The Twin Counties could see about $40 million in federal aid if the American Rescue Plan is approved.
Passed by the House Budget Committee on Monday, the $1.9 trillion aid package is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives later this week. The relief package calls for $9 million in direct federal funding for Greene County, $8.7 million for Greene County towns, $12 million for Columbia County and $9.9 million for Columbia County towns.
“It’s kind of up in the air right now as to what that funding will be able to be used for,” Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said. “Supposedly it can be used for anything that was COVID-related — revenue loss, expenses that had to be incurred in relation to COVID and to rebuild the economy on the other side of COVID.”
Linger is hopeful that projects the county has previously discussed with U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, will be eligible for the funding.
“He said that most of the things we had spoken about when we met would probably be eligible — road damage, broadband and cellular surveys, and build out of that infrastructure,” Linger said.
The funding could potentially be put toward revenue loss from the state, Linger said. Greene County drew $2.5 million from its reserves for the 2021 budget to compensate for the anticipated 20% cut in state aid.
“I think it would be very difficult to show $9 million of revenue loss and expenses due to COVID, but if it could be used for developmental improvements, we certainly spend more than $9 million to build out that last mile of broadband access,” he said. “That’s going to be a multi-million-dollar project by time it’s done. We can certainly use the money, I just don’t know if can use it for that.”
Greene County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Friedman said he was cautiously optimistic about the package.
“I like what’s in there,” Friedman said. “There’s a lot of assistance for small businesses, a lot of infrastructure funding, especially for rural broadband, which is vital to our area. There’s help for our state and local governments, especially our Greene County government, which is really vital.”
Friedman expressed gratitude for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Delgado’s efforts on the package.
“Congressman Delgado’s work on this bill has been fantastic,” Friedman said. “He got a lot of feedback from the small business community all across his district. He has been instrumental, along with Sen. Gillibrand, in getting this bill. They delivered on what the business community were asking [for].”
Friedman is hopeful the bill will be signed into law.
“There are some really good things in this bill,” he said. “Hopefully it will make it all the way through the Senate and to the president’s desk. As we get to reopen more, we should be able to recovery fairly solidly and this gives us enough to get over the hump until things can go back to being more normal.”
Delgado is hopeful the federal government will come to the aid of local governments hard hit during the pandemic.
“For nearly a year now, I’ve met with local upstate leaders — both Republicans and Democrats — struggling to meet the needs of their communities during a pandemic without adequate federal support,” Delgado said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The relief package calls for $483 million in direct federal funding for the 19th Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia, Greene, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties, and parts of Broome, Dutchess, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.
“An estimated $438 million in NY-19 relief would ensure local governments can continue to provide essential services, get (COVID vaccination) shots in residents’ arms, and keep firefighters, law enforcement officers and frontline workers employed,” Delgado said. “Getting federal COVID-19 dollars in the hands of local governments has been and will continue to be my top priority. I won’t stop fighting until this package passes the House, Senate, and is signed into law by the president.”
Cairo Town Supervisor John Coyne welcomed the possibility of a federal aid package.
“I was happy to see it,” Coyne said. “It gives us a better chance of getting some funding. I appreciate what’s being done and I hope they stick to it. If they keep this, I would be a very happy town supervisor.”
Columbia County officials are also hopeful the aid will come through.
“That’s a substantial amount of money for Columbia County and its towns,” said Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. “Which I know would be put to good use.”
If passed, the federal aid package could help replenish lost revenue, Murell said. The state of New York currently owes the county millions of dollars in state aid and this money could help to fill some of that void, he said.
“We have a lot of COVID-related expenses,” said Murell. “Having to go out and purchase PPE (personal protective equipment), purchasing test kits, retrofitting our offices for our employees and so on. I know we got a lot of donations, but the county has spent a lot of money on COVID-related issues. This would also be seed money for COVID-related expenses moving forward.”
Hudson 3rd Ward Supervisor Michael Chameides said the county has received some CARES Act funding and these types of income streams are important so local government can meet its obligations.
“This is more important than ever to be spending locally on services. People are more in need now than they have been for a long time,” Chameides said. “Everything we’re doing right now is so important because of the pandemic.
Local officials say the money is sorely needed.
“I think it’s great, I think we need some federal money,” Kinderhook Town Supervisor Patsy Leader said Tuesday. “Hopefully it gets passed because we definitely can use some help. We’ve lost a lot of revenue from this pandemic. “
The proposed distribution of federal aid in Greene County is as follows: approximately $140,000 to Ashland; $728,000 to Athens (town); $1.2 million to Cairo; $2.1 million to Catskill (town); $1.6 million to Coxsackie (town); $492,000 to Durham; $661,000 to Greenville; $46,000 to Halcott; $488,000 to Hunter (town); $174,000 to Jewett; $143,000 to Lexington; $604,000 to New Baltimore; $132,000 to Prattsville; $310,000 to Windham; $296,000 to Athens (village); $707,000 to Catskill (village); $493,000 to Coxsackie (village); $88,000 to Hunter (village); and $95,000 to Tannersville.
In Columbia County, Ancram would receive $275,000; Austerlitz would get $294,000; $298,000 would go to Canaan; town of Chatham, $711,000; village of Chatham, $302,000; Clermont, $346,000; Copake, $631,000; Germantown, $340,000; Ghent, $943,000; Greenport, $789,000; Hillsdale, $334,000; Hudson, $1,135,000; Kinderhook (town), $1,518,000; Kinderhook (village) $209,000; Livingston, $641,000; Stockport, $487,000; Stuyvesant, $346,000; and Taghkanic, $234,000.
Delgado will hold a virtual town hall Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. to answer questions about the relief package. Residents can dial 855-905-3295 to join the town hall or listen in on Delgado’s official Facebook page.