Local and county governments in New York stand to gain billions under the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package approved by the U.S. Senate over the weekend.
With the House taking the measure up Monday, the package could be forwarded later this week to President Joe Biden, who has made the massive spending plan a priority.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., estimated the impact on New York state at around $100 billion. As previously reported, the direct benefit to state government is $12.5 billion.
Schumer on Monday detailed the amount coming to towns, cities and counties in New York under the American Rescue Plan. (Aid to villages is still being calculated.)
Across the Capital Region and surrounding areas, the sums range from $85.3 million (city of Albany) to $40,000 (town of Blenheim).
The money can be used for costs associated with response to the pandemic or its negative economic impacts; supporting workers doing essential work through the pandemic, such as premium pay or grants; offsetting revenue losses due to the pandemic; and making necessary infrastructure improvements.
The money cannot be used for worker pensions or to cover tax cuts.
The city of Schenectady is in line for $57.84 million.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said it’s a welcome infusion of cash and a very hard-fought victory for Schumer.
“We’ve very thankful for the perseverance,” he said Monday. “The Republicans were adamantly opposed to this.”
Having said that, he’s not sure exactly what the guidelines and requirements for spending the money will be. He expects clarity after Biden signs the measure into law and the rules are codified.
“I don’t think it’s a blank check,” he added. He expects there will be some flexibility within the rules, but he doesn’t know how much or where.
Schenectady did not lay off employees because of the pandemic but it borrowed $7 million, drew down its fund balance, and let vacant positions go unfilled.
All told, though, the costs did not add up to $57.84 million. The city will recoup money spent and money not received, do some hiring and make itself more resilient for future emergencies, McCarthy said.
Montgomery County is in line for $9.55 million.
County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said his county didn’t develop a massive budget hole like some larger counties but has sustained direct and indirect costs during the pandemic.
Calculating and documenting those indirect costs will be important, he said, and not always immediately apparent. For example, the cost of one culvert project jumped $60,000 because of higher material costs amid the pandemic, he said.
He credited Congressmen Paul Tonko and Antonio Delgado with keeping the interests of small and rural communities in the legislation.
“Big, big relief,” Ossenfort said. “This is a big step forward.”
The town of Glenville is in line for $3.21 million.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the accounting of the town’s extra expenditures and lost revenue through the year of COVID appears to add up to a lot less than $3.21 million.
“I would say a rough estimate of what we spent in dollars would be somewhere near $100,000 or more,” he said.
There’s also lost revenue in sales tax and court fees.
“And the last category is lost opportunities,” Koetzle added.
The state froze a $1.4 million grant to rebuild Town Hall, he said. “There’s no idea if or when they’ll be released.”
Preparations for the future are a likely way to spend some of the money, he said. The town’s facilities have proved unsuited for a pandemic, with no room for appropriate social distancing.
“The Town Hall physical space needs to be reconfigured to deal with this or future pandemics,” he said.
The wording of the aid package — even just the tense of the verbs used — will be critical to understanding what’s possible.
“We’re all just waiting to see — what is a covid-related expense?”
The idea that the president and Congress want to get this money out into the economy is promising, he added.
“I think they’re going to be liberal about the interpretation.”
Saratoga County also is in wait-and-see mode.
“Saratoga County is following the progress of the federal stimulus aid package as it navigates Congress and I am hopeful that we will receive good news shortly that will not only assist our county, but all our residents,” Todd Kusnierz, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said Monday.
Schenectady County leaders were happy about Monday’s announcement.
“I’d like to thank Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko for their advocacy on behalf of local governments in New York State,” said Anthony Jasenski, chair of the Schenectady County Legislature. “This funding will help Schenectady County recover from the economic loss and additional expenses caused by the pandemic.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday provided the following estimates of money coming to municipalities in and near the Capital Region (figures are millions of dollars):
Glens Falls $12.23
Saratoga Springs $7.70
Clifton Park $3.99
St. Johnsville $0.28