A year ago, communities were slowly reopening as the state began to lift restrictions imposed during the height of the devastating Covid-19 surge. From the start of the crisis, the Town of Hempstead remained keenly focused on delivering uninterrupted essential services to residents, supporting the safe reopening of the local economy, implementing an array of Covid-safe recreational and entertainment options for residents, and allocating millions of dollars in federal CARES Act funding to provide direct relief, particularly to those reeling from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.
Indeed, along with my colleagues on the Hempstead Town Board — Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and Council Members Bruce Blakeman, Chris Carini, Anthony D’Esposito, Dennis Dunne Sr. and Tom Muscarella — we worked together to allocate millions of dollars in grants to address food insecurity through partnerships with Long Island Cares, Island Harvest, the Mary Brennan INN and other food pantries to provide over a million meals to residents in need. We collaborated with Northwell Health and Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside to offer free Covid-19 PCR, antibody and rapid testing. Through CARES funding, we also provided millions of dollars in relief grants to front-line hospitals, villages, fire departments and schools; distributed thousands of personal protective equipment kits to small businesses and more to aid in the recovery; and sent assistance to the hardest-hit communities and the most vulnerable.
Working with a bipartisan team of council members, we also provided taxpayers with relief by crafting and approving a 2021 tax-freeze town budget while preserving programs, services and jobs. We introduced the area’s first outdoor dining initiative to help restaurants recover from the state’s shutdowns, and coordinated drive-in-style graduations, parades, concerts and movie nights. Town Clerk Kate Murray conducted socially distant outdoor weddings and processed curbside marriage licenses. Our Building Department services moved online for the first time, and I joined Tax Receiver Jeanine Driscoll to institute the first drive-through and walk-up payment booths.
As the calendar turned to 2021, we knew the coronavirus was not behind us, but our focus began to shift. While Covid-19 testing options remained critical, especially during the virus’s holiday surge, we also knew that the introduction of vaccines would be a game-changer. Applying federal CARES Act funds, we partnered with Mount Sinai South Nassau to introduce New York’s first mobile Covid-19 vaccination unit, the Vaxmobile, which was one of only two in the nation. Since then we have inoculated thousands of residents in communities across the township.
What’s more, we recently announced the implementation of a homebound vaccination program, administering the shots to those unable to leave their homes, which makes Hempstead the first township to offer such a service through its own community paramedicine team. Additionally, we have utilized more than $22 million in federal funds to establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program, operated through the Long Island Housing Partnership. This critical program has offered eligible residents financial assistance to pay down rent, utilities and home energy costs during the pandemic.
Don Clavin is the Town of Hempstead supervisor.