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Cobb speaks on COVID-19, funding for school reopening

Congressional candidate Tedra Cobb, a Democrat from Canton, smiles in Saranac Lake on Jan. 30. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

North Country Democratic congressional candidate Tedra Cobb issued a statement Tuesday voicing displeasure with the Senate Republicans’ HEALS Act stimulus package, which requires that schools open their doors for in-person instruction or else they won’t receive federal financial aid.

“There are no easy answers when it comes to school reopening but a one-size-fits-all approach that requires in-person classes isn’t the solution,” Cobb wrote in a press release.

Cobb said students need reliable internet access so remote learning can happen, but she believes kids should be able to go back to school in person, as long as it can be done safely.

She said schools need funding to reopen. The HEALS Act, unveiled Monday, would provide around $45 billion for reopening schools, with restrictions against remote-only reopening schools.

“We must be listening to our teachers, local health professionals, and the science to determine the best course of action,” Cobb said in a phone interview. “I do not believe any federal funding should be threatened when schools and communities make the best choices for their students and staff.”

Cobb released a statement earlier this month when U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she would consider eliminating federal funding for schools that did not reopen five days a week. Cobb said DeVos, who referred to Centers For Disease Control guidelines as “flexible,” is not a teacher or health care professional, and should be listening to such workers to inform her decisions.

DeVos has previously threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not open their doors. While she does not have the authority to do this, she supported this requirement in the HEALS Act.

Though DeVos had initially been excited to utilize remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, as President Donald Trump pushed for reopening, her recommendations followed suit.

Cobb also took issue with her opponent, Republican incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik, accepting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from DeVos and her wealthy family.

“The federal government has failed our teachers time and time again during this pandemic, and Elise is part of the problem,” Cobb said in a phone interview.

“Stefanik has spent her time during the pandemic railing against state and local lawmakers who did not adhere to public health guidance — but when it comes to Trump and DeVos, Stefanik has a separate set of standards,” Cobb wrote in a release earlier this month.

Stefanik did not respond to comment in time for this article.

Cobb noted that she has received an endorsement from New York State United Teachers.

Health care still her focus

Cobb has been holding virtual campaign events and said health care is the issue “first and foremost” on people’s minds, as it is on hers.

She said voters are worried about losing their coverage, and many have signed up for the Affordable Care Act.

Cobb said the health care system is “broken” and that in the coronavirus pandemic, its flaws are on display.

“The time to fix these issues isn’t in the midst of a pandemic, or a crisis,” Cobb said. “It’s before they happen.

“Northern New Yorkers deserve a representative in Congress who is laser-focused on expanding access to quality affordable health care for everyone,” Cobb said.

Cobb said she would work for more funding for “health navigators” to help patients sift through the complicated world of insurance.

She supports a Medicare public option, the option to pay into or to “buy” Medicare. This would be an expansion of Medicare, and people could keep their current insurance if they wanted to.

Cobb again brought up a vote Stefanik made last year against an amendment that would try to prevent the Department of Justice from using federal funds for lawsuits to undermine the ACA.

Stefanik also broke party lines last year, voting for a measure condemning the Trump administration’s lawsuit for invalidating the 2010 health care law in its entirety. She has also supported attempts to repeal much of the ACA.

Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue

Asked about the Back the Blue rallies Steanik has attended, Cobb said she was not informed about the rallies ahead of time, so she was not able to attend them.

“I think we all support law enforcement and that this isn’t a political issue,” Cobb said.

She attended a Black Lives Matter rally in Glens Falls in early June, hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Asked about Black Lives Matter, Cobb focused her response on health care.

“Let’s talk about the importance of health care,” Cobb said. “Black Americans are three times more likely to contract COVID, and three times, sadly, more likely to die of this disease. Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth. … Black children are four times more likely to have asthma or lead poisoning.”

She said Black people’s quality of life matters, too.

“Unequivocally, black lives matter, and so does their health and well-being,” Cobb said.

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