Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY 21 District) and seven other Upstate New York Congressional leaders answered questions about COVID-19 response efforts during an exclusive Nexstar virtual town hall meeting.

Following the passage of a $484 billion COVID-19 relief bill, representatives were particularly encouraged by the $25 billion boost for testing it provides. Rep. Stefanik, who was recently appointed to a bipartisan task force to reopen the economy, sees widespread testing as key to economic progress.

“$11 billion is set aside to go to states, and half of that is focused on states with the highest number of positive COVID tests,” Rep. Stefanik said. “That’s important for New York, because it means Congress and the Federal Government are stepping up to help surge our testing capacity.”

Rep. John Katko (R- NY 24 District) is also on the task force. In total, 22 Republicans and 10 Democrats were appointed in the House.

Katko was asked how he’s balancing the needs of his constituents with the needs of those from states not as impacted by the virus.

“I view my role on the task force as looking out for the interests of my constituents in my District and hearing the voice of what’s going on in Upstate New York,” Rep. Katko said. “It’s very different than what’s going on in New York City and what’s going on in other parts of the country.”

For the North Country, a major step toward getting the economy back on track would mean re-opening the Canadian border. It is unclear when health experts might determine it safe to re-open.

Rep. Stefanik serves as the Northern Border Caucus Co-Chair, and explained how the international border’s status impacts her constituents.

“I’ve raised northern border issues with the President, and I want to note, these are bipartisan issues,” Rep. Stefanik said. “I serve as the Northern Border Caucus Co-Chair with Ryan Higgins, a fellow New-Yorker. So much of the manufacturing supply chain in my District is dependent on that U.S. and Canadian trade.”

During the town hall, a viewer submitted the following question: “Why are you mirroring the President’s stance to open up states despite New York losing the most lives, and against expert medical advice?”

Rep. Stefanik said she’s tried to work collaboratively, and that all Upstate New York leaders are doing what is in their constituents’ best interests.

“We are working together as Upstate New Yorkers to ensure that our testing capacity, our small business and economic growth in the future balance with public health needs,” Rep Stefanik said. “…I think it’s important for viewers to know that this is when politics are set aside, because we will get through this together.”

The town hall event was broadcast on Nexstar stations across Upstate New York.