Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to discuss federal disaster relief for Long Island communities, considering how harshly the region has been affected by COVID-19.
Bellone met with Nassau County executive Laura Curran, congressman Tom Suozzi, congressman Peter King, congressman Lee Zeldin, congresswoman Kathleen Rice, congressman Gregory Meeks, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Bellone shared his takeaways from the less-than-24-hour trip in a briefing via Zoom on Thursday, July 30.
“The purpose of this was to, first and foremost, communicate that we are appreciative of the work that they have done and the relief that they have provided to this point to our local communities, to the counties, and to our local governments,” Bellone said, continuing on to point out the efforts of minority leader Sen. Schumer. “They are fighting for us. Our congressional delegation is fighting for us to bring those resources that are absolutely critical back home here to Long Island and New York, led by Sen. Schumer.”
Bellone pointed out, secondly, that this hits deeper than concerning economic statistics.
“This is not just budgetary numbers that you can throw back and forth here. This is about people’s lives. This is about families in crisis,” he said, continuing on to explain that we are in the eye of the storm, now. “We are continuing to see our numbers in a very good place right now. While, at the same time, we know swirling all around us, the storm is raging in states and places all around our country. It feels like we are in the eye of the storm. But we know what is coming. We know what is ahead.”
Transitioning back into discussing necessary resources, Bellone stressed that the financial concerns at hand deal with not only the debt accrued from the initial hit, but the likely occurrence of a resurgence in positive cases and increased death tolls. Considering both, the county executive expressed the urgency in which the county is counting on the federal government financially.
“This is about our region being able to recover from this over the next couple of years and to be as successful as possible in the next couple of years and not allowing this disaster to extend out more than a decade and — the bottom line — to not allow the burden of this to be placed squarely on the shoulders of local taxpayers, first responders, and essential employees. This is not the moment in time to be talking about the federal government not providing the justified, appropriate level of federal disaster assistance to deal with this storm that would produce layoffs across communities across the country, and for significant new tax burdens on local taxpayers who can ill afford it at this moment when families are in crisis, when unemployment numbers continue to rise.”
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly concurred that the academic year needs to begin in the upcoming weeks. Considering the state and counties’ responsibilities to contribute toward school budgets, Bellone explained that distributing the federal aid makes even more sense.
“Now we are going to be reopening school in a matter of weeks, and still there has not been a comprehensive package that includes resources necessary for states that fund schools to be able to deliver those resources to them. This is a critical issue.”