From the Desk of Scott Davis: What the American Rescue Plan Act means for you 

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From the Desk of Scott Davis: What the American Rescue Plan Act means for you 

By Scott M. Davis

In recent months, you have likely heard a great deal about the American Rescue Plan Act and the hundreds of millions of dollars that Nassau County has received through this initiative.

ARPA is a $ 1.9 trillion economic relief package enacted by the federal government on March 21, 2021.

Funds were awarded with the intent of promoting economic recovery, delivering direct relief to Americans adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuring that local municipalities are well-resourced to continue in the delivery of essential services.

Nassau County received $385 million in ARPA funding.

In accordance with the law, those funds must be allocated by the end of this year and expended by Dec. 31, 2026. As of Feb. 5, the County has allocated and spent approximately $86.4 million, according to the Federal ARPA Funding Tracker and internal financial reports.

During the Jan. 25 legislative session, we addressed County Executive Blakeman’s proposal to allocate more than $262 million of approximately $299 million in remaining funds, with $222 million going to the county’s general fund for revenue replacement, $25 million for water/sewer infrastructure, and $15 million to be distributed among the 19 legislative districts.

Before I took office, the county executive and the legislative majority allocated $10 million to promote tourism related to Nassau County’s 125th anniversary.

In both instances, the Republican Majority voted unanimously to approve this proposal, and the Democratic minority voted unanimously against approval.

I voted against these proposed allocations for several reasons. While revenue replacement is permissible under ARPA expenditure guidelines, I believe that $222 million for that purpose is far too much, especially when you consider that Nassau County has reserves of over $733 million besides the ARPA funds.

Greater consideration should be given to prioritizing the needs of residents and utilizing more of these funds to deliver direct relief to Nassau County residents.

Considering the substantial amount of available ARPA funds, it would be feasible to increase the allocation to the legislators for their respective districts without diminishing a substantial amount of available funds.

I advocated, to no avail, for at least $19 million, which would have been just a $4 million increase.

As a result of our daily constituent work, I believe that each of the 19 Legislators are most aware of the immediate and pressing needs of their respective districts and know what organizations are best positioned to provide assistance and be good stewards of these resources.

Additionally, allocation of funds must not be political.

When asked during the legislative session whether the allocation of these funds would be equal, Presiding Officer Kopel declined to make such an assurance, meaning that Legislative District 1 has not been given a say in how much or in what proportion these funds will be allocated.

Then there is the issue of the county’s use of $10 million in ARPA funds to promote tourism and events related to the 125th anniversary celebration.

Again, while this is legally permissible, this money is better spent directly on the residents.

Moreover, if funds are allocated for this purpose, there should be a demonstrable, data-based connection between the amount of money spent and projected revenue from increased tourism.

There should also be an effort to forge public/private partnerships to help defray costs.

The common thread that runs through all of this is our priorities as a governing body.

Nassau County’s infrastructure, including its roads and drinking water and sewer systems, are in desperate need of updating and repair. Utilizing $25 million in ARPA funds for these purposes means less tax revenue needs to be expended for those purposes.

The level of urgency shown for these issues, as well as revenue replacement and tourism promotion, must also be applied to funding essential programs and services for those most affected by the ravages of the pandemic.

We also continue to face tremendous challenges in the realm of affordability.

Thoughtful and well-planned utilization of these resources gives us an opportunity to provide services to the community using funds that are not drawn from the County budget. Such an approach defrays costs and helps keep a lid on the cost of living in Nassau County.

Having failed to demonstrate a comprehensive and equitable approach for allocating ARPA funds to address these issues, I could not in good conscience vote to approve the requested allocation of ARPA funds. We can – and must – do better.

Scott Davis, of Rockville Centre, was elected in 2023 to represent the Nassau County Legislature’s First District.

 

 

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