Only on 12: Bellone asks Congress for help after report projecting more than $1B in debt for Suffolk

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has written a letter to Long Island's congress members, asking for financial assistance after an independent report says the county could be in up to $1.5 billion of debt in the coming years. The letter in its entirety is below:
Dear Members of Congress,
As the Chief Executive of the most populous county in New York State outside of New York City, I write with a sense of urgency to request your assistance in providing direct financial relief to Suffolk County in the next federal recovery bill. Financial experts have said that it will be impossible for the County to make up current and projected revenue shortfalls resulting from the COVID-19 national emergency without federal assistance.

I have enclosed for your review a report by an independent panel of municipal and finance experts examining the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the County’s financial picture.  This COVID-19 Fiscal Impact Task Force report, which was released yesterday and presented to the County Legislature’s Budget Committee today, concludes that in the best case scenario, Suffolk County is projected to incur a total revenue shortfall of more than $1.1 billion over the next 2.5 years. In the most dire scenario that factors in a potential second wave and business closures, Suffolk County could face a glaring $1.5 billion total shortfall over a similar time period.

Today, the County is simultaneously confronting both a public health and public safety crisis, a confluence of events that we have never before experienced.  Both of these crises get to the heart of the essential functions and core services that county governments provide on a daily basis.  These services are always vital to our residents but never more so than in a crisis. 

Even as we continue to make progress in reducing the spread of the virus, we now must contend with a financial emergency that is an unfortunate and inevitable byproduct of having shut down the economy following federal guidance. 

The financial impact of this emergency should not be borne exclusively by our first responders, police officers, public health nurses, 911 dispatchers and other essential employees.  Nor should local taxpayers be forced to shoulder the burden of a national emergency that they did not cause and could not prevent. 

It is our hope that you will review this sobering report and do everything in your power to provide the necessary relief to the taxpayers and essential employees of Suffolk County.

On behalf of the nearly 1.5 million residents who call Suffolk County their home, I thank you for your continued advocacy as we address the immediate economic impact and recovery efforts that are needed on the local level.

Suffolk County Executive
Briefing Notes:
- Bellone credits Suffolk protesters for remaining peaceful and "non-destructive." Also credits police for their work during protests.
- Bellone references protest in Shirley - credits "restraint" from those working during situation that became tense, led to 2 arrests.
- Bellone talks about the "budget crisis" - commends his colleagues for a report on what they are facing. Credits Sen. Schumer and even Rep. King for crossing party lines to support them as they seek federal help to assist constituents. 
- Bellone says the report predicts a budget crisis 'greater than this county has ever seen before' with a budget hole of up to $1.5B. Three times the deficit that Suffolk inherited after financial crisis.
- Says county was set to eliminate 'last bit' of deficit from fiscal crisis before COVID-19 hit.
- 'We must continue the work to transform this government - but there is no reason we should do this alone.'
- 275 new positive cases - number 'popped out' to Bellone after significantly rising over past few days. 39,980 total.
- Why the rise? About 200 of the 275 were previously unreported numbers. 'New positives are in line with what we've been seeing.'
- Hospitalizations drop to 247 - decrease by 6.
- Death toll rises by just 3 - among the lowest the county has seen in several weeks.
- No change in ICU beds.
- 13 COVID-19 hospital discharges.
PHOTOS: Coronavirus heroes on the front lines