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Medicaid costs get help; region to see $108M-plus in federal stimulus

Medicaid costs get help; region to see $108M-plus in federal stimulus

The Capital Region will receive $108 million in Medicaid relief from the federal stimulus package mo

The Capital Region will receive $108 million in Medicaid relief from the federal stimulus package moving through Congress, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The area will also receive money for education and transportation, although the amount is uncertain.

In all, the stimulus package provides New York state with $20 billion over 27 months.

Schumer made the announcement Thursday in a conference call with Gov. David Paterson.

“This is great news for New York. This is the first time in a long time that in a major piece of legislation, New York state gets a lot more back than we pay in, based on taxpayer per capita,” Schumer said.

Congress is expected to pass the stimulus package today, Schumer said. It is unclear when the money will come to the state and for which projects.

While the Capital Region will receive $108 million for Medicaid relief, the state as a whole will get $12.65 billion over two years. “This was our number one priority for New York, since we are a heavy Medicaid state,” Schumer said.

In New York, the federal government covers 50 percent of Medicaid costs, the state 33 percent and counties about 17 percent. Under the stimulus package, the federal government will cover 60 percent, Schumer said. The package also includes an amendment that localities get federal money directly for Medicaid relief, Schumer said.

“The state has to put less money into Medicaid, and that amount is up to the governor and the Legislature to decide,” Schumer said.

The stimulus package is expected to create or retain 215,000 government jobs in New York over the next two years, Schumer said. “We did this because with the economy in the bad shape it is, for state government to lay off people and raise taxes would take money out of the economy when we are putting money into the economy. This bill is about jobs, jobs.”

Schenectady County Legislator Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, said taxpayers would benefit from any Medicaid relief. “I salute and applaud Sen. Schumer and gratefully accept any Medicaid relief he can provide for us. Whether Medicaid funding stays flat or funding goes up, it is all good,” he said.

Schenectady County’s Medicaid cost is $32 million, consuming almost half of the county’s $62 million tax levy.

Schumer said New York, through the federal stimulus package, will also receive:

* $2.7 billion for education, which the state can use to offset aid cuts to school districts.

* $800 million for special education, with the federal government assuming 27 percent of the cost, up from 17 percent. Counties, for the most part, are responsible for paying special education costs, but they have little say over program decisions.

* $10 billion for school modernization.

* $87.5 million for the Clean Water Act.

* $439 million for sewer projects.

* $1 billion in highway funding.

* $1.4 billion for transit.

* More than $1 billion for weatherization, to help the homeless, for block grants, neighborhood stabilization and more.

“This package is good, but it is not perfect. We could not let the perfect get in the way of the very good,” Schumer said.

wish list

The city of Schenectady and the county submitted a “wish list” to the state, seeking more than $173 million in federal stimulus aid for local projects. Included on the list are the construction of a new county-owned nursing home and the construction of a city public works facility; projects to fix sidewalks and improve streets; the construction of the Bethesda House homeless shelter; and projects to upgrade the city’s sewage treatment facility.

The federal stimulus package will alleviate but not eliminate fiscal problems at the state and local levels, Schumer said. “There will still be difficult choices, but it means that they will be able to use a rapier rather than a meat axe,” he said.

Paterson agreed with Schumer: “Even with these resources, there will be painful cuts that will be shared evenly across the state. We certainly see some immense opportunities, but we need to use stimulus resources as were intended, to stimulate the economy.”

Paterson said the state faces immense fiscal problems, such as an estimated $14 billion deficit. “We need to clean up our own debt, and we will continue to manage the crisis and not try to avoid it,” he said.

Mark Lavigne of the New York State Association of Counties said the federal relief is temporary. “It puts a Band Aid on state and local fiscal problems and does not solve them.”

Lavigne said a way to solve the fiscal problem is to “examine state and local relationships in terms of mandates, or we will find ourselves next year and the year after that faced with the same challenges in closing budget gaps.”

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