“I believe we need a mask mandate for children to go back to school,” Hochul told reporters following a tour of the Louis Armstrong School/PS 143 in Corona, Queens. “And that will have to be universal. It will be statewide.”
She added, “In a matter of days I will be able to say we will have mask mandates. I just don’t have that authority at this time and I’m not going to overstep.”
Hochul said the state Health Department has the authority to impose a mask mandate, without seeking legislative approval.
She also quipped that she will be the “sane” governor when she replaces disgraced Andrew Cuomo as New York’s chief executive next week.
Hochul said Wednesday she’s developing a strong rapport with Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom she met with on Tuesday — and both shared a joke at Cuomo’s expense.
“It was just a good healthy sane — emphasize the word sane — conversation which I truly appreciated,” de Blasio said during his daily press briefing remote from City Hall.
“I’m just very honored that the mayor called me `sane.’ That’s good,” Hochul later said, to a roar of laughter from reporters.
De Blasio said last month that the city public school system will continue to require mask wearing, after the federal Centers for Disease Control relaxed its mask guidance as increased vaccinations to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
City teachers are also required to get the COVID vaccine or undergo regular testing.
Meanwhile, Hochul said she wants to fix the state’s slow rollout of releasing money to landlords and tenants under the $2.6 billion emergency rent relief program, a mess recently highlighted by The Post.
“I just had a meeting with Commissioner [Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance] Commissioner Michael] Hein as well as other principals from the administration who have been working on this. I asked them tough questions. I received some answers,” Hochul said.
Hein is expected to get grilled at a state Senate hearing on the rent relief program Thursday.
New York State’s program to rescue renters hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic has helped just 7,000 families and awarded less than $100 million so far — just a fraction of what’s available, according to a state audit.
The report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli revealed that was just a mere fraction of the 168,000 families that have applied for assistance so far and that officials have handed out less than 4 percent of the $2.6 billion the state received from the feds.
Hochul said some of the challenges with the state rent relief program have to do with “unique aspects of New York State law in comparison to other states.”
Critics complained of an onerous application process.
“That was information that was important to hear,” she said.
Hochul, 62, takes over as governor next Tuesday — replacing Cuomo, who resigned under threat of impeachment amid a sexual harassment scandal.
A devastating investigative report released by state Attorney General Letitia James found Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including current and former staffers.
Hochul is making the rounds to get to better know the city’s political leaders. She met with de Blasio and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams — her 2018 Democratic primary foe — on Tuesday.
Hochul was guarded about whether she would replace or keep Cuomo appointed agency heads. She said she’s taking a 45-day period to put her leadership team in place.
“I am not going to be disclosing any of my staffing decisions… I have relationships with all the commissioners. I am no stranger to any of them,” Hochul said.
“I also recognize there is a lot of top talent out there who are reaching out to us. Asking if they can be part of a new administration to bring in a whole new era for the state of New York. So I’ll be very busy over the next couple of weeks.”
She has said she will replace any state officials fingered for unethical behavior in AG James’ investigative report of Cuomo.
In other matters, Hochul said she will run a more open and transparent administration, including providing more information to the state Legislature, including the Assembly Judiciary Committee preparing an impeachment report on Cuomo.
But Cuomo is still facing state and federal probes for the cover-up of nursing home deaths and using taxpayer resources to help write his $5.1 million COVID-19 “leadership” memoir last year.
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