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Struggling VFW and American Legion halls could get pandemic relief, Rep. Garbarino says

Desiree D'Iorio
WSHU Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) has introduced legislation that would set up a $25 million fund to help veteran service organizations that have been hit hard by the pandemic. He announced the bill Feb. 18, 2022, at the American Legion hall in Babylon.

Many veterans halls, like the American Legion, were forced to close or cut back services during the pandemic. U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) has introduced legislation that would help them get back on their feet.

The bill would set up a $25 million grant program. Veterans services organizations, like the VFW, could apply for up to $50,000 to keep their halls open and continue providing critical services.

“These halls are fabrics of our community,” Garbarino said when he announced the legislation Friday at the American Legion hall in Babylon. “They’re needed for current veterans and future veterans. We need to keep them going. We can't lose them.”

He said veterans halls lost out on a big source of their income during the pandemic — party rentals — due to economic shutdowns in 2020 and COVID-related capacity restrictions for large gatherings.

“An estimated 40 to 60 VFW’s and American Legion halls have shut down in Suffolk and Nassau County alone since the beginning of this pandemic, leaving many of the 100,000 Long Island veterans and their families with reduced access to crucial support offered by the VSO’s,” Garbarino said, calling the closures “unacceptable.”

The grant funds could be put toward rent or mortgage payments, utilities and other operational costs.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.