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New York counties to Congress: No skinny bill

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Fri, Jul 31st 2020 04:35 pm

Congressional leaders & president must continue work on COVID-19 relief bill that provides direct aid to local governments

Guest Editorial by the New York State Association of Counties

The New York State Association of Counties called on Congress to reject proposals to pass a stripped-down “skinny” coronavirus relief bill and come to an agreement on a recovery package that provides local governments with direct, flexible aid to offset a steep loss of revenues and increased costs associated with fighting COVID-19 locally.

“Now that both houses of Congress have had their say and introduced their respective bills, it’s time for congressional leaders and the president to come together and reach a compromise that delivers desperately needed unrestricted, direct aid to states and local governments. Anything less would fail to meet the moment and address unprecedented revenue shortfalls now faced by state and local governments,” said John F. Marren, president of the New York State Association of Counties and chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors.

“New Yorkers can’t afford any more delay, and neither can the nation. Local governments have been tightening their belts and finding ways to do more with less, but with the economy still sputtering, counties are being forced to make cuts to services and infrastructure projects that will adversely affect our residents, and make reductions to staff that will only prolong the length and severity of the recession,” said Dan McCoy, Albany County executive, and president of the New York State Association of County Executives and County Executives of America.

“Simply extending the status quo is not enough. We cannot afford to lose ground in our fight to keep the spread of the virus in check and return our economy to full strength, but that’s exactly what will happen if Congress and the president fail to reach an agreement that provides local governments with direct, flexible funding,” NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario said.

Earlier this week, NYSAC released an updated economic impact report that shows counties and New York City facing a catastrophic $13.5 billion loss in revenue over two fiscal years that could lead to significant cuts to services and permanent layoffs, slowing the economic recovery and threatening gains made against the virus. This is terrible news for New York and the United States as the taxpayers of New York are major donors to the U.S. Treasury.

The report also notes state and local governments are major employers and provide nearly 12% of all U.S. jobs. Economists have noted that, in the last downturn, during the Great Recession, the federal government's austerity approach and prematurely ending financial assistance to states and local governments contributed significantly to the slow recovery, both in employment terms and contributions to gross domestic product.

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