County Executive Latimer has sent his federal legislative requests to the federal delegation that represents Westchester County
Westchester County Executive George Latimer has sent his federal legislative requests to the federal delegation that represents Westchester County. The priorities were compiled by the Westchester County Department of Intergovernmental Relations under Latimer’s leadership. Department of Intergovernmental Relations Director Steve Bass led the team along with Deputy Director Ellen Hendrickx and Intergovernmental Relations Aide Kyle McIntyre.
While there are a number of federal priorities, the top priority for the Latimer Administration is the repeal of the SALT tax cap. The law now caps the SALT deduction at $10,000, resulting in double taxation and raised taxes on thousands of middle-class families in Westchester who depended on that deduction.
Latimer said: “I want to thank the Intergovernmental Affairs team for their tireless work on making sure that the voices of County residents are heard on the federal level. There is much we can do at the County level of government, but we do need the federal government to help us on many issues. I applaud the work of our federal delegation thus far, and look forward to continued collaboration for the betterment of Westchester County moving forward.”
State and Local Tax Deductibility (SALT)
Westchester County strongly supports the repeal of the SALT tax cap. This SALT deduction was a major source of tax fairness for high-taxed and donor states like New York. Prior to 2017, 70% of Westchester’s middle income families (defined as families making less than $200,000 per year) itemized their federal tax deductions and had an average of $36,263 in SALT deductions..
Westchester County’s Federal Appropriations Priorities
Medicaid/Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Westchester County has reaped tremendous benefits as a result of Enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (eFMAP) that we earned due to our and New York State’s expansions of Medicaid programs in conjunction with the ACA. When the Public Health Emergency (PHE) was declared in January of 2020, states saw a 6.2% increase of the federal share of total eFMAP spending. We were very pleased to see the new administration extended this provision through the end of 2021, and encourage that this ambitious reallocation continue beyond COVID-19. Westchester County rejects any cuts to Medicaid and any shift of costs from the federal to state government.
- Westchester County opposes the block granting and/or privatization of programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that would result in people losing benefits, adding to their financial stress, and thereby turning to other social service programs for needed support.
- Westchester County is pleased that the recent COVID stimulus funds allocated significant funds towards Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). We have active FQHCs throughout the county that provide essential and affordable care and services to underserved populations. We support ongoing funding for these centers, including funding for prevention and treatment for substance abuse and teen pregnancy prevention.
- Westchester County also supports funding for mental health services, and requiring adequate coverage for mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment. COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the mental health crisis in our County, and we support community based mental health services for youth and young adults.
- In the wake of COVID-19 access to telehealth and telemedicine resources are more important than ever. These services can reduce the short and long-term costs of care and increase access to care, especially for people with mobility issues. The Telehealth Intervention Programs for Seniors (TIPS) can provide a unique collaborative approach with the capacity to reach more people in need of care and help them stay in their homes longer.
Section 8 Funding
Westchester County supports full funding for the HUD Section 8 Program. Fully funding this program would reduce Section 8 waiting lists, thereby dramatically reducing the number of homeless people and families
Maintenance of Existing Funds to Social Services
Westchester County benefits a great deal from the existing federal allocations of several social services programs. We ask our Federal Legislative Partners to fully fund each of the following services:
- Social Services Block Grants
o The SSBG has 29 broad service categories and funds a wide variety of services, including child care, child and adult protective services, foster care, and special services for the disabled.
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
o The Flexible Fund for Family Services (FFFS) covers a variety of services including child welfare, domestic violence liaison, drug and alcohol treatment, employment programs, foster care and other TANF services.
- Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and HOME Programs
o Within two years of its reinstatement by the current County Administration, the Westchester County Urban Consortium has grown to 31 communities and is preparing to accept a new slate of infrastructural projects. These communities, along with 4 entitled cities, currently rely on CDBG funds for these projects and the tangible benefits they provide. Westchester County urges our federal delegation to stand firm on fully funding CDBG, HOME, and ESG Programs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
o SNAP funding provides crucial assistance to families with the greatest need.
- Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
o The goal of the program is to provide income support and work experience to enable clients to transition to unsubsidized employment and avoid public assistance. Westchester County contracts with the Urban League for these services.
Westchester County’s Federal Legislative and Agency Priorities
Federal Infrastructure Proposal
We encourage the resumption of bi-partisan efforts to develop major federal infrastructure legislation. We believe the benefits to our aging infrastructure and the job creation impacts would be worth the efforts.
Among the priorities, Westchester would encourage any infrastructure bill to include the following projects:
o Bridge Strikes
§ While New York State Law Prohibits commercial vehicles of all sizes from using State parkways, many drivers use personal GPS applications that don’t mention these state laws. In Westchester County alone there were 329 bridge strikes on County and State parkways between 2017 and 2020. We seek your assistance in asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider the following actions:
- Work with mapping companies (Google, Waze) to recognize their products are being used by commercial vehicles, either by commercial drivers or drivers using rented trucks, and require the companies to update their software to add warnings for trucks and other commercial vehicles
- Require the truck height to be posted inside the truck cabin in visible view of the driver
- Require the low bridge/parkways system to be included in Commercial Driver’s License training
- Require truck rental companies to share information on commercial vehicles route limitations with drivers
- Require trucking companies to install commercial GPS in the cabs of all 53’ trucks and rental companies to do the same with rental vehicles
o Penn Station Access
§ This project will have significant benefits for Westchester commuters who travel to the West Side, saving valuable time from their daily commutes. The opening of that project will divert some LIRR trains to Grand Central, thereby opening up slots at Penn Station for Metro-North service. Once completed, Metro-North and the LIRR commuters will have access to both the West side and the East side of Manhattan. The project includes the addition of four new stations in the Bronx on the New Haven Line: Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester/Van Nest, and Hunts Point.
o Lake Isle Dam Repair
§ At the moment, there is no municipality claiming responsibility for Eastchester’s segment of the dam. With costs ranging from six to twenty million dollars, Westchester County is asking, on behalf of the surrounding municipalities, for the assistance of our federal legislative representatives in creating a system to pay for this repair which will have to be processed and managed by the surrounding municipalities, and would include preparing a plan to renovate the dam, and providing the proper allocation of federal funds to go toward the project’s ultimate completion as this is a life and safety issue in Westchester County.
o Yonkers Wastewater Treatment Plant
§ Westchester County requests $69.1 million in budgeted federal grants to address long-term infrastructural repairs to the plant’s odor insulation. We believe this project will improve the quality of life for Yonkers’s middle-class communities living on the city’s west side.
o Environmental Protection and Clean Water
§ We ask that our congressional representatives reinstate all EPA and environmental funds stripped away by the last administration.
§ Despite strong bipartisan backing, the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020 failed to receive a vote in the 116th Congress. If passed, both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) will be reauthorized. As this federal funding provides critical support for water and sewer projects, many of which are long overdue, Westchester County strongly urges the re-introduction and swift passage of S. 3590 and a sufficient allocation of associated federal funding.
- Drinking Water Infrastructure Act of 2020: A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize certain provisions, and for other purposes.
Westchester County Airport: PFAS/PFO remediation – seeking support from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
In 2018, the County reinstated the groundwater-testing program at the airport that had been discontinued during the prior administration. Based on the sampling and ground water flow patterns, the County, in cooperation with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, is developing a remediation plan for the airport. The County is also working closely with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection due to the proximity of the airport to the reservoir system. We are seeking financial support from the US Dept. of Defense to assist with remediation costs due to their responsibility for the contamination.
Indian Point Energy Center
We ask our federal legislators to develop a safe solution for high level radioactive waste transportation and disposal. Without a solution by the federal government, every nuclear power plant, including Indian Point, becomes a defacto long term radioactive waste storage site. Westchester County urges the federal government to make a decision on how best to safely transport and dispose of the plant’s waste once Indian Point closes in 2021. We request that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) continue its obligation to ensure that the plant’s spent fuel rods are safely stored and properly disposed of. Additionally, we encourage transparency and community involvement in developing the plans, financing, and activities. We ask federal legislators to ensure that the company responsible for decommissioning works with surrounding municipalities and the County to decommission Indian Point in a way that makes the property accessible for future development.
Net Neutrality and Reliable, Affordable Broadband Access
Westchester County believes that all students should have access to affordable broadband access, regardless of where they live or where they attend school. We urge our delegation to support net neutrality and the necessary infrastructure to make the last mile connection for underserved homes and facilities. Additionally, we request Congressional action to overturn the prior administration’s FCC decision, and the reintroduction of 2019’s Save the Internet Act to both chambers of Congress.
Domestic Violence Prevention and Services
As we strive to end domestic violence through comprehensive services, advocacy, and community education, continued federal funding would provide important support for our ongoing, effective programs and services, and help ensure that every individual has the basic human rights to be free from violence and to engage in relationships with respect, equality, and safety. We support the bipartisan efforts in both chambers to implement the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 and the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Opioid Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Enforcement
The opioid epidemic has already torn apart too many families and destroyed too many lives, and we must use every tool and resource we have to work together to end this crisis. We support efforts to limit opioid prescriptions to needed doses and timelines, expanded addiction treatment programs, and continual funding towards law enforcement coordination such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, and INTERDICT ACT Funding – CBP Fentanyl Detection Devices to help stop narcotics from entering through our ports and mail, and assistance with pharmaceutical take back programs.
Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program
While updated maps for the County’s coastal panels are due to be finished by 2024, our region is still awaiting updated maps, and any budget reductions may further delay their issuance. Recent studies have indicated that the dual impact of climate change and aging infrastructure will combine to put thousands of homeowners at risk across New York State. Westchester County’s emergency management mitigation efforts would benefit immensely from updated flood maps, and we ask our federal representatives to make the completion of these maps a top priority.