Hawley rallies alongside Assembly Minority colleagues to pass COVID-19 economic recovery plan

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today with his Assembly Minority colleagues the “Jump-Start New York” plan for economic recovery.

It's a comprehensive package of legislative proposals that would restore the power of the Legislature by reining in Gov. Cuomo’s executive powers and focus New York’s available financial resources toward economic recovery for “nonessential” small businesses that have lost income due to the governor’s pandemic restrictions through direct aid grants. 

“This package of legislation does exactly what we need to be doing right now in our state, getting the Legislature back to work for the communities they represent and helping the small businesses and families within those communities that have suffered for far too long under onerous restrictions imposed by the governor using his expanded powers,” Hawley said. 

The program’s funds would be drawn from unallocated settlement funds and capital programs such as START-UP NY, and additional stimulus would be made available by making small businesses eligible for the Film Tax Credit.

Additionally, these small businesses would be granted a 180-day grace period to remedy regulatory violations without being fined and also be granted an extra 180 days to file their sales taxes. The legislative package would assist “nonessential” businesses located within the governor’s Red and Orange Zones by prompting a reevaluation of the businesses that could open, while maintaining proper social distancing practices.

In addition, Jump-Start New York would give targeted relief to farmers and renters who have had their incomes impacted by Gov. Cuomo’s restrictions during COVID-19. Landlords who have gone without income would receive a tax credit to help offset their losses, while farmers would see regulatory expenses and requirements loosened and eligibility standards for funding broadened.

The package would also assist farmers and rural business owners in general by expanding rural broadband access, which would help them expand their markets among other benefits.

“Focusing available financial resources on our small businesses that have been struggling to remain operational is just common sense, so I’m hopeful we see ‘Jump-Start New York’ get passed for the sake of the small business owners and their employees who have had their lives upended this last year,” Hawley said.

Press Release Fri, 01/15/2021 - 15:08

Report ready for council but members of police stakeholder group plan to keep going

Submitted by Howard Owens on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 15:03

Members of Batavia Police Advisory Collaboration Stakeholder Group are ready to keep the momentum going.

Their Gov. Andrew Cuomo-assigned task completed, members last night said they felt like some good things had been accomplished for the community and they want to keep going, if not in the group's current form, at least in focus groups and through its participation in police-related committees.

"I don't think the conversation ends here," said Victor Thomas, a member of the group and a member of the Just Kings Social Club. "Like I said earlier, with the chief and assistant chief, these are both people that want to have this conversation with or without this group. They went above and beyond, like I said, to form other groups and actually hear the community's voice. So I don't think this is something that's just going to stop here because Cuomo said we had to do this. We actually have a police chief and assistant9 chief that care about their community. So that's huge."

Chief Shawn Heubush said there is no plan for the conversation to stop.

"One of the things that we talked about is actually inviting the community to our policing community policing meeting because it's usually an internal-facing meeting where we try to come up with ways to integrate ourselves into the community," Heubusch said. "We realized, as Detective (Matthew) Wojtaszek had mentioned that we don't have any citizens on this committee. Why don't we have a citizen or two on this committee to help us in getting into the areas that we need to get into and focusing on those areas? So that would be something that I would see to try to keep this conversation going, inviting more people to talk to those types of functions.

"I really look forward to a citizens' police academy. I certainly hope we can make that happen because I think that is a perfect opportunity. You know, just looking at other communities that have done it, a perfect opportunity for us to really serve the public a lot better and have that educational piece that I think we need so, so very badly with our community, the back and forth conversation as well. And the focus group, as Victor mentioned, we're going to keep going with that. I think that's extremely important."

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said she expects the city to make community and police relations part of its regular focus in the future, perhaps adding a review process as part of the budget process.

"It is up to myself and the chief to follow up with counsel on an annual basis to see how this is going and how it's evolved," Tabelski said. "The plan doesn't get finished and put on the shelf, is what I'm trying to say. I think both the chief and I are committed to making sure that we are reviewing this and trying to make this into our strategic priorities that come forward to counsel every single year at budget time as well."

The stakeholder's group was charged, by executive order, by reviewing all relevant police policies and procedures and make recommendations for changes. There were no recommended changes in the area of things like arrest procedures and use of force but committee members expressed a strong interest in improving mental health intervention as well as community-police relationships.

The written plan produced by the committee will be presented to the City Council on Jan. 25 and become available for public review at that time. There will be a public comment period and the council will be asked to approve it and send it to the governor's office, to comply with the executive order, on March 8.

Near the top of the meeting, Pastor Marty Macdonald of City Church started the discussion about how far the city has come in the area of community and police relations, especially in regards to people of color.

"Ten years ago, this meeting would have never happened," Macdonald said. "Not with the people that we have on (the committee). I am so grateful for Victor being in this group. Victor, what would you have thought five years ago if you were to be invited to this?

"I'm on the CJAC (Criminal Justice Advisory Council) committee, too," he added. "They approved Greg Monroe to be a part of the CJAC. To me, this is the essence of what this whole thing is about, that to a degree, our community has been, I'm not certain that it's been deliberate, but it's just been there's been no attention to it and we have put attention to it now. And I think we've moved in an incredibly positive way."

Victor Thomas said he was grateful to see progress made.

"I applaud the chief because, from the beginning, before the march, before any of this came down, he was there," Thomas said. "He was willing to hear concerns. He was there the day of the march and he was willing to hear his community's cry. I think that showed even more, like you saying, like this conversation needs to happen even without the governor. Yeah, the governor passed (this order) down, but we took that and we created another focus group to look deeper in once we didn't get the results that we wanted from a survey.

"It shows what's manifesting," he added. "It shows the growth in Batavia, and I'm just happy to be a part of it. I'm happy to have my thoughts and Greg's thoughts and other minority thoughts actually taken it into consideration and actually put down in this plan. Like my friend was saying in the beginning, yeah, it should stand for everybody, but I'm glad that the focus remained where the focus needed to be. And I'm happy to be a part of that. And I'm happy to continue the focus group."

GOW Opioid Task Force's virtual Quarterly Meeting is morning of Jan. 21

Submitted by Press Release on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 14:57

Press release:

The GOW Opioid Task Force will be hosting its second virtual Quarterly Meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21st.

This meeting will focus on highlights from the past year, plans for 2021, and how we have adjusted our efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, local addictions professionals will speak on how the pandemic has directly impacted their agencies, treatment services, and any trends they are seeing in our community. 

“It is important we continue the conversation surrounding the opioid crisis and discuss ways we can help amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Christen Ferraro, project coordinator. “People in our community are still struggling and in need of additional support. This virtual setting of our Quarterly Meeting helps us to stay connected and reach even more people across our tri-county region.”

This meeting is open to the public and the community is invited to join and share any questions they may have.

Please visit the GOW Opioid Task Force website for more details and to register. Once registered you will receive a confirmation email with Zoom information and a link to join.

Senators say Feds failure in vaccine distribution must be fixed to get all New Yorkers vaccinated ASAP

Submitted by Press Release on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 14:44

Press release:

As New York embarks on phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called out the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan, despite having months to do so, and demanded the Department take immediate action to fix the significant failures of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process.

The senators said they have been requesting HHS work and communicate with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, vaccine and PPE manufacturers, public health experts, and health care providers for months to develop a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.

“The biggest thing we want to ensure about the coronavirus vaccine is access. The vaccine must be available to whoever needs and wants it,” Senator Schumer said. “By refusing to work with local governments to implement a national vaccine plan, HHS is failing New Yorkers who are earnestly waiting their turn for a vaccine, and they must step up to address the health inequalities and distribution failures. In order to succeed in the collective goal of public health, I am demanding that HHS fix its broken distribution plan and work with municipalities to get New Yorkers vaccinated ASAP.”

Senator Gillibrand said: “New York’s health systems have been stretched to the limits and as the virus surges across the state, federal support is necessary to effectively distribute and administer vaccines. The Trump administration’s lack of leadership has hampered our nation’s vaccine distribution and resulted in doses of vaccine expiring before reaching Americans.

"Even in the final days of this administration, it’s crucial that they enact a robust federal plan to allow the incoming Biden administration to quickly reach every American in need of the vaccine. The Biden administration should not have to start from scratch to form close partnerships with state and local governments in order to deliver detailed guidance and essential resources to speed up vaccine administration.”

Schumer and Gillibrand underscored that a successful plan must include guidance and best practices on taking the vaccine from distribution to administration, provide all necessary resources to state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and other jurisdictions, account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces, and act to ensure vaccine distribution efforts also combat health inequities.

The senators also called for HHS to launch a massive public facing campaign to promote vaccine confidence and help people understand where, when and how to get vaccinated.

In the coming weeks, the senators emphasized that HHS must engage with states to proactively identify and address challenges to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed and administered across the country.

Additionally, Senator Gillibrand recently called for the passage of the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act to address the nation’s lagging vaccine campaign by investing billions in local public health infrastructure and recruiting, training and employing hundreds of thousands of Americans to administer and distribute vaccines, particularly in underserved communities.

Community-based public health jobs and resources, like those created by the Health Force, are known to improve local vaccine education, outreach, and vaccination rates. The Health Force proposal would ensure the federal government has a proactive and coordinated approach to vaccine distribution and administration including delivering $40 billion a year, for the first two years, to meet the COVID-19 vaccine distribution needs and address the various public health challenges caused by the pandemic. 

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, signed alongside 43 other senators appears below:

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to you with concerns about significant challenges in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration across the country and to outline key actions the Trump Administration should have taken—and must now take—to address these challenges. With our health system and economy in crisis, and millions of lives at stake, we cannot afford for this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far.

President Trump tweeted on January 3rd that “the vaccines are being delivered to the states by the Federal Government far faster than they can be administered!” That should have been an indicator of a failed vaccine roll out, not a point of pride. It is the federal government’s role to ensure states, Tribes, localities, and the public are receiving the resources and support they need, rather than requiring every jurisdiction to manage on their own without the benefit of the national resources and perspective that only the federal government can provide.

Since July, we have been calling on the Trump Administration to work with states, Tribes, and localities, vaccine and PPE manufacturers, public health experts, congregate care settings, and other health care providers to develop a comprehensive, national plan for vaccines. Since September, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Operation Warp Speed (OWS) first published their playbook and strategy for vaccine distribution, state, Tribal, and local health departments have said that they need clear communication, transparent decision-making, evidence-based guidance, and financial resources to effectively implement vaccine administration plans.

Despite months to plan, the Trump Administration has failed to meet these needs or deliver promised doses to jurisdictions, and as a result of this lack of planning, only 36 percent of distributed vaccines have been administered.

We hope the recently announced efforts to scale up vaccinations in pharmacies will help to turn this tide but it is clear much more is needed. States, Tribes, and localities, providers, and the public are being left without federal support or clear, complete information about what to expect in the future as nearly 300,000 Americans fall ill daily from this virus. 

In order to avoid these failures, the Trump Administration should have issued and implemented a comprehensive national vaccines plan, including detailed guidance and an infusion of resources to support states. Federal responsibility does not end with delivery of vaccines to states, as you have suggested. Vaccine administration must be a close partnership between the federal government and state, Tribal, and local governments, with the federal government stepping up to ensure that all needs are met.

A vaccine allocated on a spreadsheet, or even a vaccine distributed and sitting on a shelf, is not enough to protect anyone. The metric that matters, and where we are clearly moving too slowly, is vaccines in arms. A comprehensive national plan should:

  • include robust guidance for states, Tribes, localities and health care providers including on personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, vaccine administration prioritization, and best practices for taking the vaccine from distribution to administration;
  • specify how the Federal government will support these entities with funding, supplies, information, and personnel—which thus far the Trump Administration has failed to do; and
  • account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces while continuing other lifesaving public health work, which may include providing increased support for mass vaccination clinics and mobile testing units, as well as supplementing the vaccination workforce including vaccinators, logistical support, and more. 

In the absence of this long-overdue national plan, it is all the more important that the Trump Administration actively engage with state planning efforts in the coming days, identify challenges across distribution and administration, and proactively address problems that arise in partnership with jurisdictions.

In order to support the efforts outlined in a comprehensive, national plan, the Trump Administration must also quickly provide robust vaccine distribution funding to States, Tribes, and localities. In advance of vaccine distribution efforts commencing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had provided just $617 million in funding to states for vaccine efforts—this amount was woefully inadequate. In fact, the Trump Administration falsely stated as recently as November that States did not need funding for vaccine distribution.

Ultimately, Congress provided $8.75 billion for vaccine distribution efforts in the recently enacted COVID relief bill which will meaningfully help states execute their vaccine administration plans. The bill requires a portion of this funding to be sent to states within 21 days, and President Trump’s delay in signing this legislation should not further delay the distribution of these funds.

We recognize that the CDC announced the availability of $3 billion for states for vaccination activities, but we cannot afford a repeat performance of this Administration’s decision to sit on billions of dollars in testing funds when states urgently needed them.

The Trump Administration must ensure strong support reaches jurisdictions as soon as possible to support their critical work. The challenges we are seeing in vaccine distribution also underscore the need for robust and permanent investments in public health infrastructure to get us out of this cycle of crisis and response.

The Trump Administration must act to correct the lack of transparency and communication from the federal government around COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Over the first two weeks of vaccine distribution, more than a dozen states found their actual vaccine allocations fell significantly below initial OWS allocation forecasts.

For several days, OWS denied these discrepancies, before ultimately admitting officials had provided states with flawed numbers. Even now, states are given just one week of advanced notice about the number of doses they will receive and have been given no information about distribution projections after February.

Local health departments are largely excluded from planning calls with OWS and CDC, even though they often ultimately receive and administer vaccines. There is no federal plan to publicly release sufficient data on vaccinations in long-term care settings, where more than 133,350 residents have died, accounting for 37 percent of all deaths from COVID-19.

The federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which states expected to rely on to support vaccination of these particularly vulnerable populations, has administered only 17 percent of the vaccines distributed to these facilities to date.

Jurisdictions and health care providers are not the only ones in the dark; members of the public do not know when, where, or how they will be able to be vaccinated. CDC already supports a national portal to provide information to the public on where they can receive flu vaccines and other vaccines; the public needs this and more information when it comes COVID-19 vaccines, which should be broadly publicized.

Furthermore, while some states are taking steps to educate providers and the public to improve communication and build trust, the Trump Administration has failed to meaningfully address vaccine confidence, after spending months directly undermining such confidence by casting doubt on our nation’s world-class scientists and scientific agencies.

The Trump Administration should launch a long-overdue, large-scale public awareness campaign and work with leaders in communities across the country to provide science-based information to promote high vaccination rates. The federal government must play a proactive role in improving transparency and communication with public health departments and the American people.

Finally, the Trump Administration must also act to ensure vaccine distribution efforts combat rather than exacerbate the health inequities that have been laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic. A failure to plan strategically and proactively for vaccine distribution means communities of color, residents of congregate care facilities, rural communities, and other populations disproportionately at-risk will remain neglected in our pandemic response.

This is especially true for the millions of health care workers of color who provide the daily care and support for residents of congregate care settings and who provide home health care. We have seen the toll this pandemic has taken on vulnerable communities, and the egregious health disparities that have resulted from this pandemic, and we must act to combat these inequities.

Since FDA granted the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, only 2 percent of Americans have been vaccinated. In that same time, the United States passed 20 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 and saw a new record in daily deaths from COVID-19 when over 4,085 Americans died on January 7.

Of the 20 million doses promised by the end of 2020, only 4 million doses were administered before the end of the year. In light of this failed vaccine rollout amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, we urge you to finally take the steps necessary to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed and administered across the country.

Schumer: FEMA to deliver $2B more to New York for COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund

Submitted by Press Release on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 11:55

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced Thursday that after numerous discussions with President-elect Joe Biden and his team, his incoming administration’s FEMA will deliver roughly $2 billion MORE to New York State for COVID-19 relief.

Schumer said that while these funds are meant to help alleviate the mounting local costs associated with the pandemic, they will ultimately help New York State tackle COVID-related budget gaps.

The money, Schumer explained, is tied to the March 2020 FEMA Disaster Declaration declared by the Trump administration. Under that declaration and current policy, 75 percent of NYS COVID-related expenses are covered by a Disaster Relief Fund (DRF.) Now, the expenses covered will be 100 percent -- and this will deliver roughly $2 billion more to New York within the next several months.

“President-elect Biden is laser-focused on America’s economic recovery, and this recovery begins with tackling the costs states and local governments have incurred in managing the pandemic,” Senator Schumer said.

“For New York, the costs have been huge and will take years to overcome entirely, but achieving my goal of 100-percent FEMA cost share to New York will mean a sigh of relief for all New Yorkers because these critical dollars will help protect essential services and workers while we deal with badly burdened budgets that have been gut-punched by COVID. I am glad we could get this done even before the President-elect is sworn in because it shows how we will be hitting the ground running come January 20th.” 

Schumer has been pushing for 100-percent FEMA cost share since the crisis began.

Early on, in March 2020, Schumer wrote FEMA saying, “I write today to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to wave the 25 percent state cost share associated with any coronavirus disease (COVID-19) work under the March 13 Emergency Declaration. As New York has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., I urge the FEMA to request this waiver from the President as soon as possible.”

Schumer spent the next month’s making more calls, speaking with President Trump and hammering home the critical need for 100-percent relief. His advocacy continued for months thereafter and included many meetings, calls, and additional letters.  

New York State has been responding to COVID since last March, spending limited funds on masks, extra nurses and doctors, temporary hospitals, and so much more. Because of Schumer’s earlier pushes, FEMA told the state that many of these expenses are covered, similar to insurance, under the COVID declarations.

Over time the state has submitted to FEMA a log of these expenses and FEMA has assessed those expenses. For every dollar spent, FEMA and federal government currently cover 75 cents and the state provides the remaining 25 cents. Now, after Schumer’s push, the incoming Biden administration’s FEMA will cover 100-percent of eligible expenses, delivering roughly $2 billion more to the State of New York.

City's last day of Christmas tree pickup is Feb. 1

Submitted by Press Release on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 11:45

Press release:

The City of Batavia has been picking up Christmas trees for the month January and will continue through the end of the month as weather and operations permit.

Important information regarding Christmas tree removal:

  • We can only pick up real trees. No artificial trees.
  • Residents are to place trees in the parkway near the curb. Keep trees out of the roadway and clear of sidewalks.
  • Residents placing trees out will need to strip the trees of all decorations, lights, stands and bags. These items damage chipping equipment. Contact your waste disposal company for information on the proper disposal of these items.
  • If high winds are forecasted, delay putting trees out until after winds have subsided. Trees in the road and across sidewalks are a hazards to motorists and pedestrians.
  • Keep trees free of snow and ice so they are visible and do not become frozen to the ground.
  • Please, have trees out for pickup before Jan. 31. (Last day of pickup is Feb. 1.)

Good news for farmers and their workforce: feds streamline and modernize H-2A visa program

Submitted by Press Release on Fri, 01/15/2021 - 11:36

Press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today issued a statement applauding the Department of Labor’s final rule modernizing the H-2A visa program:

“This final rule streamlining and modernizing the H-2A visa process will go a long way in ensuring American farmers have access to a stable and skilled workforce, all while removing unnecessary bureaucratic processes," Secretary Perdue said.

"USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program that is administered by Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department so hiring a farm worker is an easier process. These modernizations make the Federal government more responsive to our customers, ensuring American agriculture continues to lead the world for years to come.”

Background

The final rule will streamline the H-2A application process by mandating electronic filing of job orders and applications. These elements are designed to bring the H-2A application process into the digital era, by harnessing the power of the FLAG electronic filing system to share information with other federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security while also sharing information with the State Workforce systems and domestic farmworkers.

Additionally, the final rule will provide additional flexibilities to cut down on unnecessary burdens on the agricultural employers that use the program. These flexibilities include the ability to stagger the entry of workers into the country over a 120-day period and allowing agricultural employers the flexibility to file a single application for different dates of need instead of multiple applications. 

Two COVID-related deaths reported, 49 new cases

Submitted by Howard Owens on Thu, 01/14/2021 - 20:09

Press release:

  • Genesee County received 49 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in the:
      • West Region (Alabama, Darien, Pembroke)
      • Central Region (Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Elba, Oakfield)
      • East Region (Bergen, Byron, Le Roy, Pavilion, Stafford)
  • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
  • Sixty-six of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list. Please note there was a miscount for reporting the number of people recovered yesterday. There were 2,517 people recovered from COVID-19 yesterday in Genesee County, not 2,515.
  • Ten of the positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • We are saddened to report the loss of two residents who resided at Premier Genesee Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation. The individuals were both over 65. We do not provide any further information to protect the privacy of the individuals and their families. Our deepest condolences to the families and friends during this very difficult time.
  • Orleans County received 50 new positive cases of COVID-19 from Tuesday through today. 
  • The positive cases reside in the:
    • West Region (Yates, Ridgeway, Shelby)
    • Central Region (Carlton, Gaines, Albion, Barre)
    • East Region (Kendall, Murray, Clarendon)
  • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.
  • Two of the new positive individuals were on quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Thirty-four of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation.
  • Seventeen of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
  • Two of the new positive cases is a resident of Orchard Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

NYS-run Vaccination Sites:  Updated 01/14/21 – The "Am I Eligible" website has changed this afternoon to only show the NYS-run vaccination sites. The COVID-19 Vaccination Hotline is for scheduling vaccination appointments for eligible New Yorkers at the New York State-run vaccination sites only: 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). Use their online tool to find a location. Appointments are required. If you visit a location without an appointment you will not receive a vaccine. We apologize for any confusion, the State just updated this information late this afternoon.

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Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

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