PC Legislature approved request to transfer funds to cover COVID-19 pandemic expenses

The Putnam County Legislature on Tuesday night approved County Executive MaryEllen Odell’s request to transfer $221,144 in county funds to cover the cost of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since March 9, when we activated the Incident command, we have been engaged in a constant struggle to buy the personal protective equipment that our health care workers and first responders need to combat the spread of this virus,” Odell said. “We are pleased to report that through the efforts of our Bureau of Emergency Services and Department of Purchasing we have been able to obtain the necessary supplies.”

Odell requested the fund transfer be expedited.

“As you know, we do not normally ask the Legislature to waive the 5-day rule,” the County Executive said. “But we now find ourselves in a place that is anything but normal.”

Medical supplies, including protective masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, account for $150,000 of the funds requested. The remaining $71,144 will go toward disinfectants and the estimated cost of cleaning county facilities when they eventually reopen.

“It’s not easy to get the necessary supplies these days,” said Ken Clair Jr., the commissioner of Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services. “We worked together with a consortium of Hudson Valley counties and were able to obtain protective gear.”

The personal protective equipment will be shared with first responders, fire departments and highway departments throughout the county.

“There is no higher cause for the county Legislature than the health and safety of our residents,” said Legislature Chairwoman Toni Addonizio. “Things are changing day to day during this crisis. The best thing we can do is remain flexible.”

Legislator Amy Sayegh, chair of the Health Committee said there was never a doubt that the Legislature would act quickly to transfer the funds.

“There is no question this is going to be a tight budget year,” Sayegh said. “But there is also no question that fighting COVID-19 must be our first priority.”

The county will ultimately seek federal reimbursement for all coronavirus-related county expenses and expects FEMA will pay 75 percent of all approved costs.  The County’s Bureau of Emergency Services will distribute the supplies to county first responder employees and town first responder groups. Any assessment regarding a charge to local municipalities for the supplies will wait until all reimbursements have been received.

Michael Nesheiwat, MD, the Putnam County Health Commissioner, applauded the Legislature for their quick action.

“I want to thank the Legislature for funding these supplies,” Dr. Neshweiwat said. “Without adequate personal protective equipment, healthcare workers and first responders couldn’t be do their most important job, keeping our residents safe.”