BATH — Steuben County leaders called upon the federal government Friday to provide funds in the next proposed COVID-19 stimulus package directly to state and local governments.

The package, now being negotiated between the White House and Congress, must include flexible, direct funds to avoid a severe financial drain on Steuben taxpayers already strained by the social and economic impact of the pandemic, according to county Legislature Chairman Scott Van Etten, R-Caton.

"Steuben County has always run a tight financial operation, and we have already tightened it even more," Van Etten said. "But the estimated current year deficit is too large a gap to close without federal support."

Van Etten cited recent internal calculations showing Steuben now face:

• $1.6 million loss in sales tax revenues compared to the same time in 2019

• An anticipated $4 million loss in 2020 state aid for mandated programs if funding isn’t provided to the state.

However, so far, flexible funds in the federal CARES Act stimulus have only gone directly to municipalities with populations greater than 500,000, meaning the vast majority of municipalities and smaller counties such as Steuben have not received any direct flexible funds.

Limited assistance was allocated for election security and aging services.

Any local government funding in this forthcoming bill must include language that prevents state governments from intercepting funds meant for counties, cities, towns, and villages, as was experienced in previous stimulus packages, VanEtten said.

The provisions have been championed by U.S. Rep Tom Reed, R-Corning.

With counties and New York City facing a catastrophic $13.5 billion loss in revenue during the next two fiscal years, the lack of federal funds means Steuben residents will see a sharp reduction in many of the local services they have earned the right to enjoy, county leaders said.

"The fiscal outlook for county finances in 2020 and 2021 is grim," said county Manager Jack Wheeler. "Without federal funds for state and local government, New York State will slash reimbursements for mandated programs, and the cost will shift to us. Steuben County, and counties like us, have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. We should not be forced to grapple with a fiscal crisis while leading our communities through this pandemic."