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Orleans Leg leader says federal aid critical for counties to avoid cuts in services, layoffs

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 August 2020 at 1:51 pm

‘It’s time for our leaders in Washington to come together and compromise on a plan that provides direct federal aid to support our communities during this crisis and keep us moving forward.’ – Lynne Johnson

Photo by Tom Rivers: Lynne Johnson is chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature.

ALBION – Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson said federal funding is essential for the county as part of a new stimulus relief package in Congress, or else the county will be forced to cut services and lay off employees.

The county already is feeling the economic pain from Covid-19, with a steep drop in sales tax revenues, hotel and bed taxes, and gaming revenue.

The New York State Association of Counties released a report that puts Orleans County’s revenue losses at $4,198,375 in 2020 in a “milder” scenario and $7,722,264 in a severe case.

The county also is looking a revenue hits in 2021 at $1,049,594 in a milder projection to $3,861,132 in the severe scenario.

Combined, in the two years, Orleans County is looking at revenue reductions ranging from $5,247,969 to $11,583,396.

“Local governments are teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff as demands for services rise and economic activity is at a standstill,” Johnson said today in a statement. “With Covid-19 cases rising around the nation and the economy struggling to get back on track, now is not the time to be cutting services, jobs or limiting the capacity of our frontline workers to keep the virus in check. It’s time for our leaders in Washington to come together and compromise on a plan that provides direct federal aid to support our communities during this crisis and keep us moving forward.”

This year’s county budget is $71.7 million. The county administers a wide array of social services, including childcare for first responders, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), child support, child welfare services, and substance abuse prevention services.

The report  from NYSAC shows counties and the New York City facing a $13.5 billion loss in revenue over two fiscal years that could lead to significant cuts to services and permanent layoffs, slowing the economic recovery and threatening gains made against the virus.

Without direct federal aid to backfill this loss of revenue, counties won’t be able to fund the testing, tracing, and emergency response activities needed to get the pandemic under control and get our communities back on their feet, Johnson said.

“County governments are facing a perfect fiscal storm, as severe revenue loss and high demand for social service programs threaten to grind county government to a halt and stall our progress in combatting Covid-19,” she said. “Without help from our federal partners in the form of direct aid to local governments, counties simply won’t be able to provide the essential services that are crucial to stopping the virus and reopening our communities.”

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