BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Congressman Anthony Brindisi spoke with Broome County leaders about the next COVID-19 relief package on Thursday.
Joined by Broome County Executive Jason Garnar, Broome County Legislature Chairman Dan Reynolds and New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Brindisi outlined the federal relief plan drafted by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
Brindisi is a member of the caucus and served on the working committee which drafted the $1.5 trillion relief plan. Its provisions include $100 billion for health care costs and testing related to COVID-19; $145 billion for schools and child care; $316 billion for individuals and families through funding for services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
With small businesses closing, and local governments and schools facing state aid cuts, Brindisi said the relief package is needed as soon as possible.
“I don’t want to wait until after the election to do this, I think we need help now,” he said.
Brindisi is up for election this November in New York’s 22nd Congressional district, which includes parts of the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley. On October 22, he will debate Republican candidate Claudia Tenney and Libertarian candidate Keith Price on WSKG Radio and Television.
President Donald Trump paused negotiations on the package last week, but days later the White House released a new $1.8 trillion plan.
The Problem Solvers’ plan is smaller, at $1.5 trillion dollars, while Democratic House leadership passed a $2.2 trillion plan.
Broome County officials thanked Brindisi for his work securing the funds. Garnar said the county needs more assistance so it can fill over 300 vacant positions. They include 260 full-time positions left in limbo by a hiring freeze.
Local leaders also stressed the need to free up restricted funds included in the CARES Act.
Broome County Legislator Dan Reynolds told Brindisi the county has an excess of money allocated in the CARES Act for transportation. He said that money can fund other state-mandated services, but federal constraints prohibit the reallocation.
“That, again, is putting us in a position now where we have to borrow just to cover the costs for things like that when we have a pile of money from the federal government that came in on things like the CARES Act that was just too restrictive,” Reynolds said. “We appreciate it, don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly needed, but it would have been helpful to have a little more flexibility.”
Other local leaders on the call, like Town of Union Supervisor Rick Matarese, stressed the need to fund an expansion of broadband internet access.
“Not just improving the speed, but having access to it,” Matarese said. “We have a lot of kids who have no access to broadband and in this time, when people are doing distance-learning, it’s a very difficult situation.”
Brindisi said he wants to use the next relief package to give localities more flexibility with already allocated funds from the CARES Act and protect them from cuts in state aid.