Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued another “urgent plea” on Thursday for Congress to provide federal disaster relief to counties as they deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout.
Mr. Bellone, who raised the concerns during a trip to Washington D.C. last week alongside Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, said it would be “unconscionable” for county governments and local taxpayers to be left with the bill after the local governments followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce density.
“This burden should not fall squarely on or exclusively on the shoulders of local taxpayers, first responders and essential employees,” he said during a virtual press conference with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Mr. Bellone urged Senator Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans to “get serious on delivering the appropriate and justified level of disaster assistance to state and localities.”
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also held a press conference Thursday to discuss the latest negotiations on a fifth coronavirus relief package.
Ms. Pelosi said she sees a light at the end of the tunnel, “but we don’t know how long the tunnel is.”
She said she believes the administration and Republicans “do not understand the gravity of the situation and hence have not taken the action to stop the spread of the virus.”
Mr. Schumer said Mr. McConnell has continued to hit pause on the negotiations and chastised President Trump for lack of leadership during the crisis.
“They want to get away with as little as possible, so their right-wing ideologues who don’t want to spend any government money will not be angry with them,” Mr. Schumer said.
In a statement July 30, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who’s a member of the bipartisan Coronavirus Task Force and White House Opening Up American Again Congressional Group, called for additional state and local funding in additional coronavirus relief legislation.
“Since the beginning of the outbreak of coronavirus, I have supported additional funding for state and local governments, especially in the CARES Act, and I support adding even more funding in this next coronavirus response bill being negotiated,” Mr. Zeldin said. “On Long Island, every level of government, from village hall up, is working together to deliver the resources our communities need, and our colleagues in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, should take note.”
Mr. Bellone spoke Thursday about the additional consequences of the pandemic, such as a rise in opioid-related deaths after two years of declines, increased calls for mental health services, domestic violence shelters at capacity, and the increased demand for meals for seniors.
“COVID-19 has only made the problems that existed before the virus even worse,” he said. “It is the counties that are the forefront of those challenges.”
He said the pandemic is no different than any other national disaster and the federal government should step up to provide the necessary relief, particularly at a time when schools are planning to reopen.
“We need Washington to get this done,” Mr. Bellone said.