Long Island congressional representatives and state senators sent a letter...

Long Island congressional representatives and state senators sent a letter to Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin requesting the allocation of federal CARES Act funding to Nassau County to help local governments facing revenue shortfalls. Credit: Composite photo: Newsday

A group of Long Island congressional representatives and state senators is calling on the Town of Hempstead to turn over $131 million in federal grant funding to Nassau County and assist local villages with expenses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first statement by Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) released Friday called on the Town of Hempstead to share its federal CARES Act funding with Nassau County.

The Town of Hempstead received $133 million last week through the $2 trillion CARES Act to cover any non-budgeted COVID-19 related expenses through Dec. 30.

Hempstead was the only town to receive funding, based on its 800,000 population, which is more than half Nassau County’s population of 1.3 million.

Nassau County received $103 million in federal funding to support county operations including Nassau County police and emergency services, the Department of Health, corrections and the county morgue. The county’s funding does not address Oyster Bay and North Hempstead towns, which did not receive federal grants.

“The situation in Nassau County remains dire — there are still countless communities across Long Island that desperately need additional resources,” the representatives said. “We’re pleased that the Town of Hempstead has received funding through the CARES Act, but given that the county has spearheaded the response and incurred the largest share of related costs, we feel strongly that the Town’s funding should be made available to both the County as well as the Town’s municipalities, who have been most affected by this crisis.”

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said he is talking with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and village mayors about what treasury guidelines allow. He held a Zoom conference call with village mayors last week to discuss how funding can be used.

So far, the town has distributed $2 million to the Long Island Cares food bank, but town officials are seeking federal guidance from elected officials and the treasury department on how money can be used.

“The county executive and I are working together for the betterment of all residents,” Clavin said. “I think the money sent to the town was meant to give assistance to all Hempstead Town residents and my colleagues at all levels of government. There are restrictions. There will be a clawback if any unapproved expense is submitted, and the town and the villages will be on the hook for that.”

A second letter sent last week to Clavin that was signed by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) asked to assist the town’s 22 villages with rising expenses in emergency services, police, water services and sanitation. The grant funding cannot be used for lost budget revenue, and many villages are reporting millions in losses.

“Village mayors are concerned that their expenditures during this period, coupled with the rising decrease in revenue, will leave them in a dire financial situation and may lead to raising taxes on the hardworking residents,” the senators' letter said. “You have the power and the means to significantly alleviate their burden, and we would like to work with you to accomplish that goal.”

Mayors in Freeport and Rockville Centre said police have had to work overtime, including 24-hour patrols to monitor closed businesses and enforce social distancing in parks. Villages were told funding cannot replace revenue loss from permits, parking meters and recreation programs.

Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said he plans to ask the town to reimburse the village for outstanding expenses, including personal protective equipment and police and medical expenses.

Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray said Long Island’s congressional delegation is asking the treasury and Congress to lift restrictions on funding or provide additional stimulus money for lost revenue.

“If we don’t recover from lost money, we may have to raise taxes, and that will pass along to businesses and stores that may not open and we don’t want that,” Murray said. “That’s why we’re asking Washington to give New York relief.”

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