Coronavirus News: Lawmakers urge Town of Hempstead to share stimulus money

Originally published in WABC-TV on May 12, 2020.

LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Senators from Long Island and those with the Long Island congressional delegation are calling upon the Town of Hempstead to share the $133 million the town received in federal stimulus money with Nassau County and villages within the town. The county only received $103 million and some of the smaller villages received none.

"This is great that the town got this money, but let's direct the money to the entities who actually expended the most money to address COVID," Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-Nassau County) said.

In order to receive money through the CARES Act, municipalities must have more than 500,000 residents.

The Town of Hempstead is the largest town in the United States with approximately 800,000 residents, which is more than half of the population of Nassau County.

The stimulus money can be used only for expenses related to fighting the coronavirus like testing, costs associated with morgues and the health, corrections, police and emergency services departments.

Last week, several Long Island senators sent a letter to Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin requesting he allocate sufficient funding from the stimulus money to the town's villages, which were ineligible to receive funding because they do not meet the minimum resident requirement.

"Village mayors are concerned that their expenditures during this period, coupled with a dramatic decrease in revenue, will leave them in a dire financial situation and may lead to raising taxes on their hardworking residents," the letter said. "You have the power and the means to significantly alleviate their burden."

One senator who sent the letter, Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau County), told Eyewitness News, "We just want to make sure that there's a transparent process in place to ensure that money is going to where it's needed most and that those who bore and are bearing the most responsibility for fighting COVID are going to be made whole."
Clavin Tuesday would not commit to sharing the money with Nassau County.

"This money was based on the population here in the town and we're going to make sure it's utilized here for the town residents for their safety," he said.

The town has formed an Economic Relief Advisory Committee which, "will ensure funding is allocated in ways that expedite the Town's economic recovery leading to the best possible outcome for its residents," according to a May 5 press release.

After receiving input from the advisory committee, the town distributed $2 million of the stimulus money to Long Island Cares to operate 14 food banks within the town.

Rice said she confirmed with officials with the United States Department of Treasury that the town has the authority to distribute the money to Nassau County and other municipalities.

"I think the town supervisor at the end of the day will recognize that the best expenditure to help the people in his town is to help the mayors and all these constituents so that they don't have to start cutting services, essential services," she said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday she's been having good conversations with Clavin about the money.

"We're going to make sure, we're going to work together and get it spent right and get it spent for COVID-related expenses," Curran said.

Clavin said he is willing to continue speaking with Curran, leaders of other municipalities and lawmakers about the money.

"We'll work with everybody at every level of government during this time," he said.