U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and other members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus unveiled a “March to Common Ground” framework that is aimed at breaking the gridlock of passing a coronavirus relief package that prioritizes everyday people and essential services.
The new framework calls for new stimulus money and reallocation of funds previously appropriated in the CARES Act. Areas of need that were outlined in a release sent out by Suozzi’s office include state and local aid, coronavirus testing, small business, and non-profit support, food security, schools, and child care, and housing.
“This bipartisan proposal helps people, blunts the advance of the virus, and provides the necessary funding for our schools, and our state and local governments,” Suozzi said. “In our negotiations, we got 25 Republicans to agree to state and local aid, something that is of the utmost importance to me. As Democrats, we had to compromise as well.”
Suozzi and fellow U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) met with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran last week to call upon the federal government to provide financial relief to communities throughout Long Island and the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Democrats blocked a Republican-backed coronavirus relief bill that came with a price tag around $500 billion last Thursday, 52-47. The proposed legislation, according to Suozzi, did not provide sufficient financial aid to states, counties, localities, and schools.
“Everyday folks need help,” Suozzi said at a news conference. “The Senate’s current proposal is laughable as it contains zero relief for state and local governments. That is a non-starter. We need to get beyond partisanship and work together to find some common ground. This is about real people’s lives.”
Rice praised Curran’s efforts to steer Nassau County through the pandemic but said it was “completely outrageous” for her to do it with the financial amount that was allocated to the county.
“Mayors in the county have also made it very clear: without federal aid, they will be forced to cut back programs and services in education, transportation, infrastructure, and other vital areas,” Rice said. “It is shameful that it has come to this point. The House passed the HEROES Act back in May to provide nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, yet Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans failed to act and are still proposing no new federal aid despite the urgency of this crisis.”
“Refusing to fund state and local governments during a historic crisis will hurt Long Island with more job losses, businesses closing, and gutting of essential services needed more than ever,” Curran said. “We did our part throughout this crisis. Our frontline responders made enormous sacrifices. Hear us now.”
Lorraine Deller, executive director for the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, said it is imperative for schools to receive federal aid so budgets and resources do not have to be slashed even more than they already have been.
“As Long Island schools tackle the challenges of reopening in a safe, secure, and educationally sound environment this week, they are doing so under an additional burden and that is the withholding of their state aid payments,” Deller said.
The news conference was held nearly four months after the House of Representatives passed the Heroes Act, which includes a special fund of $49 billion provided to states based on a “rate of infection.” Suozzi said he estimates the legislation would generate between $10 billion to $12 billion for New York residents.
“New York state would get about $22 billion overall based on population and unemployment rates, but $12 billion is just from this special fund for $49 billion that I helped to advocate for,” Suozzi said in a May interview with Blank Slate Media.
Additionally, the act would eliminate the cap on the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes, an action sought by Suozzi and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
“When it comes to SALT, if you think Long Islanders needed and deserved this money before the coronavirus took hold, the stakes are even higher now because the cap is costing this community tens of thousands of dollars they could be using amid the crisis,” Schumer said.
The Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act, sponsored by Suozzi, would increase the tax deduction for state and local taxes in 2019 to $20,000 for individuals filing a joint tax return if the adjusted gross income of the taxpayer does not exceed $100 million.
The act would also eliminate the current $10,000 cap on the deduction in 2020 and 2021 except for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income exceeds $100 million.
Also featured in the Heroes Act is $87.5 billion allocated to municipalities with more than 500,000 residents and $37.5 billion for municipalities with less than 50,000 residents.
“Today we are sounding an alarm,” Suozzi said. “The Senate’s four months of inaction will crush our schools, our law enforcement, our state, and our local governments.”