Hochul Sworn in as Governor, Names New Staff and Outlines Priorities

Situation Report | August 30, 2021 

As reported by HCA’s legislative counsel, Hinman Straub:

Kathy Hochul was officially sworn in at 12:01 a.m. last Tuesday, though held a separate public ceremony the next morning. Hochul is the 57th Governor of the state of New York and is the first woman to hold the position. At a separate address held later in the afternoon on her first day as Governor, Hochul outlined her initial priorities. Priorities identified by the Governor include the following:

Fight the Delta variant

Governor Hochul said she would take proactive steps to fight COVID and its variants, specifically highlighting the need to get children back to school safely. Universal masking in schools will be mandated by the Department of Health. The Governor also announced a vaccination requirement for all school district teachers and staff, with an option for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination, for now.

Increase vaccination rates

The Governor suggested that new vaccination requirements could soon be forthcoming, but, did not elaborated further.

Booster dose availability

The Governor announced that her administration will be prepared to do whatever necessary to get booster shots for eight months after initial vaccination.

Rental Assistance

The Governor committed to fixing the lagging ERAP program designed to offer rental assistance by getting “money out the door now, no excuses or delays.” The Governor confirmed she has met with the legislative leaders and they are united on this issue. The Governor mentioned the state will be launching a targeted campaign and providing more staff and resources to process applications.

Excluded workers fund

The Governor mentioned the excluded workers fund, established in the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget, will also receive the same commitment as the ERAP program.

Change the culture of Albany

Finally, the Governor reiterated that there will be a no tolerance policy for harassment in her administration. The Governor plans to overhaul policies on ethics and sexual harassment. All training will be required to be by in person attendance and not virtual. Each state agency will be required to review all transparency laws to ensure agency compliance. FOIL disclosures will be posted online and publicly with expedited review for each.

Governor Hochul Announces Staff

Governor Hochul announced two senior staff members for her administration.

Karen Persichilli Keogh, Secretary to the Governor

Keogh worked on Hillary Clinton’s senior senate staff when she was a U.S. Senator for New York. She then worked on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s transition team and served as an advisor on Michael Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign. Most recently, she was Head of Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase. She’s from Long Island and lives in Brooklyn, with degrees from Stony Brook University and Columbia.

Elizabeth Fine, Counsel to the Governor

Fine is the Executive Vice-President and General Counsel of Empire State Development. Her public service career includes eight years as General Counsel of the New York City Council, and seven years as counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno in the U.S. Justice Department. She was also Special Counsel to President Clinton in 1993 and worked on the Clinton-Gore campaign. She has degrees from Brown, NYU School of Law, and Georgetown Law School.

Other members of her administration have been rumored, including that Robert Mujica will remain in his role as Budget Director for the immediate future. Governor Hochul has announced that she will be giving herself a 45 day period to build out her staff and interview current and prospective employees.

Governor Announces New Lieutenant Governor Selection

The Governor announced the selection of State Senator Brian Benjamin for Lieutenant Governor this week. Senator Benjamin previously served as the New York State Senator for District 30, which encompasses Harlem, East Harlem, and the Upper West Side, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Revenue and Budget and Senior Assistant Majority Leader, where he focused efforts on criminal justice reform and affordable housing.

HCA Advocacy Remains Steadfast As Hochul Administration Assembles

HCA is watching closely the prospect of further movements within the new Hochul Administration. These changes could greatly impact the timetable or progression of major Executive and Health Department-level initiatives that remain pending. Among those are: the Fiscal Intermediary (FI) and Licensed Home Care Services Agency (LHCSA) Request for Offers (RFO) processes, pending waiver changes affecting personal care services, the still-undefined distribution of at least $1.6 billion in enhanced federal matching dollars for Medicaid home and community-based services, and much more.   

The change in administration also comes at a time when the Governor would otherwise already be planning for the upcoming State-of-the-State and budget season, possibly setting these milestones in a new direction.   

HCA remains steadfast in our advocacy agenda and will begin to work with the incoming Hochul administration on our priorities as this transition unfolds, including HCA’s continued efforts to alter the course of the LHCSA and FI RFOs while advancing a Home Care First agenda of support for the home care provider and workforce infrastructure.