SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) is asking congressional leaders to provide direct aid for county governments in the next COVID-19 package. City and county governments are being hit hard by the loss of sales tax revenue. As a member of the White House task force for reopening the economy, Katko said he’s pushing for grant funding for police, firefighters and the Community Development Block Grant, which funds affordable housing, anti-poverty and infrastructure programs.
“We’re not here to plug preexisting state budget gaps or preexisting local budget gaps,” Katko said. “But we are here to try and help them, based on direct COVID-related impacts that they’ve had.”
As states begin to reopen and lift stay-at-home orders, and federal social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus expire, Katko said it’s up to state and local governments to determine what works best for their area.
Katko and North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) were appointed to the White House task force for reopening the economy. Katko said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a good example why the federal government should defer to state and local governments on reopening.
“He looked at New York City and said no, they’re not ready to reopen and do elective surgeries yet,” Katko said. “But upstate New York, yeah, you are. He understands those differences, even in New York State.”
The White House does have guidelines on states and regions reopening, which includes a 14-day downward trajectory of documented COVID-19 cases. Katko said that also needs to be reinforced by making sure there is ample testing and contact tracing capabilities.
“That’s going to really dictate how quickly we can reopen things safely,” Katko said. “That’s really, really important.”
$25 billion was included in the last stimulus bill passed by Congress for testing and contact tracing and Katko said there probably needs to be more.