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NY County Execs Plead For Direct Federal Coronavirus Relief Aid

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (top); Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan (bottom left); and NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario
Courtesy of the Office of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro
Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (top); Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan (bottom left); and NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario

Four county executives participated in a New York State Association of Counties video press conference Thursday to urge Congress to pass a coronavirus stimulus package with direct state and local aid. A House bill passed in May contains billions of dollars’ worth, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump reportedly agreed Thursday on a package with no such aid.

In May, the House passed the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package with direct aid to state and local governments. New York would see $67 billion for state and local governments. Now, with Senate Republicans seemingly coming to the table emptyhanded when it comes to state and local aid, NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario says it’s crucial to push for the funds before the Senate recesses August 7.

“The state of New York facing a $13 billion budget deficit, $60 billion over four years and growing,” Acquario says. “A lot of that pain going to be shifted to the counties by the state over the four-year period if we don’t get relief.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro:

“I lost my father and have experienced the worst of this disease. Don’t let countless families across this country, don’t let them down,” Molinaro says. “We need the help; they need the aid; we need the assistance to continue to do the important work that they expect of us. We want to do it. We will do it irrespective of party, but we need that unrestricted assistance to get the job done.”

Democratic Albany County Executive Dan McCoy:

“Our unemployment rate’s at 15.9 [percent]. Just a year ago, it was at 3.8 [percent], so it shows you what direction we’re in,” McCoy says. “Our second-quarter sales-tax revenue was down roughly about $15.5 million. So we’re looking at that alone going forward with the sales-tax revenue going down, hotel occupancy rates not being there, everything else that we collect the money. We could be looking at shortfalls anywhere from $40 million-to-$60 million by the end of this year.”

Without direct federal aid, Molinaro says his county also faces significant revenue losses.

“And what the United States Senate, at the moment, led by Senator McConnell, and, yes, they share my political party, is doing is politically craven. It is the worst of what I think politics can be in the midst of an emergency,” says Molinaro. “Never before has the United States government left those of us on the front lines without the aid and support that we need in an emergency. Now I believe they won’t leave us here in this case either.”

Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan:

“Anyone who understands what’s happening on the ground knows that this relief is needed. And so, I agree that this needs to be bipartisan and not political, but we have to hold Mitch McConnell directly, and his colleagues, accountable on a personal level that this is, this is completely irresponsible and would be devastating,” Ryan says. “I believe it essentially constitutes malpractice.”

Ryan says key services are at risk without aid.

“We are going to have to wrestle with excruciating decisions about not just building bridges and roads, but just maintaining bridges and roads; not just meeting the existing need for mental health and opioid recovery, but not being able to potentially handle a growing need and demand for those kinds of critical services,” says Ryan.

Again, Albany County’s McCoy:

“It’s not this year that scares me so much either, because I know we’ve got many breaks for it  it’s next year that we’re going to be hit harder, and the year after that,” says McCoy.

NYSAC Board of Directors President and Ontario County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Marren says New York’s Republican congressional delegation supports direct state and local government aid. He had just finished a video meeting with Republican Tom Reed of New York’s 23rd District.

“His final comment was, ‘we are going to land this plane’,” Marren says. “And he still believes that he’s going to be able to deliver with his colleagues and working with the colleagues in the Senate to land this plane and provide local government.”

Republican Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente was also on the call. Governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday reiterated his call for the federal government to provide funding for state and local governments. Other county executives, including Republican Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, also issued a plea Thursday for Congress to deliver federal disaster relief to counties.

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