WASHINGTON - Congressman Antonio Delgado today told some 80 local government officials from across the 19th district that he is "cautiously optimistic" that the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that passed the House of Representatives last month will gain approval in the Senate and be signed into law by the middle of March.
Delgado secured some $438 million for Congressional District 19 in local government aid as part of that bill, which would allocate $350 billion to state and local governments nationwide.
"We'll continue to elevate this issue (of local government aid) until we get it over the finish line," said Delgado, who since May was lobbying for direct federal aid all local governments nationwide without population thresholds.
Sullivan County Legislature Chair Rob Doherty, County Manager Josh Potosek, Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante and Town of Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm were on today's Zoom call.
Potosek praised Delgado's leadership on the issue and noted that the County has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" for personal protective equipment, Covid-19 testing and vaccines. Potosek was asking for clarification about reimbursements for these costs, but it was unclear at press time if that funding would come from the new bill or be covered by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration).
Sturm said in an emailed statement that he does not yet have an estimate about how much money the Town might receive. "We had a great, informative call with Congressman Delgado this morning," he said. "Not only was it informative, but most importantly, it gave us all a lot to look forward too, and most importantly it gave us a lot of hope that may come if this Covid relief package passes the Senate and gives us all much needed funds to offset the impacts of this pandemic."
According to Delgado, city/town/village local governments would receive funding based on 75 percent of their budgets as of January 27, 2021.
Delgado told the group that the bill's current language allows for wide latitude in the way local governments spend the money, as long as it is tied to "the negative economic impact of Covid-19. " That might include infrastructure projects that might have been postponed when the pandemic hit, Delgado said.
He cited as an example if a local government is providing running water to families in rural areas to promote proper hygiene and to defend against the virus, it could justify using those monies for wastewater systems. "That is responding to a public health emergency," he said.
Delgado said that, unlike the previously-passed CARES ACT, this bill allows funds to be used to replace lost revenue, adding that there are no time restraints on when the new funds can be spent.
On February 11, Delgado issued a news release about the framework he worked out with Congress regarding this section of the bill.
"Direct federal funding has only gone to densely populated cities and localities, leaving the majority of local governments without a single cent of direct federal dollars," he said. "Since last May, I've been working with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to include my funding formula in congressional packages to directly aid local governments of all sizes. "
Today, he added: "This (local government help) is a necessary component of any Covid 19 package and there's a widespread understanding of that fact.."
Counties will get funds directly from the Treasury Department, he said, after they submit a generic "certificate of need." The Congressman said that it's expected to be a simple process and that counties would only have to affirm that they require federal assistance and that they will use it in accordance with federal law.
Cities/towns/villages with populations under 50,000 would receive their monies from the state but would not have to file any certificate of need. Delgado said that the State of New York (or any state) could not touch the local governments' monies.
"The state is merely a holding station for practical purposes," Delgado said. "The language in the bill calls for the state to deliver funds within 30 days of receiving monies. He said that the states could ask for an extension of up to 120 days to deliver the funds but "the state can't change funding allocations or impose any additional requirements. "
"Now's the time to step up and meet this moment and make sure our communities, particularly our rural communities, get support," he said.
The bill allocates $19.53 billion nationally to municipalities with populations under 50,000.
As previously reported by The SullivanTimes, the County is expected to receive $15 million in the package. It's unknown at press time what various municipalities around the County will receive.