Nassau lawmakers voted along party lines to approve Republican County...

Nassau lawmakers voted along party lines to approve Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman's plan to direct most of the remaining federal COVID-19 money to the county's general fund.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau lawmakers on Monday voted along party lines as they directed most of the county's $262 million in remaining federal pandemic aid to the general fund and denied Democrats' request to allocate $4 million more for community projects.

Eleven members of the legislature's Republican majority sided with Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman's plan to transfer $222 million from the American Rescue Plan Act into the general fund, $25 million into the sewer and stormwater fund and set aside $15 million for priorities in the legislature's 19 districts. All seven members of Nassau's Democratic caucus voted "no" on the grounds that not enough money was going to the individual districts. 

Legis. Mazi Melesa Pilip of Great Neck, the Republican candidate competing with Democrat Tom Suozzi in a Feb. 13 special election in the 3rd Congressional District, left the meeting before the vote. A spokeswoman for the Republican Majority did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for Pilip's campaign could not immediately be reached.

Democrats asked to increase the amount spent on community projects to $19 million and allow each legislator $1 million for initiatives of their choosing. 

"We trust each 19 of us to know our districts and with this money we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring it back to our districts and give it to groups in need," said Minority Leader Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove). "We are dealing with a situation that is not fair."

Republicans preferred moving $15 million into a fund that the entire legislature, where the GOP holds a 12-7 majority, would decide how to use based on funding proposals from Blakeman. 

"The money designated for community projects is not for pork or to be used as a slush fund," Blakeman said in a statement after the vote. "The money will be applied based on the merit of the projects proposed by the legislature from the $15 million, which is in addition to the money already being spent as per the budget and capital plan." 

Democrats also railed against Blakeman's administration putting $10 million into a marketing and tourism budget for a series of events to celebrate the county's 125th anniversary. Blakeman has said the events are for economic development and permitted under federal guidelines.

The money is part of $385 million awarded to Nassau in 2021 to be used at the county's discretion. Nassau must designate it by Dec. 31 and spend it by the end of 2026.

Andrew Persich, county budget director, said the money directed to the general fund would replace some of the $455 million the county lost in revenue during the shutdown.

Dozens of groups that service senior citizens, at-risk youth, veterans, people with disabilities and the homeless appealed to the legislature to transfer more of it to their projects and programming. 

Also Monday, legislators unanimously approved a new contract between Nassau Community College and its full-time faculty union, the NCCFT, raising wages 8.5% over three years.  

The legislature also approved the appointment of Veronica Renta Irwin, 49, of Levittown as district court judge in the Second Judicial District to replace Gary Carlton who was elevated to Nassau's state Supreme Court. 

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