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Erie County Legislature allocates $5 million to fight coronavirus pandemic

The Erie County Legislature unanimously approved a $5 million emergency allocation to respond to the cornavirus public health crisis on Thursday, though county officials acknowledged the money might not be enough.

"It's a good start," said Health Commissioner Gale Burstein.

The money will be transferred from the county's year-end surplus for 2019 and be spent on costs associated with maintaining quarantines, doing tests and spearheading other infection control measures. The Public Health Lab will also use the money to purchase equipment to increase the speed and scale of Covid-19 tests.

The money can be spent as needed – without further Legislature approval – under the county executive's authority during the current state of emergency.

Deputy Budget Director Benjamin Swanekamp said the county is financially healthy and has enough money in its rainy day fund to cover the impacts anticipated from a year-long recession.

Anticipating the County Legislature may not meet again for a while, legislators also dealt with a variety of other committee requests and adopted rules to allow members to conference into a meeting if they are affected by Covid-19. Should the entire legislative body be unable to meet physically, further provisions will need to be made to ensure public access, said Chairwoman April Baskin.

Legislators expressed support and gratitude to the county administration and Health Department for their work. However, they also admonished county administrators for not keeping legislators informed of county actions in a timely manner, saying they should not be receiving important county news through the news media, social media or through their own constituents.

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