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Lee Zeldin

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The Fight Against Coronavirus Requires We Work Together

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Photo by DAVID ILIFF)

New York is the state hardest hit in the country by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and containing its spread and combatting this outbreak must continue to be a whole-government, top-to-bottom approach.

On the national level, the federal government has taken unprecedented steps to ensure that travelers do not spread the virus in the United States, including travel restrictions from highly affected countries, and has declared a public health emergency that has allowed for the utilization of reserve funding to help support response efforts.

The Families First Coronavirus Act was recently signed into law, which, in addition to providing free coronavirus testing and paid sick leave, also provides family leave for caregivers, food assistance for the needy and enhanced unemployment insurance.

The federal government is also wielding the power of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is now authorized to build four temporary hospitals in New York, including at SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is also committing its resources to utilizing the Javits Center in New York City to assist area hospitals in increasing patient capacity.

In addition to taking new steps to ensure medical professionals have the tools they need to confront any outbreak of the coronavirus, including expediting the availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the federal government is working to expedite the development of a vaccine, therapeutics and monoclonal antibodies that can be used both to protect from infection and treat people already infected.

This is no time to play politics, and, on Long Island, every level of government is committed to working together. The first drive-thru, free testing center in Suffolk County is open at Stony Brook University, featuring six lanes to accommodate up to 1,000 tests per day. The site is open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 888-364-3065. A doctor’s prescription is not required. If you cannot travel to Stony Brook, please contact your medical provider, because additional testing options are now available.

All across my congressional district, Long Islanders are coming together. Small businesses are donating meals to senior centers and those who cannot leave their homes. Organizations like Island Harvest and Long Island Cares are teaming up with school districts across Long Island to put together Grab & Go Meal Distributions at local schools. The U.S. Postal Service continues to deliver mail, vital prescriptions and more. Truck drivers, grocery store workers, and farmers continue to ensure the healthy and abundant availability of a strong food supply chain.

We are New Yorkers, and there’s no doubt we will emerge stronger than ever, but when this outbreak is over we must ensure that our way of life has been preserved to the best extent possible.

That’s why it was critical that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issued an emergency declaration last week making Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations in the State of New York, including Suffolk County.

The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per small business and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to the disaster’s impact. For more information, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

The Internal Revenue Service recently  announced that the tax filing and payment deadlines were extended from April 15 to July 15 without penalty or interest for the delay.

In addition to waiving interest on federal student loans, the federal government has also announced a 60-day payment deferment for student loans, for all those who are currently in repayment, a critical step especially in the midst of such uncertainty. For more information, including how to contact your student loan provider, visit studentaid.gov.

The ongoing outbreak of coronavirus is an ever-evolving situation and there’s no doubt we can and will do more to rise to meet this challenge. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to make it through this challenging time for our community, state, and nation.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives where he serves as a member of the bipartisan Congressional Coronavirus Task Force.

Feds Need To Help Long Island Protect Maritime Infrastructure

Sea fog rolls into Southampton

In a district nearly completely surrounded by water, we have a unique responsibility to safeguard our local waterways, from improving our area’s water quality to bolstering our local maritime infrastructure. 

Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked with commander of the New York District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Thomas Asbery and his incredible team to secure desperately needed victories, whether it’s moving the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) plan closer to implementation or securing emergency East End projects.

In 2018, a series of unprecedented storms pummeled area waterways and significantly worsened navigation conditions, leaving Moriches Inlet effectively impassable. I went out to the inlet to see these dangerous conditions firsthand, and was joined by fishermen, business owners and other stakeholders in calling for an emergency dredge. Working with the Army Corps of Engineers and others at every level of government, I secured the approval and $12 million in federal funding needed to undertake this emergency dredge. Equally as important, the dredged sand was placed at Smith Point County Park where it was used to widen the beach, strengthen the dunes and defend the beach against future storms. 

Already this year, multiple storms have caused severe damage to the dunes along the ocean side all along our shores and, most significantly, led to severe flooding and a near breach of the barrier island just west of Shinnecock Inlet where many small businesses and jobs are located, including the second largest commercial dock in New York State. 

In addition to calling on the Army Corps to utilize any emergency authority available to assist, my team and I have been in frequent contact with the Army Corps regarding any and all possibilities to strengthen the dunes as soon as possible. 

Of course, we can’t jump from emergency to emergency acting only when we have no other choice, which, in addition to focusing on strengthening jetties and enacting other permanent fixes, is why I’ve prioritized maintenance dredging and projects that bolster our dunes and berms and prevent damage. 

Our area waterways are vital arteries for our vibrant coastal economy of marinas, restaurants, recreational boaters, commercial fishermen, and all the small businesses that support these industries. The hundreds of miles of coastline that comprise our shores have been forever ingrained in the culture and livelihoods of Long Islanders, and continuing to safeguard and invest in our maritime infrastructure will preserve our way of life for generations to come.

Lee Zeldin is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 1st District.

Protecting The LI Sound, Plum Island and Our Way of Life

Plum Island Lifghthouse outside the Animal Disease Center. (Timothy Bolger/Long Island Press)

Long Islanders understand that our waterways are more than just a summer weekend destination; our waterways are directly connected to our way of life. As the longest and largest island in the contiguous United States, our more than 600 miles of coastline have been ingrained in our culture and economy since our nation’s founding. However, with our waterways plagued by pollution and overdevelopment, our generation faces unique challenges.

With the Long Island Sound supporting tens of billions of dollars in economic value annually, the coastal economy is in many respects our economy. Protecting our environment goes hand in hand with protecting commerce in our region where so many jobs and small businesses depend on scenic beaches, parks and clean water to attract visitors. For me, growing up on LI, enjoying the beauty of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Smith Point County Park and so many other natural treasures in our area, I am constantly reminded that in order to provide each generation with that same privilege, we must be good stewards of our environment.

Last month, I was joined by environmentalists, business leaders and local elected officials to present a united front in opposition to offshore drilling off the coast of the Island. A few months ago, I announced $2.04 million in EPA grants for local governments and community groups to protect and restore the Sound, improve its water quality, enhance living resources and educate and involve the public in revitalizing our waterways. Furthermore, last year, as co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus and a founding member of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, I supported full funding of the National Estuary Program at $26.7 million and doubled Long Island Sound Program funding to $8 million.

On LI, the issue of protecting our natural resources is personal, and protecting Plum  Island is a perfect example. Situated off the coast of Orient Point, Plum Island is a beloved part of our local community known not only for its world-renowned hub of research, but also its pristine protected lands that cover 90 percent of the island. It is home to diverse wildlife and ecosystems including critical habitats for migratory birds, marine mammals and rare plants. This one-of-a-kind island is also an essential cultural and historical resource.

Protecting Plum Island has been one of my top priorities since coming to Congress. That is why I reintroduced the Plum Island Preservation Act, which passed the House during the last two Congresses, to stop the sale of Plum Island and to formulate a comprehensive plan for its future. The state-of-the-art research facility at Plum Island must not go to waste, and preserving this island’s natural beauty while maintaining
a research mission will continue to provide important economic and environmental benefits to Long Island.

When it comes to safeguarding our environment, improving water quality, protecting our natural resources and preserving our way of life, there is still so much work to be done. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the Sound, Plum Island, and, the communities we are proud to call home.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is co-chair of the Long Island Sound Caucus and member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and Congressional Shellfish Caucus in the House of Representatives.