July 03, 2020

Gillibrand Calls For Direct Federal Relief Funding For Local Governments Responding To And Recovering From Coronavirus Pandemic In Syracuse

Decreasing Revenues Due To The Coronavirus Pandemic Have Left Local Governments Strapped; Dedicated Federal Funding for Local Communities Would Provide Necessary Relief for Lost Revenues, Increased Costs And Will Help Avoid Local Tax & Fee Increases; The Direct Support for Communities Act Will Complement Direct Relief to States

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for legislation to provide local governments with direct federal relief that can be used to pay for essential services and offset lost revenues and increased costs stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. As local governments have faced slashed revenues due to the pandemic, direct assistance is needed to help state and local governments recover from this crisis. 

Concerned about the layoffs of public health care workers, firefighters, police, sanitation workers, teachers, and other vital public servants across New York, Gillibrand is fighting to ensure that all counties, cities, towns, and villages — regardless of size —receive federal funding in order to continue providing these critical services. The direct relief would help local governments avoid local tax and fee increases that would place a heavier burden on already cash-strapped families and businesses in crisis. 

“Our local governments are facing unprecedented financial hardship, as the COVID-19 outbreak has caused costs to surge and revenue to dwindle. Without federal funding to fill these gaps, there will be even more hardship in people’s lives,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For months, I have fought for this relief in order to ensure local governments have the resources to pay our first responders, health care workers, teachers, and public servants, and to enable them to continue serving our communities without raising taxes or fees. We know that direct federal relief for local governments is absolutely critical to respond to this crisis, not just for this community, but also for our country. I will do everything in my power to ensure that this critical funding is included in the next economic relief package.”

“Fiscal year 2020 ended Wednesday for the City of Syracuse. Before COVID-19 hit, the City was anticipating it would finish the year with a $1.5 million surplus. Now, we’re staring at a projected $8-10 million revenue shortfall. That could grow to $20-22 million if New York State’s recent hold back of aid doesn’t eventually come through. Yet, there’s still no action in Congress on federal help to state and local government,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “I appreciate Senator Gillibrand’s appeal for aid to Syracuse. With the pandemic worsening in other states and the prospect of an even longer and more severe impact on the nation, the outlook without federal aid for cities is bleak. Our new fiscal year is underway, and we can’t wait much longer to make strong cost reductions that will be bad for the economy, taxpayers and public employees.”  

“As New York recovers from being the epicenter of the global health pandemic, Upstate New York communities are still hamstrung as they scramble to handle the economic devastation the virus left in its path,” said Senator Schumer. “With imminent budget cuts and layoffs mounting across New York, Senator McConnell needs to wake up to this crisis and support legislation that provides fiscal relief for state and local governments so Upstate New York can recover, rebuild, and flourish once again.”

The nation’s economic recovery depends on the survival of state and local governments, however, New York alone is projected to lose more than $240 billion in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many counties, Onondaga County is facing a budget deficit of tens of millions of dollars due to decreased revenues. Syracuse is projecting more than $45 million in lost revenue and a lack of federal aid has delayed assistance to local governments across the state. Because of these deficits, thousands of New Yorkers working in state and local government, and more than a hundred city employees in Syracuse, have already been furloughed or lost their jobs at a time when many families are already struggling to make ends meet.  

Senator Gillibrand previously introduced the Direct Support for Communities Act. The legislation would create a local relief fund to help cities, towns, villages, and counties address costs associated with lost revenues, and would help avoid cuts to essential services or local tax and fee increases. Part of the funding would be administered to localities through the Community Development Block Grant program while additional funding would be sent directly to states to allocate to communities based on population. Senator Gillibrand has consistently urged the Senate to include this legislation and desperately needed state and local funding in the next relief package.