Democratic state officials called on Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman to not discontinue a program that provides eligible households with $375 stimulus checks on Wednesday.
Blakeman, last month, cited “extremely low participation” as to why he plans to discontinue the Household Assistance Program on May 15.
Officials from the county comptroller’s office said more than 70,000 out of the eligible 400,000 households throughout Nassau County filed for the one-time direct payment.
A letter was sent to Blakeman urging him to better promote the program rather than simply ending it.
The letter was signed by Democratic state Sens. Anna Kaplan, John Brooks, Jim Gaughran and Kevin Thoms along with state Assemblymembers Gina Sillitti, Chuck Lavine, Michaelle Solages and Judy Griffin.
“With so many families still struggling, the county must keep this vital program going, and do its job to get the word out to eligible families,” the letter said. “Anything less would be a dereliction of duty to the people we represent.”
The funds for the program came from $100 million out of the $193 million in American Rescue Plan Act monies allocated to the county. The program was approved 18-1 in the Republican-controlled Legislature last fall.
Blakeman previously said he planned to retain the program, implemented by his predecessor Laura Curran, a Democrat, but pointed out that the initiative now “appears to be trickling out.”
The letter from Democrats cited recent increases to food and gasoline as a reason to enhance awareness about the initiative as opposed to discontinuing it. Officials also questioned why Blakeman would end the program without a plan to use the surplus funds the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“At a time when the cost of gas and so many common household goods has risen, Nassau families need relief more than ever,” the letter said. “It’sunconscionable that at a time like this you would choose to take money out of the pockets of taxpayers without even having a plan for how you will spend the money instead.”
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams previously said Blakeman’s elimination of the program was an example of his “undercutting efforts to deliver immediate, meaningful financial relief” to Nassau County households with a combined income of up to $500,000.
“Rather than pulling the rug out from under our residents, we should be redoubling our efforts to get these funds into the hands of eligible taxpayers and local businesses,” Abrahams said in a statement. “This is just the latest example of how the county executive and his administration are out of touch with the needs of Nassau County’s working families.”
For individuals who want to file for the one-time payment before the May 15 deadline, they must provide proof of suffering a negative economic impact from the pandemic to be eligible for the payment.
Documents such as receipts of unemployment benefits, food or housing insecurity, increased child-care expenses, coronavirus-related death expenses or unreimbursed remote work/learning expenses can be submitted through the Boost Nassau online portal.
The payments will only be sent to homeowners who already receive the state’s STAR or enhanced STAR exemptions, officials said.