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Nassau County approves $10 million in COVID funding for 125th celebration events

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman

In a 12-7 vote on Monday, Nassau lawmakers approved $10 million dollars in COVID relief funds for a series of events to celebrate the county’s 125th anniversary.

The proposal was initially brought forward by Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who aims to use the funds to advertise Nassau County and promote tourism to the area.

The list of events proposed by Blakeman includes concerts, galas, parades, car shows and golf tournaments. Blakeman hopes that the revenue gained from increased tourism to the county will benefit small businesses in the area that may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're anticipating spending $10 million and hoping to generate, for every dollar we spend, $3 in new revenue so we're roughly hoping in tourism and sales tax generation [to make] about $30 million." said Andy Parsec, with the Office of Management and Budget.

Nassau County legislator Arnold Drucker questioned Parsec on how the office calculated the $3 for every dollar spent figure.

"It's really hard to put a pin on that," Parsec replied and stated that the figure was a ballpark estimate.

"It's speculative at best," Drucker said. "How about if we gave $10 million to grants for small businesses, that's a direct correlation that directly helps these small businesses who are struggling. I know you keep saying that these departments are well funded, but $10 million can help a bunch of floundering businesses right now."

Before the vote took place, several Nassau residents testified that it would be a misuse of limited COVID relief funding, and that the funds could be better used for improving undefended county infrastructure.

"Concerning Blakeman's proposal to use $10 million of COVID relief funds for the county's 125-year celebration of the county's break away from Queens is another bad idea," said Pearl Jacobs of the Nostrand Gardens Civic Association. "The surplus of COVID relief funds should be used for the plethora of social issues that are currently destroying our county, opioid and drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide prevention, homelessness, veteran services, and yes, gambling addiction, which is rising right here in Nassau County."

This isn't the first time the county has used relief funds for tourism. $2 million was previously allocated for tourism, $600,000 of which was used in a controversial 30-second commercial to promote the county.

The celebration would mark the 125th anniversary of the year Nassau was formed when Oyster Bay, Hempstead and North Hempstead broke off from Queens to form the county in 1899.

Blakeman aims to have a concrete spending plan together by January. The County Legislature will need to approve Blakeman's plan before any of the funds can be used.

Bill Rodrigues is a graduate intern at WSHU.