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Kathy Hochul

George Borrello releases statement regarding Associated Press article

By Press Release

Press Release:

“I am disappointed that a longstanding news service like the Associated Press (AP) has abandoned its responsibility to accurate and unbiased reporting as evidenced by today’s article, “New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is not trying to create ‘quarantine camps.’

Their so-called ‘fact check’ of the basis for Borrello et. al. v. Hochul is nothing but a political cover for the administration’s blatant separation of powers violation, a breach which was confirmed in a State Supreme Court decision in July 2022.

While the term ‘quarantine camp’ isn’t used in Rule 2.13 per se, the language in the regulation is very clear when it says the Commissioner of Health or local health department can issue an isolation or quarantine order, at whim, without proof of infection, and can force someone to remain in their home, or send them to ‘other residential or temporary housing… or other locations as the public health authority issuing the order deems appropriate.’ 

Call it whatever you like – quarantine camp, detention facility, field hospital, etc. – the bottom line is that Rule 2.13 authorizes the government to take such an action, which would be a gross abuse of due process and New Yorkers’ civil rights.

The article incorrectly states that the rule only clarifies powers the state already has. As Judge Ronald Ploetz cited, the rule, as written, ‘actually contravenes the [isolation and quarantine] procedures set forth in PHL 2120’ which was established by the New York State Legislature in 1953. The governor and the Department of Health cannot unilaterally change that law. Only the legislature possesses that power.

During the pandemic we saw governments around the world, and our own, overreach in ways we never could have imagined prior to March 2020. Those actions set a terrible precedent that will require us to remain constantly vigilant against constitutional abuses. That was the premise at the core of this court challenge. By focusing on sensational semantics, the AP’s article did a disservice to their readers and missed an opportunity to educate New Yorkers about what is at stake in this case.” 

GCEDC board to consider Hood expansion to create 48 new jobs

By Press Release

Press Release:

As announced by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul, HP Hood plans to invest $120 million to expand its footprint at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in the town of Batavia.  The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors will consider an initial resolution for the proposal expansion at its meeting on Thursday, September 7th.

The $120 million project includes the construction of a 32,500 sq ft expansion to accommodate its automatic storage and retrieval system (ASRS) refrigerated warehouse.  The project will also include new batching and processing systems and other upgrades which will allow the company to increase capacity and begin a new production line.

 The expansion would create 48 new jobs while retaining 455 FTEs, more than doubling the company’s initial employment commitments in 2017. HP Hood’s project is the fifth $100+ million project in Genesee County in the past three years, including Plug Power’s expansion and Edwards Vacuum announcements at STAMP and Horizon Acres Associates in Pembroke in 2023, and Plug Power’s initial project at STAMP in 2021.

 “Since 2011, the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park food and beverage industry has attracted over $600 million of private sector investment supporting over 1,000 jobs,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steven Hyde. “This investment and jobs has generated significant benefits for our community as Genesee County and Batavia are truly the leading dairy-processing hub of the Northeast.”

The GCEDC will consider sales tax exemptions estimated at $4.52 million, a property tax abatement estimated at $549,705 based on an incremental increase in assessed value, and a mortgage tax exemption estimated at $536,000 bringing the value of the proposed financial agreements to approximately $5.6 million. For every $1 of public benefit, HP Hood is investing $16 into the local economy resulting in a local economic impact of $49.87 million in wages and tax revenue.

The GCEDC board will also consider a final resolution from Oak Orchard Solar 3 LLC for a 5 MW community solar farm in the town of Batavia. The $9 million project is projected to generate $4,000/megawatts (AC) annually + a 2% annual escalator of revenues to Genesee County and the Elba Central School District, along with a host agreement with the Town of Batavia.

Hawley calls for special session to address migrant crisis

By Press Release

Press Release:

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File photo of 
Steve Hawley

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia), along with his Assembly Republican colleagues, is calling on Gov. Hochul to convene an extraordinary legislative session to address the migrant crisis across the state. Over 100,000 migrants have arrived in New York and communities and localities are struggling to keep up with this recent influx. Hawley believes a special session would help to implement much-needed reforms such as instituting background checks for incoming immigrants and giving municipalities the ability to choose whether they want to take in migrants.

“Right now, our state is experiencing one of the largest migrant crises in the country, with little support from the federal government,” said Hawley. “Migrants are being shipped upstate from the city and our communities are helpless to do anything. A special session is needed to provide relief for our state and hold our leaders accountable.”

WROTB president sounds the alarm regarding possible placement of full casino in Rochester

By Mike Pettinella

A potential deal between the state and the Seneca Nation to place a full casino in the City of Rochester would devastate the operation of Batavia Downs Gaming and two other established gaming facilities in Western New York.

That’s the stated view of Henry Wojtaszek, chief executive officer and president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., the public benefit company that operates Batavia Downs Gaming.

“The latest scheme by the Senecas and some New York State government officials to place a stealth casino in the Rochester area should be a non-starter for residents, community leaders and elected officials," Wojtaszek said in a statement issued this afternoon.

“Many of the more than 400 jobs here at Batavia Downs would be in jeopardy if a Rochester area casino opened, and the millions of dollars in revenue we send to 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester would be drastically cut. There are already 10 gaming facilities less than 100 miles in any direction from Rochester; that’s the definition of saturation.”

According to published reports, the new 20-year agreement forged by the New York State Senate and Gov. Kathy Hochul with the Senecas apparently includes a casino in Rochester. Over the weekend, the Senate voted 62-1 to ratify the pact; the Assembly has yet to vote on it.

In his statement, Wojtaszek indicated that the three Video Lottery Terminal facilities of Batavia Downs, Finger Lakes Gaming and Hamburg Gaming paid $140 million in combined taxes to the state last year (and) “that is more than the Senecas did.”

“What is the point of putting yet another facility in the region? No major decision like this should ever be made without robust public input and a comprehensive economic impact analysis.  When you see this type of secret top-down governing from our elected officials, it is fair to question their motives and who they are really serving.

“We’ve seen this tried before, and the ending should be the same as the previous two failed attempts to open a casino in the Rochester area.”

Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, contacted by The Batavian tonight, was quick to point out that any casino within 30 miles or so away “would really be a big blow (to Batavia Downs).”

“What’s really unfortunate here is that there are no details,” she said. “The last thing I read was there was a conceptual agreement, but nobody had been able to see what the concept was.”

When it was mentioned that recent changes to the structure of the WROTB board of directors also came with no advance notice to municipal leaders, Stein added that “it seems like we’re in a vacuum constantly – by our one-party rule in Albany and it’s not working well for Genesee County.”

Stein said she and county officials are “frustrated” by the lack of information coming out of Albany and the lack of input by local governments.

“Not to have a plan that is laid out so that we all can participate in … because we’re in, I understand that we’re in that Seneca compact area,” she said. “This new plan, if it’s known to be that it will be in Rochester, will not benefit the public as Batavia Downs does.”

She also noted that rural counties are exploring litigation to stop the changes made by Albany to switch from a one-county/city, one-vote format to a weighted voting format for the WROTB board, effectively transferring power to the Democratic-leaning Erie and Monroe Counties and cities of Rochester and Buffalo.

She did not comment when asked about a conflict of interest situation involving Rochester and Monroe County representatives to the WROTB board (if and when a casino was placed in Rochester), preferring to wait until she learned more about the Seneca compact.

Democrat Jeremy Cooney (the City of Rochester, the Town of Brighton, and the western suburbs of Monroe County) was the lone senator to vote against the measure.

“I have concerns with the announced deal between New York State and the Seneca Nation,” Cooney said in a news release and reported by The Rochester Business Journal. “As a state senator, I did not feel comfortable voting in favor of legislation that removes state lawmakers from their oversight responsibilities and limits input from the public.”

Borrello responds to Hochul's idea of migrant housing

By Press Release

Senator George Borrello sent Governor Kathy Hochul a letter of concern pertaining to her recent plans to move migrants to SUNY campuses. 

Press Release:

Dear Governor Hochul, 

In light of the news that upstate SUNY campuses are being considered as temporary migrant housing, I am writing to urge you to suspend this plan immediately out of concern for the strains on security and resources that such an influx would have on these campuses and the surrounding communities.

I am especially opposed to SUNY Fredonia being chosen as a migrant housing location. Our community does not have the resources that would be required to underwrite the costs of housing, feeding and meeting the many needs that immigrants will require. Our rural upstate social service network is already overburdened by the services required by our own community members.

New York City, a self-designated ‘sanctuary city’, does not have the right or the authority to send economic migrants to other counties in the state without the proper funding, coordination and approval of those counties. Additionally, these migrants have not been properly vetted by U.S. immigration authorities and pose a risk to public safety.

It is important for our state and federal governments to acknowledge their role in creating this crisis and take responsibility for this disastrous outcome.

New York’s immigration crisis is the result of its ‘sanctuary state’ status and policies like the 2020 Green Light Law granting non-citizen, undocumented migrants the ability to get a driver's license. New York’s Green Light law bars federal authorities from accessing New York’s motor vehicle database to enforce U.S. immigration policies and laws. The Green Light Law and its sanctuary status have made New York State the perfect place for undocumented immigrants to settle and avoid deportation.

At a time when New Yorkers face an affordability crisis, and we lead the nation in outmigration, the last thing we should do is add to the burden of hardworking taxpayers and business owners by handing them the bill for resettling migrants who came here illegally. 

My constituents do not support New York’s sanctuary status designation or policies and should not be punished by Washington’s unwillingness to protect our nation’s borders or bad policies adopted by Albany or New York City.

Thank you for your consideration. I would be happy to discuss this issue with you in more detail. 

Sincerely,
George M. Borrello
Senator, 57th District

Possible restructuring of WROTB board of directors has local Republican lawmakers up in arms

By Mike Pettinella

Local New York State politicians are speaking out against a report that Democratic legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul are considering changes to the structure of the board of directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, Sen. George Borrello and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, all Republicans, issued statements Thursday and today, indicating their opposition to what they believe is a proposal to eliminate individual counties’ authority to select WROTB directors.

Press release from Tenney:

“For 50 years, Western Regional Off Track Betting has shared operational control between 15 county governments and the Cities of Rochester and Buffalo. Under this established system, Western Regional OTB has brought jobs, tax revenue, and entertainment to Western New York. Over the past two years, Western OTB returned over $13.9 million to offset local county taxes across Western New York,

“County leaders throughout New York’s 24th district have reached out concerned about efforts to dismantle, politicize, and disadvantage rural communities within Western Regional OTB. When ‘Home Rule’ created the ownership of Western Regional OTB, member counties were given equal representation. NYS Senate Bill 7855 would strip rural counties of their 50-year established authority of this public-private sector partnership in favor of Governor Hochul and left-wing legislators in Albany.

“I stand with local leaders across the district in calling on Kathy Hochul to drop this misguided plan. It should be dead on arrival during budget negotiations in the Albany sewer. With a budget that is nearly four weeks late, a crime surge, and historic mass outmigration, Albany Democrats should leave Western OTB alone and focus on the real problems facing New Yorkers.”

Press release from Borrello:

“Although they already control the major levers of power in Albany, that hasn’t stopped Democrat One-Party Rule for brazenly and continually hunting for more opportunities to conquer and silence those outside their control. Their latest power grab targets Western Regional Off-Track Betting which has operated for five decades under a model of shared operational control between 15 county governments and the Cities of Rochester and Buffalo.

"However, changes under consideration right now would eliminate this cooperative structure of the past 50 years and replace it with a politicized board that would do Albany’s bidding. The voices of our rural counties would be silenced and the jobs and revenue they depend on put at risk.

"I am fiercely opposed to this last-minute attempt to slide this controversial proposal into the budget as the final details come together. It is another shameful attempt at rigging the system for political purposes and should be rejected.”

Statement from Hawley:

Hawley called the proposal "a power grab trying to diminish the influence of smaller, less populated counties."

"It's called Western New York OTB, not Erie County OTB," he said, responding to a text message from The Batavian. "This is similar to what Western New York complains about in the State Legislature. Excessive control by New York City. Shameful and wrong."

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, contacted today, said he and Board Chair Richard Bianchi are monitoring the situation.

“We are waiting to find out what the actual language of the proposed legislation is before making an official statement,” Wojtaszek said.

Currently, the individuals serving on WROTB’s 17-member board, which represents its 17-member municipalities, are appointed by their county or city (Buffalo and Rochester) legislative bodies.

State represenatives react to governor's 2023 State of the State message

By Press Release

Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“Speaking about issues is certainly different from acting on them. If Gov. Hochul wants change in New York, she will have to offer proposals that don’t just benefit her political base. It is my sincere hope she will work with us to fix their disastrous bail “reform”, resume the elimination of state sales tax on gasoline, and to pass our inflation relief bill that would slash taxes on home heating fuel and groceries.”

“Public safety and affordability of basic items are issues that affect New Yorkers daily. This year, I look forward to seeing whether Gov. Hochul takes strides to work with us in a bipartisan manner for the betterment of all New Yorkers.”

Statement from State Senator George Borrello:

“As we approach a new legislative session and fresh opportunities to steer New York State in a positive direction, there were proposals in the Governor’s State of the State address that sounded promising and others that raised red flags.  

“I was glad to hear Governor Hochul recognize that New York State’s outmigration is a problem we can no longer ignore. Acknowledgement is the first step in fixing any problem. However, the blueprint she outlined won’t stop the exodus. Some crowd-pleasing talking points accompanied a series of proposals that fall short of the change in direction we need..  

“Perhaps the biggest disappointment was her lack of emphasis on public safety. Since our bail and parole laws were turned upside down, crime has spiraled in our cities and communities. While the Governor made vague references to ‘room for improvement’ with regard to the bail law, we need more than a lukewarm fix, particularly with poll after poll finding crime is the number one issue for New Yorkers. This so-called ‘reform’ has been such a disaster, we need to repeal it and start over.  

“I do agree that strengthening our mental health system should be a priority and was encouraged at the investments the Governor promised in expanding inpatient mental health beds, outpatient services and better continuity of care. Proven programs like assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), a.k.a. Kendra’s Law, are tragically underutilized which is why I support legislation that would expand its impact.  

“While we can agree that our state needs more affordable housing, the Governor’s proposal to make local governments responsible for achieving this or risk having the state step in and take over set off alarm bells. Restrictive zoning changes aren’t the only reason affordable housing is in short supply. The state’s overregulated construction industry, high taxes and other state-created obstacles play a role as well and unless changes are made on those issues, we won’t achieve a lasting solution.  

“Our small businesses could be devastated by some of the proposals floated in this address, including the idea of tying the minimum wage to inflation and the Cap and Invest proposal. Another glaring omission was any mention of the state finally taking responsibility for its fraud-fueled $8 billion in unemployment insurance debt, which it has unjustly placed on the shoulders of our employers.” 

“I look forward to receiving more detail on these proposals in the Executive Budget. While we all aspire to restore the ‘New York Dream’ the Governor referenced, we need a fundamental shift in direction to achieve that. Nothing I heard today has convinced me that true, significant change is on the agenda.   

For more on Gov. Kathy Hochul's State of the State message, visit the governor's website.

Winter Storm Elliott: update from Hochul

By Joanne Beck

Gov. Kathy Hochul talked on Saturday about the relentless winter storm moving throughout New York State. She toured portions of the state and will be giving assessment updates throughout the weekend. She ordered the National Guard to move into Buffalo to assist due to "the blinding snow, the zero visibility, absolute whiteouts," adding that Elliott "may go down as one of the worst in history."

There are about 73,000 customers without power in this region, including 5,000 in Genesee County, she said. 

In addition to the Statewide State of Emergency, Hochul will also be asking for a federal emergency to be declared, she said in a press release issued Saturday afternoon.

"People are comparing this to the dreaded blizzard of '77, where Buffalo first got its reputation for having an unprecedented amount of snow. We broke that record again a month ago," she said. "So it's very clear to me that the effects of climate change are wreaking havoc everywhere from the streets of Queens with flooding, all the way up to the City of Buffalo.

"But it is life-threatening, what is going on as we speak in Buffalo. Getting calls through the night from frightened neighbors where the temperature's been off for many, many hours - over the course of a day, day and a half.

"So that seems to be the epicenter of this storm that just doesn't seem to be moving on, she said. It is concentrated there," she said. "And so the National Guard had to come in to help with medical emergencies, people who cannot get to the hospital if necessary, to help doctors and nurses get to their jobs in hospitals and health care facilities, as well as helping our seniors who are stranded.

"So we have had people stranded on the highways. I understand that the New York State Thruway, which remains closed in the Western part of the region, we had over 20 people stranded in a very small stretch up until just a short time ago, as well as several hundred who've been stranded on various roads throughout the region.

"What happens in those circumstances? People literally trapped in their cars overnight. Fortunately, our State Police were able to make contact with every single individual, and we literally had snowplows going up to the vehicles and rescuing people, taking them out, and getting them into warming centers because it is absolutely dangerous for anyone to be on the roads - and that includes our emergency vehicles," she said. "So our National Guard, our first responders, our ambulances, our fire trucks are all getting stuck in the snow as well. In fact, almost every fire truck in the City of Buffalo is stranded, it is stuck in snow. And we're just getting through releasing of about 14 or so ambulances that were stuck as well."

More locally, Genesee County's various police, fire, and emergency crews have been out now for two days, retrieving people from snowbanks and ditches or otherwise were stranded due to no visibility. 

The basic message is that warming centers will remain open while people are encouraged to stay home. Roads are closed throughout Western New York and will be, probably through Christmas Day, Hochul said.

Her press release included:

And it's really sad for all the individuals who have not been able to see family members - airport delays, and not able to be driving because of driving bans. But it is more important that people stay safe. You'll have your holiday with your loved ones over New Year's and into the next year. But this is a weekend where it is absolutely dangerous in some parts of our state, particularly the Western part, to be out there. So we want to encourage people to stay where they are.

In addition to having a statewide Emergency Declaration, I'll be asking the federal government for a Declaration of Emergency that'll allow us to seek reimbursements for the extraordinary expenses of all the overtime and the fact that we've brought in mutual aid from other parts of the state. We've deployed individuals, whether it's the utility crews have come, but also making sure that we have all the vehicles we need. But literally, they cannot get through right now, no matter how many emergency vehicles we have, they just can't get through the conditions as we speak.

So that is what's happening in other parts of the state. At this point, I'll be asking Kathryn Garcia, the Head of Statewide Operations who's been embedded with all of us in our command centers monitoring what's going on throughout the state.

But I did want to put a special spotlight right now on the City of New York. It got through some tough circumstances, with the high winds, the ice, the freezing cold. And it is still a dangerous situation. We want to confirm that just because you see clear skies and the rain has stopped and the flooding seems to have abated, that it is still vulnerable because of the icy cold temperatures which can be life-threatening.

 

 

 

Jacobs calls on Hochul to hold special session to rescind bail reform

By Press Release

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) sent the following letter to Governor Hochul on Friday, October 21st calling for her to take immediate action to amend the state's bail reform laws following the recent murder of Keaira Hudson earlier this month.

Dear Governor Hochul,

I write to express my ongoing concerns about the flawed and failed bail reform laws which were passed in this state and signed into law by your predecessor in January 2020. Violent crime committed by repeat offenders in New York State is at now epidemic proportions, especially with such crimes as domestic abuse, which put women and children in our communities at grave risk. I implore you to immediately call the legislature into emergency session to make the necessary reforms to this failed law to ensure public safety for all New Yorkers.

Just last week in Buffalo, NY – our shared hometown – a mother of three children was murdered by her estranged husband who was released on his own recognizance without bail, despite being brought in on domestic violence-related charges. This murder is yet another case of preventable death in our state.

It is unacceptable that a man with a record of violence and domestic abuse, one who had been recorded just days before beating his wife in their home and who was arrested on multiple domestic violence-related charges, could be released on his own recognizance because his charges were deemed “bail ineligible.” Numerous studies have shown domestic violence incidents are not isolated, and escalation is highly probable. According to a 2016 study, 10 to 18 percent of those arrested for domestic violence are arrested again within six months, 15 to 30 percent face a second arrest within 28 months, and up to 60 percent are rearrested within 10 years. Had the judge been afforded judicial discretion in this case, this man would have not been released, and a life may have been saved.

This is one of many instances of a police officer making an arrest for a serious crime only to have that offender back in the community committing more violence. In August 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams released a study detailing how a group of career criminals has accumulated hundreds of arrests yet are still roaming the streets, free to commit additional crimes, due to our failed “bail reform” laws. Your office’s defense that this problem was fixed or that these incidents are not data, but rather anecdotal evidence, disregards the countless families whose lives have been upended by violent crime committed by offenders who would otherwise be behind bars.

Our Erie County Democratic District Attorney John J. Flynn said after this needless murder, “This could easily be solved with one sentence in the bail law.” That one sentence would provide judges with discretion to consider “dangerousness” when determining bail.

We have a serious problem in New York State, and there is an immediate need for reform to our failed bail laws. I implore you to call an immediate special session of our legislature to first address the need for increased judicial discretion to limit the release of individuals who are arrested with domestic violence charges; and second, to reform the entire law to give judges the authority they previously had, and now desperately need, to keep dangerous individuals in custody. No family should have to suffer the pain of losing a loved one to a violent criminal who was set free under your failed system.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

State looks to slice 16 cents off a gallon of gas; counties not inclined to do so but Hawley says feds may step up

By Mike Pettinella

New York State lawmakers are close to an agreement to suspend a portion of gasoline taxes for the last seven months of this year, but similar action by most county governments doesn’t seem to be in the works.

“I know the state is looking at doing it, and they're doing it, but I don't anticipate too many county governments doing this,” County Manager Matt Landers said today. “I don’t know where Erie and Monroe (counties) stand on this.”

News out of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office signals that the state will drop the price of a gallon of gas by about 4 percent -- approximately 16 cents per gallon of gas -- from June 1 through Dec. 31. On a 15-gallon fill-up, the savings to the consumer would be $2.40.

Landers said a recent informal poll of county administrators revealed that most were not looking at suspending their 4 percent (or so) sales tax from the price of gasoline.

“I don’t remember, specifically, which counties responded but all the ones that did said that was not something currently on their radar,” he said, while adding that a "discussion" about this subject with Genesee County legislators is likely to occur.

Sales tax accounts for a significant portion of county budgets. In Genesee’s case, sales tax proceeds are being earmarked for large capital projects, such as the construction of a new county jail.

The state tax break will reduce its revenue by about $600 million this year, but Hochul said that money received for pandemic relief and higher than anticipated tax revenue would enable it to handle the loss.

Reports indicate the state would suspend the 8-cent per gallon motor fuel tax and the 8-cent per gallon sales tax on gasoline.

State Assemblyman Stephen Hawley today said Republicans supported legislation to remove 33 cents from the cost of a gallon of gas, as well as state sales tax breaks on home cleaning supplies, clothing and food.

“With a $220.4 billion budget, we’ve got plenty of cash in a rainy day fund,” he said. “Some of what we proposed didn’t fall on deaf ears, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not enough. We’ve got all kinds of surpluses, apparently, according to the governor.”

Hawley said he’s always been in favor of “giving that back to people so they can spend it in their communities, as opposed to sending it to the state where they can fritter it away.”

He added that the federal government is “going to be doing something as well – so, stay tuned on that.”

When asked if county governments should follow suit, he said they were given the opportunity, but understands municipalities’ reliance on sales tax to balance their budgets.

“That’s a large source of their revenue, so that’s not surprising at all,” he said.

Reforming New York's bail reform laws: Desperately needed or a desperate attempt to win votes?

By Mike Pettinella

Depending upon who you talk to, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 10-point plan to revise New York’s bail reform statute is either a good first step toward granting judges more discretion in determining whether or not to impose bail for serious crimes or it’s simply a politically expedient move by someone looking to win an election in November.

In recent days, Hochul presented a comprehensive list of changes to the no-cash bail law, including, for the most serious felonies, allowing bail determinations to be informed by factors such as criminal history and history of firearm use and possession; making repeat offenses subject to arrest and posting of bail, and making some gun-related and hate crime offenses subject to arrest and incarceration (and not appearance tickets).

The proposal also is being made following the release of a Siena College poll indicating that two-thirds of New York voters are in favor of strengthening the no-cash bail law and giving judges the power to consider a defendant’s prior arrest record.

The Batavian reached out today to Genesee County attorneys and law enforcement personnel for their “takes” on the governor’s stance.

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Genesee County District Attorney Kevin Finnell says he hasn’t read the details of all of Hochul’s points, but for the primary one – allowing judges to consider additional information – he believes that is appropriate.

“That’s what the judges were able to do pre-bail reform,” he said. “And I think giving them that latitude and authority is good because they're the ones that see these people, they evaluate them on a case by case basis, and the judges do a good job in deciding who's a flight risk and who isn't. So, having that back in the judges’ hands is a good thing.”

Finnell said he also agrees with judges having the ability to set bail on repeat offenders.

“Again, using the same criteria, assuming that they can, allow the judges to do what they've always done in evaluating the case -- the person and the likelihood that they'll return rather than just going to the least restrictive form automatically,” he said.

“That may be appropriate in a lot of cases and the judges will be able to still release people to under supervision or ROR (released on your own recognizance) when the case is appropriate. But giving them the extra tool -- the extra ability to set bail when appropriate -- I think is always a good thing.”

Genesee County Public Defender Jerry Ader sees Hochul’s plan much differently, stating that politics are playing a key role.

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“I had hoped that the governor would have maintained her long standing position that any possible changes to the law as it related to bail would only be driven by data, not politics, and that gathering such data would take time,” he said. “Unfortunately, I am not shocked or surprised that political pressure has resulted in this new ‘re-election’10-point plan.  Maintaining power is powerful force.”

Ader pointed to The Brennan Center for Justice report, released yesterday, that “there is no clear connection between recent crime increases and the bail reform law enacted in 2019, and the data does not support further revisions to the legislation” (https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/facts-bail-reform-and-crime-rates-new-york-state).

“In our county, the bail laws presently in effect are working.  Money is no longer the driving factor as to whether someone charged with a crime is in jail.  Most people charged with violent felony offenses and many non-violent offenses can have bail set, if the court determines it to be necessary to insure the person appears,” he said. “If someone has been released, he can be remanded if he persistently fails to appear in court or is re-arrested for a felony.  There is no evidence that our county is any less safe.”

Ader acknowledged that gun violence is increasing, and he has “no problem with enacting new legislation or the state providing additional funding to help remove illegal weapons from our community. “

Calling Hochul’s plan “a step in the right direction,” Genesee County Sheriff William Sheron said that tougher gun laws are not the answer when dealing with the criminal element.

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“I firmly believe that they can pass all these gun laws that they want, but the prime definition of “criminal” means criminals do not follow laws,” he said. “So, you can pass all the gun control regulations you want, but those with criminal intent are not going to follow those laws. The ones that are really going to be affected are the law abiding citizens.”

Sheron said laws with more teeth need to be passed.

“We have got to have more of a deterrence out there,” he said. “If people possess illegal firearms, or use a firearm illegally, they’re going to suffer severe consequences and that is going to send the message to other people.”

The sheriff also said he’s on board with giving judges more discretion in the bail process to prevent instances of repeat offenses, something that he says have been on the rise and are endangering the public.

“One that comes to mind is where the individual was stealing motor vehicles from around the area,” he said. “We would catch them with one, and he’d go before a judge and get released. It wasn’t a bailable offense and he’d steal another car. It was just a vicious circle. I forget the total number of vehicles he stole, but he knew there was no chance he was going to jail, so it was a big game to him.”

Sheron said society has gotten away from the “standards of accountability.”

“People make mistakes, I get that, but there has to be a deterrence. Even with kids in school. They see there are no consequences to their misbehavior or their improper actions, and that leads to more improper actions.”

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Batavia City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said he hopes “changes are meaningful and will address crime in our area.”

He said he stands with the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, which issued a statement today contending that the state’s effort to correct “historic inequalities in the criminal justice system” … “tipped the balance so far in favor of the accused that public safety has been jeopardized.”

The statement continues, “We believe that it is possible to create a system in which the rights of the accused are respected while the rights of victims and the public are also respected. Public safety must be a priority. We look forward to working with Governor Hochul and the legislature to identify the proper path forward.”

Heubusch said that “one size fits all packages coming out of Albany do not work in every jurisdiction and do not address the impacts to our neighborhoods and communities.”

“We are hopeful that meaningful change will be implemented to aid us in protecting our citizens.”

Finnell said local justices are qualified to make proper judgments, as long as they are given the power to do so.

“I also think recognizing that not everybody should go to jail is important, too,” he said. “That's the other side of the coin. The purpose of bail is and always has been to ensure that somebody will appear for when required in in County Court. But we've seen that fail in many ways since bail reform.”

Ader stated that he agrees with the governor on her call for increased funding for pretrial, diversion, and employment programs and for mental health treatment.

“It would also help our community immensely if the non-monetary release option of electronic monitoring could be implemented in our county.  It is an option under the present law but has never been used in our county,” he said.

Overall, he thinks Hochul’s 10-point plan is a “knee-jerk political reaction” that moves the state back to a more subjective and repressive system of bail.

“It may make some people feel better, but that’s not the reason for legislation,” he said. “Laws and changes to them need to be driven by data and facts, not emotion.”

The 10-point plan, per a published report in the New York Post, includes:

  • For the most serious felonies, allow bail determinations to be informed by factors including criminal history and history of firearm use and possession. Judges will be allowed to set bail not based solely on the “least restrictive” conditions deemed necessary to ensure a return to court. The statute will set forth specific criteria on which judges will base their determinations, including criminal history and history of firearm use/possession.
  • Make repeat offenses subject to arrest and bail-eligible
  • Make certain gun-related offenses, hate crimes offenses, and subway crime offenses subject to arrest and not [desk appearance tickets]. Certain offenses which presently are subject to desk appearance tickets will be made only eligible for arrest.
  • Make certain gun-related offenses bail-eligible.
  • Make it easier to prosecute gun trafficking.
  • Targeted reforms of the discovery statute.
  • Targeted reforms of the “Raise the Age” statute.
  • Increase funding for pretrial, diversion, and employment programs: Hochul’s budget already includes $83.4 million for pretrial services, but the governor would increase that amount — although the memo did not say by how much. It would also distribute the nearly $500 million appropriated for “Raise the Age” implementation that has not yet been spent.
  • Expand involuntary commitment and Kendra’s Law.
  • Increase funding for mental health treatment.

Ways & Means Committee's message to Gov. Hochul, New York State lawmakers: 'Keep local taxes local'

By Mike Pettinella

It has got to stop!

That’s the message Genesee County legislators likely will be sending to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Assembly and Senate next week through a resolution that calls for Albany to end the practice of taking local sales tax revenue from communities and putting it into the state’s treasury.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday passed the measure – sending it to the full board for consideration at next Wednesday's meeting.

Genesee County is taking action in conjunction with a directive from the New York State Association of Counties for municipalities to make their voices heard.

“This has been proposed before, but I guess NYSAC is trying to hone in on the fact that they weren’t hearing enough from localities – that we weren’t making enough noise,” Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg said.

According to the resolution, since 2019, New York State has diverted more than $677 million in local sales taxes away from cities, towns and villages and into the state’s general fund.

It reads, in part, that “local sales tax revenue should stay in the community where it is collected.  It is time to return to responsible budgeting to keep local tax revenue in the communities where it can fund local programs such as parks, community colleges, meals for seniors, day care services, 9-1-1 programs, mental health and addiction services and other quality life programs.”

The resolution calls for this practice “to expire permanently at the end of this fiscal year as originally intended.”

In other action, the committee approved:

  • Appointments of C. Joseph Mahler and Thomas Clark, both of Batavia, and Peter Stanbridge of Bethany, to three-year terms on the Genesee County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Committee.
  • A contract not to exceed $213,268 with U&S Services of Tonawanda for a countywide heating, ventilation and air conditioning control system upgrade. The amount is slightly less than the $225,000 that has been budgeted for this project.
  • Two resolutions pertaining to the replacement of the South Street culvert over a drainage ditch in the Village of Le Roy. The first to establish the capital project, which will be covered by state aid of $757,410 and the second is to contract with Lu Engineers of Rochester for consulting and design services at a cost not to exceed $174,000, which is part of the state’s contribution.

Hochul announces end to business mask mandate in new COVID-19 'Winter Toolkit'

By Press Release

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced New York's new Winter Toolkit for the new phase of the pandemic, aiming to keep New York safe, open and moving forward. The Winter Toolkit focuses on five core areas: protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers, increasing vaccinations and boosters, strengthening our health care system, empowering local leaders, and supporting individuals facing the long-term effects of COVID.

"As we begin a new phase in our response to this pandemic, my top priority is making sure we keep New York safe, open and moving forward," Governor Hochul said. "I want to thank the health care workers, business owners and everyday New Yorkers who acted responsibly during the Omicron surge by masking up and getting vaccinated. But make no mistake: while we're moving in the right direction, this pandemic isn't over and our new Winter Toolkit shows us the path forward."

Governor Hochul announced that the statewide indoor business mask-or-vaccine requirement will be lifted starting Thursday, February, 10, and will remain optional for businesses, local governments and counties to enforce. This protocol, a temporary measure implemented on December 10 as statewide cases spiked, was an effective tool to address the winter surge and the rise of the Omicron variant. With case counts plummeting and hospitalizations sharply declining, this temporary measure is no longer needed statewide. Counties, cities, and businesses will be able to opt into the mask-or-vaccine requirement if they so choose. 

Masks remain a critical tool to fight the spread of COVID-19, and mask requirements will remain in place in certain high-density settings. All health care settings regulated by the Department of Health and other related state agencies will continue to require masks. Masks will also be required in nursing homes, adult care facilities, correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, and domestic violence shelters, public transit and transportation hubs, as well as trains, planes and airports in accordance with federal regulations. 

Governor Hochul also announced plans to assess the mask requirement in schools in early March, to ensure students can continue learning in-person and in the classroom. The assessment will be based on public health data, including key metrics like cases per 100,000 residents, hospital admission rates, vaccination rates, global trends and pediatric hospitalizations. Plans are already underway to distribute two tests for every K-12 student ahead of midwinter break, and continue distribution the following week when students return to school. In the meantime, Governor Hochul has directed the Department of Health to work on preliminary guidance, with input from educators and parents, to keep students and teachers safe.

With a new phase of the pandemic beginning, Governor Hochul unveiled a new Winter Toolkit to help keep New Yorkers safe. The toolkit includes efforts to:

  1. Protect the most vulnerable
  2. Increase access to vaccines, boosters and testing
  3. Strengthen the health system
  4. Empower local leaders
  5. Support New Yorkers facing long-term COVID effects

Protecting the Most Vulnerable
New York State will continue to acquire and distribute masks and tests to New Yorkers to ensure those who need them can access them. The state's test stockpile contains 92 million tests. Over 14.2 million tests have been distributed to schools and tests will continue to be distributed as needed. 4.2 tests have been distributed to nursing homes, 2.4 million tests to adult care/congregate facilities, and 4 million tests to counties.

1.28 million masks have been distributed to nursing homes and 5.5 million masks have been distributed to counties.

Visitation rules in nursing homes will remain in place. Visitors must show proof of a negative test within 24 hours of their visit and masks will remain required.

Tests will be made widely available for students so that K-12 students can go home for their Midwinter Break with two tests.

Increase Access to Vaccines, Boosters and Testing

  • New York State's mass vaccination and testing sites will remain open to ensure all eligible New Yorkers can access first, second, and third doses for themselves and their children.
  • The State's #VaxForKids pop-up programming continues to expand with 63 new sites established today and 193 sites established to date. This effort brings the vaccine directly to parents, guardians, and their children at local schools, community centers, and destinations like farmer's markets to make getting vaccinated convenient and accessible for families.
  • New York State is actively preparing for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to come online for children under 5 years old.
  • The State's robust education efforts to reach New Yorkers with good, science-based information about the vaccine is on-going including through traditional advertising, digital and multimedia campaigns, and direct messaging efforts through SMS text messaging, robo-calling, and Excelsior Pass push notifications.
  • All 61 state-operated and state-partnered testing sites will remain open to provide New Yorkers with access to COVID-19 testing.
  • Testing also remains widely available at over 1,800 sites statewide in every region of the State.

Strengthen the Healthcare System
To troubleshoot shortage issues, Executive Order 4 to increase staffing flexibility will remain in place. National Guard will continue to be trained to be able to staff in places needed as well.

As part of the Governor's Winter Surge Plan 2.0, the State has already deployed 20-member Medical Specialty Teams from the U.S. military hospital support team to Erie County Medical Center, a 35-member team to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 92 new ambulance teams to different regions in the state, including 50 to NYC, and two Medical Specialty Teams (MSTs) of 20 personnel from the Department of Defense to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Governor Hochul also outlined investments to strengthen the health care system in her 2022 State of the State Address and FY 2023 Budget. $10 billion will be invested to grow the health care workforce by twenty percent in five years. $4 billion will be invested in wages and bonuses to stop the hemorrhaging of health care staff. $1.6 billion will be invested via the Capital Plan.

Empower Local Leaders
Governor Hochul's announcement today comes after consultation with local leaders on steps the state is taking to fight COVID-19.

Support New Yorkers Facing Long-Term COVID Effects
Last Thursday, the State's Department of Health hosted an expert forum on Long COVID and over 2,000 individuals registered to view the panels. Panelists included specialists, clinicians, social scientists, patients and advocates who shared their experience, expertise, and insights.

This discussion, as well as continued focus and study by the Department, will inform the State's response which will span policy, regulatory, and program considerations to support New Yorkers suffering from long COVID as well as the healthcare providers who care for them.

County manager: Time is ripe for Genesee to cash in on New York State's budgetary surplus projections

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers is urging legislators and key staff members to strike while the iron is hot as far as funding opportunities from New York State are concerned.

“Just a couple of years ago … former Governor Cuomo was telling us that they had a four-year projection of something like $80 billion in the hole. A year later, they were down to $20 billion in the hole, and then $3 billion,” Landers said.

“Now, they're looking at something like over $50 billion to the positive in a four-year projection outlook. So, the state is looking at different opportunities to fund. If there’s ever a time to ask for stuff – this is the time.”

Landers made his comments during this afternoon’s County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

With Genesee moving ahead with Phase 3 of its Countywide Water Project, Landers encouraged County Engineer Tim Hens and his team to “put together some aggressive ‘asks’ on the water side because it's never going to be any better than right now to be asking for funding for some of our projects.”

Landers said that in reviewing Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $216 billion spending plan for 2022-23, the path seems to be clear for the county to receive its 1 percent sales tax as well as the cash generated by video lottery terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming.

“At this point in time, it looks like there's more good than bad, and not necessarily all financial,” he said. “Just having the ability to not have to go back and beg Albany for our extra 1 percent sales tax is a nice provision that's in there. It isn't tied directly to financially -- it's more procedural and a bit nerve racking that we have to do it, but it’s a nice thing that it's in the (state) budget.”

He also said distribution of VLT money – an unknown in recent years – is on track, and the county is expected to receive “an additional windfall in Article Six funding for the health department … and for mental health and veteran services.”

Article 6 state funds help support critical services provided by local health departments.

MASKING OF COUNTY EMPLOYEES

Landers pointed out that the masking requirement for county employees, which has been in effect for some time, continues – regardless of any legal back-and-forth that is happening at the state level.

County employees must wear face coverings at all time, but can take them off when seated at their workstations and are at least six feet away from others. Visitors to county buildings also are required to wear masks.

“… the Genesee County policy that we had for masking for county employees and visitors to our buildings were in effect before the governor's mandate came into place,” Landers said. “And that would still be in effect, regardless of whatever the court decision was.”

Landers mentioned that the county policy was instituted when there were “a quarter of the cases in the county that we have now, so I think it'd would not be wise for us to not follow science and to open ourselves up to less safe conditions for our employees.”

“We’re going to monitor and hopefully be able to take a different action in the spring, when the cases are ... expected to reduce but just wanted to give an update to the legislature where we stand with that,” Landers said. “And that is with both consultation and an agreement and approval from our public health director.”

NEW COUNTY JAIL UPDATES

Landers said the timeline for the new $70 million county jail on West Main Street Road hasn’t changed, crediting the work of "jail team" members Paul Osborn and Laura Wadhams for their efforts and Hens for reviewing the site plans and preparing bid documents.

“We were scheduled to be out (with bids) next week but we'd rather have it right than to just to rush,” he said. “So the timeline is still a little fluid where we're looking at (maybe) an additional week or two delay, which isn't going to be significant in the long term.”

The county manager added that Osborn and Wadhams will save the county “well into the six figures on catching things we don’t need.”

“That would be a waste of taxpayer money. I've been highly impressed with the work that they've been doing for us. They're some of our best employees and we're lucky to have them,” he said.

LEGISLATORS PASS RULE 19 ITEMS

The final two of the 54 resolutions on the meeting’s agenda were Rule 19 measures (late additions) relating to the purchase of COVID-19 test kits and the revision of the county’s purchasing policy specifically for the jail project.

Genesee County was hoping to use state funds to buy 20,000 test kits for its residents, but learned in recent days that would not be allowed. As a result, it reverted to its original resolution that called upon using $150,750 from American Rescue Plan Act (federal) funding.

Concerning the purchasing resolution, the legislature authorized Landers to approve expenditures up to $35,000 – instead of the current $20,000 limit – exclusively during the construction of the jail.

The change was made after consulting with construction management, engineering and architectural officials, who are looking to avoid any work stoppages by having to wait for the full legislature to convene.

Statement from Assemblyman Hawley on Gov. Hochul's 2023 budget plan

By Press Release

Press Release:

Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

“For all of the talk during today’s executive budget address by our governor of a bright new future for New York, the proposals discussed seemed tired and unimaginative at best. New York’s economy isn’t going to suddenly catch fire because of a few meager tax cuts or narrow tax credit programs for businesses, because at the end of the day New York will still have little to offer entrepreneurs looking across the country to open businesses and create jobs. Within a global economy that grows more competitive by the day, it will only grow harder for us to attract the best and brightest to live and work here when it’s so lucrative for them to invest their resources elsewhere. With that said, I do applaud the announced investment into education, something of vital importance in a marketplace demanding skilled, technologically-savvy workers.”

 

Hochul plans to require healthcare workers to get COVID-19 booster shots

By Press Release

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new guidance recommending booster doses for all New Yorkers ages 12 and older. The guidance, following action by the CDC, recommends that people, including the newly authorized 12-15-year-old age group, who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should receive a booster dose at least five months after their second dose; the previously recommended interval was at least six months. In addition, moderately to severely immunocompromised 5-11-year-olds can receive an additional primary dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after their second dose. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children ages 5-11.    

Additionally, the CDC today recommended the same change to a five-month booster interval for the Moderna vaccine, which is only authorized for people 18 years and older.

"As we continue to battle this winter surge, I strongly recommend that all New Yorkers ages 12 and older get boosted as soon they are eligible," Governor Hochul said. "With boosters now available for all adolescents, I especially urge parents and guardians to get their children in this age group a booster dose as soon as eligible. A booster dose will provide greater protection against severe outcomes from COVID-19 and help keep our kids healthy, protected, and safe."  

Governor Hochul additionally announced her plan to require that all covered health care workers previously required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination under the Department's August 26th Emergency regulation must also now receive a COVID-19 booster dose within two weeks of becoming eligible, absent a valid medical exemption. Consistent with the August 26th Emergency Regulation, there is no test-out option. Following review and approval by the Public Health and HealthPlanning Council at their emergency meeting on Tuesday, the emergency regulation will be filed with the Department of State (DOS). Regulations are effective upon the filing with DOS. 

The Governor also announced new rules for nursing home visitations. Starting Wednesday, all visitors must wear "surgical"-type masks and must present upon entry a COVID negative test taken within 24 hours of their visit. Governor Hochul further noted that 952,000 tests and 1.2 million masks are being delivered to nursing homes late this week into next. 

On January 5, 2022, the CDC endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice's (ACIP) recommended expansion of booster dose eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 to individuals ages 12 through 15. CDC now recommends that all adolescents ages 12 through 17 should receive a booster dose five months after their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series. This followed the CDC's updated recommendations that severely immunocompromised 5-11 year-olds receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second dose, and that people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine series should get a booster dose at least five months after the second dose, instead of six months.   

New York State Department of Health Acting Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Booster doses are a critical tool in our continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am grateful that they are now available for all New Yorkers 12 years of age and older. Data show that people who are vaccinated and boosted are more protected against serious illness from COVID-19, and we continue to urge all those eligible to act now. Do what you can to stay healthy and out of the hospital by getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing a mask. If you have questions, talk to your health care provider or vaccine administrator."  

All state mass vaccination sites are now offering Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for New Yorkers 12 years of age and older, as well as third doses for immunocompromised people 5 years and older. For more information on boosters and additional doses, see the State's dedicated page here.  

Hawley calls on Hochul to work with him for 'everyday New Yorkers'

By Press Release

Press release:

“In a time of crisis, as we face issues related to our economy, public health, and public safety, we cannot keep rehashing the same tired ideas that have proven to be ineffective solutions to serious problems. While I appreciate the governor’s rhetoric in support of small businesses during a time when they and our residents are leaving the state in droves, we should be talking about meaningfully cutting taxes and easing regulations to enable their success in the long term. Of equal importance is our need to focus on restoring order to our increasingly dangerous streets, following the passage of bail reform.  

“Having served as assemblyman while Gov. Hochul served as our district’s congresswoman, it would be a pleasure to work together in earnest to make New York work for everyday New Yorkers once again. We must all come together to restore the authority of our local governments and judges.”

Gov. Hochul announces applications for homeowners assistance fund of $539 million

By Press Release

Press Release: 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that applications are now being accepted for the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund (NYS HAF), a program that will provide up to $539 million in aid or other direct assistance to help eligible homeowners who are at risk of default, foreclosure, or displacement due to financial hardship caused by the pandemic. New York was the first state in the nation to receive U.S. Department of the Treasury approval to launch its program.

"For many, buying a home is the greatest source of economic and social stability, and our Homeowner Assistance Fund - the first in the nation to be approved - is a critical tool to help ease the pain of the pandemic felt disproportionately in rural communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities," Governor Hochul said."My administration will continue to stand by homeowners, renters and all New Yorkers every step of the way as part of our economic recovery."

New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "What we do now to help our fellow New Yorkers keep their homes will impact communities and our state for generations to come by contributing to its vitality and building future successes. We cannot and we will not stand by as homeownership and economic gains are threatened in historically disadvantaged communities. Working with our partners in legal services and community-based housing organizations, we have designed the Homeowner Assistance Fund program to help our at-risk families in every corner of the state regain financial stability."

Attorney General Letitia James said, "As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the health and wallets of New Yorkers, it is critical that homeowners are granted the relief they need," said Attorney General Letitia James. "The Homeowner Assistance Fund will go a long way in helping homeowners get through this crisis, but it's imperative that these funds are used to support not replace the mortgage industry's own efforts to help struggling homeowners. Through our new Mortgage Enforcement Unit, my office will ensure that these funds go where they are needed and can protect as many homeowners as possible."

Designed and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS HAF targets low- to moderate-income homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments, property taxes, and water and sewer bills. The program is also open to owners of cooperative or condo units who are behind on maintenance fees, and manufactured homeowners behind on chattel loans, retail installment contracts or lot rents. 

Applicants may receive financial assistance to catch up on missed housing payments, to reduce mortgage debt to make monthly mortgage payments more affordable, and for homeowners who are unemployed, assistance with up to six months of future housing payments.

HCR is also working in partnership with the Office of the New York State Attorney General's Mortgage Enforcement Unit to advocate with mortgage lenders and mortgage servicers to ensure homeowners are receiving all available relief under federal and state rules. This may include extended mortgage terms, deferment of missed payments or forbearance amounts, and lower interest rates to reduce monthly payments. 

The NYS HAF call center - 844-77-NYHAF (844-776-9423) - will operate Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. to assist homeowners and provide critical information about the program and instructions on how to apply. 

The NYS HAF website - www.nyhomeownerfund.org - includes Frequently Asked Questionsa step-by-step application guide, and a document checklist so that applicants know what documentation may be needed to submit their application.

Last month, Governor Hochul announced the launch of the NYS HAF program website, an information call center, and a multilingual marketing campaign that is helping educate homeowners about the program and ensure all eligible New Yorkers, especially those in non-English speaking households, are ready and able to apply.

By examining previous assistance state programs, HCR designed a more streamlined application to ensure the process is simple and easy for homeowners to navigate. Efficiencies include: 

· Utilizing several industry-standard, third-party verification technologies that confirm applicant identification and/or ownership, and may limit the number of documents that a homeowner needs to provide as part of their application.

· Allowing the application to be started, paused, and resumed later without losing data and information already entered.

· Accepting signed attestations from applicants to minimize the number of documents they will need to submit.

To make the application process accessible for all homeowners, and to assist those with limited access to technology or limited English language fluency, HCR has made the following accommodations: 

· Applicants may authorize a relative or other surrogate to submit an application on their behalf and continue to communicate directly with program staff to track the status of that application.

· NYS HAF has partnered with a network of over 70 housing counseling and legal services providers to allow direct access to the online application portal and who will be able to submit multiple applications on behalf of their clients.

· Homeowners can contact the NYS HAF call center and apply over the phone.

· The website and supporting materials are available in English and ten additional languages: Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and Spanish.

· The online application is available in English, Arabic, Bengali, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish.

· The Call Center will be able to assist with language translations for any application

Since announcing the program in early December, HCR mobilized an outreach and education campaign directed to vulnerable homeowners to ensure they understood the program and were prepared to apply. This included mobilizing a team of 23 community-based organizations, covering every region of the state, to work with their targeted constituencies of at-risk homeowners. Areas of particular interest are those historically subjected to housing discrimination, areas where homeowners may have limited access to the internet, and communities where there is a high level of homeownership distress.

In addition, a statewide multilingual marketing campaign was created in an effort to reach vulnerable homeowners in their own language through trusted media outlets in communities where English is not the primary language.

The NYS HAF program is administered by Sustainable Neighborhoods LLC, a non-profit community development financial institution selected through a competitive Request for Proposals. Sustainable Neighborhoods has extensive experience administering foreclosure prevention and loss mitigation programs across the state.

Sustainable Neighborhoods CEO/Executive Director Christie Peale said, "Thousands of low-income homeowners who have been struggling financially because of COVID will now get the relief they desperately need, thanks to the New York State Homeowner Assistance Fund. Whether you live in a manufactured home, a condominium, coop or a single-family home, we encourage you to apply as soon as possible to receive assistance. It is urgent that we help as many families as possible keep their homes, despite the damaging impacts of the pandemic. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership and dedication."

Gov. Hochul announces Winter Surge Plan 2.0

By Press Release

Press Release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced Winter Surge Plan 2.0, a new targeted effort to bolster New York's fight against the winter surge. Governor Hochul's comprehensive plan focuses on five core areas: keeping students in school, doubling down on masks and testing, preventing severe illness and death, increasing access to vaccines and boosters, and working together with local leaders. Hours before the New Year begins, Governor Hochul also urged New Yorkers to celebrate New Year's Eve in a safe, responsible way.    

"As we head into the holiday weekend, New York State is mobilizing every resource at our disposal to fight the winter surge and keep New Yorkers safe," Governor Hochul said. "We can get through this surge through targeted actions, partnerships with local leaders, and by taking common sense steps to keep us all safe: get vaccinated, get boosted, and wear a mask indoors."

"We have every tool to keep our families and communities safe," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "We must ensure we use them all. Governor Hochul's targeted plan to expand vaccination and booster access, mask and test, and increase measures to protect our health care workers is the comprehensive strategy needed to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Leveraging these layered mitigation tactics is how we will protect the health of New Yorkers and effectively manage the winter surge." 

1. Keep Schools Open: After two years of remote learning and school closures, Governor Hochul is focused on keeping students in school in the upcoming year. The first plank of Governor Hochul's 5-part plan includes:    

  • Providing tests to students and school districts: 5.56 million tests arrived for schools this week and between six and seven million more are expected to arrive in the coming days. New York has mobilized 40 trucks and 86 state personnel to distribute tests. Overall, New York State has secured 37 million tests for distribution.
  • Working with counties to implement Test-to-Stay: Test-to-Stay policies have proven successful at keeping our kids safe and schools open. If a student tests positive, classmates can take a test kit back home with them and return to the classroom upon receiving a negative result instead of mandatory quarantining. 
  • Keeping college students and faculty safe: SUNY and CUNY will be introducing a new requirement for all students to get boosters, campuses will require mandatory mask wearing in public indoor spaces, and will require all faculty to be vaccinated. Students will also be required to submit negative tests upon returning to campus.

 2. Keep Masking, Keep Testing: Governor Hochul recognizes that to stop the spread of the virus, New Yorkers must continue wearing masks and getting tested for COVID. Governor Hochul will:

  • Extend the mask-or-vax requirement: the Department of Health will extend the mask-or-vaccine requirement for an additional two weeks, protecting workers and allowing businesses to remain open.
  • Make masks more widely available: New York State has already distributed 5 million KN-95 masks, and more will be distributed through state legislators. Hundreds of thousands of masks will also be distributed for nursing home visitors.
  • Launch new testing sites: Governor Hochul will open six new testing sites on January 4, totaling 19 state-run sites statewide. Additionally, Governor Hochul announced the launch of two new testing sites at MTA stations, in addition to previously announced MTA pop-ups.

3. Preventing Severe Illness and Death: With case counts rising, Governor Hochul is making it a priority to prevent severe illness and death by supporting our hospital system. The Winter Surge Plan 2.0 will:    

  • Distribute antiviral treatments: New York is working with the Biden Administration to secure doses of the antiviral drug Pavloxid and make this treatment more widely available.
  • Boost hospital capacity: Governor Hochul will continue enforcing the November 26 Executive Order to boost hospital capacity. Since it took effect, the number of hospitals with limited capacity needing to pause non-essential surgeries has declined from 32 to 21.    
  • Launch National Guard EMT training: to ramp up our long-term health care workforce capacity needs, the Department of Health and the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be launching two pilot EMT training classes on January 5th. This will cover two classes of 40 service members (80 service members in total) who will be able to be deployed by February.
  • Secure additional help from Federal partners: in the coming days, we will receive federal Department of Defense (DoD) Medical Response and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). This will include a 35-member DMAT to SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, 23-member DoD Medical Response Team to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, and 50 new ambulance teams deployed to NYC.
  • Protect nursing home residents and workers: the Hochul Administration is in constant contact with all 606 nursing homes in New York and will be providing them with additional PPE to ensure the safety of all patients and staff. Additionally, the Administration is coordinating with hospitals and will be deploying durable medical equipment in continued support of the care for all New Yorkers.

4. Expand Access to Vaccines and Boosters: Vaccines continue to be the best defense against COVID hospitalization and death. While 95% of adult New Yorkers have received at least one shot, there's more to do to increase vaccination and booster rates, especially among children:

  • Provide boosters to nursing homes: New York will begin requiring each nursing home to demonstrate their plan to increase vaccination and booster rates among their residents.    
  • Increase pediatric vaccination: the most unvaccinated eligible cohort is New Yorkers aged 5-11. New York will increase our focus on pediatric vaccination.    
  • Get booster shots to teenagers: we anticipate approval of Pfizer's booster shot for children aged 12-15 and will immediately begin outreach to that population once ready.

5. Work With Local Partners: From the beginning, Governor Hochul has emphasized that the fight against COVID must take a collaborative approach. Fighting the winter surge requires close collaboration with local partners:    

  • Let local leaders lead: from New York City to Erie County, local leaders are making smart choices. We will continue this surgical, targeted approach.    
  • Provide resources to local partners: Governor Hochul will continue to lead a whole-of-government approach to fight COVID, making sure county emergency managers and local school boards have the tests and masks they need. 

 

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