Kathy Hochul

First Address As Governor - Aug. 24, 2021

Kathy Hochul
August 24, 2021
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I took the oath of office to become your lieutenant governor. I'm humbled that the people of New York twice put their faith in me to fill this role, which required me to be prepared if necessary to serve as your governor, and now that day has come.

At the stroke of midnight, I once again took the oath of office, creating a sacred bond of trust between me and every New Yorker. And thus, I stand here as the 57th governor of New York.

But I did not get out get here without the courage and sacrifice of others. The courage of the early suffragettes, who began the long march for equality, and the elected women who came before me, paving the way for this day. They taught me resistance. And the courage of my grandparents as teenagers fleeing great poverty in Ireland in search of a better life. They taught me perseverance.

And the courage of my mother, who despite growing up in an abusive home and losing her own mother at a young age, raised six children in Buffalo, all while engaging in social and racial justice movements. Together we founded a home for survivors of domestic violence when she was 70 years old. She taught me empathy.

The courage of my dad to dream big for his family. Making steel by day and getting an education at night and leaving it all to join a tech startup in the early days of computers. He taught me to be a risk taker.

And the courage of my own family, husband Bill, and children Will and Katie, to encourage me to pursue my passion for public service despite countless hours of my absence. They taught me unconditional love. I share those influences so you can understand the depth of my commitment to you.

And to those New Yorkers who've yet to meet me, I say this: you may not know me, but I know you. In my travels to all 62 counties every year, I've walked your streets, met you at diners, supported your small businesses, listened to farmers, engaged local officials, and worked to revitalize long neglected downtowns, and I've listened with a broken heart to your stories of loss from opioid abuse. Sadly, similar to what happened to my nephew.

And I've rallied with advocates to pass paid family leave, raise the minimum wage, enact GENDA, protect our strong gun laws, and so much more. And I've been in the trenches with local health leaders and officials battling the pandemic day after day after day.

As a result of all this, I've embraced and internalized the hopes and dreams of 20 million people who share the name, “New Yorkers.” And I want you to know you are heard and I'm ready to get to work as your governor to solve the big problems that this state faces.

Your priorities are my priorities, and right now, that means fighting the delta variant. None of us want a rerun of last year's horrors with COVID-19. Therefore, we will take proactive steps to prevent that from happening.

Priority number one: we get children back to school and protect the environment so they can learn and everyone is safe. For months, I've been consulting with parents, elected officials, teachers, school boards, and superintendents.

As a result, we need to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, at least for now. To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships with all levels of government. And I'm working now on getting this done.

New York is launching a back-to-school COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. I'm also immediately directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools. Later this week, I'll announce a series of school related policies. They'll be concise and consistent, giving the school districts what they have been asking for.

Which leads me to priority number two: increased vaccination rights for New Yorkers. Much progress has been made, but too many are yet not vaccinated, putting themselves and their communities at risk. With the FDA's full approval of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, New Yorkers can expect new vaccine requirements and more on that soon.

Priority number three: prepare for booster shots and make sure they are available and distributed quickly and reliably. When I consulted with Dr. Fauci last week we discussed the urgent need to ensure vaccinated individuals receive a booster dose at eight months. I'm prepared to do whatever is necessary, including reopening mass vax sites so a booster is available to all New Yorkers who meet that timetable.

These are my day one initiatives on COVID. There’ll be more regular updates and announcements in the near future.

Now let's talk about the COVID assistance for New Yorkers that is long overdue. President Biden and our federal delegation, led by Senator Schumer and Gillibrand, worked hard to secure funds for renters, landlords, workers, and more. But I am not at all satisfied with the pace that this COVID relief is getting out the door. I want the money out now. I want it out with no more excuses and delays.

I met with Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins just earlier today. And we are unified in our sense of urgency that that money get out to the people in need.

We're launching a new targeted campaign to reach more New Yorkers on rental relief. We're forming a real partnership with legislators, the city of New York, other cities, and counties to get the job done. I'm hiring more staff to process applications immediately. I'm also assigning a top team to identify and remove any barriers that remain.

New Yorkers should know, if you apply and qualify for this money you will be protected from eviction for a solid year. Let me repeat: if you apply and qualify, you will not be evicted for a year. And we'll take the same focused approach to our excluded workers’ fund. The money is there and these people are just as impacted by COVID and they need help now.

The final priorities I'll outline today are simple; get this state working again – focused, without distractions. And that begins with a dramatic change in culture, with accountability and no tolerance for individuals who cross the line.

Today, I'm directing an overhaul of state government policies on sexual harassment and ethics. Starting with requiring that all training be done live instead of allowing people to click their way through a class.

In a new era of transparency – one of my hallmarks of my administration – to me it's very simple; we'll focus on open, ethical governing that New Yorkers will trust. I will direct state entities to review their compliance with state transparency laws and provide a public report on their findings.

I've instructed my counsel to come up with an expedited process to fulfill all FOIL requests as fast as possible and post the completed requests publicly online. I'll sign an executive order requiring ethics training for every employee of New York State government; which shockingly, is not required across the board.

To recap, these are the highest priorities of my administration in its first days: combating delta, getting direct aid to New Yorkers more quickly, and beginning to change the culture in Albany.

To achieve all this, and so much more, we must and will work together across every corner of this state. We'll have a fresh and collaborative approach. I've already reached out my hand in friendship to many elected officials who too, are eager for a new relationship with the state.

You know, the Bible tells us there's a time for every purpose under heaven. I believe that. I believe that with every fiber of my body, that this is our time. Our time to escape the oppression of a deadly virus and make our schools and workplaces safe to return.

It's our time to build trust between communities and law enforcement, invest in mental health resources, and address the root problems of crime, and keep our residents and children safe. It's our time to make greater progress in ending the ugly specter of systemic racism.

It's our time to help small businesses and create new jobs for New Yorkers hit so hard by the pandemic. It's our time to unleash the power of New York's women and make sure that any barriers to success and opportunity are eradicated once and for all.

And time to show the world that “Ever Upward” is more than just our state's Motto – it's who we are and it's where we're going. This is our time to look forward with a powerful sense of optimism and determination.

It will not be easy and we have a lot of work to do, but one of my favorite inspirations is from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt. It speaks of the man in the arena who's marred by dust and sweat and blood, in stark contrast to the timid souls on the sidelines.

Today, for the first time in New York history, a woman will enter that arena as governor. As I undertake the weighty responsibilities before me, know that I have the confidence, the courage, and the ability to lead New Yorkers forward and make New York's Women proud.

You'll find me to be direct, straight-talking, and decisive. I will not be deterred and I'm willing to be bloodied and marred in the pursuit of doing what's right for the people of this great state.

My friends, I invite you to join me in this fight for our future. I only ask for your faith in me and for your prayers.

God bless New York and God bless America. Thank you.

Hochul, K.C. [NBC New York]. (2021, August 24). Kathy Hochul Delivers First Remarks to the State As Governor [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78onWtI5ZQA]. Retrieved on September 8, 2021 from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxCfoSInadl-4i3F70zDt1A.