In Partnership with Cornell University, Free Online Training in Public Health Preparedness for New Yorkers to Build a Network of Public Health Leaders Across the State
Program First Announced as Part of Governor Cuomo's 2021 State of the State Address
Learn More About Becoming a NYS Citizen Public Health Leader Here
Video Preview of NYS Citizen Public Health Training Program Course Material is Available Here
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the launch of a free, online Citizen Public Health Training Course for New Yorkers to learn about preparedness for and prevention of public health emergencies from top public health experts. This innovative course, delivered by the New York State Department of Health in partnership with Cornell University and supported by the State University of New York, will prepare and equip New Yorkers to become NYS Citizen Public Health Leaders and build an informed network of community health leaders across the state. Participants will learn about COVID-19, public health emergency preparedness and response, and other public health issues, while gaining insight into information and resources that will benefit their communities. More information on the Citizen Public Health Training Program, including how to register to become a NYS Citizen Public Health Leader, is available here.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of today's remarks is available below:
Top of the morning to you. It is a beautiful day in New York City. It's a pleasure to be here. Let me introduce who's with us today. Let's start with on my left is Molly Reilly, Assistant Secretary for Resiliency and Economic Development, she works in the Office of the Governor. To my right Kelly Cummings, who is the Director of State Operations, Office of the Governor. To Kelly's right Dr. Howard Zucker, our great Commissioner of Health. It is a coincidence that Kelly and Molly happen to have the same attire today. I believe it's a coincidence. I know it is a coincidence, it's not like any government regulation.
Okay, let's take a look at where we are today. COVID update overall on the numbers, today 3.5 percent positivity. 71 New Yorkers lost their lives still to COVID. We have made tremendous progress, but anyone who says it's over they're wrong. 71 people passed away. Statewide hospitalizations are down 40, 4,600. ICU down 7, 918. Intubations, 596. This is where we look like on the positivity curve. Remember, we peaked post-holiday surge and we have come way down from there. As a matter of fact, we are lower now than before the holiday surge, right? So, we were stable, we went up for the holidays, and we've now come down to a lower level than we were before the holidays themselves. You look at the hospitalization rate across the state, it's fairly constant. Long Island, New York City, but fairly constant. The positivity rate, Long Island and Hudson Valley. Long Island has been, had a high positivity rate for a period of time now, and so has the Hudson Valley. This makes the point again, it is up to us, it's up to a community's behavior. Why do you have the Southern Tier at 0.6 and Long Island at 4.3? It's the same state, same weather, same climate, same basic demographics. Southern Tier 0.6, Central New York 0.9, Mid-Hudson, right next door, 4.7. It is the action and the behavior of that community.
In New York City, 4.5 percent in the Bronx, that's actually good. The Bronx was highest for a while. Queens is now 4.8, Brooklyn is 4.3, Staten Island 4.75, that's creeping up, Manhattan, again, 2.6, makes the point again. It is the behavior of the community. It's how people act, it's a virus. Depending on our behavior is how the virus spreads. Vaccines are everything. This is the way we beat the situation. This is the way we turn the page. This is the way we end this chapter, but we have to do it, and the vaccination process is much harder, and much more complicated than anyone I think fully appreciates. It's a relatively simple process, but the volume is so large that it's massive. We did another call yesterday, I'm head of the National Governors Association, with the White House. The White House is working very hard to acquire more vaccinations, more Pfizer, more Moderna, more Johnson & Johnson. We are now subject to how much vaccine they can acquire. We have more distribution capacity than we have supply. It's a supply problem right now. But, they've made dramatic increases on the supply. They are promising more dramatic increases on the supply, and we'll then have the distribution network to do it. Right now we did about 8 million shots in arms, just for relative purposes.
We have about 15 million eligible New Yorkers. We've done about 8 million shots in arms. 5 million have at least one dose. 2 million, close to 3 million, are fully vaccinated. The main focus is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. This is a logistical nightmare. Government has never operationalized a task this large. This is dealing with literally thousands of providers all across the state who have to get the vaccine delivered, who have to know guidelines, safety checks, et cetera, so it's a massive undertaking. April, May, June -- the focus will be vaccination, vaccination, vaccination. The government side is operational, organizational. The citizen side is you have to come and get it. You have to come and get it. We have to talk our way through this distrust, et cetera, but that's what April, May, June are going to be about. We're also focusing on the equity in vaccinations. The vaccination rate among the Black community is still lagging. The vaccination rate among the Hispanic community is still lagging. We pointed this out very early on, and we're working very hard to deal with that equity, but that's going to be an ongoing issue.
And while we're vaccinating, because these are complicated times, at the same time we have to be doing an aggressive rebuilding of New York. COVID is going to decline, knock Formica, COVID continues to decline. More people vaccinated, we get it under control. Okay, now you have to bring New York back. New York is not going to self-remedy. The economy is not going to come back on its own. It doesn't automatically inflate, it is going to be dependent on what we do. We have to rebuild New York. We have to stimulate the economy. The public sector has to stimulate the private sector, and it is going to be a function of how good we are at doing that. We have to rebuild New York comprehensively, holistically. Physically we have to rebuild New York, economically we have to rebuild New York. We have people who have been out of jobs who haven't had funding, who are in debt. Socially we have to rebuild New York. We have to reconnect with people. Organizationally we have to reconnect.
So, this rebuilding is in many ways on an existential level. This is something that we have never done before. We had a taste of it post-9/11, where we were traumatized, but nothing like this trauma in many ways. You have school children out of school for a year. What does that mean? You have people isolated. Dr. Zucker and I were talking about it this morning, the mental health issues that go with this, the trauma issues that go with this. But what is life about? You go through situations in life, you go through difficult situations in life. Things happen, health problems happen, family problems happen, things happen. The question is do you weather it, do you learn, and do you grow from it, and that's going to be our question with COVID. Now, disasters happen. I worked in the federal government before the state. I worked on federal disasters all across the nation, all across the world. Disasters happen, floods happen, 9/11 happened, but you should learn from it when it happens. Disaster preparedness, it's basically a relatively new field for government. We talked about it for a long time, but until we really had these disasters we didn't appreciate it. We had Super Storm Sandy. Whoever heard of a super storm? Whoever heard of flooding downtown Manhattan, and flooding Queens, and flooding Long Island, and the Hudson flooding all the way into the Hudson Valley? Nobody ever hears of that before. We went through it. We learn from it. We are different because of it.
Driving in today, we went through the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Those two large brass doors made by a submarine company so that you close the doors, you seal the tunnel, so it can't fill with water. Whoever heard of worrying about filling the tunnel with water? Nobody until after Super Storm Sandy. Pumping stations all across the MTA now to pump out Subway systems. Coverings for every Subway opening now. Long Island, building the electric grid above ground, so when you have a flood you don't short out all the transformers. This is all a post-Sandy world. Post-9/11 is a different world. From a security point of view, we changed dramatically. To this day, it's been so long now you take it for granted, but there's an increased security presence everywhere: at airports, in front of public buildings there are barricades, there are more police, more security forces. That's all post-9/11 learning the lesson.
We have to learn the lesson post-COVID, and in truth this nation should've learned it's public health lesson way before COVID, because we had warnings after warnings. But at least now let's learn the lesson post-COVID, because, and I hate to say this, there will be a next time. Anyone who says with COVID, "well, this is one and done. This is one in a lifetime." No, my friends, this is not one and done. This is not one in a lifetime, and this was in many ways predictable, because we had seen many warning signs before, which I'll mention in a moment. But, it will happen again, and just look at the task 20 or so years. 1997 we had the Avian Flu. SARS, 2002, a coronavirus. COVID was not the first coronavirus, SARS was a coronavirus 20 years ago. Swine Flu, 2009. MERS, 2012, a coronavirus. Ebola, 2014. Zika, 2016. Dengue, 2019. Every few years we have had a warning, and what happened? We didn't really make the changes and the remedies that we needed to put in place, and then COVID hits in 2020 and everybody says, "oh my gosh, what a surprise." No. Warning, warning, warning, you do nothing to prepare now you have a real crisis with COVID-19.
Let's not make the same mistake twice. Let's make the lesson the changes to our public health emergency management system. We need an emergency management public health capacity that is much more sophisticated and operational than it is today. When we talk about emergency management now, we talk about it in terms of natural disasters. We talk about it in terms of floods, et cetera. We talk about it in terms of security needs. We have to get serious about a public health emergency management plan. Look at all the things we had to scramble to do and do on the fly here in New York. An emergency medical staff to come in because we needed more nurses and doctors. We had to have the hospitals work as a system so we could balance patient load that we had to design on the fly. We didn't have enough PPE, we didn't have enough masks and gowns. We didn't have enough manufacturing capacity for PPE. We didn't have enough testing capacity. We didn't have enough Q-tips for testing capacity. We didn't have enough quarantine facilities, they weren't set up. We didn't have enough laboratories to test the results once we found enough Q-tips to take the samples. There was no contemplation of how you regulate the borders and test people coming in to see if they're sick. We're still not as a nation testing people to what I believe is a sufficient degree to make sure they're not bringing in variants from other nations. This is now an international complex. We know that COVID came in through the airports.
We need a testing mechanism that's run by the federal government that protects our borders and citizens have to be better prepared. I as a person have to be better prepared. You as an individual have to be better prepared. New Yorkers have to be better prepared to protect themselves and to be in a position to assist others. We have to be better educated and trained as citizens of the state. It can't be that we're watching TV and we're glued to the TV to find out vital information and vital basics to protect ourselves. We should be prepared and have the information and the information so that we can protect our own health, our families' and our community's.
We are launching a first of its kind in the nation. New York State Citizen Public Health Training Program. What this is, is a state of the art public health training program for citizens so they are informed, they are educated, and they are trained for the next one -for the end of COVID and for the next one, whatever that may be. And the time to get that education and training is now.
Cornell University has developed a curriculum for citizens to be trained about public health emergencies. It is an eight-session, 16-hour curriculum - eight hours of what they call self-paced content. You can go online and do it at your leisure, your pace, eight hours of interactive sessions where you hear Cornell professors, SUNY professors, national experts, giving you the most recent up to date best information to educate yourself. The curriculum, and Cornell has done a fantastic job, talks about COVID-19, preventing COVID-19, but remember COVID-19 is the third coronavirus we face. SARS, MERS, COVID, all coronaviruses, all believed to come from bats, all believed to come from wet markets in China, and all similar. So COVID, but not just COVID, COVID and being prepared for the next one, health literacy, health priorities, public health for community resilience, public health preparedness, health impacts of emergency events. It will educate you so that you can protect yourself, your family, your community.
Part of the course there will be exams, they have a nice award for exams, I forget what it is, assessments, if you pass the assessment you will get a certified training program completion from Cornell and from the Department of Health that says you have been trained as a citizen public health leader.
In the event of another health care emergency this would be a body of people who could volunteer to help in their community. I believe we will ultimately attract thousands of people to do this because first, why wouldn't you want to inform yourself after the hell we just went through, and they would then be across the state and available as a possible volunteer army.
The best person to protect you is you, an informed you. It's about information and knowledge. Also, having the information and knowledge I think will go a long way towards reducing the anxiety that people felt now. People felt out of control, isolated and out of control. I don't know what spreads it, I don't know if I can accept a bag of groceries, I don't know if I can touch a doorknob, I don't know if I can go in an elevator with another person - all these questions when you're dealing with a frightening disease. We've been in a state of emotional trauma of anxiety and a feeling of loss of control. The information and the knowledge I think will help reduce that anxiety and restore a sense of control. If you know what you're dealing with and you know how to deal with it, you will be more comfortable in the situation and we will be ready for the next time and we'll have a sense of security about the next time because we'll know what to expect. The time to prepare for a disaster is before it happens.
Once the disaster happens it is too late to do the preparation. We learned that again with COVID. After COVID hit it was too late to figure out where to get PPE. We had to send planes to China. It was too late to figure out where to manufacture q-tips and where to get emergency medical staff. The time to prepare is before. Learn that lesson from COVID.
This course is totally free. It is a Cornell course. If you had to go to Cornell and pay for this education it would be very expensive. It's online. It's free. You take an assessment. You get a completion. It gives you a sense of knowledge, gives you a sense of control, and puts you in a position to protect yourself and your family and your neighborhood and God forbid there is another emergency you can volunteer to help.
We're joined by Dr. Lorin Warnick from Cornell University. I can't thank you enough, doctor. I know this was an unusual request. I believe that we are the first state in the nation to do this. We're going to make the curriculum available to every state because I think educating our citizens about this is going to be vital because, let's be honest, most of COVID was about educating citizens about how to act and how to behave, wear a mask, right, it was basic public health information, wash your hands, how its transmitted. This was all basic public health information that we were imparting to the public. If the public had known these things before it would have been much easier to deal with this situation and the anxiety would have been lower, and frankly there would have been less politics involved because there would have been more knowledge and more science involved.
So you have been phenomenally cooperative. Cornell University is a great state asset, but you did a great job, a great curriculum, we've had many people go through it already, everybody is impressed, and this is one of the public services, doctor, that I think is going to make a real difference and a great part of the legacy of Cornell and New York State, so thank you very much and thank you for being with us today.
Dr. Warnick: Thank you. It's really great to be here today for the announcement of this innovative new program and I want to thank Governor Cuomo and the State of New York for engaging Cornell and other research institutions to help new Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We at Cornell are really honored to be part of this effort by developing the citizen public health training program that's being launched today and it's really exciting to see this being offered. The course will be available to any New Yorker. It will allow citizens of our state to learn from Cornell educators and to become public health leaders for their families and communities. As said, the curriculum was developed by faculty at Cornell .They drew on expertise in our master of public health program and from other departments around the university focused on health, communication, and community engagement. The course uses the e-Cornell online learning platform, so that makes it accessible in any location. There is four different learning modules that can be done in sequence and the material will help people understand the principles needed to respond to COVID-19 including prevention and vaccination efforts, and these modules also motivate participation in personal and community health promotion and this will in turn help build preparedness for future health emergencies.
Our goal is to increase the understanding of social and environmental determinants of health, and to improve public health in New York State. With so many informed and motivated citizens, New York will be better prepared to confront challenges that impact health, and these range from equity and sustainability to food and housing insecurity and much more.
I want to recognize the excellent work of the team from Cornell, from Northwell Health and State government who worked together to design and develop this outstanding program, and I speak for all of us here at Cornell University in saying that we're excited to be part of what's really a historic effort to help, first of all, to stop COVID-19, and then support future public health needs, so thank you very much. It's great to be with you today.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you, doctor, and please thank everyone at Cornell on my behalf. Thank you very much for being with us. I'd also like to thank the team at the department of health who worked very hard on this, Dr. Zucker, and Kelly Cummings and Molly Reilly who really spearheaded this effort for us.
I encourage everyone in the state to take this course. Being informed, having knowledge, having information, reducing that anxiety so that when God forbid the next one happens, there is not that same panic and tightness in our chest. I expect another pandemic. I expect it. You look at that timeline, every few years there was something. I expect another one to happen. I expect another one to happen in the next few years, or a COVID variant, or a mutation from COVID. I expect it because that's what history tells us. Let's be better prepared. Let's be better informed. The months that we spent coming up to speed on basic public health information, let's make sure that doesn't happened again. And that is a real positive lesson to be learned from what we went through. I had literally thousands of conversations during COVID with people and the lack of information drove an anxiety, drove a sense of being out of control, and that creates a panic. This can go a long way to avoiding that. It's free, it's smart, it's well done, it's 16 hours, and it will be the best 16 hours you've spent investing in yourself and your family and your community, and it will give you piece of mind. So it's very well done. Please enroll and we have enrollment open throughout this month.
It's part of rebuilding but it's only part of rebuilding and as we move into rebuilding, I want people in the state to think about rebuilding as a state of mind. I was going to do a song about that but somebody beat me to it, but rebuilding is on every level. We went through a traumatic crisis where rebuilding from a traumatic crisis that was physical, that was psychological, that was economic, and think about rebuilding and growing and learning from that trauma, and how do you come from that trauma and come out better.
Think about reopening and what that means. Recovering, physically, economically, socially. Reimagining a different place. There's now Zoom. People have had a totally different lifestyle for the past year. We're not going back to where we were. You don't put Zoom on a shelf. It doesn't go away. And you don't want to forget the experience. You want to learn from the experience and reimagine what we can be with what we have learned. There's a physical reconstruction to this. There is a reunification. What does it mean when all these fraternal organizations didn't have a chance to meet, community groups that didn't meet, social groups that didn't meet, sports teams that didn't meet, kids that didn't go to school and participate in all those social activities? A reunification of the body politic. And a total rethinking. We went through the unimaginable. Nothing is now unimaginable. So rethink what we could do, what we can be. And let's show signs of progress and hope. It has been a dark winter, a dark COVID winter, an isolated, frightening, traumatic winter where we were locked up indoors, isolated. You know what? Spring is here. Spring is the season, Spring is an attitude. It's Spring as a philosophy, it's rebirth. It's renewal. The sun is back. The flowers will bloom. Rebuild, renew, rebirth, and show positive signs of progress. New Yorkers have been traumatized. New Yorkers are worried about New York. What's going to happen? Are we going to come back? Are we going to be okay? Of course we are. And let's start not just building it, and doing it, but showing it.
Great example, the Hudson River Park. Hudson River in Manhattan, Manhattan's west side, was at one time a manufacturing backdoor, like so many cities. That's where the supplies came in, through the docks on the west side of Manhattan. Then the economy turns, the west side of Manhattan is turned into the Hudson River Park. 4.5-mile park right up the west side of Manhattan, right along the Hudson River. Amazing. One piece was left out, a pier called Pier 76, which is now in a very critical area for us because it's a part of the city that we want to do significant redevelopment as a sign and an engine for economic stimulation. But, Pier 76 was left out. And 20 years ago, government said the City of New York shall use best efforts to relocate the tow pound on Pier 76. Pier 76 was turned into a tow pound where they left towed cars. And 20 years ago, the city was going to change the use from a tow pound and make it part of Battery Park, part of a public park system. They talked about it for a long time. This is a New York Post op-ed by then-Councilman David Yassky, now Director of Policy for me. 2003, he's writing about what a waste of space and time it was. Last year we passed a law mandating that Pier 76 be vacated and turned over to the Hudson River Park Trust, and I want to thank the legislature very much for passing that law, because that's why this is finally happened.
Pier 76 is going to be a fantastic piece of real estate. It juts out into the Hudson River. It's 725 feet long, 300 feet wide. It's right on the side of the existing Hudson River Park. It's the size of four football fields, believe it or not. And we're now going to convert it into a public park space. It was a pier built in 1964. So it's really a pier built at the end of the manufacturing period. And it was for loading barges and storing containers. But it was built really at a time when New York City was moving away from that, and you see how spectacular the location actually is. It's probably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Manhattan with its location. It's also especially important for us, right across from Pier 76, that low white building you're looking at, that's the Javits Convention Center. What we're going to be doing today, literally, is stripping down the tow pound, taking the roof off, taking the sides off, and just leaving the steel frame, and turning it into an open space for the west side of Manhattan.
Whenever government talks about doing a project, the important question to ask is always "when will it be done?" Specific date, please. It is under construction now, as we speak, it just started, and it will be completed for this summer. Ambitious schedule, but we think we're going to make it, and we believe it can be open as early as June 1. It's going to be architecturally interesting, because it has the steel skeleton, if you will, that will remain, that was constructed in the 60s, but it will be entirely open, and a great passive recreation area. This is an interim step for the pier. It will be used as a recreation open space now. But, the Hudson River Park trust will then start a series of planning meetings, community meetings, et cetera, to come up with a long term redevelopment plan for the pier. You see that it's an essential component to where we are focusing our energy and our reconstruction. Starting from the east, which is my right, and I think your right, Empire Station Complex is rebuilding of a new Penn Station. Part of that is the new Moynihan Station, which was just redone. Part of that is rebuilding the old Penn Station. Part of that is building a new terminal to the south, what they call the 780 block, but an entirely new mass transit system. More tracks, more capacity, more mass transit. You then have extension of the High Line, which is a great tourist attraction and just a great asset for the community itself. New affordable residential, commercial. Second High Line, north connection. We're expanding the Javits Center to make it the internationally competitive convention center to bring back shows and Pier 76 will be part of that. So when we talk about rebuilding, and not just waiting for an artificial re-inflation of the economy, but actually showing people progress and showing people the future, this is a big component of it.
Last point, the state budget is due April 1. In the world of COVID, nothing is easy. COVID has even complicated the budget process. As you know, I am obsessive about getting the budget done on time. We have gotten the budget done on time every year that I've been Governor. That never happened before. We've done it for about 10 years. You have to go back to a different time in history where the state actually got the budget done on time. It used to be an annual folly where it was late, and it was always hyper-politicized. So I've been obsessive about getting the budget done on time, April 1. I am also obsessive about COVID and public health. So I have competing obsessions. Obsessed on getting the budget done on time, obsessed on fighting COVID. Competing obsessions, it sounds like a medical condition. Going to see a doctor on it. Competing obsessions. But, we do have COVID complications with the budget. Speaker Carl Heastie announced yesterday that he tested positive for COVID. He's going to be just fine, I'm sure. He already had received one vaccine. He was waiting for a second vaccine on a two-shot vaccination. Dr. Zucker and I discussed it. After you have even one shot, your first vaccine, it tends to help the severity of the illness if you get it. And the Speaker is young and the speaker is healthy. So we're sure he's going to be fine, but that will then trigger quarantine measures for staff that he worked with, and it is going to complicate the budget process. The way the budget normally is done is in group meetings. Literally negotiation sessions that I'm involved in that go on for days with us in a room, and then dozens of negotiating sessions for different parts of the budget, with 10, 15, 20 people in a room. That is not going to happen this year. We're going to try to get it done April 1, but I'm not going to risk public health to get it done April 1, and we'll see where it goes.
Top priorities for me in the budget, legalized cannabis. I just had a discussion this morning with someone. We've been trying to legalize cannabis for three years. I failed every year. We're close, but we've been close three times before. If we were playing horseshoes, we'd be in good shape, but this is not horseshoes. You either get it done and sign a bill or you don't. I understand there's an opposition to legalizing cannabis, but we are there already, is the argument I just had. In a perfect world, maybe you'd be against legalizing cannabis. In a perfect world, you could argue, no gaming, no gambling, no casinos. We don't live in a perfect world. We didn't have casino gaming. I know, but it was in New Jersey, and it was on Native American reservations, and it was in Connecticut. So yes, we had casino gaming, just not in this state. So people drove to New Jersey or Connecticut or to a Native American reservation. We have passed the point of legalized cannabis. It's in New Jersey. It's in Massachusetts. To say we're going to stop it is not an option. It is here. The only question is, do we regulate it here, do we gather the revenue here, or do we have people driving to New Jersey, which is right there, or to Massachusetts if you're in a northern part of the state, but it is here.
This year we have to get it done. And getting it done by the time the budget is passed is essential. We are close, but we've been close before. This is getting it over the goal line. And those last few inches tend to be the toughest. But, that's a top priority.
Public safety reforms are a top priority. You want to talk about bringing New York City back, yes, economic issues. You know what else I hear right after economic issues? Crime. Crime. For an area to recover, the area has to feel safe, and people have to believe it is safe. We've had rising crime in New York City. Not just New York City, cities across the state, cities across the nation. We have tension between the police and the community, not just here in New York, all across the nation. After the George Floyd killing, it erupted nationwide. In some ways, good. Good. It's a crisis and it exploded and the tensions between the community and the police now were visible for all to see. Fine. Resolve them - don't ignore them, don't deny them, resolve them because the tensions are still there. The community still lacks trust in the police; the police still feel misunderstood and mistreated by the community. This is not a situation where we can get a divorce, right? We need public safety and public safety doesn't work unless you have a relationship of trust with the local community.
Every locality has to go through a collaborative process where they heal the divide and they come up with a public safety plan that keeps people safe. The rates are up. The Black community, Hispanic community are paying a very high price for this. The overall economy is going to pay a price. If people don't feel safe, they're not coming back.
I said April 1 is the deadline for local governments to come up with a public safety reform plan that fits their community. I'm not telling anyone what their plan should be. Whatever works for Buffalo works for Buffalo. Whatever works for Nassau works for Nassau. Whatever works for New York City works for New York City but come up with your plan and pass it and pass it by April 1. But, we have to be able to safety for people otherwise you're not going to see the type of rebuilding that we need to do.
We have an aggressive rebuild New York program as well as an aggressive green building program that has to be funded. In times like this, public safety is one of the top priorities and then stimulating the private economy. Show growth, show potential, show development, show new mass transit stations, show new airports, new tunnels, new bridges, new parks. Show progress. That's our rebuilding program. And show the most dramatic transformation to renewable energy and that's our green program. That has to be funded.
Universal broadband: affordability and accessibility, you need both. Too many children were left behind when education went remote and too many of those children were lower income, Black children, Hispanic children, poorer children who were left behind. Now is the time to do it.
We need to provide comprehensive rent relief. We have to do it intelligently. We have to make sure there's no fraud, but people need rent relief and small landlords need rent relief and we need to reform our nursing home programs.
For profit nursing homes, like many for profit service providers, to me, pose an inherent conflict. For profit prisons, the prison is operating to make money. How do you make money? You provide fewer services, you save money on meals, you save money by investing in the facility and increase your profit. Yeah. I'm more interested in making sure that the for-profit nursing home invests in the facility, and the people, and the services, and the care. I don't want for profit nursing homes squeezing profit out of the nursing home and maximizing profit by minimizing the quality of care. So those are top priorities for me in the budget.
There is a funding gap in the budget. My belief all along was, I said to the federal government we need $15 billion, and I implored Washington in their funding program, our congressional delegation, senators, we need $15 billion dollars. $15 billion would allow us to restore everything that was cut and address the new needs that COVID presented - it's not just about restoring the budget, you now have a rent problem, an economic development problem, et cetera. I said, we need $15 billion. The federal government rent relief through the state provided about $12.4 or $12.6 billion, depending on how you want to count it. On my estimate, there's about a $2.5 billion gap that is left. The legislature has a larger gap in their budget so there's a funding differential that's part of the budget but for me, having a budget that accelerates reconstruction, rebuilding, rebirth, learns from COVID, public safety because we're not bringing back New York without public safety, and then cannabis which should have been done three years ago, and two years ago. It's like casino gaming, it's like legalizing marriage equality. I believe New York is the progressive capital of the nation, not just because we say it is but because we perform that way and legalizing cannabis is this year's priority to be the progressive capital of the nation. We will not be the first, but our program will be the best.
The goal of all of this? Create a New York post-COVID that is better than any New York before. We are better for Super Storm Sandy. We are better for 9/11 - we paid a terrible price, but we learned and we grew. The same has to be true of COVID. We paid a terrible price on many levels, but life is about learning and growing and being the stronger for it and we will because we are New York Tough and that's what New York Tough means, resilience is part of it. Being smart and understanding the challenge that lies ahead, being united in that challenge, to be disciplined and focused and not let life knock you off track and to do it with love in your heart.