WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials were baffled Wednesday when Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the federal government is “not providing” New York with “any funding to speak of” to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Two sources tell The Post that Cuomo actually has more than $7.5 million available for state vaccine distribution preparations, but hasn’t touched a cent.
New York City has nearly $6.6 million in a separate vaccine preparedness allotment and also has drawn $0 as of Monday, sources said.
New York state officials acknowledged to The Post that they intend to access the funds, but have not yet done so.
It’s unclear why officials have not withdrawn the money as vaccines near distribution this month — especially as the governor contends that funding woes could slow distribution.
At a press conference in Albany, Cuomo said he anticipates New York receiving about 170,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine beginning Dec. 15. UK officials approved the vaccine Wednesday, beating the US Food and Drug Administration, which will meet Dec. 10 to decide the vaccine’s fate.
“The federal government is not providing any funding to speak of for the states to do the vaccinations. Who’s supposed to pay for this? How am I supposed to do the distribution? We have a deficit from COVID,” Cuomo asked.
Cuomo added: “You have local governments who are starving and may lay off essential workers, those are the essential workers you need to do the vaccine program. This vaccine administration could cost the state $1 billion. The federal government has not provided funding to states anywhere near the amount.”
But the answer to Cuomo’s questions may well be staring back at him in the mirror as federal plans call for state and local governments to take the lead in vaccine distribution, though vaccine doses and medical kits including syringes are paid for by the federal government.
US officials say they can deliver vaccine kits to any location local officials request.
The federal allocations for states and major cities to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution were announced on Sept. 23, using funding from the CARES Act.
The funding is held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is available to withdraw via mechanisms used for other federal health funding to states, such as annual flu vaccines, an official said.
“It is there for them to take,” a federal source told The Post.
“This is a process that states use every year to draw down funds for immunizations and vaccines,” he said. “It’s available now and other sates and territories are drawing from it.”
One state has used 17 percent of their allocation and another, 10 percent, a source with access to the data said.
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
New York officials said they intend to take the funds, but simply have not yet done so.
Freeman Klopott, a spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, told The Post, “this is merely accounting as the state has already accrued expenses in excess of the $14 million for preparation and planning for the distribution of the vaccine.”
Klopott highlighted Cuomo’s estimate that a “real outreach education campaign” promoting the vaccine to New Yorkers could cost $1 billion.
Klopott said “we’ve accrued more expenses than the funding that’s available, and it’s merely accounting as to when we draw it down.”
New York City is responsible for drawing down its own federal funds, state officials said. City officials didn’t immediately provide comment.
Some early distribution efforts won’t necessarily cost state and local governments. In October, the federal government reached a deal with pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreen to distribute vaccines to nursing homes, which will be among the first recipients.
A different agreement announced in November could see the vaccine available for free to the public at national pharmacy chains.
White House spokesman Michael Bars said “the administration continues to reject all politically motivated attacks that obstruct the federal planning process and meaningful collaboration ensuring the unprecedented delivery of a safe and effective vaccine to every zip code in America within 24 hours of an FDA approval.”
The Cuomo administration previously dragged its feet after President Trump offered states expanded unemployment insurance in August. State officials waited 10 days to apply for the $300-a-week bonus for jobless New Yorkers even after the feds called to walk the governor’s team through the pandemic assistance program.
The UK will begin distribution of the Pfizer vaccine next week and authorities expect to have 800,000 doses available within days, the BBC reports. The British government runs a socialized medical system.
The Post reported last month that Cuomo skipped 17 consecutive governor calls with the White House coronavirus task force designed to brief state leaders on the vaccine development and rollout process.
Trump said Nov. 13 that the federal government would not send vaccine doses to New York until Cuomo confirmed he would distribute it immediately rather than await a redundant review by state health officials. Cuomo clarified he would quickly distribute doses and said a state review would happen at the same time as federal approval.
Additional reporting by Bernadette Hogan and Nolan Hicks in New York