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NYS has spent $1.9B to directly combat coronavirus pandemic

Workers continued to assemble one of five large

Workers continued to assemble one of five large tents that will be part of the field hospital being built on the Stony Brook University campus on Saturday, April 4, 2020. This tent is located in the parking lot of the university's Island Federal Credit Union Arena. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

WASHINGTON — New York State has committed about $1.9 billion in direct spending to address the coronavirus pandemic in the two months since mid-March and it estimates it will spend up to $5 billion by the end of the year, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s budget office.

New York City and other local governments including Nassau and Suffolk counties also made about another $1 billion in requests for the state’s Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, bringing the state’s total to as much as $3 billion, the budget office told Newsday.

That figure is based on the $2.8 billion that state officials said last month they had spent since the governor declared a pandemic emergency on March 7, the budget office said in providing the most detailed accounting yet of its expenditures.

 “In just about two months, we estimate New York State and local governments have committed up to $3 billion on battling COVID-19,  and we currently project as much as $4.4 to $5 billion in state expenses alone by the end of the year,” said Freeman Klopott, spokesman for the New York State Division of the Budget, said in a statement.

The Cuomo administration has been mostly vague on the specifics of its expenditures on the coronavirus. At least $300 million in state contracts listed on the New York State Comptroller’s Open Book New York database can be tied to the pandemic.

 But a breakdown provided by Klopott shows most of the state’s direct spending in those two months has been for health care supplies, including $935 million for ventilators, portable x-ray machines  and other equipment as well as $370 million for protective personal equipment.

 Most of the rest of the funding went to  $178 million to cover agencies' costs for cleaning offices and buildings and emergency response coordination; $117 million in personnel costs; $95 million for virus testing; $71 million  in SUNY and CUNY student refunds and quarantines; $73 million for MTA cleaning, and $11 million to ramp up technology for remote operations. 

The state did   not release information about expenditures since mid-May.

Like many other state and local governments, New York State is using its own funds now to cover the expenditures it has made to address the coronavirus epidemic and putting off using federal funds Congress approved in four sweeping aid packages in March and April.

 And the state expects to use FEMA funds from President Donald Trump’s March 20 disaster declaration  based on the pandemic   to cover some of the costs. FEMA said it has obligated more than $1.1 billion to New York as of May 28.

New York City estimates it had $800 million in FEMA expenses and other localities, Klopott said.

But the state is awaiting official notice that the federal government will pick up the state’s usual 25% share of FEMA funding. Following an April 22 White House meeting, Cuomo said that Trump said he would “take care of it.”

New York State also is holding the $5.1 billion in funds that the U.S. Treasury sent it about a month ago from a $150 billion fund for state and local government in an account under the custody of the  state comptroller, Klopott said.

“It will be drawn down by the state when the federal government provides clarity and consistent guidance so the state can maximize the use of these funds and other federal resources,” he said in an email. “COVID-related spending is expected to be reimbursed by federal funds.”

The U.S. Treasury requires that state and local governments use that CARES Act money only for expenses related to the health care emergency — and despite pleas from governors and local officials has not allowed it to be used to make up for steep drops in taxes and revenues.

The Cuomo administration also is looking to another round of funding for state and local governments in the next federal stimulus and aid package. House Democrats on May 15 passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act that would give $915 billion in federal funds to states, counties, cities and municipalities over years — including $34.4 million for New York state as of May 15.

And New York officials are waiting to see if Congress authorizes use of state and local government funds — both any newly approved and from the CARES Act — to cover shortfalls from projected revenue in the next aid package.

“The state is contending with a 14% decline in revenue,” Klopott said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has put a fifth coronavirus aid bill on “pause,” but the White House indicated this week it is beginning to weigh its options for the next bill, which could pass in July.

And after the U.S. Labor Department on Friday said that unemployment report dropped to 13.3% instead of rising to as much as 20%, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he is worried Republicans will become “complacent” and fail pass a bill to add more aid.

New York state’s spending on the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Durable hospital equipment, such as ventilators, portable x-rays and oxidizers: $895 million
  • Personal protective equipment: $370 million
  • Various agency expenditures, including cleaning, emergency response coordination, transportation and shipping to support remote agency operations: $178 million
  • Personnel costs: $117 million
  • Testing: $95 million
  • MTA costs, including cleaning, personnel costs and supplies: $73 million
  • SUNY and CUNY refunds to students for room and board and other costs: $60 million
  • IT and telecomm equipment for remote agency operations: $48 million
  • Quarantine support, much of it for students brought home from studying abroad: $11 million
  • Hand Sanitizer/PPE Production by CorCraft, the state’s prison industry: $7 million
  • Food banks: $6 million

Source: New York State Division of the Budget