JOHNSTOWN — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik on Monday provided the Fulton County Board of Supervisors an update on federal issues impacting the county, especially associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican 21st Congressional District representative also answered questions remotely during the board’s online monthly session.
“Negotiations continue to move forward on a COVID package with a focus on state and local relief,” she said.
Stefanik said the federal government is trying to focus on assisting rural areas, especially, during the outbreak. She said she continues on trying to provide millions in funding for health care facilities such as Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.
The congresswoman said she is trying to boost the tourism industry and small businesses, last week hosting an event with the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce. She said her office also continues to work with families and individuals in her district who haven’t received federal stimulus checks yet. She said that in addition, she is helping farmers receive assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Stefanik said her office will host an event soon to assist libraries.
In a question-and-answer period, Gloversville 3rd Ward Supervisor John Blackmon noted that $500 billion was sent to states, but said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo kept money from the counties.
“This is something we have worked through,” Stefanik said.
She noted she was successful in June in urging Cuomo to immediately disburse Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funds to county governments from $2.5 billion already provided by Congress to New York state. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided a temporary FMAP increase of 6.2 percent, and New York has been able to claim a greater reimbursement from the federal government for its Medicaid expenditures incurred on or after Jan. 1.
“I think the more direct the funding can be, the better,” Stefanik said.
She said some of the private colleges were able to access funding quicker than SUNY schools because the state has “sat on” funding.
Board Chairman Warren Greene said he wanted to personally thank Stefanik for freeing up FMAP money due.
Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young told Stefanik he was “concerned” about more recent funding situations, the dormant $3 trillion Heroes Act passed some time ago by the Democratic-led House of Representatives. The proposed bill, providing more stimulus money and extending unemployment benefits past July 31, hasn’t been acted on yet by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Young said he understands Fulton County stands to receive $20 million, and the city of Gloversville could get $5 million through the Heroes Act.
Stefanik said this proposed fiscal package was not done in a bipartisan fashion, as other COVID-19-related packages were. She criticized U.S. House Leader Nancy Pelosi for introducing “poison pills” — or unwanted, unrelated legislation — into the Heroes Act such as letting violent criminals out of prisons.
She said a newer piece of more realistic legislation is the proposed State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Fund, or SMART Act, which will “be close to where we end up.” It provides $500 billion in emergency funding to every state, county and community in the country, while prioritizing assistance to the areas with the greatest need.
Stefanik said she predicts the next legislation will be passed in July, done in a bipartisan way and not behind closed doors as Pelosi did with the Heroes Act.
County Administrative Officer Jon Stead thanked Stefanik for attending the Zoom meeting. He said her staff routinely emails Fulton County a couple times a week with the latest updates. He said state officials are also keeping the county informed.
“Everybody’s been doing a pretty good job on communications,” Stead said.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]