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COVID RELIEF: Big checks can dry up quickly

Easy come, easy go. That can be what happens when individuals, or big entities, come into large sums of money.

We definitely saw that two decades ago when counties across New York state reaped the benefits of the tobacco settlement money — up to $20 million then here locally. So imagine the possibilities — and big eyes — that are opening if $83 million comes to Chautauqua County as part of the COVID-19 federal relief package.

For starters, the city of Jamestown — facing major fiscal problems — is slated to receive $28 million with Dunkirk in line for $11 million. County government could get $25 million.

It all sounds good, but government is not always at its best when having its hands on money. U.S. Rep. Tom Reed has even gone as far to warn that this big bump could face a penalty from New York state leaders when it comes time for aid from Albany.

“They’re going to give these big checks to the local governments and then Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and the other governors are going to reduce their local aid in their state budgets by corresponding, if not more, amounts,” he said last week. “So it’s going to be a hollow victory.”

Governments need to treat this windfall as though it is money for a rainy day. That time, if not now, will be coming soon enough.

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