To mark one year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in New York State, ACT UP NY (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), in coalition with other grassroots healthcare groups, will stage a protest outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown Manhattan office on Monday March 1 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET.
Activists will use rubber gloves dipped in red paint and smear a 5-foot tall reproduction of the book Cuomo used to tout his response to COVID-19 with their “bloody handprints.” To activists, the act signifies the blood the Governor has on his hands for leadership failures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Andrew Cuomo has had blood on his hands from day one of this COVID-19 pandemic, and his proposed budget for New York State promises more blood on his hands if his cuts to healthcare are approved,” said Jason Rosenberg of ACT UP NY.
The action will begin with a picket outside the governor’s office followed by a rally with speakers from grassroots coalition partners. Activists are demanding that Cuomo pass the Invest In Our NY Act, a collection of six bills that would end tax cuts for the wealthy and close the state’s anticipated budget gap.
Advocates are also denouncing Cuomo’s plan to eliminate the federal 340B drug pricing program that allows non-profit healthcare providers to purchase medications at reduced rates and be reimbursed at their higher market rates. If Cuomo is successful, local healthcare providers such as Housing Works and Callen-Lorde will lose millions of dollars in funding, with a projected total loss of $250 million for providers around the state.
“The proposed carveout of the 340B drug pricing plan will hurt my community, Housing Works clients and the programs they use, and healthcare providers across the state. The total loss to healthcare providers would be at least $250M ever year. Governor Cuomo promised five years ago to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State. That cannot happen without 340B savings. We’re calling on the Governor to keep his promise and stop balancing the budget on our backs!” said Damon Grandison, Housing Works Community Member.
Rosenberg also experienced personal loss from the pandemic when his uncle–a long-term HIV survivor- died from COVID-19 complications in a Harlem nursing home. “This past State of State address Cuomo implied that with his credit we ended the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State. Unless he thinks ending the epidemic means neglecting long-term survivors and other vulnerable communities, then he has greatly failed.”
List of demands are as follows:
• Pass the Invest in Our New York Tax Act – including Progressive Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Heirs’ Tax, Billionaires’ Tax, Corporate Tax, Wall Street Tax.
• Stop the Cuts. End threats to cut Medicaid and 340B funding.
• Don’t stop ETE (Ending the Epidemic). Expand HASA (HIV/AIDS Services Administration) in New York State and protect long-term survivors and communities affected.
• Release Statewide HCV (hepatitis C virus) Elimination Task Force recommendations and provide at least $5 million so we can eliminate viral hepatitis.
• Keep your promise: Pass S5298A The Overdose Prevention Centers Acts
• Prioritize people in prisons for vaccine rollout and free the incarcerated.
• Keep the MTA open overnight. Stop criminalizing homelessness and end the investment of 500 additional cops in subways.
• Cancel rent. Secure housing for all during a public health crisis.
• End the use of police and military for disease prevention (including vaccine rollout in communities and the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions). Communicable viruses are public health issues, not criminal ones.
• Remove the Medicaid global cap
• Reverse the harmful cuts to Medicaid home care that were adopted in 2020
• Invest in home care – build the home care workforce by increasing the pay of home care workers to at least 150% of the regional minimum wage.
• Provide health coverage for all immigrants and undocumented New Yorkers: A1585/S2549, A880/S1572
• Guarantee universal, comprehensive healthcare for all: Pass the NY Health Act (Gottfried/Rivera)