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Landers: County governments preparing to assume greater role as another wave of COVID-19 takes shape

By Mike Pettinella

With leadership at the Executive Mansion in Albany in disarray, local governments are being forced to take on greater responsibility in the decision-making process as COVID-19 rears its ugly head once more.

Noting that New York State is backing off on mandates and guidelines, Genesee County officials are banding together with administrators from neighboring counties to figure out the best course of action as the number of cases increase and with the reopening of schools just a few weeks away.

“There is no state policy; everybody is on their own,” said Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein during Monday afternoon’s special legislative meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “What we do now – our behavior is really going to matter.”

County Manager Matt Landers told legislators that county managers have restarted discussions on how to handle what he called “a changing landscape.”

“We will not be under the state umbrella where there was a facilitator,” Landers said. “We had our first official meeting today after a long break and we decided to make this a weekly meeting because of the nature of how things are changing.”

He emphasized that public health directors will be included in the talks – “a good step,” he said -- because last time county administrators and public health directors conducted separate meetings.


Landers said his group is looking at the various county and school policies when it comes to the wearing of face coverings.

“A couple of counties have gone the route of mandating masks for their workforce, regardless of vaccination status. We haven’t gone that route at this point, and I wouldn’t recommend that route as necessary,” he said.

Genesee County employees do not have to wear a mask if they are vaccinated, he said, but need to show proof of vaccination to do so.

He said that Legislature Clerk Pamela LaGrou came up with that idea, and it was applauded by leaders in other counties.

Unvaccinated county employees are required to wear face coverings, however.

“Here, we’re not going to ask vaccination status of any of our workforce, but if you want to take the mask off at work, you have to provide proof of vaccination to your department head,” he said. “So, we have high confidence right now in the county workforce that if you see a county employee with his or her mask off, they have shown that proof. And because of that, we won’t have to rush to have any mask mandate for all of our workers anytime soon.”


Landers said that an interim step before mandating face coverings could be distancing county workers from the public.

“But we’re not there yet either,” he said, “because our transmission level is still low. Still, it’s something we have to start thinking about now. It’s unfortunate that we have to do this (again), but I like the spirit that everyone has in wanting to make sure that we’re being consistent and cooperating.”

Public Health Director Paul Pettit is in constant contact with school district officials, Landers said, with the goal of reaching a point where all schools draft similar guidelines when classes resume.

“There’s no universal set policy (for schools) yet; I think there’s an attempt,” Landers said. “We’re taking the position that we recommend following CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines; in good conscience, we can’t deviate from recommending CDC guidelines. But each of the schools is going to make its own decision.”


Genesee County has 25 active cases as of Monday, Landers said. Eleven of them occurred over the weekend, but no one is hospitalized.

He said Genesee is in the “moderate” category and just about to go into “substantial,” which is 28 cases a week on average. The “high” level is 57 cases.

The county manager said that about 20 to 30 percent of the positive cases are vaccinated people, adding that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is “a little less effective” than the Moderna or Pfizer doses.

He said he’s not sure of the percentage of county employees who have been vaccinated, but estimated it around 70 percent – which is higher than the Genesee County number of 59 percent.

The county’s Facebook page has been getting significant hits as the public searches for current information about the coronavirus, Landers said, adding that a press conference is being set up for next week for the sharing of more data.


In the meantime, he said the county will continue to test and vaccinate.

“… and if the demand is out there, we will increase the testing days and vaccination," he added.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg mentioned that if school guidelines remain the same as before, more testing will be in order.

Landers said federal funding from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act will enable the county to place at least one Abbott rapid antigen test machine in each school to quickly test students and to provide BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Cards for asymptomatic testing.

Legislator Christian Yunker urged the county brace for another wave.

“We should probably be prepared to deal with another stint of rising cases,” he said. “It’s probably going to happen, so however we can be proactive to curb in those problems (the better off we’ll be).”  

Landers outlines four areas to use ARPA funds, says plan to spend $11.1 million is on the drawing board

By Mike Pettinella

More than $11 million from the American Rescue Plan Act has Genesee County’s name on it, but it’s too early to speculate exactly how that money will be used, County Manager Matt Landers reported to legislators earlier this week.

Landers, in outlining the four areas on which the money can be spent, said he emphasized to county lawmakers that the current federal guidelines have been released on an interim basis and the final rule is not expected until mid-July.

“Between not having the final rule yet, plus the fact that the feds are doing this in a two-traunch allocation of the money, no official roadmap of how were going to spend the $11,125,969 has been drawn up,” Landers said.

“They’re doing this specifically because they don’t want you to spend all of the money now. They want you to evaluate how the pandemic is progressing and to be able to adjust later on with the funding they give you.”

Payments, in equal installments, to municipalities will be made sometime this year and again 12 months later.

According to a directive from the federal government, eligible uses are as follows:

  • To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.

Landers said his office is calculating what won’t be covered by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act (of 2020) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with outstanding expenses to be covered with ARPA funds.

“We’re still investigating what we can and can't do here regarding tourism,” he said. “I am checking to see if this is the way we can assist the Chamber of Commerce for a rebranding effort, along with assistance to some of our local businesses most impacted by the pandemic and to assist our tourism sector.”

  • To respond to workers performing essential work during COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers.
  • For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.

Landers reported that the county treasurer’s office has calculated the amount of lost revenue by Genesee County, using the prescribed three formulas.

“The most beneficial calculation of lost revenue is approximately $6 million,” he said. “There are strings attached to this money, but early thoughts on how to utilize this portion is on the construction of the Genesee County Jail.”

He also said he is talking to department heads about possible investments and for cybersecurity upgrades proposed by the Information Technology department.

  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.                                                                                                    

Landers said it there could be around $5 million available for allocating to broadband and water infrastructure needs.

“Limitations on upload/download speed may impact the effectiveness of the broadband allocation,” he advised.

The county manager said he will be meeting with other county administrators on June 4 in Madison County and with New York State Association of County leaders “to put our heads together to see what works.”

“The interim final guidance provides us with a lot of information, but also a lot of questions,” he said. “It is too early to provide a complete list of recommendations, but it is safe to say we will be able to allocate all of the $11 million and will allocate it in the most impactful and transparent way.”

Jacobs introduces bill he says will get people back to work

By Press Release

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) introduced the Help Wanted Act yesterday evening to help address the growing labor shortages reported in Western New York and around the nation.

“The jobs report released Friday shows what we warned would happen – the President’s policies have disincentivized work and made it more lucrative for individuals to stay home and collect enhanced unemployment benefits than seek employment,” Jacobs said. “Now we are seeing the effects.

"Businesses cannot find employees to keep up with growing demand, restaurants are having to turn customers away when they need them most, and commodity prices are skyrocketing as organizations cannot find labor to support their supply chains. This legislation addresses the root causes of this labor shortage to get Americans back to work and support our economic recovery.”

“There are nearly 8 million job openings and 14 million Americans out of work. If the American economy is going to make a full comeback, we have to get folks back to work -- Congressman Jacobs' Help Wanted Act accomplishes that goal,” Rep. Dusty Johnson said.

“I have continually advocated for reopening our economy and getting people back to work,” said Rep. Tracey Mann. “At a time when small businesses and other employers are searching for workers, the federal government’s interference to normal order is not the right path. It’s time to take off the masks, reopen our businesses and schools, and get back on track.”

The Help Wanted Act was introduced by Rep. Jacobs and is cosponsored by Rep. Johnson (SD-AL) and Rep. Mann (KS-01). 

The legislation would accomplish three main goals. It would require every state to reinstate the “work-search” requirement for unemployment benefits. This requires unemployment recipients to show proof of a job search to receive benefits. During the coronavirus pandemic, this condition was waived by many states.

"In addition, the legislation strikes a provision from the CARES Act allowing individuals to collect unemployment if they voluntarily left their job. Finally, the legislation would prohibit the use of generic concerns about COVID-19 as a reason for turning down offers of employment.

Jacobs said “With more than a year of complying with COVID protocols, vaccines available to all adults, and infection rates dropping significantly, it is time for us to fully reopen and get back to work."

Hawley and colleagues call on Cuomo to release $1.3B in federal CARES Act housing funds

By Press Release

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley joined other members of the Assembly and Senate Minority Conferences on Wednesday in calling on Gov. Cuomo to release $1.3 billion in CARES Act housing assistance funding to aid tenants and landlords.

If the money were to go unused by the end of September, it is possible the federal government could take the funds back, leaving tenants and landlords without much-needed assistance. Tenants have struggled to pay rent due to the pandemic, causing many small landlords to face difficulty in paying their mortgages.      

“People need this money now more than ever, and to leave it sitting around during this time of great need is unconscionable,” Hawley said. “Helping every day New Yorkers should be our number-one priority during these times, and for most people their priority number one is keeping a roof over their heads.

"This money will go a long way toward keeping people’s rents and mortgages paid, and I see no reason we should wait any longer in getting it to those who need it most.”  

USDA extends evictions and foreclosure moratorium on loans until March 31

By Press Release

Press release:

In one of his first acts in office, President Joe Biden requested federal agencies to extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums for millions of Americans.

In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums on USDA Single Family Housing Direct and Guaranteed loans (SFHDLP and SFHGLP) through March 31. The actions announced today will bring relief to residents in rural America who have housing loans through USDA.

USDA recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an almost unprecedented housing affordability crisis in the United States. Today, 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments.

In addition to the actions taken, the Biden Administration looks forward to working with Congress to take more robust and aggressive actions to bring additional relief to American families and individuals impacted by the pandemic.

Visit for additional information on USDA’s Rural Development COVID-19 relief efforts application deadline extensions and more. USDA Rural Development will keep our customers, partners and stakeholders continuously updated as additional actions are taken to bring relief and development to rural America.

Foreclosure Moratorium Extension

The actions announced today make it possible for the foreclosure and eviction moratorium announced by USDA, Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program (SFHGLP) and the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program (SFHGLP) on Aug. 28 to be extended until March 31. The moratorium does not apply in cases where USDA or the servicing lender has documented the property is vacant or abandoned.

Forbearance Requirements

Lenders should continue to provide impacted borrowers relief in accordance with the CARES Act by offering forbearance of the borrower guaranteed loan payment for up to 180 days. In addition, the initial forbearance period may be extended up to an additional 180 days at the borrower’s request. Lenders should outline potential solutions that may be available at the end of the forbearance payment and explain to borrowers that a lump sum payment of the arrearage will not be required.

During the forbearance options outlined above, no accrual of fees, penalties or interest may be charged to the borrower beyond the amounts calculated as if the borrower had made all contractual payments in a timely fashion.

Lenders may approve the initial 180-day COVID-19 Forbearance no later than the earlier of the termination date of the national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020 or March 31.

Post Forbearance Options

Upon completion of the forbearance, the lender shall work with the borrower to determine if they can resume making regular payments and, if so, either offer an affordable repayment plan or term extension to defer any missed payments to the end of the loan. If the borrower is unable to resume making regular payments, the lender should evaluate the borrower for all available loss mitigation options outlined in HB-1-3555.

The special relief measured that are outlined in Chapter 18 Section 5 “Assistance in Natural Disasters” will apply. These options include Term Extensions, Capitalization and Term Extensions, and a Mortgage Recovery Advance.

ILGR receives CARES Act funding for homeless and eviction prevention programs

By Press Release

Press release:

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) in collaboration with the Genesee County and Orleans County Departments of Social Services announces a new program to assist tenants and landlords affected by the current COVID-19 health pandemic.

The Emergency Solutions Grant, via the CARES Act funding, will provide rental assistance to individuals who are facing eviction and are unable to pay their rent due to circumstance related to the pandemic.

These circumstances may include being laid off, furloughed, workplace closure, having a wage earner unable to work due to COVID-19, or being the primary care giver of someone who contracted COVID-19, or other circumstances.

The eviction prevention rental assistance will be available to cover up to a maximum of $4,200 for households that qualify. The rent subsidy will be paid directly to the landlord to prevent eviction on behalf of the tenant.  

This program will be available to renters who meet the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Must be a resident of the County where they are applying.
  2. Must be determined ineligible for rental assistance with the Department of Social Services. 
  3. Must provide proof of tenancy.
  4. Household annual income must be at or below 50% of Average Median Income (AMI) for the County level prior to the COVID-19 crisis; and Households must provide documentation of loss or reduction of income due to COVID-19 after March 16, 2020.
  5. Must be at risk of being evicted once the moratorium on eviction is lifted because of the COVID-19 Pandemic (i.e. already missed or about to miss rent payments and face eviction).

How to Apply for Assistance:

  1. Contact the Department of Social Services to determine your eligibility for rental assistance. 
  2. If you are not eligible, contact Independent Living of the Genesee Region at
  3. You will be assigned to an Independent Living Specialist who will conduct an interview and collect all required documentation.  

Before contacting Independent Living, please have answers to the following questions:

a. Does your household income qualify based on this year’s gross yearly income? (The Federal Government’s unemployment pay of $600 per week is not considered as part of your income, but the state unemployment payments are). Please see income guidelines for income limits per household size.

              Genesee County                                                                Orleans County

One Person                   $25,800                                             One Person              $26,750

Two Person                   $29,500                                             Two Person              $30,600

Three Person                $33,200                                             Three Person            $34,400

Four Person                  $36,850                                             Four Person              $38,200

Five Person                   $39,800                                            Five Person              $41,300

Six Person                    $42,750                                             Six Person                $44,350

Seven Person               $45,700                                             Seven Person           $47,400

Eight Person                 $48,650                                             Eight Person             $50,450

b. Have any of your household members become unemployed or under-employed as result of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

c. Are you at risk of being evicted once the moratorium on eviction is lifted because of the COVID-19 Pandemic? (i.e., already missed or about to miss rent payments and face eviction)

If the renter provides false information to the County or its designee, they will not be qualified for the assistance and will be required to repay the assistance. The eligibility determination organization has the final say/decision in all matters/situations pertaining to this program. The program regulations can be changed at any time throughout the grant year due to reasons of funding or program need. In addition, the entire program may be withdrawn and/or changed by the County for any reason, including reasons of funding or program effect.

The Emergency Solutions Grant will provide additional funds to the existing Rapid Rehousing Program facilitated by Independent Living of the Genesee Region for people who are experiencing homelessness.  If you are unsheltered and need assistance, please contact Independent Living at (585) 815-8501, ext. 400. 

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is a member of the Western New York Independent Living, Inc. family of agencies that offers an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

Cuomo spokesman says $3 billion in CARES Act money will be spent; Jacobs says it's not governor's 'piggybank'

By Mike Pettinella

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo advised Chris Jacobs to “take a course on basic math” after the freshman congressman on Thursday accused the governor of sitting on $3 billion of unspent federal stimulus money that is intended to help New York state counties, cities, towns and villages.

“I know he just got there, but clearly the congressman should take a course on basic math and budgeting because in about 120 days the state spent $2.2 billion on COVID-19 expenses, nearly half our allocation, and simple math would tell you we’ll spend it all by the end of year,” Deputy Communications Director Jason Conwall said.

Conwall said the money is going for personal protective equipment, food banks and coronavirus testing efforts.

“This is just misdirection by a congressman who knows Washington has yet to deliver and will ultimately determine the depth of the state’s spending reductions and how damaging they will be to the schools, hospitals and our most vulnerable neighbors that are supported by the state,” Cornwall added.

Earlier in the day, Jacobs issued a statement indicating that Cuomo is “hoarding” the CARES Act funding that was intended to help local governments, and wants to see stronger language in any additional stimulus legislation to demand greater accountability in the utilization of these funds.

“This is taxpayer’s money intended to help people during this crisis; it is not the governor’s personal ‘piggybank,’” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said he was “shocked” to learn that New York has spent only 42.3 percent of the $5.1 billion in CARES Act funding. An additional $2.1 billion was allocated to seven large municipalities, including Erie and Monroe counties, which received $160 million and $130 million, respectively.

According to Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, the state’s 50 other counties did not qualify for any of the CARES Act money, other than funds to help offset Medicaid expenses and to reimburse specific agencies for COVID-19 costs.

The CARES Act was set up to compensate states and municipalities that had populations of at least 500,000 or that met Community Development Block Grant requirements.

“We got our FMAP (Federal Medical Assistance Percentages) money – reducing our Medicaid weekly shares by $24,000 well into next year – and about $100,000 for the Office for the Aging and health department,” he said.

Gsell continues to urge the federal government to pass another stimulus bill, this time with funding for local governments. Today is the final day of his 26-year, 364-day career as the county’s chief administrative officer.

He also said there’s no guarantee that the state will release any of the $3 billion that Jacobs says is in its coffers to local governments, so he is imploring the feds to step up with what looks like a final federal stimulus package to support counties, cities, towns and villages. Gov. Cuomo also has warned that the state may reduce its aid to municipalities by 20 percent or more.

“We have been arguing that if there is going to be a Fed Stim 4-5 that part needs to change,” he said. “The HEALS Act that (Sen. Mitch) McConnell put together brings us nothing – it only suggests that the state still has some money and they might be able to give some of it to other jurisdictions in the state.”

Gsell said if Congress passes one last stimulus bill, they need to do it quickly.

“This is the time and this is now. Not after November; not two and a half months from now, before the election. Address it now, before you go home and start doing the hand shaking and baby kissing at the legislative levels,” he said.

In a related development, John F. Marren, president of New York State Association of Counties, reinforced the need for assistance to counties as he commented on the quarterly state budget update for 2021. The financial plan projects a $14.5 billion revenue decline in the general fund and a 15.3 percent decrease in “all funds” tax receipts.

“This quarterly state budget update is bad news for New York, and bad news for every local government, service agency and local taxpayer in the state,” Marren said. “The loss in revenue and budget gaps will decimate every local health, safety and human service program, construction project, and job in their path.”

Gov. Cuomo announces new COVID Rent Relief Program

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday announced an emergency rental assistance program that will help keep low-income families throughout New York in their homes.

The program, which is designed to reach those individuals and families with the greatest need, will provide direct aid for tenants who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act.

The program is administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal and access to program applications will be available here on Thursday, July 16.

"Since day one we made it clear that no New Yorkers should be thrown on the streets because of hardships caused by this pandemic," Governor Cuomo said. "It's critically important that people are able to stay safely in their homes as we progress through our data-driven, phased reopening, and the COVID Rent Relief Program reinforces that commitment with direct assistance to those in the greatest need."

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "Despite the progress we have made in fighting COVID-19, millions of New Yorkers are struggling because of this virus and the economic crisis. Providing direct aid to overburdened renters will help these New Yorkers stay in their homes and be able to make ends meet. I applaud Senator Brian Kavanagh for advancing this legislation, my Senate Democratic Majority for passing it, and Governor Cuomo for signing it into law. While this effort will offer some relief, we know that government needs to step up and provide more support during this difficult time. We are going to keep advancing meaningful legislation to help New Yorkers, and we need the federal government to work with us and provide the resources our state needs."

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, "For many New Yorkers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the challenges of securing affordable housing even greater. The Assembly Majority has fought tirelessly for years to keep New Yorkers in their homes and in the communities that they helped shape. With many New Yorkers still out of work, we still need assistance from the federal government to help states deal with significant fiscal challenges. We must do everything in our power to help New York families. This rental assistance program, while still not enough to meet the tremendous needs that exist, is a step forward to lifting a financial burden off of our most vulnerable families. We will continue to look to do more to help people remain in their homes during this unprecedented time."

Under the new program, eligible households will benefit from a one-time rental subsidy paid directly to landlords and housing providers. Tenants are not required to repay this assistance. 

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet all of the eligibility requirements: 

  • Must be a renter with a primary residence in New York State. 
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, household income (including unemployment benefits) must be below 80 percent of the Area Median Income, adjusted for household size. Applicants can find the Area Median Income for their county, based on household size, on HCR's website here.
  • Before March 1, 2020 and at the time of application, the household must have been "rent burdened," which is defined as paying more than 30 percent of gross monthly income towards rent.
  • Applicants must have lost income during any period between April 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020.
  • The application period will be open for two weeks. Residents can apply any time during the two-week period. 

HCR will prioritize households with greatest economic and social need, accounting for income, rent burden, percent of income lost and risk of homelessness. The rental assistance payment will cover the difference between the household's rent burden on March 1, 2020 and the increase in rent burden during the period the household is applying for assistance. Households can apply for up to four months in rental assistance for the months of April through July. The program is open to households that rent apartments, single-family homes, manufactured homes and manufactured home lots. 

Households with at least one household member with U.S. Citizenship or eligible immigration status are qualified to receive the subsidy. Tenants currently receiving a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher for housing costs or who reside in public housing are not eligible for RRP assistance.

The COVID Rent Relief Program builds upon Governor Cuomo's efforts to protect New York's renters during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes a statewide moratorium on COVID-related residential or commercial evictions; banning late payments or fees for missed rent payments during the eviction moratorium; and allowing renters facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 to use their security deposit as payment and repay their security deposit over time.

More information about the COVID Rent Relief Program, including Frequently Asked Questions, is available here.   

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Families and individuals who were already rent burdened, or living paycheck-to-paycheck, were particularly vulnerable to the sudden loss in income that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Cuomo's immediate actions to protect New Yorkers against eviction and foreclosure provided much-needed security during an unimaginable health crisis. The COVID Rent Relief Program builds upon the State's efforts to alleviate the hardship faced by so many tenants with a one-time rental subsidy. By helping our fellow New Yorkers remain secure in their homes, we can continue on our road to economic recovery."

Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan and Brooklyn), chair of the Senate Housing Committee and prime sponsor of the bill, said, "Since this pandemic started, New York has fought back hard to save lives and keep people safe, but we haven't done nearly enough for the many New Yorkers who have been struggling to pay rent and stay in their homes. While we need a lot more funding to cover a much wider range of people, including those currently homeless and those whose immigration status makes it difficult to access other forms of assistance, this program is an important first step toward supporting New Yorkers in need of relief. I thank Commissioner Visnauskas and the diligent staff at HCR for their efforts in launching this program quickly, just four weeks after we passed the Emergency Rent Relief Act."

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Assembly's Housing Committee, said, "On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am pleased to see the COVID Rent Relief Program up and running. Tenants and landlords face enormous financial challenges brought about by our ceaseless fight against this virus. Our responsibility to reopen safely must be balanced by the continuing need to fight homelessness and to keep New Yorkers safe in their own homes. By prioritizing households with the greatest need, this program will help enable our recovery while we wait for Congress to act and provide more essential relief."

Representative Nita Lowey said, "The COVID Rent Relief Program, which is made possible with the federal funds I helped secure for New York in the CARES Act, is an important step in providing critical assistance to communities and families that were hardest hit by this pandemic. I commend Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature for taking decisive action to protect renters around the state from eviction who continue to suffer from the financial impact of the economic shutdown. Housing is foundational to health and safety, and I will continue working to secure the federal relief New Yorkers need to ensure our health, safety, and economic security."

Representative José Serrano said, "Affordable housing was a serious issue before this crisis, and it has been exacerbated during the coronavirus pandemic. Too many families in the Bronx and elsewhere are struggling to make ends meet, pay their rent, and cover other basic expenses. We need to do everything possible to prevent a housing crisis on top of the public health and economic crises that are ongoing. Made possible thanks to the CARES Act passed in Congress, the COVID Rent Relief Program will provide much needed relief to help those who need it most to pay rent and keep a roof over their heads. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in developing this important program." 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney said, "The COVID Rent Relief Program is a much needed, common-sense approach that will help renters experiencing economic strain brought on by the pandemic. New York State is once again leading the way and the Senate should follow suit by passing the House's Heroes Act, which includes a $100 billion fund for rent relief, and H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act. Nobody should lose sleep worried about how they will keep a roof over their heads, especially during a pandemic. We must continue to take steps to help our nation weather this storm and deliver meaningful relief to the American people when they need it most."

Representative Nydia M. Velázquez said, "So many New Yorkers are struggling right now as a result of the pandemic and they are faced with an unbearable choice between paying rent, keeping their lights on or putting food on the table. The COVID Rent Relief Program will deliver critical assistance but this is just a small part of the overall need. I will continue to fight for additional federal funding to ensure that no New Yorker is forced from their home during an unprecedented health and economic crisis."

Representative Hakeem Jeffries said, "New York has borne the burden of the COVID-19 public health crisis, and our communities have experienced unthinkable pain, suffering and death. As we start to reopen the state carefully, we must ensure that the people and communities with the most need receive assistance to help make their ends meet. The emergency rental assistance program will reach those who are most at risk of losing the roof over their heads. This is an extraordinary crisis, and I thank Governor Cuomo for his extraordinary leadership."

Representative Grace Meng said, "For months, I have led calls for relief to be provided to New Yorkers struggling to pay their rent. I thank the Governor for establishing this program and look forward to doing more to help additional New Yorkers who have been forced to endure this severe financial burden through no fault of their own. But this is a first step forward to solving a major issue and I will continue to use my spot on the House Appropriations Committee, which funds the federal government-to combat the renter crisis. Nobody in our state should be kicked out of their homes due to the coronavirus. I also call on the Senate to follow the House in passing the Heroes Act which contains more funding for rent relief."

Farmers: More commodities added to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, applications accepted July 13-Aug. 28

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an initial list of additional commodities that have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made other adjustments to the program based on comments received from agricultural producers and organizations and review of market data.

Producers will be able to submit applications that include these commodities on Monday, July 13. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting through Aug. 28 applications for CFAP, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects additional eligible commodities to be announced in the coming weeks. 

“When we announced this program earlier this year, we asked for public input and received a good response," Secretary Perdue said. "After reviewing the comments received and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities.

"This is an example of government working for the people – we asked for input and we updated the program based on the comments we received.”

USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22.

Changes to CFAP include:

  • Adding the following commodities: alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce – including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens.
  • Expanding for seven currently eligible commodities – apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro – CARES Act funding for sales losses because USDA found these commodities had a 5 percent or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for marketing adjustments.
  • Determining that peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales loss category.
  • Correcting payment rates for apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro.

Additional details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and Final Rule Correction and at

Producers have several options for applying to the CFAP program:
  • Using an online portal, accessible at, allows producers with secure USDA login credentials—known as eAuthentication—to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center. New commodities will be available in the system on July 13.
  • Completing the application form using our CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator found at This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center. An updated version with the new commodities will be available on the website on July 13.
  • Downloading the AD-3114 application form from and manually completing the form to submit to the local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to an office drop box. In some limited cases, the office may be open for in-person business by appointment. Visit to check the status of your local office.

USDA Service Centers can also work with producers to complete and securely transmit digitally signed applications through two commercially available tools: Box and OneSpan. Producers who are interested in digitally signing their applications should notify their local service centers when calling to discuss the CFAP application process. You can learn more about these solutions at

Getting Help from FSA

New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file. 

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Service Centers that are open for appointments will prescreen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors may also be required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in office, by phone and using online tools.

More information can be found at

Show us the money. Town of Batavia sends letter to Cuomo demanding release of CARES Act funds

By Mike Pettinella

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post has penned a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling out the state’s top executive for not distributing funds from the first Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to local municipal governments as stipulated by the federal legislation.

“As leaders across the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Western New York, we demand you follow congressional intent, Treasury guidance and 18 other states that have distributed a portion of the billions of dollars received from the … (CARES) Act for direct assistance to local governments under the 500,000 population threshold,” Post wrote in the letter, which was the subject of a resolution at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.

“If these funds are not delivered, it is not just the governments themselves that will be impacted, but the constituents in these areas will suffer life-threatening consequences as a result.”

The letter went on to indicate that the “Coronavirus Relief Fund, included in the CARES Act, allotted $5.1 billion to New York State, with an additional $2.4 billion directly to cities and counties in New York with populations of 500,000 or more. Congress intended the 500,000 threshold to streamline funds to larger cities and counties while smaller cities and counties would receive funds through the State’s share.”

Post concluded his letter by writing that distribution of the funds is well past due.

“New York State, under your direction, has failed to deploy and share these funds with local communities. If we are going to reopen our economy and move forward from this crisis, local communities should receive these funds immediately. There is no excuse. Our local counties, cities, towns, and villages cannot wait any longer.”

During discussion on the resolution, Post said that the CARES Act legislation passed nearly 60 days ago and that “to this date, none of that money has been reallocated or redistributed to any of us in New York State.”

“Our question here is, by this letter, asking why and to please expedite the processing of that $5.1 million to local governments that are feeling the pinch as badly as they are,” he said.

The Town Board unanimously passed the resolution.

In a related development, the Town Board voted in favor of a resolution to amend local finance law to give towns more options to address financial shortfalls at no cost to the state. The measure will be forwarded to the Town’s state government representatives.

The resolution called for the following:

-- Allows Bond Anticipated Notes to rollover for seven years instead of five years;
-- Allows towns to spend money from capital reserve funds for capital costs related to COVID-19 without being subject to a permissive referendum;
-- Allows towns to temporarily borrow money from reserve funds for COVID-19 related expenses so long as at least 20 percent of what’s borrowed is returned each fiscal year;
-- Gives towns another year to pay back interfund advances.

In other news, the board:

-- Heard a report from Building Inspector Daniel Lang that he expects a busy construction season this year based on the number of building permits and inspection applications that are coming in.

“I would say so, especially with what’s going on with COVID-19,” Lang said. “The commercial is ramped out as it normally would be right now, and as far as the residential goes, we’re shaping up to have a good year.”

Lang said his department has received applications for many smaller projects, such as pole barns, decks, swimming pools and single-family dwellings, including a few more homes at Oakwood Estates off East Main Street Road.

“And we’re not going to skip a beat on the big commercial projects – I think that’s where we’re going to get hit,” he said.

-- Was advised by Lang that a retooled solar farm project proposed by Donald Partridge on Ellicott Street Road is in the works. The original plan was denied.

“He’s looking to separate the parcels and make smaller solar farms than what he initially proposed,” Lang said.

-- Was advised by Town Councilman Chad Zambito that plans for a ribbon-cutting ceremony are being made, possibly before the July 4th weekend, and that invitations will be extended to Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

Zambito also said that the Rotary Club donated benches and bicycle racks to the Ellicott Trail, which runs from Seven Springs Road to Pearl Street Road (Route 33).

Essential workers who are income eligible can apply for child care scholarships

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Community Action of Orleans and Genesee Inc. Child Care Resource and Referral Program is pleased to announce that the Cuomo Administration has developed a plan to provide child care to eligible essential workers at no cost.

This allocation of funding for child care for essential workers comes to the state from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act(the “CARES Act”), which has provided New York with $163.6 million in emergency relief to the child care system.

New York State is using a portion of this funding to provide free child care for income eligible essential workers.

Essential workers using a regulated child care provider may receive a scholarship for the cost of care as long as the funds to support it are available. All licensed and regulated providers who are caring for essential workers are able to participate in this new program.

Access to affordable and safe child care is a barrier for working parents during the best of times, and even more so during a crisis.

New York State’s plan will ensure that the workforce that is needed to protect and care for the public during this pandemic have the child care that allows them to continue to serve us all. CCR&Rs are the child care experts and the conduit to accessing child care in New York State.

If you meet the definition of an essential employee and have child care needs, please apply here. You will be contacted by Community Action of Orleans and Genesee Child Care Resource and Referral staff within one business day.

We will follow up on next steps to gather information about your household and help you identify a participating child care provider or work with your current registered or licensed child care provider. If you have questions, you may contact Taryn Moyle, CCR&R Manager at:

NY Farm Bureau would like $9.5B in CARES Act funds to be paid directly to farms

By Billie Owens

Press release:

New York Farm Bureau is requesting immediate help for farmers who are facing serious economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recently passed CARES Act provides $9.5 billion in funding for USDA, and NYFB is encouraging that funding to be used for direct payments to farms.

NYFB President David Fisher has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to make the case for federal assistance which spells out a number of ways USDA can help a diverse range of farms in New York weather the storm that is affecting millions of small businesses. This would help offset the fact that most farms may not meet the traditional eligibility requirements for Small Business Administration programs. At a time when food security is of utmost importance, we must do everything we can to keep farmers in business during this most challenging time.

The letter from President Fisher reads in part, “While no one could have predicted the extent of this virus on the country or its food supply, the impacts have been real and unprecedented for America’s farmers, including those in New York. Not only have farmers experienced the loss of markets, dumping of products, and labor disruptions, also there remains uncertainty of when they may see any type of recovery.”

In addition to direct payments, some additional requests include:

  • USDA should immediately make purchases of dairy products including but not limited to fluid milk, butter, cheeses and dry milk powders. Additional support could be provided through export assistance programs and direct commodity support.
  • The creation of a voucher program for people in need through the Milk Donation Program, as authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, to facilitate the distribution of donated milk through grocery stores and other venues since some food banks and food pantries often do not have enough cold storage to accept large quantities of highly perishable products.
  • With the steep decline in purchases in the food service sector, USDA should consider developing a purchase program that would quickly provide stability to all impacted fresh produce growers through the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 
  • Provisions should be made for livestock, equine, horticulture, craft distilleries, maple producers and more who are facing closures and a significant loss of business.

Read the requests made by NYFB to assist farmers across the state and the full letter here.

People getting Social Security benefits won't have to file a tax return to get aid in COVID-19 crisis

By Billie Owens

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Friday (April 3) that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has heeded his call and will reverse the guidance issued earlier this week requiring Social Security recipients file a tax return in order to receive the direct cash assistance.

Schumer explained that the reversal is essential to the wellbeing of seniors and disabled New Yorkers because the original IRS requirement of filing a tax return in order to receive the direct assistance would have placed an undue burden on vulnerable individuals, especially seniors, who are already facing tremendous stress as the most at-risk population during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

“After successfully pushing for streamlined payments to New York seniors and most vulnerable in last week’s emergency relief package, the IRS turned around and issued bureaucratic and unreasonable guidance, complicating the process and making it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to quickly get the money they deserve,” Senator Schumer said.

“I’m glad the IRS heeded my call and reversed course, because asking vulnerable individuals living in the epicenter of this global pandemic to jump through unnecessary hoops to get their much-needed cash assistance is irresponsible. The new IRS guidance puts the well-being of these New Yorkers first and achieves the intended goal I so fiercely fought for: get New Yorkers the money they deserve and need to help get through this difficult time as quickly as possible.”

The IRS guidance released on March 30th outlined that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct cash assistance, even though the CARES Act explicitly provided the Treasury Department the authority to release cash to those beneficiaries directly.

Schumer opposed the original guidance, saying that the contradicting information only added to the confusion individuals are already facing. The new guidance from the IRS follows the provisions in the Schumer-negotiated CARES Act, providing an avenue for direct cash assistance for the most vulnerable populations.

According to the Social Security Administration, New York has more than 3 million retired and disabled workers receiving Social Security benefits. Below is a breakdown of impacted New Yorkers in each county:


Retired Workers on SS

Disabled Workers on SS



























































































New York










































St. Lawrence






















































NYS Total



USDA announces second application window for distance learning and telemedicine grants

By Billie Owens

Press releasse:

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that USDA is opening a second application window for funding under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.

“Due to the COVID-19 National Emergency, USDA is providing an additional window for those who cannot complete applications prior to the first application deadline,” Brand said. “This action will provide more time for applicants to complete their funding requests. Access to distance learning and telemedicine makes it easier for thousands of rural residents to take advantage of health care and educational opportunities without having to travel long distances or be among large groups of people.”

Electronic applications for window two may be submitted through beginning April 14, 2020, and are due no later than July 13, 2020. Paper applications will not be accepted under the second window. Additional information on how to apply will be available April 14.

USDA opened the period for the first application window on Feb. 10. That application deadline is April 10.

Applicants eligible for DLT grants include most state and local governmental entities, federally recognized tribes, nonprofits, and for-profit businesses.

Rural Development was provided an additional $25 million in CARES Act for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. USDA will make a separate announcement in coming weeks when these funds are available.

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about Rural Development’s COVID-19 response, click here.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

U.S. Treasury/SBA assistance available for small businesses is available

By Billie Owens

Press release:

The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses.

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

·       For a top-line overview of the program CLICK HERE

·       If you’re a lender, more information can be found HERE

·       If you’re a borrower, more information can be found HERE

·       The application for borrowers can be found HERE

Preserving Jobs for American Industry

The CARES Act assists eligible businesses looking for payroll support to keep Americans working. For more information, CLICK HERE.

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