The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. From the closing of many of our small businesses to the loss of tourism revenue, the Mid-Hudson Valley has been hit hard. Yet, amid the heartbreaking loss of so many lives, we must continue to fight for a better future.
What will happen to our kids, our seniors, and our communities? The decisions we make in this moment will shape the years ahead. We all want the same things: good schools for our children, good jobs, and good communities to live in. Let’s start on the common ground of our shared values to rebuild the Hudson Valley. By joining together, we can make it better than before--for all of us.
The way we fund public schools is fundamentally broken. Wealthier communities have better public schools because residents can pay higher school taxes than residents of poorer communities. With the State’s budget decimated by the coronavirus, these inequities will only get worse. We must find alternative ways to fund our public schools, including a more equitable tax system.
In particular, we must invest in early childhood education. Every dollar spent on educating children before the age of five has exponential benefits both for an individual child and their community later in life.
At every level of primary and secondary education, our schools must implement an anti-racist curriculum that includes civics and an honest and inclusive history of the United States.
Widespread structural racism and long-standing inequities have devastated Black communities. As a nation, more of us are awakening to the fact that we have never fully recognized Black Americans’ basic human rights. Whether it be criminal justice, education, housing or finance, the time is long overdue to shine a light and work together to uproot the racism embedded in our most basic institutions.
Hand-in-hand, we can engage in our national dialogue by addressing past injustices and creating a more just, equitable, and welcoming society for residents regardless of race, creed, or national origin.
We must highlight and support alternative pathways to success. For those who want to pursue a college degree, higher education should absolutely be accessible and affordable. We must also recognize that college isn’t a path everyone wants to follow.
There are numerous jobs in medicine, computer programming, and the skilled trades that are well-paid and don’t require a degree. By cultivating partnerships between school districts, BOCES, non-profits, and employers, we will prepare students for future job opportunities through early career and technical training and apprenticeships.
Reigniting the Economy
The coronavirus eliminated more than 180,000 jobs across the Hudson Valley and some of them won’t be coming back. Even before the pandemic, too many residents were unable to find the kind of jobs that allow us to raise families and buy a home; too many young people fled to find better opportunities elsewhere.
As our state’s economy reboots and employers look to open businesses or relocate outside of New York City, we have an opportunity to leverage the Hudson Valley’s many assets to attract emerging industries like the green technology sector to create well-paying jobs and an economy that works for all of us.
The pandemic has proved what we already knew: Internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. From tele-learning to tele-medicine to tele-commuting, the 21st Century demands reliable, affordable Internet access. Yet, many rural areas as well as impoverished city neighborhoods are virtual Internet deserts. By investing in our broadband infrastructure, we will create new jobs and increase opportunities for all New Yorkers.
Healthcare is a human right. Yet, we are in the midst of a public health crisis that has exposed the gaping holes in our healthcare system. The cost of premiums, deductibles and copayments are unsustainable. Prescription drugs prices are spiraling out of control, forcing many New Yorkers to choose between buying life-saving medications like insulin and epipens and putting food on the table.
Healthcare should not be tied to employment, so entrepreneurs are able to launch new businesses and employees can explore new opportunities. Medicaid should not be tied to property taxes, which overly burdens poor communities. We must defend against attempts to repeal the provisions in the Affordable Care Act and work to create a public health system that covers everyone.
Every day, women are forced to opt out of the workforce after starting a family because they lack good, affordable childcare. With the additional uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus, we need to address this long-standing problem and support and strengthen New York’s paid family leave and paid medical leave programs.
In the workplace, we must ensure that women are provided equal pay for equal work, a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and full access to healthcare--including reproductive healthcare.
Our current rates of veteran homelessness and suicide are simply unacceptable. New York must ensure that all our veterans are thriving in civilian life, receive appropriate certification for the skills they developed in the military, and have full access to mental health programs and legal services.
Covid’s devastating effect on our seniors has put the spotlight on this vulnerable population. It is our responsibility to properly staff and regulate nursing homes as well as make it easier and more affordable for seniors to age in place at home. Every New Yorker deserves to grow old with dignity, have access to good healthcare and consumer protections while also ensuring their taxes remain affordable.
New York must aggressively fight for new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We must work with federal, state, and local partners to ensure we meet the ambitious goals set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
We must place strict regulations on carbon emissions and invest in the Hudson Valley’s drinking water infrastructure, from the Wappingers Creek Watershed to the Hudson River. Family farms are an important part of the Hudson Valley ecosystem, and we must encourage the use of regenerative farming practices to nourish the land that feeds us.
We need a multifaceted approach to combating Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. New York must provide funding to continue research, education, and prevention efforts, but also pass legislation that addresses the underlying environmental issues that increase tick populations and ensures that patients get access to the healthcare they need to treat Lyme before it does permanent damage.