Local governments seek millions in aid from federal government

After getting slammed with huge overtime costs from the storm cleanup, towns and counties are facing even more financial uncertainty - and the stalemate in Washington over the stimulus plan may leave local governments with no relief at all.

News 12 Staff

Feb 2, 2021, 11:34 PM

Updated 1,171 days ago

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After getting slammed with huge overtime costs from the storm cleanup, towns and counties are facing even more financial uncertainty - and the stalemate in Washington over the stimulus plan may leave local governments with no relief at all.
Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer says there is a $15 million to $16 million estimated cost to his town alone in terms of added expenses and lost revenue due to the pandemic.
Under President Joe Biden's stimulus plan, $350 billion would go to state and local governments to help offset pandemic-related losses. But in their stimulus package, congressional Republicans have no money going directly to local governments.
If that happens, Schaffer, who also heads the Suffolk Town Supervisors Association, says Long Islanders can expect cuts in services.
"In the towns, a lot of our services are parks, roads, senior citizens, youth services," said Schaffer. "If I have to go in, or the town board has to cut a million dollars out of the parks department, that would just devastate our programming."
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine says no towns in Suffolk have gotten any money from the first stimulus plan. As a result, he says cuts in his town budget included the layoffs of 11 full-time workers.
"If we do not get help from Washington, we're going to have to cut again, which is unfortunate. We don't have a printing press like Washington does. Washington, if you need more money, they print it. We don't have that option," said Romaine.
Biden says he'd prefer a stimulus package that gets Republican support.
"If our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer said Democrats could pass the stimulus bill on their own as early as this week and said there's an urgent need for money to speed up vaccinations, extend unemployment benefits, and to help small businesses and state and local governments.
Rep. Andrew Garbarino said in a statement, "Long Island communities and businesses are still suffering from the impacts of COVID-19, and I'm committed to providing much-needed relief for struggling Long Islanders. While I support giving additional aid to our local governments and municipalities, Congress cannot continue to reward mismanagement by handing blank checks to states. Instead, we must provide targeted relief to the cities and counties who have been driven further into debt because of COVID-19."
Rep. Lee Zeldin said in a statement, "In light of historic, enhanced budgetary shortfalls caused by this ongoing outbreak, our local governments need direct funding to recover fiscally, but this must be accomplished efficiently to safeguard Americans' hard-earned tax dollars and cannot be an across the board free for all that ignores that the federal government just passed another massive coronavirus recovery bill just a few weeks ago. Additionally, the state and local government relief should not be a bail out of budgeting failures unrelated to the pandemic."


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