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Laura Curran, Republicans tussle over $375 payments to residents

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday Sept.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday Sept. 9, 2020 pressed county legislators to schedule hearings on her plan to send $375 payments to individual homeowners. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday accused Republican legislators of delaying her plan to send $375 checks to many homeowners, as she appeared in a new campaign video depicting her grocery shopping in order to show, "how far $375 can go."

In a tweet Thursday, Curran criticized majority Republican legislators for failing to place her payment plan on the calendar for legislative commitee hearings scheduled for Monday.

The agendas were distributed to lawmakers by email Wednesday night and are subject to change.

"Yesterday the Nassau County Legislature again failed to act on my plan to send direct payments of $375 to hundreds of thousands of middle-class families," Curran tweeted.

"The Legislative Majority is prioritizing politics over helping people," Curran wrote.

Chris Boyle, a spokesman for majority Republicans, did not respond directly to inquiries about when the GOP would call up the payments plan.

Boyle, however, referred to Curran's original plan to send $375 checks to all homeowners who receive New York's School Tax Relief, or STAR, exemption. That would have made homeowners making up to $500,000 eligible.

Curran revised the proposal after her administration sought further guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department about the income threshold for cash assistance programs.

"After failing to get guidance on her plan before having an election year press conference, wasting two months, the county executive finally submitted something for legislators to consider," Boyle said in a statement Thursday.

"Residents need real relief after having to endure the county executive's multimillion dollar tax increases and botched reassessment rollout," Boyle said. "Majority legislators will do their due diligence to make sure this isn't just another broken promise by this administration."

Curran's new plan calls for $375 checks to go to county households earning less than $168,900. Homeowners with incomes of up to $500,000 could get checks by showing proof of financial losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her new YouTube video ad, Curran lays out her rationale for the cash payments as she shops at Costco in Westbury. She displays cups of mandarin oranges and boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats cereal as she moves through the aisles.

Curran explains she's buying them as donations for the NOSH food bank in Glen Cove, where a fire on Aug. 24 badly damaged more than two dozen freezers and refrigerators.

"Three hundred seventy five dollars for working families here in Nassau County, for households," Curran says. "And some are calling that peanuts. I'm gonna buy $375 worth of goods to see how far that money will go."

Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Curran's Republican reelection opponent, calls the $375 payments the equivalent of sending "peanuts" to Nassau residents who received tax increases under Curran's reassessment program.

"Again it’s peanuts, she should be talking about real tax relief and cutting taxes in a material way, rather than engaging in political gimmickry," Blakeman told Newsday Thursday.

Under reassessment, the first countywide update of home values in a decade, 65% of households saw tax increases in 2020-21, while 35% saw reductions, according to county data.

A county spokesman said the $375 payments would be taxable as income.

The county would use $100 million in federal pandemic aid from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide the $375 payments.

Shelby Wiltz, Curran's campaign manager, said the campaign paid for the Costco items, which totaled $385 with taxes.

Republicans hold an 11-8 majority in the legislature, controlling the flow of legislation.

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