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Hudson Valley News

NYS Comptroller Joins Dutchess County Exec To Talk COVID Economic Recovery

NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in Dutchess County, Dec. 2017, to discuss NY ABLE program
WAMC, Allison Dunne
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NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in Dutchess County, Dec. 2017, to discuss NY ABLE program

The Dutchess County Executive and New York state Comptroller hosted a Facebook live discussion Thursday afternoon on the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. They discussed the fiscal condition of both the county and New York, and what financial recovery might look like.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro says Dutchess is looking at $50 million worth of sales-tax revenue losses. He says other revenue streams are expected to dry up while there will be new expenditures that may be covered by federal assistance. Democratic State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says his office now turns out monthly sales tax reports as opposed to quarterly.

“Every region of the state saw their tax collections on sales tax go down,” DiNapoli says. “Again, a big hit for the state; even bigger hit for our localities.”

And he gave some statistics.

“Unemployment for April up to 14.5 percent. Loss of private sector jobs over 1.1 million,” says DiNapoli. “In Dutchess/Putnam area, almost 22,000 jobs lost year-over-year, April to April.”

While the state pension fund will take a hit, DiNapoli assured residents the plan is well funded.

“But because we’re well funded, there is no jeopardy on retirement benefits. We have plenty of liquidity and cash on hand to pay benefits, and to any of those who are thinking of retiring in the near future, not to worry,” DiNapoli says. “In terms of context, 10 years ago when the Great Recession hit, we lost a 26 percent value in the fund in one year when the markets tanked. The loss we’re going to have this year will be nowhere near that.”

Molinaro wonders whether an economic recovery will resemble a “U,” meaning a gradual decline and rebound, or a “V,” with a steep decline and rebound. DiNapoli then responds, in part:

“What do those who forecast things in your office and what do you think the recovery might look like?” Molinaro asks.

“My sense, from everything I’m hearing and, I guess, intuition, if I could put it that way, is that it’s not going to be a “V,” so that will probably mean “U,’” says DiNapoli. “My worry is that it’s a “W,” right, is that we start to come out of it and then if there’s a re-infection we go back down again and have to shut things down.”

He says while the state appreciates the federal aid it has been granted thus far, more is needed. The House of Representatives earlier in May passed the so-called HEROES Act that contains direct state and local government aid.

“Clearly, the next piece has to be to plug the budget hole at the state level because if we don’t plug the budget hole at the state level, it’ll be cuts that will then transfer the problem to the local level,” DiNapoli says.

Molinaro, along with other Hudson Valley county executives, has been pushing for direct aid to local governments.

“Never before has the federal government abandoned states and local governments in a time of crisis, and this should not be that time for setting new precedent,” Molinaro says.

Again, DiNapoli.

“If we don’t get this additional relief, whatever the number will be, the governor has asked for $61billion over multiple years, and that and them some was in the House bill, but the timing becomes key,” DiNapoli says. “If we don’t get the money soon — I don’t have a drop-dead date — but if we don’t get it soon, you will see the budget cuts that the governor outlined.”

Some residents wanted to know whether New York views the federal aid as a bailout for fiscal issues that predate the pandemic. Again, DiNapoli:

“What we’re talking about is the damage to the economy by extension to the revenues coming to the state that need to be dealt with. That has nothing to do with budget choices that other people would have made or fiscal mismanagement or anything like that,” says DiNapoli. “So this is not an attempt to mask other issues. This is really an attempt to just deal with what the crisis triggered.”

And while many residents are home and in need of some extra dollars, DiNapoli urged them to search his online office for unclaimed funds.

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