County leaders on Wednesday renewed their push for direct federal aid as top congressional lawmakers signaled they were also stepping up efforts to help local governments recoup the billions of dollars lost during the pandemic.
The push from the New York State Association of Counties this year also comes as the chances of another COVID-19 stimulus package have improved with Democrats poised to gain narrow control of the U.S. Senate.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is in line to become majority leader of a 50-50 Senate, with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Schumer, along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, backed legislation on Wednesday designed to aid local governments.
“For nearly 10 months, local governments have deployed every tool at their disposal to protect New Yorkers and provide the essential services as an economic crisis devastated local revenues. But time is running out,” said NYSAC President and Ontario County Board Chair Jack Marren.
“Counties applaud the continued leadership of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and the NY House delegation on fighting for direct aid, and they should pass a bill within the first 100 days of the new administration. Our local governments need help to end this pandemic and get life back to normal.”
Local governments have lost sales tax revenue while the pandemic led to the closure of businesses and kept people at home. At the same time, the cost of responding to the crisis has also weighed on county governments.
Without aid, county officials worry they would have to resort to spending cuts or increases in property taxes.
“Leading the response to this pandemic, and now the vaccine effort, is possibly the most important thing counties may ever do and it’s critical that we have the resources to do it effectively,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro. “We don’t have a second to lose, congress must pass this bill and send it to President Biden during his first 100 days so we can end this pandemic, get our economy moving again, and get us all back to the cherished activities that fill our lives with meaning.”
At the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking $15 billion in direct aid for New York.