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Posted on: September 16, 2020

Bipartisan Federal, State, County, & Local Officials Push for Direct to Local Coronavirus Funding

Congressman Zeldin and Supervisor Wehrheim Speak

On Monday, September 14th, a bipartisan group of Elected Officials at all levels of government took to the steps of Smithtown Town Hall with a message of unity for local relief as Congress returned to session. Congressman Lee Zeldin joined with Suffolk County Town Supervisors, State and County Representatives, calling on Congress to work together in support of a direct to local pandemic relief proposal, amid looming budget shortfalls.

"It’s very important that if and when Congress approves additional support for state and local governments, that the money sent from DC to Albany actually makes its way to the constituents represented by the men and women who are here with us today… This is a moment in time for everyone to come together for the common good to seek compromise however possible… I want to end with a very heartfelt thank you to all of the men and women behind me. These are Democrats and Republicans at the State, County and Town level. And they are here, not for themselves… but advocating strongly, fiercely, passionately on behalf of their constituents who need Congress to act, not as Republicans first, not as Democrats first… but as Americans first." - Congressman Lee Zeldin

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), was joined by Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, New York State Assemblymen Mike Fitzpatrick and Fred Thiele, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, Suffolk County Legislators Leslie Kennedy and Rob Trotta, Smithtown Council Members Lynne Nowick, and Lisa Inzerillo, Town Clerk Vincent Puleo, and Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

“This pandemic has placed a burden on all kinds of costs at the local level… We had to reinvent government through this pandemic to keep people safe and there’s a cost to that. Seven months now, we have been under a State of Emergency without any federal help. The numbers are arbitrary… In the Town of Southampton, if you look at the census, we’re about 60,000 people. However, we’ve had several hundred thousand people here for months, because a lot of New Yorkers came out to their summer homes and took up full time residence… I’m asking our Congressman to continue this fight. We’re speaking as Supervisors today. Please, get us some money at the local level so we can continue to keep people safe.” - Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman

The US Senate and House of Representatives returned to session in Washington D.C. Monday morning as talks for additional coronavirus relief to individuals, families, and state and local governments resume. The Direct Support for Communities Act is a bipartisan proposal introduced in the House by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D, NY-19) and in the US Senate by Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY.) The proposal would provide local counties, towns, cities and villages with direct local funding for essential services and to offset the lost revenues and increased costs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a very sad time for our country… we’re going through a once in a lifetime crisis, where a pandemic has shut down our economy and affected our nation in a way that will reverberate for the next hundred years. We were the epicenter. We made it through. We pray to God for a vaccine. But though it all… our revenues are down and we still must provide services. We need some help. We need some leadership. Let’s all work together... This should not be a Nation divided. This should not be a Nation yelling partisan slogans. This should be a Nation yelling let’s come together. Let’s help one another. That’s what this is about.” - Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine

“I commend Congressman Lee Zeldin for bringing this crucial issue to the forefront. The Town of Islip is the third largest Town in the State of New York, with more than 330,000 residents. We are a proud and diverse township that was unfortunately hit hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three of our hamlets collectively had more COVID-19 cases than many states across the country. This is a bi-partisan pandemic that has had an irrevocable trickle-down effect on a municipality’s ability to earn the revenue that historically makes it possible for local government to provide quality of life services that residents need and deserve. I implore everyone to please join together in sending our message to Washington, that we desperately need this direct revenue stream to our Towns and Villages.” - Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter

The previous Federal Relief package known as the CARES Act allocated millions in economic relief to governments with populations over 500,000. While Suffolk County received $257 million in federal coronavirus funding, local municipalities and villages did not meet the population threshold to receive aid. Suffolk County’s local communities were some of the hardest hit by the virus.

“As was mentioned and articulated, we are a bipartisan group at all levels of government advocating for direct aid. Since the middle of March thru today, our towns have provided the essential services that the residents needed. Whether it was our senior centers delivering hot meals to the most vulnerable or public safety agents out on patrol keeping our facilities secure, like our beaches and parks, which have seen more people come through them in the last 7 months than over the course of the last 15 years. It is very important to note that the continuity of government continued. But at the same time we received no federal assistance during this period. So it is very important that we advocate for legislation to pass. To make sure that the federal government invests in the economic wellbeing and the future of our municipalities. But also so we can continue to prepare if and when a second wave comes this Fall. And that’s very important to note also. That’s it not over yet. This is not a crisis like a terrorist attack or a natural disaster that comes and goes through a period of time. The future is unknown… However, time and time again, in America, in New York and on Long Island… we have come together and we have endured. And we know that we’ll continue to do that.” - Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci

“Our hope and purpose for today is that our federal counterparts will hear our perspective... and bring it to the table while heading back to session. In over six months, we’ve endured a global pandemic, civil unrest, a devastating and very expensive tropical storm… And now we must produce operating budgets for 2021, anticipating cuts in State funding, revenue shortfalls and rate increases for services and contracts. To say we’ve done more with less is an understatement. Every Town Administration here has a long track record of being fiscally prudent. And when it mattered the most... we took the necessary steps to mitigate the economic fallout. We all worked together, in service to the people of our communities. We’re asking that Congress do the same… We’re asking you to think about the moms and dads forced to choose between childcare and paying bills. The emergency responders who need funding to properly sanitize equipment and protect themselves from the virus. Think about the mom & pop shops and the residents, barely keeping their heads above water. These are your constituents too. The path forward for our constituents begins and ends with local government. We will continue to serve at the frontlines, operating and facilitating essential services. But we need Congress to make a unified commitment in support of a direct-to-local-funding relief bill.” - Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim 

At present, local municipalities are preparing for the 2021 operating budget, facing cuts in State funding, rescinded grant awards, revenue shortfalls and rate increases for services and contracts. A direct to local relief bill from the federal government would provide towns, cities and village governments with the vital resources needed to continue to operate without an undue burden on the residents.

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