Nassau Legislature OKs distribution of $262M in pandemic relief funds

Nassau Legislature OKs distribution of $262M in pandemic relief funds
The Nassau County Legislative building. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The Nassau County Legislature voted along party lines to designate more than $262 million of federal pandemic relief funds Monday, with most of the funds being placed in the county’s general fund.

“How we sit here and we don’t react to our constituents, it’s really bothering me on a very deep level,” Minority Leader Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said, referencing constituents advocating for greater funds for the community.

Her comments were met with applause from the members of the public attending the session.

The designation of these funds is split into three categories: about $222 million for the general fund, $15 million for nonprofit community organizations and $25 million for the county’s sewer and stormwater district.

The distribution of these funds passed 11-7 in the Legislature, with all Republicans present voting for the resolution and all Democrats voting against it. District 10 Legislator Mazi Pilip was not present for the vote.

The county’s Minority Caucus members argued that the county needed to allocate more than $15 million to nonprofits. They contended that amount was inadequate and not much more than what the county allocated for its anniversary celebrations this year, asking for a bump to $19 million which was not granted.

DeRiggi-Whitton said allocating $19 million for nonprofits would give each of the 19 legislators $1 million to then designate in their district where needed.

“This is what that money was for,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “There’s a food bank in Glen Cove that would save. There are youth boroughs, there are seniors, there are mental health groups that could benefit. This is what that money is for. This $19 million out of $266 million is such a small percentage.”

She criticized the county’s budget director, Andrew Persich, who presented the fund allocations.

“I’m starting to lose faith,” the minority leader told Persich, “because I really feel like you’ll swing with whatever the mood is of what has to get done.”

DeRiggi-Whitton said during the legislative meeting that she was hopeful over the weekend the county would come to a “good faith agreement” on these funds, but that did not happen. She said her hopes to work with the Presiding Officer Howard Kopel in negotiating and finding compromises have dwindled.

Before the vote was taken, DeRigi-Whitton urged her fellow legislators across the aisle to change their minds on voting for the fund allocation.

The county reported about $455 million in revenue losses due to the pandemic.

Nassau County received $385 million in ARPA, or pandemic relief, funds from the federal government in 2021. These funds can only be used within the federal government’s permitted uses to combat the results of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the county’s pandemic relief funds have already been spent or allocated, including $10 million recently approved by the legislature to be spent on the county’s 125th-anniversary celebrations. This resolution was passed along party lines as well, with Democrats criticizing the county executive’s use of the funds for a celebration and not for impacted businesses and individuals.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman justified the use of the funds for the county’s anniversary to boost tourism, which is a permitted use of the federal pandemic relief funds.

The county also spent $28 million under former County Executive Laura Curran to send direct payments of $375 to households in the county and $30 million for a small business grant program focused on bolstering main streets.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the county had obligated about $86 million of the federal funds so far and appropriated about $118 million.

​​The county has until the end of 2024 to allocate the federal COVID-19 relief funds and until the end of 2026 to spend them. If it does not meet those deadlines, the county will be forced to return the money.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here