Stimulus Package May Help at Home

Posted on 26 February 2009

The ink is not yet dry on the stimulus package, but local municipalities may see federal money flowing into their coffers very soon. According to Congressman Tim Bishop, Long Island will receive around $200 million — over a two year period — in transportation development projects, but nearly half of the money allocated for highway construction must be spent within 90 days. Bishop added these funds will be distributed to local municipalities by the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Committees. Municipalities will apply for the money as if they were applying for a grant. These transportation projects will most likely create close to 8,000 jobs.
Bishop added many of the budgetary cuts made by New York State Governor David Paterson, especially in the education sector, will be offset by money from the state stabilization fund. Overall, Paterson cut almost $800 million from state education budgets. The Sag Harbor School district’s budget will be cut by almost $186,000.
“Without the state stabilization fund [these schools] would be forced to lay thousands of people off or would be forced to raise property taxes, and many people can’t afford higher property taxes,” reported Bishop.
Bishop remains confident the Sag Harbor school district will be granted additional funds to shore up this budgetary loss. He reported $195,000 is already earmarked for the district.
At a local level, Bishop said Suffolk County — an area which relies heavily on the construction industry and real estate sales — will benefit from a neighborhood stabilization fund and real estate tax breaks. The neighborhood stabilization fund allows local municipalities to purchase foreclosed or abandoned properties. Bishop asserts that construction workers will then be hired to rehabilitate these buildings. These properties will be available as workforce housing rentals, after construction is complete, he believes.
In addition, first time real estate buyers will be given a tax credit of nearly $8,000, though there is an income contingency to be eligible for this tax break. Bishop added that $30 million will be used to construct a new laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is part of Stony Brook University.
Bishop said a recent halt in construction projects on the East End has had a trickle down effect throughout many businesses in the community. “Behind every economic statistic there is a story … The builders had to lay off their crew. Now the deli owners are selling fewer sandwiches because these workers were laid off … Real estate agents haven’t made a sale in months, which affects lawyers who depend upon real estate closings … Everywhere you look, [the recession] has an impact.”
Nearly 95-percent of American families will also be given a tax break, which will include tens of thousands of families on Long Island, added Bishop.
Bishop said the main stimulus package is broken up into three main objectives: to keep money in the hands of people who need it and will spend it, to provide assistance to the states so they won’t be forced to lay off employees or reduce services, and, finally, to create numerous service projects.
Bishop believes these goals will help encourage consumer spending. He added that spending and lending are the cruxes of the American economy.
“People have simple stopped spending,” reported Bishop. “We need to put money back into the hands of people who need it.”
It is still unclear by what channels the funds will be distributed throughout the government, or how much money will be designated for Sag Harbor and the surrounding towns. Bishop expects to have answers to these questions within the coming weeks or months.
Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris remains “cautiously optimistic” the village will receive funding for infrastructure projects, such as the safe routes to school project and the reconstruction of the fence at the old burial ground. He expects, however, most of the federal funding will be used for infrastructure and education, and very little will trickle down to offset the operating costs of the village. For now, Ferraris added, the village will continue to operate on an austerity basis.
david pater

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