Molinaro Announces Efforts for ‘Restarting
Economy, Operations following COVID-19 Pandemic
Teams formed to streamline transition to re-open County
Poughkeepsie, NY… As communities throughout the nation and state look to reconstitute their operations in the wake of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has announced “Restarting Dutchess,” a multi-pronged initiative to appropriately re-open the County’s economy and Dutchess County Government operations.
As part of “Restarting Dutchess,” County Executive Molinaro has announced the creation of four executive-level teams – partnerships between Dutchess County Government leaders, members of the Dutchess County Legislature and several countywide elected officials – to guide the direction of the initiative forward to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
County Executive Molinaro has been working closely with Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan to ensure coordination among the three counties for cohesive reopening efforts with twice weekly online meetings – one focused on county operations and the other focused on economic development. As Governor Andrew Cuomo begins lifting statewide PAUSE restrictions and allows for specific activities in phases using a region-based plan, the three counties are advocating to be considered separately from the most southern region of New York, including Westchester County. The three counties took aggressive measures early on, including being among the first counties to close schools and stop gatherings. In Dutchess County, those efforts have led to a slowing in new cases and hospital capacity has remained stable with continued improvement. While Dutchess County Government remains laser focused on public health and safety, work has also been underway to ensure a successful transition to full County Government operations and reigniting the local economy.
Executive Molinaro said, “Over these past months, we have been working 24/7 to
address the public health impact of COVID-19, while at the same time providing
guidance, support and assistance to our local businesses and organizations who
have been impacted by the shutdown of much of the economy. While Dutchess
County Government remains laser focused on public health and safety, we are
also working aggressively to ensure a successful transition to full County
Government operations and reigniting our local economy. This will be a careful
balancing act – enabling the acceleration of economic activity while carefully
monitoring the health data to immediately respond to any spikes in infection or
hospitalization numbers. It will be a very fluid process as we adapt to a ‘new
normal’ for the economy and Dutchess County Government.”
While the focus of most county departments and officials has been on addressing the coronavirus pandemic, every Dutchess County Government department has remained operational to provide residents with essential services and programs, under the constraints of mandatory work at home orders and drastically limited in-person interaction to ensure proper social-distancing protocols are adhered to for safety. County departments have continued to respond to residents needs with online, phone or email services. This has included photo document submission via mobile app to process temporary assistance applications through the Department of Community & Family Services; new Telehealth services for the Stabilization Center; and the County Clerk’s office has recorded more than 1,260 online land document transactions. Dutchess County DMV has developed a new procedure to register vehicles through the mail at http://www.dutchessny.gov/newregistration.
County Executive Molinaro has been leading response and planning efforts with community partners and local elected officials as well, hosting regular conference calls to ensure open lines of communications and to provide updates from county government as well as updates about state and federal guidance to help them make informed decisions and assist in their planning processes. Twice weekly meetings are held with Mayors and Supervisors, weekly meetings are held with legislators, hospitals, healthcare providers and nursing homes, as well as well as ongoing meetings with area non-profits.
Town of Hyde Park Supervisor Aileen Rohr, President of the Dutchess County Supervisors and Mayors Association, said, “We thank County Executive Molinaro for his transparency, cooperation and guidance during this unprecedented pandemic. We appreciate the open lines of communication the County has engaged during these difficult times, as well as the willingness to work with individual municipalities to find sensible solutions to evolving challenges.”
Supporting local businesses and organizations has been paramount through the pandemic. At the outset in early March, County Executive Molinaro mobilized the economic Rapid Response Team, a coalition of local business community partners, and the Dutchess Business Notification Network was established, providing critical information and resources, including guidance about essential and non-essential designations. Other efforts under coordination of Assistant County Executive Ron Hicks, in addition to answering hundreds of daily calls with specific questions, have included:
- Survey of hundreds of local businesses for their needs and resources,
- Request of bank offer forbearance,
- Lobbied for and received federal approval for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans to Dutchess County businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Hosted multiple countywide Tele-Town Hall conversations with local business community with thousands of attendees taking part online,
- Pause on the collection of the hospitality industry bed tax collection,
- Promotion of immediate job openings available for those seeking employment,
- Creation and distribution of best practices for businesses,
- Launch of the Business Restoration Task Force, and
- Distribution of free face cloths to local businesses, among other efforts.
Various promotional efforts, including TakeOut Tuesday, Farmstand Friday, and Dutchess Tourism’s #WeWillFlyAgain campaign, have also been launched to promote local businesses during the pandemic and to position them for success when the economic re-opening begins.
As part of “Restarting Dutchess,” County Executive Molinaro has constituted four distinct teams to ensure a smooth and orderly transition to a “new normal” for Dutchess County Government and the local economy:
Led by County Executive Molinaro and County Legislators Randy Johnson and Dierdre Houston, the Local Governments Team is working with the County’s 30 municipalities as they devise and implement their respective plans for re-opening.
Among the measures being taken through the Local Governments Team include a recent informational webinar, Conducting Public Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic, held for Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Appeal to ensure necessary meetings can be held to keep key projects moving forward. Over 220 attendees participated. County Executive Molinaro will also utilize the County’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program for creative measures to jump-start village and city centers.
Deputy County Executive William F.X. O’Neil, County Clerk Brad Kendall and County Legislature Assistant Majority Leader John Metzger will serve on the County Government Functions Team which is assessing Dutchess County Government departments’ current level of functionality during the pandemic and working for the full operational restoration of County Government.
Work of the County Government Functions team includes review of the County’s years-long Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) and Coordination of Government (COG) plans. County department heads have also all been directed to provide comprehensive reconstitution plans, including how they will provide services in a new environment that includes new focus of public health and safety considerations as well as anticipated fiscal challenges.
Assistant County Executive for Economic Development Ron Hicks, members of the Th!nk Dutchess Alliance for Business, and County Legislator Don Sagliano will head the Economic Development Team, continuing to provide local, state and federal updates and guidance about a phased re-opening of the local business community. In addition to the efforts previously noted, this team is working closely with the Governor’s Office and Empire State Development for latest updates and information, as well as with the Department of Behavioral & Community Health to provide expertise and assistance to businesses and organizations as they develop their health and safety plans.
The Fiscal/Financial Team, with Budget Director Jessica White, County Comptroller Robin Lois and County Legislator Will Truitt, Chairman of the County Legislature’s Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee, is reviewing the County’s finances moving forward following the pandemic, as well as possible state and federal assistance available to Dutchess County.
Budget Director White and Commissioner of Finance Heidi Seelbach have provided Dutchess County Legislature a summary of the 2019 Annual Financial Statement which demonstrated the success of the conservative and prudent fiscal planning under the leadership of County Executive Molinaro over the past eight years. Dutchess County’s fiscal position, with a solid fund balance of nearly $60 million, will be vital in the coming months as the County Government feels the impact of lost sales tax revenue, state revenue reductions and other effects of the global pandemic.
Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver said, “Our legislative members are proud to work alongside County Executive Molinaro and his administration as we collectively find solutions that are in the best interest of all Dutchess County residents. Just as such collaborations have proved fruitful in the past, I’m confident these four partnerships will similarly benefit the residents we all serve.”
County Executive Molinaro said, “These four teams will meet regularly, both internally and externally, providing guidance and planning to ensure our successful path forward as we begin Restarting Dutchess. There is much more to come, with a great deal of work ahead, but we have a solid foundation to build on and are fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated people committed to Dutchess County’s future.”
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.