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Elected officials talk next steps in Nassau County

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Nassau County elected officials from three levels of government spoke about issues facing the county and where to go from here on the latest Herald Inside LI webinar, “Next in Nassau,” on Oct. 21.

Michaelle Solages, assemblywoman in New York’s 22nd assembly district; Dave McDonough, assemblyman in the state’s 14th assembly district; Tom Suozzi, congressman in the state’s 3rd congressional district, and County Executive Laura Curran joined the Zoom call to discuss government services during the Covid-19 crisis.

Skye Ostreicher, of RichnerLive and Herald Community Newspapers, moderated the conversation and delivered questions from viewers.

Nassau County is holding steady at 1 to 1.5 percent of those tested being positive for coronavirus, Curran said. About 7,000 to 10,000 people are tested in the county per day. “We want to do everything we can to keep it that way,” she said. “We cannot go backwards. The thought of shutting down schools again, of shutting down business again … we have made too much progress to go back.”

Since the pandemic hit, the county has been “working on all cylinders” to serve citizens facing food insecurity, job loss, domestic violence and other issues.

“Domestic violence has grown tremendously, especially since the pandemic,” said McDonough, who is on the county’s task force for domestic violence. “People are out of work, tensions grow and grow and families have problems.”

McDonough added that small businesses still need aid to fully recover from the economic downturn that began in the spring. “We’re losing small businesses everyday that can’t afford to stay open,” he said. “The small businesses are the lifeblood of this nation and definitely the lifeblood of this state.”

Suozzi noted that the Heroes Act, the federal stimulus bill currently being negotiated in Congress, will deliver a big piece of aid to help communities recover economically from the pandemic. The bill would provide stimulus checks to individuals, increased unemployment benefits and an extension of the Payment Protection Program for small businesses. Suozzi wants to see the bill passed with $500 billion in state aid because that would help fund school districts, as well as a national Covid-19 testing, tracing and isolation program similar to New York’s.

“Our economy will never recover unless we have a sense that the public feels it’s safe to go back in the water,” he said. “We need every state to have a program similar to New York State’s.”

Currently, if small businesses or non-profit organizations in Nassau County need financial assistance, they can visit BoostNassau.net to see what’s available to them, Curran said.

Curran also noted that the county’s health department has become more robust, adding more professionals that give guidance to communities, including businesses and school districts, on coronavirus safety precautions. Going forward, she’s also submitted a county budget that does not increase taxes or cut programs, she said, by refinancing debt and making use of a surplus from 2019.

Solages said that she and McDonough, as local elected officials, have had “boots on the ground” since March to see what the community needs. They then contact Curran’s office to make sure those needs are met.

In addition to food insecurity and businesses shutting down permanently, Solages found that child care centers were suffering — 35 percent of them have closed in New York, many of them on Long Island, she said. She is calling for universal Pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds in New York, as well as financial assistance to help child care centers recover.

“We have to make sure we’re attracting young families,” she said, “and the only way we can do that is to make sure we have these programs.”

All panelists emphasized the importance of working together, especially across the political aisle, to get things done moving forward, especially to get the Heroes Act passed.

“This is not a game,” Suozzi said. “This is not about politics, this is not about the election on Nov. 3. There are people that are unemployed that can’t pay their insurance, that can’t pay their bills, can’t pay their every day utility bills, their rent, their food bills.”

“We have to continue working together at every level of government,” McDonough added, “from the federal level, to the state level to the local level.”

To view a recording of this webinar or to register for future webinars, visit liherald.com/insideli.