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Counties call for federal aid to support reopening & avert dramatic cuts

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Wed, May 6th 2020 05:55 pm

Renewed call comes in response to new report showing dramatically worse revenue losses than previously estimated

By The New York State Association of Counties

The New York State Association of Counties on Wednesday released an updated report on the economic impact of the novel coronavirus on New York’s counties. It projects potentially catastrophic drops in revenue between $1.5 billion to $3.6 billion over the next year.

The report was unveiled during a digital press conference during which Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz joined NYSAC Executive Stephen J. Acquario to discuss the impact that revenue losses will have on the ability of counties to reopen and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Counties are facing an economic calamity that exceeds what we saw in the worst of the great recession, and this time it’s occurring in the middle of a global pandemic,” said NYSAC President John F. Marren, chair of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors.

“Without help from the federal government in the form of direct aid to state and local governments, the counties who are leading the effort to stop COVID-19 and lay the foundation for reopening will face savage cuts to staff and services that could not come at a worse time,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, president of the NYS County Executives Association.

Molinaro said, “We have been addressing and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic since it first arrived in Dutchess County; from providing guidance and assistance to our residents to monitoring the potential impacts on our local business community. As we watch our metrics carefully for signs of improvement and success against this global pandemic, we can move towards transitioning to full county government operations and reigniting our local economy. While we must enable the acceleration of economic activity, we must also sensibly monitor the health data and be prepared to immediately respond if infection or hospitalization numbers increase. We are grateful to our neighboring counties for their support and willingness to collaborate as we all adapt to a ‘new normal,’ both for the economy and our local government agencies.”

Poloncarz said, “Counties across New York state are facing unprecedented challenges as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis, with economic impacts straining budgets and forcing difficult decisions in everything from the provision of necessary services to personnel and staff cutbacks. Despite significant revenue losses and bleak sales tax projections we are doing all we can now at the county level to protect the health and safety of our constituents while preparing for an eventual ‘reopening,’ but we will need help soon. I am joining Dutchess County Executive Molinaro and my executive counterparts statewide in urging the federal government to pass another financial assistance package to help in mitigating the impacts of these losses we are all experiencing so we can continue to work for our communities.”

The report details how counties face a quadruple threat of:

•Declining local revenues, especially sales tax, but also hotel occupancy taxes, mortgage recording taxes, gaming revenues, among other revenues;

•Higher spending necessary to respond to the health emergency and meet the state’s requirements for reopening;

•The loss of state reimbursement; and

•The potential of significant losses for small businesses on our main streets that could threaten jobs and the property tax base over the short to mid-term.

“Our initial report created an outline of what the economic impact of COVID-19 would look like. Now, as we have more data available, we’re able to color in those lines a little more, and the picture is much darker than we previously thought,” Acquario said. “Just as counties led the closing of our communities, counties are going to be leading the reopening, and these numbers make it abundantly clear that we will need significant help from the state and federal government to accomplish that mission.”

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