Modified: April 29, 2020 12:38pm
Created: April 29, 2020 12:01pm
Website will update the public on all costs and payments related to the Coronavirus
(ERIE COUNTY, NY) – Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw today unveiled a good government initiative on the Erie County website that publicly publishes all costs related to the county’s expenses from COVID-19. The federal government recently deposited $160 million into Erie County coffers to help cover those expenses. The taxpayer checkbook (click here) will monitor how those COVID-19 recovery dollars are utilized.
“Government works best when its business is done in an open, honest and transparent manner. Taxpayers have the right to know how their dollars are spent. This is no different,” said Comptroller Mychajliw. “Taxpayers can monitor this recovery in the most honest way possible.”
The $160,306,414.50 in federal funds was received by Erie County on April 23rd. The legislation restricts how the money is spent. It must be used on expenses incurred as a result of battling the Coronavirus from March through December, 2020. The revenue cannot be used to help fill budget gaps that come as a result of lost sales tax revenue. It cannot cover any expense that had previously been budgeted for 2020.
“Government must live by the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ This COVID-19 taxpayer checkbook will shine a light on that spending. The information is easily accessible on my website. Taxpayers can see for themselves. They will know whether or not funds are being spent how they were intended,” added Comptroller Mychajliw. “It will give a clearer understanding of how costly this pandemic has been.”
The Erie County Comptroller’s office will update the webpage weekly. It will include itemized payments to different businesses and organizations that have played a part in the recovery, as well as a chart highlighting the percentage that goes towards payroll, equipment, services, etc.
Another critical component of the COVID-19 Taxpayer’s Checkbook is to document every dollar from the federal government to remain in compliance on how the money is spent. Seven years after the “October 2006 Surprise Storm,” an audit conducted by the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Homeland Security claimed Erie County did not properly document expenses related to that storm’s cleanup, an issue that arose long before Comptroller Mychajliw took office. In February 2013, the federal government tried to reclaim $48 million from Erie County. The federal government claimed they wanted the money back because Erie County did not properly document how the money spent on storm expenses because of sloppy and in some cases, non-existent paperwork.
“History taught me the importance of documenting every penny of federal fund expenditures. Thankfully we did not have to pay that money back. If we take care of business now, future county leaders won’t inherit the same disastrous problems that I did. No future County Comptroller will have to manage past mistakes,” concluded Comptroller Mychajliw.