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Laura Curran proposes $375 payments for 300,000 Nassau property owners

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran proposed Monday that

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran proposed Monday that 300,000 Nassau County property owners each would get $375 cash payments from surplus funds. Curran is seeking approval by the U.S. Treasury Department and the county legislature. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Monday proposed sending direct cash payments of $375 to some 300,000 county property owners, using $100 million in pandemic aid from the federal government.

The county would tap funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to send out individual payments of about $375, Curran, a Democrat running for reelection in November, said.

The payments would go to property owners who receive the STAR or enhanced STAR exemptions, Curran said in a news conference Monday in Mineola.

Households earning up to $500,000 generally qualify for New York's School Tax Relief program. The household income threshold for the Enhanced STAR benefit is $88,050 or less for 2020, according to the State Department of Taxation and Finance.

The Republican-controlled County Legislature must approve Curran's plan, and the administration hopes the payments go out "as soon as possible," said county spokesman Jordan Carmon.

Owners of all residential dwelling units, including houses, condominiums and apartments, are eligible for the payments, Curran said.

Nassau is expected to receive $200 million in 2021, and $185 million next year from the American Rescue Plan.

The $100 million to fund a new "Nassau County Homeowners Assistance Program" would come from Nassau's 2021 allotment of federal pandemic aid, Curran said.

Alternatively, the county could use sales tax revenues that came in higher than expected, Carmon said.

"In order for us to have a strong economic recovery we must continue to address the economic impact of the virus," Curran said.

"Everyone knows the taxes on Long Island are too high," Curran said. "Having achieved a hard-earned budget surplus, and on top of that with federal rescue money on the way, we must now provide direct relief to Nassau County’s homeowners."

Nassau finished 2020 with a $43.3 million surplus after receiving "extraordinary lifelines" that helped plug budget holes during the pandemic, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county’s financial control board, reported in April.

Nassau received $102.9 million in federal pandemic aid under the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, which Congress passed in March 2020.

Also, $1.1 billion in county and NIFA debt was refinanced last year. Debt service savings will total $435 million in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

NIFA has projected Nassau will run a budget deficit of $132.8 million in 2023 and $225.5 million in 2024.

David Chauvin, a spokesman for NIFA, said: "Foremost, the County must ensure that this is an allowable use of federal funds. NIFA believes that any appropriation would be subject to Legislative approval and any use of fund balance will negatively impact the deficit."

A Treasury Department spokeswoman said an interim final rule governing state and local recovery funds, "permits a broad range of responses to the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, including many types of assistance to households. This can include cash transfers that are reasonably proportional to the negative economic impacts they intend to address."

Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said Monday: "After using the first $100 million of COVID relief monies to pay for already budgeted county operations, the county executive has finally figured that the relief/stimulus funds should be provided to our overburdened taxpayers and small business owners."

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) called direct payments, "a valuable tool for alleviating financial burdens that residents are continuing to experience as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic."

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