The federal economic stimulus package will send $1.6 billion directly to New York counties and school districts _ some of it about a month after it is signed by the president, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday.
This includes $7.5 million in Medicare relief for 2009 in Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie counties, as well as $17.1 million in school aid for the four-county area, according to data released by Schumer's office.
The House of Representatives' version of the $819 billion stimulus was passed Wednesday night by a vote of 244-188.
Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, voted in favor of it. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The Senate version of the bill was still in committee, but it will likely be voted on next week, Schumer said.
The House and Senate versions are nearly identical, he said.
The expectation is to have the legislation signed by President Barack Obama by Feb. 13, Schumer added.
Two area state lawmakers said they would welcome the aid, but warned it was a "one-shot" deal and that structural changes still have to be made at the state level to cope with New York's fiscal crisis.
"I think that this federal stimulus package will be very helpful in getting through this rough patch and still honor our commitments to education, health care and property tax relief," said state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.
Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie, called the package "the mother of all one shots" and said it runs the risk of "masking the pain."
The term "one shot" is political jargon for a revenue source that is only used once.
Federal aid to school districts as proposed in the stimulus include Title I-A, IDEA/special education and construction funding.
For Oneonta City School District, the total funding under the proposal would amount to
$1.1 million over two years, according to Schumer's data. Aid for other districts in Otsego County ranges from $200,000 to $600,000 over two years, with similar ranges in Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie counties.
"At this point in the game, it's certainly good news financially. We haven't had a lot of good news lately," said Oneonta Superintendent Michael Shea on Wednesday.
But Shea said he is still wondering how the overall stimulus package will affect the proposed state budget, which includes a $930,000 deficit reduction assessment against the district's state aid level for the next school year.
That proposed loss would lead to "disastrous" cuts in staff and programming, Shea said.
Seward said the Legislature has essentially placed its budget process on hold to determine the stimulus benefits for New York if the bill is passed. By law, the state must adopt a budget by April 1.
"The timing is perfect for New York state," Seward said, noting that it comes before the adoption of the state budget and school district budgets, which are due in May.
The stimulus package also includes a Medicaid-relief component for counties in the form of an increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, Schumer said.
Otsego County would see a $2.3 million increase in FMAP funding; Delaware County would see $1.9 million; Chenango would get $2.1 million; and Schoharie County would get $1.2 million, according to Schumer's data.
Otsego County Board of Representatives Chairman James Powers said he was cautiously optimistic about the proposed Medicaid relief, but no matter where it comes from, "It's all our money."
Shea said school districts should not count on this federal aid to be a recurring revenue stream. But he said he hopes that by the time the revenue is projected to expire in two years, state aid will have been restored.
"The stimulus package is going to give a big boost to upstate New York. There is an overwhelming consensus that we should give aid to states and localities," Schumer said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "The reason for it is very simple. For federal government to be pumping money into the economy to reduce the severity of the recession, while the states are taking money out of the economy by either laying people off or raising taxes, simply makes no sense."
Tough choices will still have to be made by county officials and school districts, Schumer said.
"The stimulus package is a silver lining to the dark economic cloud hanging over upstate New York," he said. "But it is not a silver bullet."