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July 28, 2020 - 11:15am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, HEALS Act, HEROES Act, genesee county, NYSAC.

U.S. Senate Republicans are calling it the HEALS Act but, in Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell’s opinion, the latest federal stimulus proposal does nothing to cure the wounds being inflicted upon state and local governments.

Hoping that the bill offered on Monday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “dead on arrival,” Gsell took the GOP to task for failing to include funds to help financially strapped municipalities such as Genesee County.

“They just left the realm of local governments and even additional resources for states on the outside with the idea that apparently they want to keep waiting to see what the economy will do … all across the country, not just in New York State,” he said.

The $1 trillion Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools Act, or HEALS Act, is the Senate’s answer to the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, that was passed by House Democrats in May.

Gsell believes the stimulus package (the fifth since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March) will likely be the last economic rescue package prior to the November presidential election.

“This Senate bill and the House of Representative bill are diametrical ends of the spectrum … and hopefully (they’ll meet) somewhere in the middle to get bipartisan support in both chambers to get this thing done by August 7th,” Gsell said. “Once they come back in September, they may put anything else in terms of fed stim off past the election and maybe not even then.”

Gsell said states and local governments are facing significant losses in revenue from several sectors, primarily sales tax, but also from hotel bed tax and gaming distributions. He took exception to a provision in the HEALS Act that calls for the construction of a new FBI building in the nation’s capital.

“It is insulting that there is money in this bill to build a new FBI building in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Where does that come out with what should be a federal stimulus bill?"

Reportedly, money for a new FBI headquarters was put in the bill at the request of the Trump administration.

“The economic dislocation is still significant. For what happened yesterday, to pretend that that’s not the case, to me is both disingenuous but also shows a lack of understanding of what’s going on with regard to the national economy and what’s going on with local governments,” Gsell said.

According to the latest report from the New York Association of Counties, the state’s counties and New York City could lose up to $13.5 billion in revenue in 2020 and 2021, a situation that could result in cuts to services and permanent layoffs.

NYSAC projects a $4.9-billion loss in sales tax in the next two fiscal years in light of unemployment soaring to 13 percent (up from 4 percent in 2019) as well as an 80-percent decrease in hotel occupancy taxes and the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of gaming sites across the state.

Furthermore, NYSAC forecasts that state reimbursement cuts of at least 20 percent will cost counties outside of New York City more than $670 million a year.

While acknowledging that the NYSAC figures are worse-case scenarios, Gsell said Genesee County officials are “looking at it from the standpoint of what have we experienced so far in the quarters of sales tax payments that we have seen since the beginning of this calendar year” and hope for federal support.

“If the McConnell bill somehow survives, and I hope to gosh it doesn’t, that will engender the State of New York to start doing across the board 20-percent cuts, if even that low percentage wise, in state reimbursements to county governments and other local governments,” he said. “That’s when some of the numbers you’re seeing here (in the NYSAC report) could be visited upon a county like Genesee in our budget. That’s why the governor has yet to institute his across the board reimbursements that he was given the power to do when the state budget was adopted.”

June 25, 2020 - 3:18pm

In a rare piece of positive financial news during the COVID-19 pandemic, Genesee County is in line for a $23,525 weekly savings in Medicaid costs through next March.

“We are finally getting what we have been waiting for (since the first Federal Stimulus bill),” said County Manager Jay Gsell in response to the state Division of Budget’s announcement of the disbursement of $323 million in enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage funds to counties.

The funds were part of the Families First Coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by the President in March and are earmarked for states and counties to help them in the midst of the novel coronavirus.

Gsell said all counties were notified today via a letter and a note to county treasurers that “80 percent of the money will be coming to us via our adjustment in our weekly shares.”

That reduces the county’s weekly shares of Medicaid from $177,332 to $153,807 – a difference of $23,525 – starting with the first week of July 2020 and running through March 31, 2021.

Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, thanked Sen. Charles Schumer for his continued advocacy to provide enhanced federal funding for New York State’s Medicaid Program.

“Senator Schumer has a long history of fighting for enhanced federal Medicaid assistance at times we needed it most, including after the tragedy of 9/11, during The Great Recession, as part of the Affordable Care Act, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Acquario said in a press release. “These valiant efforts have provided the state and county taxpayers with billions of dollars in relief over this period of time.”

In a related development, NYSAC today put out another press release, renewing its call for federal coronavirus funding for states and counties in light of a new report from Moody’s Analytics that projects an additional 4 million layoffs from states and local governments across the nation.

According to the release:

“The report, detailed in recent news accounts, underscores the need for Congress and the President to act on an additional federal stimulus package that provides direct funding for states and local governments facing unprecedented funding shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.”

May 12, 2020 - 7:42pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Federal Stimulus, NYSAC, covid-19.

Update: May 13, 9:30 a.m.

Congressional Democrats reportedly are proposing the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act -- a $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that includes additional $1,200 checks for individuals (up to $6,000 per family) and $915 billion for states and local governments.

In addition, the extra $600 a week federal unemployment benefit would be extended through Jan. 31, 2021, under the proposal. That extra payment was supposed to run out at the end of July.

The bill would also provide:

  • $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, such as grocery store employees and health care personnel;

  • $75 billion toward more coronavirus testing;

  • Send $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service;

  • Add $10 billion to the Payroll Protection Program meant to help businesses and especially underserved businesses and nonprofit organizations;

  • $3.6 billion for local officials to prepare for pandemic-era voting challenges in November;

  • $600 million to police departments for salaries and equipment

  • $600 million for state and federal prisons;

  • Provide $100 billion to hospitals and health care providers to cover costs, with a special focus on health care entities in low-income communities.

The New York State Association of Counties is applauding the proposal.

“The federal stimulus proposal introduced today includes funding allocations that have been championed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and the entire NY Congressional delegation. This essential funding is necessary for essential public employees to provide essential services to stamp out COVID-19 and begin the process of reopening communities," said NYSAC President John F. Marren in a statement.

"County leaders commend House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and Speaker Pelosi for beginning the negotiating process by introducing this important legislation. We thank New York’s bipartisan congressional delegation for fighting to help New Yorkers survive and thrive during the pandemic."

April 22, 2020 - 11:36am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, NYSAC, covid-19, Federal Stimulus.

The executive director of the New York State Association of Counties has issued an “urgent plea” to federal lawmakers to allocate funds to states and local governments severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a press videoconference this morning, Stephen J. Acquario said New York and its counties are facing hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and need Congress and the President to pass legislation immediately.steve20acquario.jpg

“We are issuing an urgent plea not to give up,” Acquario said, referring to the adoption of another federal stimulus bill. “We know and we’re confident that (this can happen) with the support of the Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (and) the New York delegation.

"And now we’re reporting the President of the United States Donald Trump has signaled support for state and local fiscal relief along with another couple of issues concerning infrastructure and rural broadband to be included.”

Acquario mentioned the Senate’s passage on Tuesday of a fourth wave of legislation to extend the small business payroll protection program as well as funds for health-care-related expenses, including state and local testing capacity, tracing and employer testing.

“All (are) very important, critical pieces of legislation," he said. "What is missing from this latest piece of federal funding is essential funding for lost revenue for the State of New York and the counties of New York. We are unique in the United States – the counties of New York – in what we do and what we provide and how we’re funded. Our reliance on sales tax is essential … (and) we have suffered tremendously.”

Acquario cited reports from Erie County that show a loss of $150 million in economic activity, with sales tax projections dropping, and from Long Island that show $200 million in lost revenue.

He also said that NYSAC seeks funding for rural cellular service improvements in tandem with an infrastructure bill.

Acquario touched on several other topics during his 10-minute presentation:

-- Noting the cooperation among New York and neighboring states, he said that New York’s counties will be “part of and leading the regional Mid-Atlantic northeastern portion … in coordinating with nearly 300 county governments."

“We’re going to be setting up a program – Think Regional and Act Local,” he said. “By bringing the best practices from the epicenter of the United States – New York City, the lower Hudson Valley counties and Long Island and other areas -- and sharing those best practices of what we did during the pandemic, we can further support and supplement Governor Cuomo’s efforts to protect this region of the United States, enabling it a better chance to reopen and re-emerge.”

The new partnership reportedly will be called the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic County Coronavirus Coalition.

-- Reporting that Schumer has secured federal funding at the 100 percent level for Federal Emergency Management Agency-relate expenses.

“This is very important for the State of New York and for the counties that are submitting for FEMA reimbursement for personnel, supplies, equipment – this includes repurposing buildings, temporary medical facilities and temporary shelter facilities – repurpose buildings, shortage, temporary morgues, temporary storage of human remains and disposal costs of medical waste,” he said.

-- Sharing details of the “regional reopening of New York” as announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.

“The number of cases in the State of New York continue to hover around 63 to 65 percent in the City of New York, 21 percent in the two counties on Long Island – Nassau and Suffolk – about 8 percent in the Lower Hudson Valley counties of Rockland and Westchester. Then if you project out to the 53 other counties, it’s about 7 percent is the rate of infection,” he said. “That is the testing data that we have.”

Acquario said the regional reopening approach hinges upon meeting certain criteria, such as hospital capacities of 25 percent above normal capacity being in place in that hospital's region of the state, and that there has been fewer than 10 new COVID positive hospital admissions within the last 10 days.

“So, elective surgeries can resume in those areas of the state where those protocols are in place,” he said.

-- Recognizing the work of county officials across all departments who are responding to the COVID-19 situation and showed a public service announcement indicating as such.

April 20, 2020 - 12:27pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, NYSAC, covid-19.

“There are no good signs in our local economy right now, if you think about.”

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, who is paid not only to “think about” the local economy but also to “act upon” it, summed up the current situation today in light of a recent report by the New York State Association of Counties that predicts the county could lose between $1.8 million to $5.6 million in sales tax because of COVID-19.

Gsell echoed a phrase used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in describing what looms ahead.

“I keep using the same term that I hear the governor say, ‘the new normal,’ and it’s not a good ‘new normal.’ It’s quite the mixed bag,” he said.

Full year projections in the NYSAC report estimate that sales tax revenues in Genesee County would decrease by $1.8 million – or 4.5 percent – in a “mild” scenario and by $5.6 million – or 13.7 percent – in a “severe” scenario.

In both cases, industries related to tourism, recreation and restaurants are the hardest hit.

“We’re in a shutdown through May 15 and for every two-week period, NYSAC says the numbers are going to get moved further into the higher percentage of loss,” Gsell said. “They’ve been showing us numbers in terms of the overall impact on general parts of the whole sales tax portfolio … auto buying, electronics, gas stations, and all those percentages, with the exception of grocery stores, are in the 20 to 50 percent loss as far as sales as compared to the year prior.”

Gsell acknowledged that all levels of government are facing the same adverse effects.

“Albany, obviously, is seeing this type of thing as well because they get 4 percent of the 8 percent (sales tax). The state is seeing a precipitous drop in their revenue streams, not only in terms of sales tax but also state income tax, millionaires’ tax and mortgage tax,” he said.

Most recent financial data, for December through February, was favorable for the county, Gsell said, but statistics starting in March should tell quite a different story, Gsell said.

“We know that starting this month, which is a new quarter, that the kind of numbers that NYSAC is showing us as far as the various sectors of our economy are going to be negatively impacted. Then we will foresee the same kind of implication for our local sales tax proceeds.”

Statewide, the NYSAC report estimates the total loss to county sales tax revenue in the “mild” scenario at about $350 million (excluding New York City) and in the “severe” scenario at $1 billion. Sales tax is the largest source of locally generated revenue in the average county, accounting for 43 percent of local revenue.

Gsell said he and his staff are “focusing on how to maintain some semblance of our county budget and how to deal with the issues with regard to our own workforce and the services that we provide.”

Auto sales, for example, have fallen dramatically, putting a huge dent in the sales tax budget.

“We’re basically doing just some of the mail-ins and some of the limited car sales that are occurring over the internet,” he said. “The dealers used to bring to us 60 and 70 allotments a week have trickled down to almost nothing. Something as revenue-driven as the county auto bureau under the county clerk’s office could be seeing a significant change even in the future of the kind of business that we have over there.”

He said the county is waiting for its share of the federal stimulus money to help with its weekly Medicaid costs.

“The state has gotten two of their federal Medicaid advances already since that stimulus package was voted on, passed and signed and we haven’t seen a dime yet,” he said.

Looking ahead, Gsell said he believes the recession (to whatever degree) is going to be with us through the end of the year – and he also is wary of a second bout of the coronavirus.

“If that starts to come back and they talk about another wave potentially in September, how do you go out and say, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to pay attention to that. We don’t care what the governor says and therefore, let’s have our economy start coming back,’ ” he said. “That to me is the height of folly.”

Estimated March 2020 Sales Compared to March 2019, U.S. Census Bureau
-- Motor vehicles & parts dealers -- Down 23.7 percent
-- Furniture & home furniture stores -- Down 24.6 percent
-- Gasoline stations -- Down 18 percent
-- Clothing & clothing accessories -- Down 50.7 percent
-- Sporting goods, hobby, music, etc. -- Down 22.7  percent
-- Department stores -- Down 23.9 percent
-- Miscellaneous store retailers -- Down 4.9 percent
-- Food service & drinking places -- Down 23.0 percent

April 11, 2020 - 9:28am
posted by Billie Owens in NYSAC, news, covid-19.

From the New York State Association of Counties:

The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) on Thursday sent a letter to the New York Congressional Delegation today calling on congress to swiftly pass a fourth stimulus bill that provides additional funding for counties and the State of New York. 

Specifically, the counties are supporting Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s request seeking an increase in federal Medicaid assistance and unrestricted federal funding to address lost revenue and an increase in need for social services provided through New York’s counties.

“Through our public health department hero’s, first responders, and the social service workers helping families cope with the economic devastation of COVID-19, counties are on the front lines of this crisis,” said NYSAC President John F. Marren.

“Today, we are thanking our congressional delegation for their support and leadership, and we are asking them to support the Governor’s request for additional federal assistance so that counties can continue providing services through this crisis.”

Counties are looking for support for funding and administering a wide array of social services—TANF, HEAP, child support, child welfare services and adult protective services—that are of increasingly vital importance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the acute economic slowdown brought on by social distancing.

“Whether it’s the heroic doctors, nurses and staff of our local health departments, our first responders or the social service providers who are helping families as they cope with the economic devastation of COVID-19, counties are on the front lines of this crisis,” Marren said.

“While counties are grateful for the support we’ve received from the New York Delegation, the depth and length of this crisis is placing incredible strain on our local governments and we need swift, additional assistance from the federal government to continue providing the services our residents depend on.”

Services administered and/or funded by counties in New York (which are unique in the nation) include:

  • Medicaid-administered and funded by counties;
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – Administered by counties;
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) – Administered by counties through their public health departments;
  • Safety Net Assistance – Counties administer and fund 71 percent;
  • Child Care – Subsidized by some counties in New York;
  • Child Support Enforcement – Administered by counties;
  • Early Intervention and Pre-School Special Education – Counties in New York contribute roughly 50 percent of the total cost to each program;
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – Counties play a large role in paying for and coordinating services;
  • Preschool Special Education Programs – Counties and NYC spend about $800 million per year on this program;
  • Summer School Special Education Program – Counties contribute roughly 10 percent, roughly $40 million annually.

“The federal support is critical during these extraordinary times, and we urge the federal government to move quickly to pass a fourth piece of recovery legislation that provides direct support to the state and to the local governments in the form of increased Medicaid funding and unrestricted aid,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario.

“We are one New York, and the state’s ask to the federal government ought to be supported by the thousands of local government elected officials. We are partnering with the state in solidarity to get the assistance New York needs.”

April 28, 2010 - 3:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, nursing home, NYSAC.

Genesee County isn't the only county in New York struggling with what to do with its nursing home in an era of skyrocketing costs and dwindling resources.

All 36 counties in the state with nursing homes are facing the same issues, according to a press release from the New York State Association of Counties.

“We need to address following questions. Should counties be in the long-term care business? If the answer to that question is yes, then we need to develop funding formulas or financing mechanisms that do not require annual property tax increases to keep them open,” said NYSAC President Tom Santulli.

The NYSAC statement says:

Counties are in a crisis and are confronted with unique challenges with the health and fiscal stability of public nursing homes. Those challenges include complying with the unfunded mandates such as Wicks Law and contributing to growing public employee pension rates and healthcare costs.

To help counties address the issues, NYSAC is hosting a nursing home summit May 25 in Ulster County. The summit will address:

  • Long term care reimbursement and the NYS budget crisis,
  • The current fiscal health of county nursing homes in New York State,
  • Challenges of operating a county-owned nursing facility,
  • Analysis of the state’s population demographics, relative to housing needs, and
  • Alternatives to institutional long-term care including home/community-based alternatives.

The press release concludes:

“County-owned nursing homes are in state of transition. The state’s indecisiveness about the role of counties in long-term care, and their temporary fixes are not solving the problems we are facing. They are Band-Aids but they are not addressing the structural deficiencies,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of NYSAC.

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