U.S. Treasury Department investigating Hempstead Town's use of CARES funding

John Asbury for Newsday

December 19, 2020

Originally published in Newsday on December 19, 2020.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury told Long Island representatives they would investigate how the Town of Hempstead allocated federal CARES funding, including $70 million in payroll expenses.

The Treasury’s Deputy Inspector General Richard K. Delmar issued a letter Friday that the inspector general’s office is investigating questions raised by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and four Long Island state senators: Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), John Brooks (D-Seaford) and Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck).

Hempstead was the only town in the country to receive funding under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act stimulus package, when they were awarded $133 million based on its population of 800,000 residents, making up more than half of Nassau County’s 1.3 million population.

Nassau County received $103 million, which county officials said was spent on first responders and the county’s Department of Health in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Curran and other officials urged the town to give at least $50 million to the county to cover additional police expenses.

The town gave about $28 million to food banks, hospitals for testing sites, universities and villages since May, but allocated $74 million to town operations at its final town board meeting earlier this month. Funding included $43 million for the town sanitation department and $17 million to its general services, which they said covered payroll for public health and public safety during the pandemic.

"Treasury . . . [inspector general] is contacting the Town of Hempstead to obtain the information needed to evaluate its use of . . . [CARES] funds, and to obtain answers to the questions raised in your letter," Delmar wrote to Rice and other representatives. "We will keep you and your co-requesters advised of developments."

Hempstead town officials said they would work with the Treasury and supply any information needed. They accused the county of seeking funds to balance its budget.

"Our Township’s government has already scheduled meetings with the Department of the Treasury to demonstrate to the federal officials and the Nassau County Executive the proper utilization of its CARES funding," Town spokesman Greg Blower said in a statement.

Several local officials said they were glad to see the Treasury act before the Dec. 30 deadline for the money to be spent.

"It’s critical that this money is being used solely for COVID-19 relief expenses. I hope the investigation will proceed expeditiously and uncover any potential abuse," Rice said in a statement to Newsday. "Residents of the Town deserve to know how their government is spending their relief funding."