Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said he intends to spend the more than $100 million remaining in federal funds given to the town from the CARES Act by the end of the year.
“We’re going to utilize these funds for what they’re intended: for Hempstead residents and based on the population and for the benefit for town residents,” Clavin said in an interview with Newsday last week.
Due to the population threshold of 500,000 to apply to the federal aid program in response to COVID-19, Hempstead was the only town in Nassau County to receive funding. The county received $103 million of its own in federal funding, to be used toward county police and emergency services, the Department of Health, corrections facilities and other operations.
The towns of North Hempstead and Oyster Bay did not receive funding through the CARES Act.
According to U.S. Treasury guidelines, the funding must be allocated to COVID-19 related expenses by Dec. 30. While Clavin said he will spend the money by then, he will also talk to the Treasury Department about a possible extension since other municipalities are asking for a share of the money.
Clavin did not say how he intends to use the remainder of the funds.
According to town records, Hempstead has allocated nearly $29 million worth of federal funding, with a majority being put toward hospitals, colleges, food banks, town costs and the county’s Industrial Development Agency, which has organized programs and initiatives to aid local businesses and municipalities during the pandemic.
The town allocated nearly $2 million to villages, local fire departments, United Way, the Long Island Children’s Museum, and the United Cerebral Palsy Association.
With the funds, the town was able to establish pop-up food banks, offer free personal protective equipment kits, and provide comprehensive coronavirus testing and education programs through Northwell Health.
“Other governments are in fiscal free fall due to the impacts of the pandemic as well as a failure to budget conservatively and build adequate budgetary reserves as a bulwark against financial crises like this pandemic,” Clavin said.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran has continued to criticize Clavin’s lack of willingness to donate some of the funds to Nassau County.
“As Nassau County and New York State see an increase in COVID-19 cases, it is critical that local police departments, fire districts, schools, towns and cities have access to unused CARES funding to fight this pandemic,” Curran said last week. “Without these resources, our local governments may be unable to buy the supplies and services they need as Nassau County faces a surge in cases.”
Curran sent a letter last week that requested the town provide $50 million to fund county expenses, the county’s Police Department, and other first responders, who have been on the front lines of the pandemic for nearly nine months. Curran also accused Clavin of using the funding to develop a “public relations campaign” for town officials.
Clavin said the funding that the county received was used to “plug holes in its budget.” The county faces a debt of $360 million over the next two years as a result of lost revenue due to the pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) also criticized Clavin for not helping meet the county’s heightened expenses and advised the supervisor to spend the money before the federal government takes it back, according to Newsday.
“He shouldn’t desperately be trying to find things to spend money on,” Rice told Newsday. “It’s going to go away and there will be no words, but to give $100 million back to the federal government. Shame on him.”
Representatives across Long Island have been clamoring for Clavin to distribute the money since the town received it in May.
Rice, along with fellow Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), and Long Beach City Manager Donna Gayden released a statement asking that Hempstead turn over the federal funding to the county in May.
“We’re pleased that the Town of Hempstead has received funding through the CARES Act, but given that the County has spearheaded the response and incurred the largest share of related costs, we feel strongly that the Town’s funding should be made available to both the County as well as the Town’s municipalities, who have been most affected by this crisis,” they wrote.