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Hempstead Town earmarks $5.5M in CARES funds for schools

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Town of Hempstead officials on Monday announced that each of the 36 school districts within the town and the Board of Cooperative Educational Services would receive a $150,000 grant to help pay for coronavirus-related expenses. The $5.5 million allocation was made possible by funding through the federal CARES Act.

Nassau BOCES Superintendent Dr. Robert Dillon said the funds are much needed. “School districts spent millions of dollars in preparation to open up schools [in] September,” he said. “This $150,000 gives them a little bit of a cushion to reimburse them for things they’ve already paid for.”

Covid-related expenses include hardware and software to boost WiFi bandwith, Chromebooks, personal protective equipment, desk shields and partitions, cleaning supplies and virus tests. Town officials said the grant would help school districts to recoup these necessary expenses.

Dillon said school officials in each of the districts would decide how the grants would be spent. 

“This pandemic has hit everybody in so many different ways . . . and our school districts are no strangers to it,” said Hempstead Town Supervisor Donald Clavin, a Republican from Garden City. “Teachers are essential workers on the front lines trying to educate our children, and they have numerous expenses that they need help with.”

The announcement followed a string of similar initiatives by the town to use $133 million in CARES Act funding secured by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer earlier this year. According to Clavin, the money has also been used to provide:

$4 million to local hospitals.

$8 million to area colleges.

$4 million for Covid-19 testing initiatives.

$6 million for food pantries.

More than a half million dollars for local fire departments.

$3.5 million for PPE distribution to benefit small business.

More than a half million dollars to local villages.

“We’re committed to see this money utilized in the town,” Clavin said. “Albany has mandated school districts to do testing, unfunded. They dropped the burden on our school districts, [which have] no money for it. It’s a recurring theme when I talk to superintendents on a regular basis.”

Town Councilmen Anthony D’Esposito, Dennis Dunne and Christopher Carini called on state and county officials to work to bring more CARES funding to residents on the front lines of the pandemic.

“We in the Town of Hempstead would love to give more money to the schools, and each and every school deserves a heck of a lot more than this,” Dunne said. “We’re doing what we can with what we have, and the state has over $4.5 billion that they have not given to the schools yet.”

In a statement, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat from Baldwin, criticized the town for not allocating more money to school districts.

“If the supervisor had not refused to reimburse $50 million for Nassau’s brave first responders who answered the call in the Town of Hempstead during the first wave of the pandemic,” Curran said, “or spent more than $50 million for new bathrooms, along with his sanitation budget and town’s general fund, then all of Nassau’s school districts would have received much-needed funding from the county and in greater sums. School districts are being thrown a proverbial bone at the very last minute when they deserved much more, much sooner.”