(FONDA, NY) — Facing more than $1 million in lost state aid and with broader state-wide concerns about future tax receipts because of the pandemic, Montgomery County Executive Matthew L. Ossenfort today issued a letter to leaders in Washington pressing them to provide direct-to-municipality aid in the next COVID-19 relief package being negotiated by members of Congress and the White House.
“We need Federal aid for county and local governments that is paid directly to those governing bodies – regardless of their size. Aid flowing through the states for smaller municipalities risks that funding becoming a political football, especially here in New York where state officials too often place a premium on the needs of larger, downstate communities, often at the expense of our area. As local officials, we know how these resources can have an immediate impact – especially given the proposed cuts being discussed by leaders in Albany. We shouldn’t have to waste time waiting for aid to flow from Washington to Albany and then finally to Fonda. It can and must be done in a more expedited fashion,” said County Executive Ossenfort.
Ossenfort’s letter noted that New York State is indicating counties should prepare for upwards of a 20 percent reduction of state reimbursements for mandated programs like early intervention services for children ages three to five, immunization services, communicable disease prevention, lead poisoning prevention and rabies services. Such a reduction could cost Montgomery County’s Public Health Department over $1 million. The County also has been told to prepare for state aid cuts to programming funded through the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH) that could total more than to $357,000 – despite a mandate to continue to provide necessary services like suicide prevention and Narcan distribution. These cuts would be on top of uncertainty around sales tax receipts.
“The pandemic and the associated economic fallout have the potential to be a serious one-two punch to our community. We have worked hard to create a vibrant economy here in Montgomery County. Our community is a place where people and businesses know there is an environment that fosters opportunity so everyone can succeed. But, if we don’t see meaningful assistance from the Federal government directly to small-county governments like ours, there’s potential for serious consequences,” Ossenfort said.
“We’ve done everything we can – both from a public health perspective and in terms of helping businesses keep their doors open or reopen quickly and safely. Now we need our elected officials in Washington to put partisanship aside and lead for the betterment of everyone.
In his letter, Ossenfort noted that the County has held numerous food drives, started a “Buy It In Montgomery” initiative to support the County’s local businesses, distributed thousands of pieces of PPE and other materials as well as launched the Covid-19 Pandemic Loan Program.
Legislation passed earlier this year by the House included provisions for financial resources for county and municipal governments, but the package did not specifically spell out the aid would be paid direct to smaller communities and the legislation ultimately was never agreed upon by leaders from the Senate, House and White House.