Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking Samaritan’s Purse to pay state taxes after the Christian humanitarian organization discharged its last patient this week — one of the over 300 COVID-19 patients it treated at a temporary hospital in New York City’s Central Park while facing a backlash due to its statement of faith.
“We’re not in a position to provide any subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit,” Cuomo said at a daily press briefing this week, Fox News reported Friday.
According to a New York state law, anyone working in the state for more than 14 days has to pay income tax, but organizations and healthcare workers came to the state to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak at its epicenter after an appeal by the state government seeking assistance.
“So there’s a lot of good things I’d like to do, and if we get federal funding, we can do, but it would be irresponsible for me to sit here looking at a $13 billion deficit and say I’m gonna spend more money, when I can’t even pay the essential services,” Cuomo said.
The Samaritan’s Purse 68-bed field hospital treated 315 patients since opening on April 1 adjacent to Mount Sinai Hospital in Central Park’s East Meadow to help meet the needs of local hospitals that were facing an unprecedented wave of sick patients.
While the Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads Samaritan’s Purse, hasn’t responded directly to Cuomo’s statement, he has said that his group was invited to NYC by Mount Sinai.
“They’re the ones who called us originally. We didn’t call them; they called us,” Graham told Faithwire. “And we agreed to go and we have not charged them one penny. All of our services have been paid by God’s people.”
When the temporary hospital was being erected, the financial comptroller of Samaritan’s Purse had warned the group about the state requirement for taxes.
“What we’re even more concerned about than the money is the bureaucracy, and the paperwork, and I think that once that's unleashed... once you start filing that, you have to do that for like a whole year or something,” Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the organization, told PIX11 News.
After the last patient of the field hospital was discharged, Graham wrote on Facebook, “We gave them world-class medical care and showed them God’s love and compassion. We want each one to know the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.”
He continued, “We will be taking the hospital tents down in the coming days, but we are leaving some staff behind to help at another location within the Mount Sinai Health System. The people at Mount Sinai have been absolutely great to work with, and we appreciate their support and partnership in this effort to save lives.”
At the White House National Day of Prayer Service Thursday, Brittany Akinsola, a nurse and a pastor who volunteered at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital, thanked the group for giving her an opportunity to serve.
“And I will tell you that, just to be able to combine both my skills of nursing and the gifting of pastoring at such a time as this in our nation and to serve the people of New York City was truly one of the greatest honors of my life,” she said, and quoted Galatians 6:9, which reads, “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson had recently demanded that the Christian charity leave the city over its biblical views on homosexuality.
“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter last Saturday. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”
The openly gay speaker said while he was aware that the coronavirus battle was still far from over and that the healthcare system needed ongoing support, “we can’t continue allowing a group with their track record to remain here when we’re past the point they’re needed … Mount Sinai must sever its relationship with Samaritan’s Purse. Its leader calls the LGBTQ community ‘detestable’ and ‘immoral.’ He says being gay is ‘an affront to God,’ and refers to gay Christians as ‘the enemy.’”
On Friday, Christian clergy from NYC came out to support and praise Samaritan’s Purse.
“It is with grateful hearts that, we the clergy and spiritual leaders of New York City, are forever indebted to Samaritan’s Purse for coming to New York City in one of our most desperate times of need, the COVID 19 pandemic,” Christian workers belonging to various denominations and from all five NYC boroughs said in a statement.
They thanked and blessed “the great self-sacrificing, non-discriminatory, and tireless work of Samaritan’s Purse and pray God’s continual blessing on their work here in New York City and globally.”
Many, including comedian Jimmy Fallon, have offered support and also expressed thanks for the work of Samaritan’s Purse.