Poughkeepsie, NY… Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro hosted his most recent online COVID-19 Town Hall and Tele-Town Hall this evening, providing the latest updates about the local impact of the pandemic and Dutchess County’s response.
Thousands of residents called into the conversation, and even more viewed the event on the County’s Facebook page as the County Executive informed residents and answered their questions. The full online discussion can be viewed on Dutchess County Government’s YouTube page.
Highlights from this evening’s Town Hall discussion included:
- An update on the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Dutchess County Government, which includes a projected sales tax revenue decline of $20-50 million in 2020. Sales tax accounts for 41 percent of the County’s 2020 budget, County Executive Molinaro said, and three of the sales tax payments Dutchess County has received from New York State in 2020, reflecting sales tax revenues since March 1st, have been lower than 2019. In the wake of a projected $40-80 million revenue loss, Dutchess County Government has offered its workforce a voluntary furlough program, which 66 employees across various departments have volunteered for, and implemented freezes on hiring and non-essential spending. Funding from New York State accounts for 16 percent of Dutchess County’s annual budget and Governor Andrew Cuomo has suggested the pandemic may result in as much as a 20 percent cut in state aid to local counties, resulting in a projected loss of $15-20 million to Dutchess County. County Executive Molinaro continues to advocate for state and federal aid for counties like Dutchess to avoid being forced to eliminate critical services and programs.
- County Executive Molinaro continued his advocacy to the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to allow visitation for families with loved ones living in residential group homes. For almost three months, the state has not allowed those with disabilities living in such facilities to visit with their families, further isolating them from their loved ones during a pandemic fraught with stress and uncertainty. As recently as June 5th, County Executive Molinaro wrote OPWDD Commissioner Dr. Theodore Kastner, imploring he update OPWDD’s guidance, which was last revised on April 28th, to restore visitation, allow more flexibility in accommodating visitation for all residents and protect those individuals who may be more susceptible to COVID-19 and protects all clients and staff.
- Molinaro also explained the delay in updates to the Dutchess County’s COVID-19 data dashboard. The Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) is completing the transition to the New York State-wide CommCare Contact Tracing system, and phasing out the previously used contact tracing system. In verifying cases to be transferred to the new CommCare system, a significant number of individuals have been removed from the County’s active cases count, while the County continues to receive new data from the state. The dashboard is expected to be updated by Thursday, June 11th.
- The Mid-Hudson region, including Dutchess County, began Phase 2 of the “NY Forward” re-opening process on Tuesday, June 9th, with several business categories and activities permitted to open with certain criteria, including outdoor dining at local restaurants. Thanks to County Executive Molinaro’s advocacy, the State finally agreed to add several activities to Phase 2, which are now permissible, including:
- in-person instruction for special education students this summer;
- in-person services at houses of worship, limited to 25 percent capacity; and
- high school graduations, limited to 150 attendees, including students, families and staff.
- County Executive Molinaro said while all three are steps in the right direction, he will continue to advocate to the State to revise its capacity restrictions regarding in-person services when proper social distancing can be achieved at houses of worship, as well as its prohibition on graduations of more than 150 people, as many local schools have access to outdoor venues that could both accommodate larger gatherings and ensure proper social distancing.
- Dutchess County anticipates entering Phase 3 of the process on Tuesday, June 23rd, and the state has provided initial guidance on businesses and activities that will be permitted to move forward in Phase 3 with limited capacity and proper social distancing protocols being followed. They include:
- indoor seating at restaurants;
- food trucks and concessions; and
- personal care businesses, including tattoo and piercing facilities, appearance enhancement practitioners, massage therapy, spas, cosmetology, nail specialty, UV and non-UV tanning, or waxing.
- More information about Phases 2 and 3 of the re-opening process, and how they affect local businesses and activities, can be found on the County’s Restarting Dutchess webpage.
- With the end of the school year looming, County Executive Molinaro urged parents who depend on summer camp as childcare to reach out this week to camps to confirm space is available for their children. Day camps are now permitted to operate in the Mid-Hudson region, and with COVID-19 condensing their timeline, many camps now have very short registration periods to ensure proper staffing levels. Registration for summer programs operated by the County’s Parks Division begins Monday, June 15th. These popular programs routinely fill to capacity, and County Executive Molinaro encouraged residents to register their children promptly.
County Executive Molinaro will host another COVID-19 Town Hall on Friday, June 12th at 1 p.m. As with all previous online town hall forums, the June 12th event will be broadcast live on the Dutchess County Government Facebook page, and American Sign Language interpreters will translate the conversation. For information on how to participate and view past online COVID-19 community conversations, view the County’s Coronavirus webpage.
Dutchess County Government continues to provide residents the most current information on its COVID-19 Community Impact Dashboard, as well as guidance on its website, dutchessny.gov/coronavirus, its Coronavirus hotline, (845) 486-3555, and its Facebook and Twitter accounts.