Five House Republicans from New York want the Department of Justice to probe whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 policies violate the civil rights of individuals living in group homes.
Their Wednesday letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland references the first Cuomo scandal to bubble up during the coronavirus pandemic, which, compounded by multiple claims of sexual harassment by former staff members, threatens the Democratic governor with impeachment.
On April 10, 2020, Cuomo issued an order that placed infected residents into the state’s 7,000-home network, where healthy residents lived. This was similar to a nursing home order by Cuomo, which has been rescinded. The group home order is still in place.
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“Given Governor Cuomo’s poor track record of transparently sharing COVID-related data with the public, we therefore call on the Department of Justice to initiate an investigation into this matter to determine first whether the civil rights of those with disabilities have been violated and second to assess whether the statistics shared with federal authorities by New York State are accurate and truthful,” said the letter from GOP Reps. Chris Jacobs, Nicole Malliotakis, Elise Stefanik, Claudia Tenney, and Lee Zeldin.
The state initially reported 6,432 nursing home deaths, but the Wall Street Journal discovered that the figure was actually 15,000. A Washington Examiner investigation has revealed 552 dead group home residents and 32 care workers.
New York state Sen. Anthony Palumbo led his own contingent of legislators last week in calling for a state Senate investigation into group home policies that have forced employees to work in infected environments, spreading the disease as they go.
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“New York Attorney General Letitia James determined the number of deaths in nursing homes was as much as 50 percent higher than the New York State Department of Health was reporting,” the congressional letter said. “The facts and circumstances regarding nursing homes are similar to group homes, which is why we believe the OPWDD statistics must be scrutinized.”
Cuomo is under pressure to resign by both of his state’s senators and most of its House members. But Cuomo, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary and state attorney general who was first elected governor in 2010, is showing no signs of leaving.
A growing Republican scrum seeks to challenge Cuomo in 2022, but candidates first will have to make it through the GOP primary. Those considering gubernatorial bids include Stefanik and Zeldin.