At 12:01 a.m., Kathy Hochul was officially sworn in as the 57th Governor of New York State. She is the first woman to ever hold this position. At 10:00 a.m., there was a ceremonial swearing in ceremony that was open to the press with the oath of office administered by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. Governor Hochul gave brief remarks at her swearing in and indicated that brevity was going to be a hallmark of her administration.
This brevity was on display during her first address to New Yorkers, which occurred at 3:00 p.m. today. In her 12-minute address, Governor Hochul outlined her immediate priorities. First, she identified several proactive steps to address COVID-19. She will work with schools around the state to require all education personnel receive a vaccination or comply with weekly COVID-19 testing. She will also direct the New York State Department of Health to issue a universal mask mandate for all schools. Later this week, her administration will issue clear and concise guidance for schools on COVID-19 protocols and procedures.
Another COVID-19 response priority will be to work to increase vaccination rates in New York. A final area of immediate focus for COVID-19 will be booster shots and implementing a plan to ensure that all New Yorkers receive them as appropriate. She will explore all options, including reopening the mass vaccination sites throughout the state. We expect the Governor to provide additional COVID-19 strategies in the coming days.
Governor Hochul’s next priority area is to ensure the flow of COVID-19 assistance to all New Yorkers who are eligible. In particular, this will mean getting COVID-19 relief funds to landlords and tenants and ensuring that no one loses their housing. She will be hiring more staff and will assembly a team to review how to better streamline the process to flow the funding. She also indicated that she will work to ensure that those eligible for funding from the Excluded Workers Fund understand how to apply under that program and receive those funds in a timely fashion.
Finally, Governor Hochul outlined her plan to change the culture in Albany. She wants to overhaul state policies on sexual harassment and ethics and require that all training in these areas be live. She also indicated that she will be reviewing other areas of transparency and disclosure and will work to ensure that all freedom of information requests are answered as soon as possible and are publicly available online for anyone who wants to see the information.
We anticipate hearing much more from Governor Hochul over the coming days. She had previously announced that she will round out her cabinet appointments over the next 45 days. This will give her time to evaluate the existing cabinet positions as well as seek to recruit new talent. Governor Hochul has indicated that her goal is to put together a diverse and experienced cabinet to serve the needs of all New Yorkers. As a reminder, her cabinet is comprised of top-level staff and all agency commissioners. To date, we know that there will be a new Commissioner for the Department of Financial Services as current Commissioner Linda Lacewell announced her resignation that is effective as of today. Other changes are anticipated, but we have no final word on those changes.
For her senior staff, Governor Hochul announced yesterday that her new Secretary, the Governor’s top aide, will be Karen Persichilli Keogh and her new Counsel will be Elizabeth Fine. We anticipate that more senior staff appointments will be announced over the coming weeks, and we will keep you updated on key staff appointments of interest. In addition, we anticipate that she will be announcing her pick to replace her as Lieutenant Governor in the very near future.
As always, we will continue to share any additional information of importance as it is released. If you have additional questions about this update, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance: