U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, held his first in-person town hall meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday in Hyde Park.
Delgado discussed the challenges of getting relief funding to small and rural communities during the pandemic.
“We’ve got two things ahead of us in the near future,” Delgado said. “The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. We have not really invested in our infrastructure in decades. We are still operating on 20th century technology.”
Our local communities have health care facilities that need investment, areas that need greater access to broadband, and a need for housing investment.
“We have a real opportunity here to double down on our future,” Delgado said. “This is not about spending money without a return on that investment. We’re going to get the return. There’s great investment in housing, great investment in our roads and our bridges, great investment in our water infrastructure, in our broadband systems, our workforce development.”
There are a lot of investment opportunities with the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, Delgado said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to rethink their priorities and reassess what matters to them, Delgado said.
“When the CARES Act was passed back in March of last year there was a cut-off for state and local funding,” Delgado said. “Only those localities with populations greater than 500,000 people were given direct federal relief to offset the loss of sales tax revenue, property tax, to offset the loss of small businesses generating economic profits for the community. None of that went to our localities here in our rural communities.”
A funding formula Delgado worked to create was later used to conceive the American Rescue Plan, which includes $130 billion for localities across the country. He said this gives localities all across the 19th District access to funding.
“Local governments in NY-19, all 11 counties, all the towns there are going to have over $400 million,” Delgado said. “This is a big deal because it means we’re actually enabling communities. We’re giving folks the resources on the ground, the individuals with situational awareness who know how to utilize these funds. The government, big government, is putting its hands down to help and then getting out of the way.”
The funding allows for those communities to decide what they will use it for, without the federal government dictating how they will use it, Delgado said.
“I think this is how we can legislatively can restore people’s faith in the system too,” Delgado said. “When they see the government not putting handcuffs on them in terms of what they can do and not do with the funding we give you but enables you to invest that into your community and empower you, to propel you into the future.”
A number of people asked questions of the Congressman. One man told Delgado about the need in Hyde Park for an improved sewer system, which would be able to help local businesses and allow for improvements to local tourism restaurants and hotels. Delgado said this issue of infrastructure, both above and below ground is one that is found throughout the 19th district, as both a safety concern and an economic concern, and there are federal funds available for projects like this. Another question came from a woman who asked about net neutrality and how it plays into expanding broadband. Delgado said people learned through COVID how critical accessing information is to everyone. He said broadband has become a necessity for educational purposed, tele-medicine and health purposes, and for small businesses to be able to run.
“When I talk about broadband, first I’m talking about making sure everybody has it,” Delgado said. “The fact that we have folks going without it is really an issue.”
Tuesday’s town hall was the 56 which Delgado said he had held since taking office.