’s missing is a clear plan for weathering the far larger crisis of the present and future.

Budget includes a borrowing binge
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 2
Show SummaryThe Legislature isn’t just delegating emergency spending control powers to Governor Cuomo as part of the new state budget.  It’s also handing him a deficit-financing credit card with an $11 billion limit.

The axeman cometh (but not yet)
E.J. McMahon, Blog, April 1
Show SummaryThe coronavirus pandemic has just claimed its first big institutional victim: the New York State Legislature, which handed Governor Cuomo broad and unprecedented leeway to “adjust or reduce” state spending in the fiscal year that began today. Not that lawmakers had much choice. For now, the FY 2021 budget still doesn’t cut spending.

Medicaid still needs Fixing
Bill Hammond, Blog, March 30
Show SummaryThe world has changed since Governor Cuomo tasked his Medicaid Redesign Team with finding $2.5 billion in savings to help balance the state budget. Yet even in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the panel’s recommendations still make sense – and are arguably more necessary than ever.

NY’s health taxes add insult to injury
Bill Hammond, New York Post, March 30
Show SummaryNorthern New York farmer Russ Finley is one of the millions of Americans who make do without health insurance. After an injury inducing accident, he stumbled onto one of Albany’s dirtiest little secrets — an addiction to taxing health care, which has gotten steadily worse over the past quarter-century.

Taylor Law ties up Covid response
Ken Girardin, Blog, March 30
Show SummaryWhen it comes to responding to the coronavirus, New York is likely to struggle with a pre-existing condition: the Taylor Law. Governor Andrew Cuomo has the authority to suspend portions of the Taylor Law—and to preserve vital public services, he should.

NY is shorted on virus relief
Bill Hammond, BlogMarch 29
Show SummaryAlthough New York is taking the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic – with 43 percent of the nation’s known cases and 40 percent of the deaths – the state is due to receive only 5 percent of a $150 billion “relief fund” established in Washington.

Tax cap: more crucial than ever
E.J. McMahon, BlogMarch 27
Show SummaryAs New Yorkers face massive job losses, falling incomes, sagging property values and widespread economic insecurity, they’ll have one layer of protection they sorely lacked in the last downturn: a tight cap on local property tax levies, enacted at Governor Cuomo’s initiative in 2011.

How the stimulus bill treats NY
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 26
Show SummaryThe $2 trillion federal stimulus bill on its way to passage today does not actually shortchange New York in any general sense—but it does dash Governor Cuomo’s vain hopes for a budget bailout, which is why he is so unhappy about it.

Amid crisis, state to hike pay
Ken Girardin, Blog, March 25
Show SummaryWith state revenues crashing and joblessness skyrocketing, more than a third of the New York state government workforce is scheduled to get a 2 percent pay raise in less than a week.

Taxpayers must have access
Tim Hoefer, Blog, March 24
Show SummaryWhile daily life has been disrupted, essential functions must go on amid the coronavirus crisis—including the budgeting process for the state’s nearly 700 school districts.

Transparency is an antiviral
Ken Girardin, Blog, March 23
Show SummaryAs they make their now-routine announcements about new cases of coronavirus, some New York health officials have been publicizing the public places and events that the infected people visited, to put others on notice about their own possible exposure.

NY’s coming capital gains crash 
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 23
Show SummaryAs the old saying goes, the stock market is not the economy—but in New York, it’s an extra-big chunk of the economy, and of the state tax base as well. The ongoing pandemic-driven carnage on Wall Street is a big reason why Albany’s tax receipts are expected to fall at least $7 billion short of Governor Cuomo’s original budget estimate for FY 2021.

Why NY needs to freeze pay hikes for govt workers
Editorial, New York Post, March 23
Show SummaryWith much of New York’s economy shut down and millions of taxpayers likely to depend on federal “emergency support” payments to make it through, an immediate pay freeze for all state and local government employees is a must.

Are Cuomo’s hands tied on Medicaid?
Bill Hammond, BlogMarch 22
Show SummaryIf recent history is any guide, the strings attached to federal coronavirus funding should be less of a problem for New York State than Governor Cuomo seems to think.

Covid numbers in context 
Bill Hammond, Blog, March 20
Show SummaryNew York has emerged as the nation’s coronavirus hot spot, with more diagnosed cases per million than any other state. It has 294 cases per million residents, about seven times the national level, according to an analysis of data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

If only they had listened
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 20
Show SummaryNew York is going to run out of cash more rapidly than most states—and Governor Cuomo can’t say he wasn’t warned of Albany’s extreme vulnerability on this front.

Freeze public-sector wages. Now.
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 19
Show SummaryNew York will need to make massive budget cuts, and there’s an obvious place to star: Freeze state and local government employee pay. The combined estimated savings for every level of government would come to at least $1.9 billion in the next year.

Albany’s spreading school budget fog
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 18
Show SummaryAlbany’s biggest unanswered budget question involves the biggest single item in the State Operating Funds (SOF) budget: school aid.  The next budget can’t be balanced without scrapping Governor Cuomo’s proposed $631 million increase and spending less.

A draft Medicaid redesign emerges
Bill Hammond, Blog, March 18
Show SummaryTightening eligibility for Medicaid home care and implementing a further across-the-board rate reduction are among 41 cost-cutting measures being contemplated by Governor Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team, according to a draft executive summary and scorecard obtained by the Empire Center.

With revenues crashing, what next?
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 17
Show SummaryThanks to the coronavirus emergency, New York State tax revenues in the coming fiscal year will be $4 billion to $7 billion lower than projected, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates.

NYS Will Soon Need A Fiscal Ventilator
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, March 16
Show SummaryWith any luck, the coronavirus will be a fading memory by summer. But by then, massive (if temporary) damage will already have been done to the state and regional economies. The Empire State and its local governments, including Gotham, will have to confront a fiscal crisis as intense as the current public-health emergency.

The price of procrastination
Bill Hammond, Blog, March 15
Show SummaryAs they struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak on the eve of their budget deadline, the state’s elected leaders have run out of good options for dealing with Medicaid.

Cuomo (finally) nods to the obvious
E.J. McMahon, BlogMarch 10
Show SummaryNot a moment too soon, Governor Cuomo has gotten around to acknowledging that a near-panic in financial markets amid rising fears of a global economic slowdown should prompt a re-set in the state’s revenue forecast for the fiscal year that begins April 1, less than three weeks from now.

A sunny forecast in cloudy times
E.J. McMahon, Blog, March 2
Show Summary“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is a favorite saying of Governor Cuomo, who has rolled it out again to describe how the state will deal with the Coronavirus.

The Viral Threat to NY’s Budget
E.J. McMahon, New York Post, Feb. 28
Show SummaryThis week’s stock-market plunge amid mounting fears of a global economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus couldn’t come at a more crucial time in New York state’s budget-making process.

Cuomo’s odd meltdown silence
E.J. McMahon, Blog, Feb. 28
Show SummaryAmid growing fears that a coronavirus pandemic will severely disrupt the global economy, and with the stock market heading for its biggest weekly losses since the 2008 financial crisis, Governor Cuomo has been oddly quiet about the obvious budget implications.


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