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Saratoga Springs Prepares For Federal Aid, Vaccine Influx

Saratoga Springs City Hall
Lucas Willard

The city of Saratoga Springs is preparing for an influx of federal aid and coronavirus vaccine. 

The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that was passed by the House and is now being considered by the U.S. Senate contains long-sought aid for state and municipal governments that local officials have been seeking since the start of the pandemic. If passed in its current outline, New York’s 20th Congressional District, which includes much of the city of Saratoga Springs, could receive $440 million in aid.

In an update on the city’s finances during Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said the Spa City could receive around $7 million based on the current formula.

A large chunk of that aid would cover the city’s upcoming retirement fund payment to the state, said Madigan.

“The positive note is that it will readily cover our 2021 retirement costs of $5 million. As you may recall, we budgeted $5 million in revenue – we called it federal fiscal aid – to offset the $5 million expense in the retirement,” said Madigan.

The remaining $2 million, according to Madigan, will help cover revenue that will not meet current estimates.

“And you and I had some meetings this week about the VLT.”

“We do, we do.”

That’s Mayor Meg Kelly speaking to Madigan.

“The mayor and I – that’s a good point – continue to meet with committee chairs in the New York State Legislature to advocate strongly for full disbursement of VLT funds to the city of Saratoga Springs.”

Saratoga Springs is among several other communities in New York, outside of Yonkers, that host VLT gambling facilities whose aid was once again slashed in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal. For the Spa City, it’s become a yearly ask to restore the funding it directs to its Public Safety department.

With recent announcements of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot coronavirus vaccine coming online, and President Joe Biden’s recent estimate that enough vaccine would be produced for every American by the end of May, local officials are preparing for an influx of doses.

Saratoga Springs county supervisor Tara Gaston, who chairs the county’s Health and Human Services Committee, told city officials Tuesday that the county is preparing staff for the operation of a mass vaccination site at the Saratoga City Center. The facility has not yet been designated as such by New York State, but county officials are confident it will come with an expected increase in vaccine allotment.

“Actually, within the next few days we’ll be running a rehearsal at the City Center because we believe that we’re close enough to potentially getting that many doses that we want to start doing dry-runs and rehearsals so we can get that up and running in a few hours,” said Gaston.

The county is continuing to encourage residents eligible for a vaccine to sign onto its vaccine interest list.

“At SaratogaCountyNY.gov slash VAX, V-A-X. This is where, as vaccine doses are available, sometimes the state requires us to use a certain number for a certain population, and we’re pulling from that list,” said Gaston.

The list does not register or guarantee an appointment, but helps the county locate higher-need individuals who have not yet received a vaccination.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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