A statement from Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R, C, Ref-Mahopac)
“I am thrilled to report that after years of supporting a proposal, sponsored by Assembly Republicans since 2006, to expand the Military Enhanced Recognition Incentive and Tribute (MERIT) scholarship program to children of all military men and women killed or severely disabled in action, our voices have finally been heard. Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that he directed the Higher Education Services Corporation to broaden their interpretation of the MERIT scholarship to assist these Gold Star families with tuition assistance.
The brave men and women of our armed forces make sacrifices daily to protect and preserve our precious freedoms. When one of them makes the ultimate sacrifice, it is our obligation to be there to assist their surviving families. These Gold Star families have suffered an unimaginable loss. We owe it to their loved one to be there for them.
It is a shame it took over a decade to reach this point. Eight days ago, a handful of misguided legislators on the Assembly Committee on Higher Education voted against a bill, introduced by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, which would have accomplished the very same expansion of this program. The vote caused such a public uproar that it became a nationwide issue and even solicited criticism from President Trump on social media.
In the end, I am glad and thankful that Governor Cuomo decided to act and help get this done. While the Assembly Republican Conference has supported this proposal for years, it should never have been viewed as a partisan issue. Elected officials shouldn’t play politics with Gold Star families. I thank Governor Cuomo, and I commend Assemblyman Hawley for his many years of advocacy on this important issue. While this is certainly a victory, I remain hopeful that we can still codify this expansion legislatively before session concludes this year.”