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Laura Curran files revised plan for $375 payments to Nassau County residents

To fund the individual payments, Nassau would use

To fund the individual payments, Nassau would use $100 million of the $193 million the county received in May from the federal American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March Credit: Newsday/John Keating

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Friday asked the county legislature to approve a revised plan for using millions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds to send payments of up to $375 to county residents.

Under her proposal, the county would send one-time, direct payments to Nassau households with total income of up to $168,900.

Payments also could go to households earning up to $500,000, but only with documentation of a negative economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Curran's original plan, announced in May, would have provided payments only to homeowners who receive the state's STAR or enhanced STAR exemptions.

Curran, a Democrat who is seeking reelection, said she hoped residents would use their payments at local restaurants, retail and other small businesses.

"My goal is to take this money and put it back into the pockets of the people of Nassau County," Curran said in an interview with Newsday.

Curran's proposal needs approval of the county legislature, where Republicans hold an 11-8 majority.

To fund the individual payments, Nassau would use $100 million of the $193 million the county received in May from the federal American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed in March. Next year, the county is expected to receive a second and final disbursement of about $192 million.

The administration is asking the legislature to consider Curran's legislation on an emergency basis on Monday, "so we can get this money into the hands of county residents as soon as possible," Curran spokeswoman Christine Geed said.

"Mindful of the mistakes she [Curran] made in rolling out this plan and in her reassessment project, the Majority will do its due diligence to make sure taxpayers are protected," Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said in a statement.

During a legislative discussion in June, Nicolello was among Republicans who questioned whether Curran's original plan violated U.S. Treasury Department guidelines on direct payments to individuals.

Administration officials said the direct payments were allowed, but that they were seeking clarification about eligible income levels.

Curran's original proposal would have applied to property owners earning up to $500,000 — the limit to 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.

Curran's new plan revises eligibility guidelines to include renters, but places additional requirements on households that earn from $168,900 to $500,000, Curran said.

Those in higher income categories not only would have to show proof of income but also evidence of hardship such as receipt of unemployment benefits in 2020, eviction notices and utility bills in arrears, administration officials said.

Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who is challenging Curran in November, said in a statement: "I'm the only candidate for County Executive who has a real plan for recurring taxpayer relief, and it starts with the rollback of Laura Curran's massive $9 million in tax hikes contained in her current budget."

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) endorsed Curran's proposal to allocate the federal money for use in direct payments to residents.

"I worked tirelessly to secure billions in aid in the American Rescue Plan for New York and its localities — including over $385 million for Nassau County — and I’m glad that County Executive Curran has created a Household Assistance Program to put some of these funds back in the pockets of Nassau County residents who have experienced hardship throughout the pandemic," Schumer said in a statement.

William Biamonte, spokesman for minority Democrats in the county legislature, said the caucus "supports this concept" put forward by Curran and will review the proposal.

David Chauvin, spokesman for the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board, said Friday that if the county legislature approves Curran's plan, "we will review it."

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