By his own account, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi is extremely busy. There’s his work in Washington, where he fights for funding for New York, and his many local responsibilities in Glen Cove, too.
During the coronavirus pandemic, there is another level of urgency to constituents’ requests. Some need Suozzi’s help completing applications for small-business loans. Others aren’t receiving their unemployment checks. One constituent said he had an idea for a drug, and wanted help reaching the Federal Drug Administration. Another was stuck on a cruise ship and asked Suozzi to help him get home.
His family, another important part of Suozzi’s life, has been touched by Covid-19. His father-in-law, Michael Wrotniak Jr., died of the virus last month, and his mother-in-law, Carol, had it, too, but survived. Suozzi said he knows many people who are sick or have died.
He has donated masks and other personal protective equipment to a variety of hospitals, including Glen Cove Hospital. He has helped hand out donated food to families in the community, and at the Glen Cove High School Food Pantry. He even had his reading of the children’s book “Children of the Forest,” by Elsa Beskow, recorded for local libraries, including the Oyster Bay Library.
He is an effective leader during the coronavirus pandemic, he said, because his life experiences have prepared him for the challenge. Suozzi is an accountant and an attorney, and was Glen Cove’s mayor and Nassau County executive. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor, losing by a large margin, but no matter. A self-described optimist, he said the experience was a good one, because he learned how the state works.
Asked if his life is difficult, Suozzi said he has always worked hard, but he acknowledged that there is one difference now. “It’s harder to turn everything off because now I’m in the same place,” he said. “Usually I’m taking a train or plane home and I come back to my house and I’m like, ‘Ahh,’ and I can relax. But now it’s like home and work are the same thing.”
But a lot of people are experiencing this now, he added. “I recognize that this is a moment in history, and it’s a great honor to have this responsibility, and I’m getting some big things done,” he said. “My whole objective during the coronavirus has been about getting money for New York.”
In the wake of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, in which $2 trillion was divided among the states based on their population, Suozzi said that relief funding should instead be based on infection rates and deaths. “We’re getting crushed by this virus compared to other places in the country,” he said. “Why should the Texas hospitals get more money than the New York hospitals? When [the act was passed], New York had 35 percent of the cases, and Texas had 2½ percent of the cases.”
On April 14, Suozzi said, he considered it a victory when he persuaded every member of Congress from New York and New Jersey — Democrats and Republicans — to sign a letter, sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, stating that a special $40 billion fund needed to be created for states based on their rates of infection.
The House passed the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion relief plan, last Friday. Suozzi said he was proud that it included a $49 billion fund for states based on those rates of infection, $9 billion more than what he had asked for. Some $12 billion would go to New York state. One provision of the measure, which the Republican-led Senate rejected, would eliminate the cap on state and local tax deductions for 2020 and 2021, which Suozzi has been fighting for.
He is one of only 10 Democrats in the House who were appointed to President Trump’s commission on reopening the country. “I did it to fight for New York — to make New York’s voice heard,” Suozzi said. “The president has really botched his job.”