Critics question plan to use COVID funds for county’s anniversary
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is planning to use $10 million in COVID relief funds to beef up the county’s 125th anniversary celebrations in 2024. Critics of the plan say the money would be better spent on other things, and question how the county expects to recoup that money, exactly.
In December, the county’s legislature voted along party lines to allow the county to spend the money, allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), toward the funding and promotion of galas, parades, and other events to be held in celebration of Nassau County’s 125th anniversary next year.
Ahead of the full legislature’s vote, Legislature Minority Leader-elect Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D – Glen Cove), said in a statement, “For months, more than $12 million in itemized ARPA requests to support organizations that promote public safety, fight hunger, combat homelessness, support small businesses, and enhance youth services have languished with the Blakeman administration.”
“The fact that $10 million for lavish 125th anniversary galas, parades and marketing is ready to fly through the legislature shows just out of touch the administration is with the needs and interests of everyday Nassau residents,”DeRiggi-Whitton worte. “It is the latest glaring example of how County Executive Blakeman is continuing to exploit federal recovery funds to promote himself and feed his own ego instead of meeting the needs of Nassau County’s residents.”
For his part, Executive Blakeman commented to The Island 360, “Past administrations have been negligent to the point of governmental malpractice by not showcasing the top-notch cultural sites, hospital network, beaches, parks, restaurants, entertainment venues, and shopping Nassau has to offer.”
On December 14, the Editorial Board of Newsday reflected in their piece opposing the plan, “True, the funds for promotional events that will spotlight Blakeman, who is nearing the halfway point in his term, represent only a small portion of the federal aid that helped keep the county’s budget afloat through the end of the pandemic. But is this particular allocation needed at all?”
As Bill Rodrigues reported for WSHU, county Republicans have said that the concerts, galas, car shows, and/or golf tournaments will not only boost tourism in the county end up raising three times as much money as is spent. Details on how this would be accomplished are unclear at present.
“We’re anticipating spending $10 million and hoping to generate, for every dollar we spend, $3 in new revenue so we’re roughly hoping in tourism and sales tax generation [to make] about $30 million.” said Andy Parsec, with the Office of Management and Budget, to WSHU, adding that it would be “really hard to put a pin” in exactly how that number was prepared.
Blakeman reportedly aims to have a specific plan ready in January, which the legislature would need to approved before the money can be spent.