Rep. Maloney, Mid-Hudson County Executives Agree Region’s Economy Ready for Reopening
John Jordan | May 2020
NEWBURGH—During a virtual press conference focused on the merits of the Heroes Act passed by Congress recently, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and the county executives of Westchester, Orange and Dutchess counties agreed that the Mid-Hudson region’s economy should be re-opened by New York State soon.
The online event on Thursday featured in addition to the Democratic Congressman who represents the 18th District, Republican Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus, Democratic Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Republican Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.
“I personally think that phase one should have started already in Orange County. I have a lot of double standards here that I have been very frustrated with in the county. You have for instance, Target being able to open in my county—some Targets that don’t even have food. But Main Street curbside pickup is closed,” Neuhaus said. “That’s a double standard and that is not fair.”
He added, “I have massive construction work—housing construction—in some areas of my county dubbed ‘affordable housing,’ but regular ‘Mom and Pop’ contractors can’t work.”
Neuhaus said that all the Mid-Hudson’s numbers (in connection with hospitalizations, intubations and COVID-related deaths) are all going down and that Orange County and the Mid-Hudson should qualify for reopening very soon.
The first phase of the reopening loosens restrictions imposed back in March on the construction and manufacturing industries, as well as the wholesale supply chain. In addition, certain retail operations can be expanded for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup. The phase one designation also affects the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.
County Executive Molinaro stressed that while there was initial frustration over the state measuring compliance as a region rather than individual counties, he said, “That conversation is over.” The counties are lumped together as a region and the region is now being measured based on the seven benchmarks. At press time, the Mid-Hudson currently qualifies for five out of the seven benchmarks.
“All seven (county executives) in the Mid-Hudson feel we have achieved the mission of flattening the hospital curve and that at least attaining that next step toward the very small incremental (reopening) of phase one small businesses is achievable now,” Molinaro added.
Westchester County Executive Latimer said that he understands the frustration of some more rural Mid-Hudson counties like Ulster, Orange and Dutchess seeing other similar areas in the state be allowed to re-open, but because of metrics in more populous Mid-Hudson counties, still have most businesses shuttered under the “New York at Pause” regulations imposed on March 22.
Latimer said he is concerned with the impact the reopening of adjacent Fairfield County, CT might have on Westchester County in coming days and weeks as some Westchester residents travel over the Connecticut border to dine in Greenwich and Stamford.
“As far as I am concerned I think as a region we are there (qualifying for phase one of the reopening). We have all contributed to an element of this and I want to see Steve (Neuhaus); Marcus (Molinaro); MaryEllen (Odell, Putnam County Executive); Pat (Ryan-Ulster County Executive); and everyone else have that opportunity and we want it for Westchester as well.
Rep. Maloney then added his view that the Mid-Hudson Region is ready to have the phase one threshold of reopening begin.
“I think we are unanimous in believing that the region is ready to enter phase one,” Rep. Maloney said. “We can do that in a responsible way. That means all of us as citizens need to do our part to make sure that is successful. But, I want the region open and the sooner the better.”
He added, “I understand and appreciate the importance of the metrics being used on the state level, but we are ready to go.”
The main purpose of the virtual press conference was to tout the merits of the Heroes Act, which would provide an estimated $34 billion in new funds for New York State, and an estimated $32 billion in new funds for New York’s counties and municipalities. The measure has not received much support from the GOP-controlled Senate, however.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York’s counties could see a decline in revenue of $1.5 billion to more than $3 billion for the next few years, according to a recent report from the New York State Association of Counties.
Under the House passed bill, Westchester County would receive $544 million in federal aid; Orange County would receive $216 million Dutchess County would receive $165 million and Putnam County would garner $55 million.
The funding would be distributed over two years and would bolster state and municipal budgets, and ensure New York’s health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers, and other vital workers can continue to be paid, the Congressman noted.