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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman John Katko (24th District of New York)

SYRACUSE, NY— U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today led a bipartisan effort, calling on Congress to address the financial strain local governments face by providing direct relief to localities in Central New York and across the nation in future COVID-19 relief packages.

Central New York towns, municipalities, and county governments have been under significant financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne and Oswego Counties are on the frontlines of the local COVID-19 response effort, and are responsible for the majority of essential services provided in local towns and municipalities, and as such, are well positioned to address regional needs and allocate funding to towns and localities facing budget crunches due COVID-19.   

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, bipartisan legislation that passed the House last month, only localities with more than 500,000 residents were eligible to receive direct funding, leaving local governments in Central New York reliant upon funding from New York State’s allocation. Noting that local governments play critical role in addressing the health, safety, and economic impacts of COVID-19, Rep. Katko today called for direct federal funding and greater flexibility for county governments of all sizes.

“In Central New York, local governments are dealing with considerable financial hardship as shortfalls in tax revenues and emergency expenses grow. Since this pandemic began, I have been in close communication with local leaders and am proud to renew my efforts to provide them with much-needed support by leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers in calling on Congressional Leaders to provide direct relief to county governments in the next COVID-19 relief bill,” said Rep. Katko. “County governments are uniquely positioned to distribute funding to address the needs of our localities having been responsible for the majority of our Coronavirus response efforts and handling the bulk of essential services for our towns and municipalities, providing police, fire, EMS, and public health services. Central New York governments of all sizes continue to serve as our region’s front-line of defense and support during this pandemic and I am proud to lead thiseffort to ensure they have the resources they need to serve our community.”

“Onondaga County has been leading the local COVID-19 response effort, providing crucial services to Central New Yorkers in their time of need,” saidOnondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon, II. “However, with declining tax revenues, we need additional assistance to be able to continue providing the services that our residents depend on. We are thankful to Congressman Katko for his work on the federal level to highlight our local need and for his continued support on this issue.”

“I am pleased that Congressman Katko and his colleagues have recognized that local governments are already overburdened with state and federal mandates that lack appropriate financial support,” said James Weatherup, Chairman of the Oswego County Legislature. “Our most recent budget contained more than $174 million in mandated expenses but only 37% of those costs were covered by the agencies that forced them on us. While we recognize that the COVID-19 emergency has brought pain and suffering in many forms to governments, businesses, not-for-profits and individuals, it is the counties across America that are leading the charge with the boots on the ground response.  Any additional financial support that the federal government can provide will prevent other cuts to local services that would otherwise result from the local budget crisis that is rapidly emerging.”

“The rolling and compounding impact of COVID-19 on county government is alarming, and we are still experiencing surge in our community,” said Aileen McNabb-Coleman, Chair of the Cayuga County Legislature. “In addition to the county’s continued advocacy for personal protective equipment and testing kits, Cayuga County has adopted paid leave for our employees in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, as well as lesson the economic pain for our employees during this crisis. County government may never fully recover without federal assistance. Please support provisions to the COVID-19 economic stimulus legislation to direct funding for County governments.

“Wayne County is doing their best to remain fiscally responsible while providing essential services to our community during the pandemic,” said Ken Miller, Chairman of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. “However, with the current situation of economic uncertainty and predicted shortfalls in tax revenue, this becomes increasingly difficult.  Congressman Katko has been doing his best to assist us during these unprecedented times and I appreciate his work to lead this new effort.”

Rep. Katko joined U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07)Peter A DeFazio (D-OR-04), and Rodney Davis (R-IL-16) and 97 other lawmakers in sending this letter.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

  

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

As you consider the next COVID-19 (coronavirus) relief package, we write to urge you to support dedicated and robust funding for county governments of all sizes across the country. Across America, Counties operate nearly 1,000 public hospitals, 1,900 local public health departments, more than 800 long-term care facilities, and 750 behavioral health departments, and are responsible for other essential functions including emergency operations centers, human services, jail management, 911 services, veterans’ services, coroners, and medical examiners. Through these services, our counties act as our nation’s front-line of defense in the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the current public health crisis has put a significant strain on the budgets of our counties. Today our county governments are not only dealing with an unprecedented uptick in the demand for essential services but are doing so during an unprecedented economic downturn that has caused considerable hardship and growing shortfalls in tax revenue. These realities place a strain on the budgets of our counties at a time when our constituents need their support the most. Moving forward, we must empower our local governments with greater flexibility to spend federal relief dollars as they see fit, including to help make up for the loss of expected tax revenues or other unexpected budget shortfalls.

While the funding provided through the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act was an important first step in getting much needed relief to our localities, the additional stipulation that only localities of over 500,000 residents would receive direct funding makes it difficult for counties to know much of their state’s allocation will be available for their needs.

We are particularly concerned that smaller and more rural counties—which need to continue operating their hospitals, emergency response centers, and more—receive adequate resources to successfully address the needs of their residents. As such, we urge you to disburse funding directly to localities to ensure that these allocations more closely reflect the special role and critical responsibilities of county governments of all sizes during this public health crisis. 

We thank you for your leadership during this crisis and thank you for your attention to this important matter.

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MIL OSI USA News