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Gillibrand pushing for more aid to local governments during pandemic

Ellen Abbott
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a news conference in Syracuse Friday

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is rallying local governments in New York to push for legislation that would offer federal funds to hard hit localities facing big budget gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The city of Syracuse and Onondaga County are among governments lobbying for the aid. Syracuse is facing an up to $10 million budget deficit. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said if the city does not see relief by August, officials are looking at major personnel and service reductions.

"I like my trash picked up every single week. But if we can’t afford that, we don’t have options," Owens said.

The Democrat-controlled House has passed a $3 trillion aid bill that includes help for local governments.  But Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hasn’t brought the bill up for a vote in the Senate. Gillibrand hopes lobbying from lawmakers and local governments will force him into action.

"It seems unconscionable to me to let people go back to states for district work when that bill wasn’t passed," Gillibrand said during a visit to Syracuse Friday. "People will now hear from governors, and county execs and their mayors and assembly and senators and realize they better get back to Washington and do their jobs. That pressure, I feel, will be effective."

Gillibrand said she believes the bill will pass by August 8. It can’t come soon enough for Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, who’s staring at tens of millions of dollars of red ink.

"We need this vote and we need a vote now," he said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.