It is an understatement to say that the coronavirus pandemic has had profoundly negative impacts on the health and well-being of Americans, as well as the job market, personal finances and the economy. The devastation has been particularly painful for the metropolitan area, including Long Island. The Town of Hempstead’s proactive approach to dealing with the crisis has helped us to secure resources to do so.
What’s more, our partnership with neighbors across our communities has enabled us to expend those resources in a thoughtful and meaningful manner, providing needed assistance to individuals and business owners who have been hard-hit by the deadly virus. To be certain, we have accomplished much, but there is more that we can do together on the road to recovery from the pandemic.
Hempstead Town’s Road to Recovery initiative is a comprehensive approach to safeguarding municipal employees, protecting the public and assisting business owners. It has also been acutely focused on maintaining essential governmental services, restoring many welcome amenities that neighbors enjoy during these troubling times as well as providing life-sustaining food to neighbors. The town has even supplied funding to hospitals, which is being used to battle Covid-19. Much of the work we have done has been made possible by $134 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES, grant funding, which U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer helped to secure.
The challenges confronting the town have been significant, given the fact that our population is greater than that of several states. Indeed, the population density of our communities has apparently made us more vulnerable to the impacts of the virus than many other regions of New York and the country. In recognition of that, my administration created a Coronavirus Task Force, which was led by the town’s medical director, Dr. David Neubert, a certified Emergency Department doctor.
As the only town in our region with a dedicated medical director, we were able to quickly and safely establish protocols that helped us maintain and resume services with minimal interruption. From continuing our sanitation and recycling services with minimal interruption to offering clean and sanitary drinking water to residents, we took our mission seriously. Our government officials adapted to the pandemic, revising methods of collecting taxes, processing marriage licenses and handling building permits. We continue to modify procedures to make our government accessible to neighbors while ensuring the safety of employees and the public.
We have also taken steps to help members of the town’s family who are in need. We have spent millions of dollars to create “pop-up” food pantries to meet people’s nutritional needs. Free lunch programs are in place, and a new partnership with Island Harvest will provide for a $2 million food-delivery program for the at-risk population.
Now that summer is here, we have worked hard to restore a sense of normalcy to the season for residents. From presenting drive-in movies and concerts to opening beaches, parks and pools with added safety protocols, the quality-of-life experience is being restored in the town.
Businesses have been slammed by the pandemic and the restrictions placed on their operations by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The town actively helped restaurants reopen, establishing Long Island’s first outdoor seating program, which provides expedited permits for outdoor dining at no cost to restaurant owners. The town has partnered with Nassau County to secure $2 million worth of personal protective equipment for business owners free of charge.
As Hempstead moves forward, we continue to receive and evaluate proposals from various community groups for the effective and efficient use of CARES funding, which will benefit everyone in the town’s large, diverse family. We are consulting with other governments, such as local villages, to explore additional opportunities to help people. And we are poised to begin $40 million in roadway-improvement projects to put many workers back on the job. Lastly, we will be announcing several new community-assistance programs and the elimination of many touch surfaces at town facilities for the well-being of the public.
Together, we will continue to push for the responsible reopening of our society. We have made great progress, but there is more to do in the battle to recover from the health impacts and economic damage wrought by the pandemic.
Donald Clavin is the Town of Hempstead supervisor.