The fight over a $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that includes aid for county and lower-level municipalities could last for weeks while those smaller governments inch closer to insolvency.
On Thursday, House Democrats introduced the HEROES Act, which would allot $375 billion to help local governments fill massive funding shortfalls brought on by the pandemic.
Unlike the last round of federal funding for local governments, the HEROES Act would provide funding to governments serving populations of all sizes. Only governments serving populations of at least 500,000 are eligible for emergency money under the CARES Act passed in April.
Several local governments have projected multi-million-dollar shortfalls and have floated the possibility of insolvency without federal assistance.
“It appears like it’s going to be a month-long negotiation in Washington to determine what’s going to be in the next round of stimulus,” Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors, said Thursday after learning the bill’s details. “We think, at the top of the list needs to be funding for local governments and state governments.”
New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers said his government is facing several challenges: property tax revenue may decrease; revenue from water usage is down because SUNY students are gone, and several businesses are closed or restricted; and parking enforcement revenue will drop from a planned $500,000 to almost zero.
In all, the village could have a $2.2 million shortfall in its 2020-2021 budget, Rogers said, and expending unreserved funds would narrow the gap to about $700,000.
Aside from laying off one full-time and two part-time parking enforcement officers, village leaders are not making high-stakes moves until they receive more solid revenue figures next month and explore all options for federal aid.
“I think what we’re trying to do is be fairly conservative and not aggressively lay staff off just because we have some nerve-wracking projections,” Rogers said during a Zoom interview Tuesday.