GOSHEN - Orange County government so far has spent $3 million on protective gear for health care workers and emergency responders, laptops for its dispersed workforce and a host of other expenses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The administration provided an itemized list of those costs to county lawmakers with its request this week to approve shifting another $2.5 million in the budget to prepare for even more coronavirus expenses, particularly if a second wave of the outbreak hits in the fall.
The $3 million inventory listed dozens of costs incurred from March 10 to April 15, including $420,000 for 300 laptops and repeated purchases of masks, face shields, gloves and gowns - reaching as high as $329,000 on one day for N95 masks.
The laptops were distributed to essential employees and deployed in the county’s emergency operations center, county spokesman Justin Rodriguez said.
"We had a workforce in place remotely within three days," Rodriguez said. "Also going forward, these laptops will replace our work stations so in the event of any other emergency we can go mobile."
Orange and other counties hope to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the COVID-19 expenses they are accruing, although which types of costs will be deemed eligible for repayment remains unclear.
Ulster County so far has run up $481,509 in coronavirus expenses and Sullivan County has spent $147,340, spokesmen for those two counties said on Tuesday. Sullivan spokesman Dan Hust noted that his tally didn’t include additional staffing expenses.
Each county in New York must track its coronavirus expenses and submit them to the state, which will then seek reimbursement from FEMA on their behalf, Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the New York State Association of Counties, said on Tuesday.
Though most of their added expenses may be reimbursed, counties face two threats on the others side of their ledgers from the business shutdown. One is plunging sales tax and other revenue sources, such as hotel-occupancy and casino taxes; the other is the potential for state aid cuts as Albany confronts its own estimated shortfall of $13.3 billion.
Orange County stands to lose at least $11 million in sales tax this year and much more if there is an extended recession, the counties’ association projected in a report in March with estimates for each of the 57 counties outside New York City. The association calculated losses of at least $5.2 million for Ulster and $1.8 million for Sullivan.
The actual impact so far hasn’t been reported yet. The state’s calculations of sales tax income for the first quarter of 2020 show big increases for Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties over the same period last year.
Orange County Budget Director Deborah Slesinksi told county lawmakers on Tuesday that she has asked department heads for plans to cut spending by 15 percent to prepare for a looming shortfall.
Sullivan County took steps in April to address its own shortfall, approving more than $6 million in budget cuts that included laying off 77 employees and offering others an early retirement incentive. It had projected losing $5 million in expected sales tax this year.