The hardship from our weeks of quarantine with COVID-19 impacts continues to wreak havoc on our local economy. We hear about the V recovery, the Nike swish, the dreaded W from virus reinfection rates shutting us down again, and a repeat of the 2008 long L recovery. The economists have an alphabet soup and no crystal ball.
We are experiencing unemployment at levels last seen only during the Great Depression. To see the true financial impact this disease has caused, one only has to look to the thousands of residents each week who are forced to line up in their cars and inch toward food banks. The pain is being felt all around. Sales tax revenues have plummeted, leading Nassau County government to recently estimate a budget deficit of at least $384 million.
Early actions to help taxpayers included delaying second half school taxes to give property owners breathing room and introducing a moratorium on evictions so people do not find themselves homeless during a pandemic. My administration is currently focused on helping our business community stay safe by investing half a million dollars with support from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency to provide small businesses and nonprofits with personal protective equipment. The program was so successful, it was expanded. And we just launched “Boost Nassau,” a loan program for small businesses that missed out on receiving aid from federally backed programs like the paycheck protection program.
While Nassau County progresses through the various stages of reopening and begins to rebuild consumer confidence to ensure a safe return to some semblance of normalcy, the federal government can and should step up to help us. The House of Representatives drafted the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It provides state and local fiscal relief, an increase in Medicaid funding, additional disproportionate share payments to hospitals like Nassau University Medical Center, and extension of unemployment benefits. Each bucket of funding is essential.
The HEROES Act puts forth comprehensive funding packages that all state and local governments, residents, and taxpayers need. But it sits without action in the United States Senate. We need passage of the HEROES Act immediately. Without the revenue recovery dollars from the HEROES Act, Nassau County faces drastic budget balancing actions for the second half of this year and 2021: shutting down some services, reducing others, and borrowing for operating expenses. These are all terrible options. Without federal government relief, vital services will face harmful reductions. The alarm bells are ringing loudly for state and local governments.
We call on the federal government to act now. We listened and stayed indoors when national and state emergencies were declared. Please hear us now and pass the HEROES Act.
Laura Curran is the Nassau County executive. She previously worked as a journalist for several decades.