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Bellone, other Dem officials push for more virus relief aid

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speaks during a news conference Tuesday as Nassau County Executive Laura Curran looks on. Credit: James Carbone

WASHINGTON — Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone met on Capitol Hill Wednesday with members of the Long Island congressional delegation to make a plaintive point — without federal funding, the future of Long Island looks “pretty scary.” 

Bellone made the trip to Washington as the Democratic leaders in Congress began negotiations with the White House on a fifth coronavirus relief bill, whose cost begins at $1 trillion and could quickly rise to $3 trillion in the House Democrats’ bill passed in mid-May. 

“Our job is to do what we can to help the New York delegation that is fighting for us down here, and to give them the information they need to get a sense of what's happening on the ground,” Bellone said. “When you look at it from that ground perspective, it’s pretty scary.” 

Bellone, with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joining in on FaceTime, repeated what is at stake for Long Island’s two biggest governments: a revenue shortfall by 2022 of up to $1.5 billion for Suffolk and up to $750 million for Nassau because of the pandemic and shutdown. 

Negotiations over a new bill have been rocky, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) talk with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

Hopes for a deal this week have begun to dim. 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked for separate bills for two measures that expire Friday: the $600 bonus on unemployment insurance benefits and moratoriums on homeowner foreclosures and evictions of renters unable to make their payments. 

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Democrats have insisted that they want a total package, not piecemeal bills. 

One of the biggest sticking points $500 billion for state governments and $485 for local governments in the House Democrats’ bill. 

Senate Republicans add no new money in their $1 trillion proposal for state and local governments, but they do loosen restrictions on the $150 billion already distributed under the CARES Act passed in mid-May to allow use for some lost revenue.

“They take the political stand that money should not go to state and local government. They say it’s local government excess,” said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the only Republican to vote for the House stimulus bill.

“I'm hoping it’s just an opening gambit for the bargaining, but Friday's the deadline. It's kind of late for an opening gambit,” King said.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) added, “And we’re hearing that we're going home on Friday and then we have to come back next week.” 

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) also attended the meeting with Bellone. Bellone later met with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Schumer in his office. 

In a Zoom presser Wednesday, Suozzi and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) urged Republicans to negotiate and make a deal to pass legislation this week. Meeks said Democrats have requested the minimum state and local governments need. 

Bellone later met with Gillibrand and Schumer in Schumer's office.

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