Mid-Hudson county leaders band together to call for federal COVID-19 relief aid

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MID-HUDSON – County executives from Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties joined forces on Thursday to call on the federal government to provide disaster relief aid to cover their massive expenses due to COVID-19.

As the county officials were pleading their case, Republican leadership in Washington said their proposed new stimulus bill will not provide funding for local governments.

The local officials said their budgets are cut to the bone and they need aid from Washington to help them get back on their feet. Without stimulus funding, counties will see massive cuts in the form of layoffs and loss of services, they said.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican, who lost his father to COVID-19, blasted his fellow party members in Washington for not stepping up to the plate and providing direct funding for localities.

“My party, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate and the president, have to summon the political courage to provide direct unrestricted aid to state and local governments,” he said. “When the president talks about, how patriotic it is to wear a mask, we are the ones distributing those masks. When the governor says prop up a test site, and make sure we have that infrastructure, it is county governments that are working with healthcare providers and in some cases, it is county governments, 1,000 of them across this country, that are administering the very hospitals where they are caring for people.”

He said his county is facing a $60 million loss at this point because of COVID-19.

Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan, a Democrat, called it “malpractice” for the Republicans in the Senate for not approving funding for localities in the next stimulus package.

“Not including state and local funding directly to county governments, it is not only irresponsible, it shows that those leaders in Washington are completely clueless,” he said.

Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, a Republican, said he has spent between $5 million and $10 million to purchase personal protective equipment for nursing homes, hospitals, first responders and emergency medical staff, as well stockpiling for an anticipated second wave of the virus later this year.

“I was in Iraq a year ago with a special operations team. This is no different. This is emergency management. This is fighting a combat operation and what we have dealt with is really unprecedented with county executives,” he said.

The county officials said they hope the Senate can come to terms with the House, which months ago adopted its HEROES Act stimulus package, and provided the much-needed aid for counties and localities.