Press Release

In Albany, Senator Gillibrand And Congressman Tonko Call For Direct Federal Relief Funding To Local Governments Responding To And Recovering From Coronavirus Pandemic

Aug 7, 2020

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Paul Tonko stood at Albany City Hall and called for legislation to provide local governments with direct federal relief that can be used to pay for essential services, offset lost revenues and increased costs stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. As local governments face massive budget deficits 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, sanitation workers, teachers, and other vital public servants across New York, Gillibrand and Tonko are 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 tax and fee increases that would place a heavier burden on already cash-strapped families and businesses in crisis. 

“No state or town has been untouched by this pandemic or the economic crisis it has created. Red states and blue states alike have called for this critical aid yet Majority Leader McConnell has refused to consider relief for state and local governments,” said Senator Gillibrand. “With more than 45 million people out of work and our economy in crisis, we cannot allow critical services provided by our first responders, health care workers, teachers, and public servants to go unfunded. The Direct Support for Communities Act is necessary to provide significant federal aid and I will continue to fight for this essential funding to help our local governments recover.” 

“State and local leaders have been sounding the alarm for months, warning that without a federal rescue they will need to lay off critical workers and cut essential services that have kept our communities going. We passed the Heroes Act in the House nearly three months ago to deliver the lifeline they need to avoid the most painful of these cuts, including funding for nationwide testing and tracing, safe elections and more than one billion dollars in federal aid directly to New York’s Capital Region. After months of delays by Republican leaders since then and tens of thousands more American lives lost, we don’t have time for more political games. The American people have had to sacrifice too much already; Congress must not fail them now,” said Congressman Tonko.

“If the federal government refuses to provide direct emergency aid to state and local governments, painful budget cuts will be required to close the shortfall – cuts that would be borne on the backs of our police officers, fire fighters, sanitation workers, laborers, code enforcement officers, and other essential workers who continue to deliver essential city services to our residents,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “Our city residents and workforce cannot be asked to bear this burden, whether through cuts to essential services, layoffs, or salary reductions. Senator Gillibrand deeply understands the challenges faced by our state’s municipalities, and I commend the Senator for her support of fiscal aid for state and local governments, and her continued advocacy and partnership.”

“Local governments in the Capital Region and throughout New York State are facing extremely dire circumstances and the very real prospect of cutting critical services and employee layoffs,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “Our cities, towns, and villages will be unrecognizable unless they receive immediate federal aid and relief as part of a negotiated, bipartisan deal in Congress. Local governments employ thousands of workers in our communities, are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic in protecting the public’s health, and provide some of the most critical, necessary services to local residents. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her consistent and fierce advocacy on behalf of the Capital Region’s and New York’s local governments in the U.S. Senate, and I join her call for flexible federal relief to minimize the devastating financial impact of COVID-19 as much as possible.”

“Covid-19 has impacted the lives of many in our region, and our state and New York by far has been the most impacted on many fronts,” said Assemblyman John McDonald. “New York State government and its member’s communities are hurting due to the devastating economic impact of Covid-19, which is why the Senator’s efforts through the Direct Support for Communities Act is so critical to help all New Yorkers get back on the road to a full economic recovery. With proper support New York can and will bounce back to being one of the leading state’s in restoring our economy, which is critical not only to all New Yorkers but our nation as a whole. 

“COVID-19 has taken more lives in this country than any other in the world, and the ripple effects of it won’t be fully known for years to come. The quarantine and economic shutdown have exacerbated drug addictions, mental illness, domestic violence, poverty and so much more, just as county budgets that fund programs to address these issues are devastated,” said County Executive McCoy. “Albany County alone is down nearly $16 million in sales tax revenue alone in the first two quarters, and counties outside of New York City could face a $1.3 billion shortfall by next year. Albany County is projecting a $40 million budget shortfall this year. It can’t be overstated how critical federal relief is to local governments, and I’m proud to have Senator Gillibrand working on our behalf in Washington.”

“Time is running out for counties to receive federal stimulus aid. We are more than halfway through our budget year, and the increased costs of fighting COVID-19 and the massive drops in revenue are forcing deep cuts to services and layoffs. Without federal aid to local governments, counties will have no choice but to make drastic cuts that will slow the economic recovery and risk our progress against the virus. We’re grateful to have an ally in Senator Gillibrand, who understands that any stimulus legislation must include federal aid to state and local governments. We applaud Senator Gillibrand, as well as Senator Schumer and the entire NY Delegation for their efforts to provide local governments with the resources they need to deliver the essential services that New Yorkers need now more than ever,” said Stephen Acquario, Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties.

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. In Albany County the local government is considering layoffs to offset a $40 million budget gap while the city of Albany has already had to cut staff. This is a trend across the state as thousands of New Yorkers working in state and local government have lost their jobs at a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet. 

Senator Gillibrand previously introduced the Direct Support for Communities Act and is fighting for its inclusion in the next coronavirus relief package. 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 repeatedly called on the Senate to include desperately needed state and local funding in the next relief package.