Officials call for federal assistance to help local governments address revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — State and local governments need financial help to address revenue shortfalls cause by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Rep. Joe Morelle and other local officials who hosted a virtual briefing Tuesday to discuss the matter.

“We have not yet been able to use the CARES Act funding to address the revenue shortfalls that we are facing,” Bello said.

Bello says the federal government will need to pass legislation which directly supports local governments, legislation that Rep. Morelle says he supports.

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“At their core, these bills would allow state and local government to utilize parts of the CARES Act funding to offset the shortfall,” Bello said. “They take important steps in solving the problems that we actually face.”

“It’s clear that the impacts of COVID-19 are going to be felt for months and months to come,” Rep. Morelle said. “We’re talking about people who rely on social services and have to do this remotely. These programs are vital in our community and we are blessed to have a community that are so service rich.”

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Local officials say the federal aid is also necessary for local school budgets.

“On behalf of all the schools in Monroe County, the budget planning process has been extremely difficult this year,” said Thomas Putnam, President of the Monroe County Council of School Superintendents, and Superintendent of Penfield schools. “Ideally we want to make sure that we maintain the excellent program that all of our schools districts have, but as we look at revenue projections it’s worrisome.

“We know that the last 10 weeks of attempting to do distance learning without being fully prepared for it, we know that is not the education we want all of our students to have,” Putnam said. “Mostly we know that next year is going to be a year of teachers working with students to make sure that any gaps that took place over distance learning can get made up.”

The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill Friday. The enormous measure would cost more than the prior four coronavirus bills combined. It would deliver almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, another round of $1,200 direct payments to individuals and help for the unemployed, renters and homeowners, college debt holders and the struggling Postal Service.

Officials say it has no chance of becoming law as written in the hands of the GOP-led Senate, but will likely spark difficult negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans. Any product would probably be the last major COVID-19 response bill before November’s presidential and congressional elections.

In late April, Bello announced that factoring in lost revenue from sales tax, hotel and motel tax, fees, and a potential loss in state aid, the county projects it could be short anywhere from $68 to $122 million in total.

According to the county executive’s office, the State Operations Stabilization (SOS) Act would expand the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was enacted as part of the CARES Act. SOS would allow localities to utilize funds as a replacement for lost revenue or to make up a deficit resulting from lost tax revenue due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic. This would help prevent many state and local governments, including New York State and Monroe County, from being forced to cut critical social, community, and educational services to make up for shortfalls caused by lost revenue.

The Coronavirus Assistance for States Act will provide additional funding and flexibility for states and tribal governments to adequately protect and care for their residents and help begin the economic recovery from COVID-19, according to the county executive’s office. The funding for each state or tribal government is determined by their relative population and is expected to equal about $1,000 per person for each state or tribal government. The funding provides much-needed relief for states to cover the necessary expenditures incurred during the COVID-19 outbreak, replace revenue lost during the public health emergency, or contribute to the economic recovery for their region.

“From education to law enforcement to first responders, so many of our essential social services rely on financial resources from our counties and towns that have been disrupted by this pandemic,” Rep. Morelle said in a press release “Communities across our nation will continue to feel the effects of COVID-19 for months to come – that’s why it’s so important that we take action to ensure local governments have the tools they need to respond to this unprecedented challenge. I’ve introduced legislation to help do just that, and I’m committed to working alongside the county executive and all of our local partners to provide the stability families need now more than ever.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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