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County leaders applaud legislation passed in final days of 2021 session

The New York State Association of Counties is touting what the organization calls major victories for local governments in the recently concluded state legislative session.

“Over the last year we’ve seen how vital it is to have strong local governments that can respond to unforeseen emergencies and provide essential services to residents when it matters most,” NYSAC President and Ontario County Board Chairman Jack Marren said  in a statement. “Counties applaud Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Steward-Cousins and the state lawmakers who fought to provide counties with the resources and flexibility we need to support the programs at the local level.”

Key county priorities that passed both houses of the legislature include:

• S.5560-A (Reichlin-Melnick) / A.5339 (Paulin) – Creates an Early Intervention Covered Lives Assessment Fee on commercial insurance to help fund services for infants with special needs.
• S.6323 (Gaughran) / A.7209 (Thiele) – Expands Investment Options for Counties to provide similar options as those available to New York City under current law and help maximize returns for taxpayers.
• S.5418-C (Cooney) / A.6601-A (Rivera) – Creates an AIM Redesign Task Force to analyze and recommend available alternatives to the current AIM formula and allocations, including models from other states.
• S.4051 (Bailey) / A.4982 (Hevesi) – Raises the age of Juvenile Delinquent Offenses from 7 to 12, keeping very young children out of the criminal justice system, helps to address racial disparities in the justice system and allows tax dollars to be spent on programs that are developmentally appropriate for young children.
• S.6445-A (Reichlin-Melnick) / A.7694A (Lunsford) – Extends the County-Wide Shared Services Initiative for an additional three years and enhances flexibility within the program to encourage more participation.

“Counties appreciate our partners in the state Legislature who stepped up this year to support local governments as we emerge from the pandemic and start to rebuild,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario. “Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and members of the Legislature worked with us to pass legislation that will help counties more effectively serve vulnerable children and families across the state.”

Acquario said that while this year saw significant progress on a host of issues confronting counties, much more work remains to be done, including reforms to civil service to ensure counties have the tools necessary to hire a diverse, qualified and motivated workforce and reforms to laws governing mental health competency restoration services.

“I’m hopeful that we can build on the progress made during this session and carry that momentum into next year, but first we need Gov. Cuomo to sign these bills into law so that counties can get to work building effective and sustainable local governments,” Acquario added.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

County leaders call on Washington for additional funding

New York’s county leaders last week renewed a call to the White House and congressional leaders to reach an agreement that would provide local governments with direct federal COVID-19 stimulus assistance, following the House of Representative’s passage of an updated Heroes Act.

“Every day that passes without a deal on direct aid to local governments, the deeper economic hole that is being dug in our communities,” said New York State Association of Counties President and Chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors John Marren. “Local governments stepped up and expended great resources to stop the spread of the virus and now, with state aid being withheld and revenue collection down, counties are being forced to cut services and lay off employees, which only depresses the economy further. It’s time for Washington to get behind a plan and get this done for the American people.”

NYSAC’s analysis of the Heroes Act shows that counties statewide would receive nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus from the modified act. Through the Community Development Block Grant program, entitlement communities across New York, or those with populations of 50,000 or more, would receive roughly $2.4 billion. Smaller cities and localities would receive $2.2 billion.

New York City, which is home to more than half of the state’s 19 million people, would receive $5.35 billion.

“We are in the middle of a national emergency that is impacting every community in New York and across the country,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, president of the New York State County Executives’ Association. “The federal government has provided emergency assistance to businesses and individuals, now it must do the same for the local governments who have been most impacted by this public health crisis so we can continue to battle COVID-19 and prevent further damage to our economy.”

In August, NYSAC released its fourth in a series of Coronavirus Economic Impact reports designed to highlight the impact the pandemic is having on business activity and county revenues.

The report confirmed NYSAC’s previous lost revenue projections that estimated that total lost revenues for counties and New York City over the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years could reach $13.5 billion, including $4.5 billion for counties statewide.

“This report is another piece of evidence in what has become an open-and-shut case for the need for direct federal aid to local governments,” NYSAC’s Marren said at the time the report was released. “As counties stepped up to respond to the pandemic, sales tax revenues, which are the lifeblood of local government, disappeared as the economy came to a screeching halt. Without federal aid, this lost revenue will jeopardize our ability to successfully reopen our economies and provide services for the families most impacted by the economic shutdown.”

The updated Heroes Act, which passed the House on Oct. 1, addresses needs that have arisen since the House first acted. The $2.2 trillion legislation includes strong support for small businesses, improving the Paycheck Protection Program and delivering targeted assistance to restaurants, nonprofits and event venues; additional assistance for airline industry workers; and more funds to bolster education and child care.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer