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Elected officials call for oversight of Hempstead Covid-19 relief spending

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New York State Senator Kevin Thomas and U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice are calling for the State Comptroller to review how the Town of Hempstead is spending the $133 million it received from the federal government under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Dubbed the CARES Act, the legislation distributes $2 trillion in funds among certain governments to alleviate expenses related to the coronavirus. It is not meant to replace lost revenue and could be used until Dec. 30, 2020.

Governments that qualified for the funds must have populations of over 500,000. Hempstead is the largest town in the country, with over 8,000 residents, and the only town that qualified for the CARES Act funding.

Based on their populations, Nassau County received $103 million and Suffolk County received $257.6 million.

Senator Thomas and Rep. Rice were outside of Hempstead Town Hall on Thursday, where Thomas announced legislation to appoint a fiscal monitor to ensure “equitable” distribution of the pandemic funds, he said. He will be introducing the legislation in the State Senate once it resumes its session on July 20.

"Strong oversight is about making sure that the people who really need relief are the ones who receive it,” Thomas said. “This important legislation will ensure the accountability and transparency that taxpayers deserve in these exceptionally challenging times.”

Greg Blower, the town’s director of communications, accused Rep. Rice and Senator Thomas of doing “very little to provide direct aid to communities that are struggling,” he said in a statement. He continued to say that the elected officials are “looking to deflect attention from their lackluster performance.”

“What's more, our government's diverse Covid-19 Advisory Panel continues to identify areas of need, and the Town's administration is working with village officials to provide assistance,” Blower said.

On May 5, after securing the $133 million in CARES Act funding, the town developed an Economic Relief Advisory Committee to deliberate how to distribute it. The same day, the committee agreed on distributing $2 million among 14 local food banks within the Town of Hempstead.

So far, the town has also allocated funds toward the following efforts:

All of the above decisions were made as resolutions passed on the town website before they were communicated to the press and in the town’s e-newsletter. Supervisor Donald Clavin has also been communicating once a week, via Zoom, with village mayors to hear their input and discuss their needs related to the pandemic.