Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell is at the front of the line when it comes to calling for the federal government to provide monetary relief to cash-strapped local municipalities but, at first glance, he’s thinks the latest $3 trillion stimulus plan may have gone too far.
“I think it is a bit of an overreach – although I haven’t read between the lines – and (observe) that the Republican Senate and White House are not exactly lining up anymore with fed stim 4,” Gsell said this morning in response to the 1,815-page bill proposal released on Tuesday night by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The bill, called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, is a $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that includes $915 million for state and local governments and additional $1,200 checks for individuals (up to $6,000 per family).
It also would provide an extra $600 a week federal unemployment benefit through Jan. 31 – an extra disbursement that was supposed to run out at the end of July.
Additional benefits of the bill include billions for essential workers’ “hazard pay,” coronavirus testing, U.S. Postal Service, the Payroll Protection Program, pandemic-era voting challenges in November, and hospitals and health care providers.
Another $1.2 billion is earmarked for police departments for salaries and equipment, and state and federal prisons.
View the entire bill here.
Batavia City Manager Martin Moore said he wasn’t sure how the proposed legislation would end up, but he’s all in on support for counties, cities, towns and villages.
“Any help that we can get will surely be welcome … especially given the unfunded mandates that we have to deal with and the reduced revenues,” he said. “(Another federal stimulus) would not only help us this year, but with next year’s budget as well.”
Gsell said the overarching parameters of the bill likely will be challenged by Republicans and President Trump, and pointed to an erroneous report in The New York Times that could make it even more difficult for it to pass.
“A reporter from The New York Times put New York in the same boat as Illinois and California, writing that New York is asking for a bailout of its state pension funds. That is a fallacy. This state’s retirement system is not in financial ruin; in fact, it is 96-percent funded, which is a platinum standard.”
He said the result of that report is that Senate Republicans and the White House perceive that all states with Democratic governors and looking for handouts to bail out their pension systems.
Gsell said New York’s counties see another stimulus as a “vital measure to bridge the gap” caused by significantly reduced sales tax and, potentially, state aid reimbursement. And, he said, time is of the essence.
“Getting relief relatively soon, this month, is vital, but it may not occur to June and July,” he said. “That won’t bode well for our workforce … and getting a sense of what is the new normal.”
He said there are a couple other bills out there, including one supported by Sen. Charles Schumer “which I think may have a better chance than this Pelosi bill.”
“When it goes from $1 trillion to $3 trillion, that’s a big jump, and any attempt at consensus-building gets blown up,” Gsell said. “Then it ends up being every Congressperson for himself, with many taking a wait-and-see attitude until after the economy opens up.”