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State will withhold funds from noncompliant hot spot schools, Cuomo says

October 14, 2020 Marina Villeneuve Associated Press and Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened Wednesday to take away state funding from schools in coronavirus hot spots that are ignoring orders to shut their doors, saying their defiance was endangering public health.

The Democrat also said New York would seek $20,000 in fines against the promoters who organized a July concert by The Chainsmokers that saw widespread violations of social distancing rules.

Cuomo, who has for weeks lamented the failure of some local governments to enforce coronavirus restrictions, said the state would send a letter to local governments warning that they would lose state funding if they didn’t enforce limits on public gatherings and schools.

The governor recently ordered schools in designated cluster zones to switch to remote learning for at least 14 days to help stop the virus from spreading. Cuomo said the letter would go to New York City, Orange County, Rockland County, the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Spring Valley.

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Cuomo didn’t immediately say exactly how much money could would be withheld or name schools that were breaking the rules.

The action came after some news organizations, including Gothamist, reported on Jewish religious schools staying open in defiance of the rules in some parts of Brooklyn.

“I guarantee if a yeshiva gets closed down and they’re not going to get state funding, you’re going to see compliance,” Cuomo said.

The governor said the state has wide discretion to withhold state aid.

“We have the ability to impound all funds from a locality,” Cuomo said. “All of the funding. Which is significant. How much would we penalize them? It depends and it would be in our discretion. Because we could impound all funds.”

He urged local governments to get serious about enforcement.

“They have the personnel, they just have to be willing to do it,” he said.

The Orange County Health Department said it issued cease-and-desist notices Tuesday at three schools that had remained open in the Orthodox Jewish town of Palm Tree, or which had failed to implement mask and social distancing protocols, according to a county spokesperson.

The governor’s office also said promoter In the Know Experiences violated public health law in July at The Chainsmokers’ Southampton concert by holding a nonessential gathering and failing to enforce rules requiring people to wear masks if they couldn’t stay 6 feet apart.

Cuomo called the concert, attended by more than 2,150 people, “an egregious violation” of the rules. He said he was also temporarily revoking the ability of the Town of Southampton to issue permits for similar events.

The promotion company didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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