Sen. Charles Schumer announces funds will begin flowing in April and will continue over 27 months. Fitch says the money will help protect property taxpayers.
PENN YAN — The first installment of economic stimulus payments bringing up to $22 million to the area will begin flowing to Finger Lakes area counties in April and will continue for 27 months.
For Yates County, that means between $2 million and $2.3 million in Medicaid funds that can provide direct budget relief, according to Sen. Charles Schumer, who met with a group of Yates County leaders on Thursday, Feb. 19.
Schumer said the money is coming to localities through the Medicaid system because that's the easiest way to move the money from the federal level quickly.
While this money must be used for the county's Medicaid expenses, it frees other funds for other areas in the county budget.
Schumer announced the amounts that will be distributed to other area counties as well:
• Ontario County will receive $7.7 to $8.8 million
• Seneca County will receive $2.8 to $3.3 million
• Wayne County will receive $6.7 to $7.7 million
"There are no two ways about it, we should give direct aid to counties struggling to ease big budget gaps and avoid property tax hikes on families," Schmer said.
Yates County Legislator Taylor Fitch, chairman of the finance committee, said he was pleased to hear about the funding, and he hopes the legislature can use it to protect the local property taxpayers.
Schumer pointed out that Medicaid is a big part of the county budget. In Yates County, 31 percent of the total local tax levy goes toward Medicatd. In Ontario County, 33 percent; Seneca County, 55 percent and Wayne County, 35 percent.
He said the intent of this first phase of the massive economic stimulus is to ease the property tax burden on property owners.
During the afternoon gathering, Schumer gave a broad picture of the overall plan, explaining that the country faces the danger of entering a deflationary spiral. "Once you get into one, the economists don't know how to get out," he said, adding, "But we have to get out at all costs because we could be stuck for years."
He said there are three basic goals connected to the package:
• To newly employ or save the jobs of 3.5 to 4 million people
• Put money in the pockets of the public
• Build infrastructure.
While answering some specific questions about local projects, Schumer also explained more components of the plan.
SCHOOLS: Schumer said enough federal funds will come to the local school districts through Albany to compensate for the state aid cuts which have forced school districts to discuss laying off staff and making other drastic cuts. He said any surplus funds will still go directly to the school disticts.
"There will be no games in Albany," he said.
INFRASTRUCTURE: Pointing out that this is the first major bill where New York gets more money back than it sends to Washington, D.C., Schumer said New York State will recieve a large chunk of funding for roads, bridges, water and sewer projects that can be started within 180 days. These funds will be distributed as determined by Gov. David Paterson.
BROADBAND: Another $7 billion will be available to bring broadband services to rural areas. Schumer recalled previous discussions he's had with people in Yates County, and promised to provide details on how to apply. "You're made for this," he said.
COLLEGE TUITION: The program provides a tax credit of $2,500 for each college student.
Describing his own impression of the issues that led to the current situation, he said he feels the U.S. economy will begin to turn around at the beginning of next year.