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Benjamin Center publishes findings from survey of local leaders on COVID-19

The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz has published a new report, “COVID-19: Local Leaders Respond,” an analysis of a survey of 233 randomly selected New York State county, city, town and village elected officials on how the pandemic is affecting their communities.

Summarized key findings from this research include the following:

  • COVID-19 has presented major challenges to all classes of localities, as 85% of local government leaders fear for their community’s ability to respond effectively.
  • Local leaders are expecting precipitous declines in revenue, as nearly every local leader said they are concerned about the fiscal impacts of COVID-19, including 76% who are very concerned. Ninety-four percent say budget gaps are likely, including 76% who say revenue shortfalls are very likely.
  • Fifty-eight percent of leaders say what they need most right now is federal aid due to the revenue shortfalls that are a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic; the vast majority say the deficits will be due to precipitous drops in tax revenues, in particular, sales tax, and many say now is not the time to raise taxes.
  • Nearly half (45%) of local leaders see themselves primarily as communicators and translators of fast-changing information, and 28% say this is currently their greatest challenge. One third (34%) say they could use more help with this from their county government, and 27% say the state needs to be clearer in its communications coming out of Albany.
  • Local leaders applaud Governor Cuomo’s and their County Executive’s response, but give mixed marks to federal leadership. Nine in ten local leaders approve of their County Executive’s handling of this crisis and 81 percent approve of Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 response. Nine in ten also approve of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s approach. In contrast, 43% approve of how President Trump is managing the crisis.

The full Benjamin Center report “COVID-19: Local Leaders Respond” can be viewed online using this link.

A pdf file is also available via this link.

This online Benjamin Center survey was conducted from April 9 – 22, 2020, with 233 randomly selected New York State local government leaders. The overall margin of error is +/- 6.4 percentage points. For more information, contact KT Tobin, lead researcher and Benjamin Center director, at tobink@newpaltz.edu.

The Benjamin Center wishes to thank the 233 local government leaders who generously took the time to complete our survey during this very challenging and busy time, in the midst of responding to this crisis. All participants have been provided a copy of this report.

Tobin was assisted on this project by Robin Jacobowitz, director of education projects, Gerald Benjamin, emeritus founding director, Joshua Simons, senior research associate, and three SUNY New Paltz students: Amanda Drucker ’20 (Sociology, Digital Media & Creative Writing), Valerie Pereyra ’20 (Sociology, Journalism & Black Studies) and Marc Thurston ’21 (Economics and International Relations).

About The Benjamin Center
The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz (formerly CRREO) was established in 2007 to further engage the College with communities, governments, not-for-profits and businesses across our region.

The Center conducts and publicizes research on regional topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific areas of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.