Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

Kathy Hochul

October 25, 2022 - 3:38pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, Kathy Hochul, NY-27, bail reform, news.

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.

April 11, 2022 - 1:40pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Kathy Hochul, Steve Hawley, genesee county, gasoline tax.

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.

March 23, 2022 - 4:52pm

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.

finnell_1.jpgGenesee 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.

ader_1.jpg“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.

sheron_.jpg“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.”

heubusch_1.jpgBatavia 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.
March 18, 2022 - 10:20am

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.
February 9, 2022 - 6:38pm
posted by Press Release in Kathy Hochul, COVID-19, news.

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.

January 26, 2022 - 7:00pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, new county jail, COVID-19, Kathy Hochul.

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.

January 18, 2022 - 4:43pm
posted by Press Release in Steve Hawley, Kathy Hochul, government, nys, news.

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.”

 
January 7, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, Kathy Hochul.

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.  

January 6, 2022 - 10:55am
posted by Press Release in Kathy Hochul, news, 139th assembly district, Steve Hawley.

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.”

January 5, 2022 - 12:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kathy Hochul, state of the state, video, livestream.
Video Sponsor

Gov. Kathy Hochul State of the State Speech Jan. 5, 2022

January 3, 2022 - 4:02pm
posted by Press Release in Kathy Hochul, housing, news, nys.

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."

December 31, 2021 - 6:57pm
posted by Press Release in Kathy Hochul, nys, COVID-19, health, plan, news.

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. 

 

December 22, 2021 - 12:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Kathy Hochul, COVID-19.

Genesee County is expected to receive up to $1 million to help in its COVID-19 prevention efforts as well as around 3,000 in-home test kits over the next few weeks, County Manager Matt Landers said in response to an email from The Batavian today.

“Based on information from the press release (from Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office) yesterday, Genesee County is in line to be reimbursed for up to $1 million in costs,” Landers said.

The money is earmarked for local health departments for vaccine and testing sites, staffing, and personnel expenses related to media campaigns, supply distribution and enforcement of mask/vaccine mandates.

Landers said he doesn’t see the additional funding having a signficiant impact upon the county’s ability – or willingness – to enforce Hochul’s rule requiring those over the age of 2 to wear masks or show proof of vaccination when entering businesses.

“We are still waiting on more guidance on what the money can be used for, but based on the short window to spend this money, it does not appear that Genesee County will have any greater ability to enforce the state’s mask rule,” Landers advised. “More than likely, we will use some of this money to promote our residents to get vaccinated or boosted, testing clinics and vaccination/booster clinics.

“Genesee County believes that masking in public settings does offer greater protection against the spread of COVID-19, and encourages businesses and residents to take appropriate precautions during this holiday season.”

Landers reported that he was just notified that more test kits (likely in early January) and masks (on Thursday) will be coming to Genesee County.

“Our Emergency Management Office is coordinating the distribution efforts for both and we will have details in the days following. We haven’t received word on the exact distribution numbers yet, but we are anticipating around 3,000 take-home test kits to be distributed to the public in early January,” he said.

The county manager said he “appreciates” the open communication line with the governor’s office and the distribution of supplies to rural counties such as Genesee.

According to Hochul’s press release, the state is prepared to release $65 million to New York’s 62 counties to help enforce the most recent mandates, which was announced two weeks ago and expires on Jan. 15.

The governor said she is opposed to more school or business shutdowns to the coronavirus “because we have the tools available to all of us (and) we’re going to keep fighting back.”

December 21, 2021 - 4:12pm

Wastewater treatment facility disinfection projects in the Town of Pavilion and Villages of Bergen, Elba and Le Roy have been identified for funding through Round XI of the Regional Economic Development Council’s program to improve water quality, combat harmful algal blooms and update aging infrastructure across New York State.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in a press release issued today, announced that more than $272 million is being awarded to 179 projects to protect and improve water quality.

These awards are in addition to the $196 million awarded to 488 projects from multiple State Agency programs through Round XI of the Governor's Regional Economic Development Council Initiative announced last week to stimulate New York's post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Our state's economic development goals cannot be achieved without clean water for drinking, recreation, and the overall quality of life New Yorkers expect and deserve,” Hochul said. “These sustained investments in water quality improve the health of our communities while creating economic opportunity through well paying, long lasting jobs.”

The Water Quality Improvement Project grant program is administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and funds projects that directly address documented water quality impairments or protect a drinking water source.

Genesee County grants -- all to install ultraviolent effluent disinfection at the municipalities’ wastewater treatment plants -- will go to the following initiatives:

  • Town of Pavilion: This project will improve the quality of treated effluent entering the Oatka Creek. $428,000.
  • Village of Bergen: This project will improve water quality by reducing pathogens in the plant's discharge. $137,500.
  • Village of Elba: This project will improve the quality of treated effluent entering the Oak Orchard Creek Tributary. $288,750.
  • Village of Le Roy: This project will improve water quality by reducing pathogens in the treatment facility's discharge to the Oatka Creek. $1,000,000.
December 14, 2021 - 1:57pm
posted by Press Release in news, COVID-19, Kathy Hochul.

Press release from Rochelle M. Stein, Chair, Genesee County Legislature; Lynne M. Johnson, Chair, Orleans County Legislature; John C. Welch Jr., Orleans County Chief Administrative Officer, L. Matthew Landers, Genesee County Manager and Paul A. Pettit, Genesee and Orleans Counties Public Health Director:

BATAVIA – Due to the current COVID-19 surge, New York State Governor Hochul announced on Friday, December 10th that starting Monday, December 13, 2021 through January 15, 2022, that masks will be required in all public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. However, Governor Hochul did not clearly state how enforcement of the mask mandate will occur.

“The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) will continue to focus our efforts on offering free vaccination and testing clinics as well as conducting case investigations,” said Paul Pettit, Genesee and Orleans Public Health Director.  “Outside of our own County facilities, we do not have the capacity to enforce mask mandates and enforcing mandates is not the best use of our limited resources at this point of the pandemic response.  As we have throughout the pandemic in line with CDC guidance, we continue to advise residents to properly wear masks indoors when social/physical distancing is not possible.”

“As we did during the last surge, Genesee County will take the approach with our community to Educate to Cooperate in regards to the benefits of masking and social distancing,” stated Rochelle Stein, Genesee County Legislature Chair.  

“In Orleans County, we will continue to focus our county resources on vaccinations, contact tracing, testing and working to keep children in school,” said Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature Chair.  “We held two clinics this week, one for testing and one for booster shots. We continue to seek more testing resources from the state, because we believe identifying and isolating those who test positive is the greatest need right now to reduce the spread.”

To reduce the spread in our communities, we need to increase vaccination rates and increase testing in order to identify and isolate those who are positive with COVID-19.  However, rural county health departments continue to have issues securing additional testing resources. GO Health and local officials continue to advocate for additional resources and assistance from the state in order to have free testing in our communities. 

Genesee and Orleans County Public and Health officials encourage those who have not been vaccinated or have not received their booster shot, to do so as soon as possible.  Booster shots have just been approved for 16 and 17 year olds, 6 months after their last shot.  Visit https://gohealthny.org/covid-19-vaccine-information/ or www.vaccine.gov to make an appointment. If you are experiencing symptoms, please stay home and seek testing.  For information on COVID-19 testing, visit https://gohealthny.org/covid-19-testing-information/ or https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you

COVID-19 is not the gift to give this season, please plan to protect your loved ones by getting your vaccine and/or booster.

December 13, 2021 - 2:19pm
posted by Press Release in COVID-19, news, Kathy Hochul.

Press release:

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the mask protocol for all indoor public places announced Friday is now in effect, as well as a new Frequently Asked Questions resource for business owners and the general public.

Masks are now required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. As noted on the Frequently Asked Questions webpage, an indoor public place is defined as any indoor space that is not a private residence -- businesses and venues New Yorkers frequent that are publicly owned or owned by private business. These entities include indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, indoor sports stadiums, recreational spaces, restaurants, office buildings, shopping centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, houses of worship and common areas in residential buildings. Posters encouraging people to wear masks and get vaccinated are available for businesses to use here and here.

"As Governor, my top priority is to protect the health of New Yorkers and the health of our economy, and these temporary measures will help us get through the holiday season safely," Governor Hochul said. "I share everyone's frustration that we have gotten to this point, especially with the vaccine at our disposal. I want to thank the millions of New Yorkers who have done the right thing to get fully vaccinated. We are all in this together and if others will follow suit, these measures will no longer be necessary."   

This major action to address the winter surge and concern over upcoming holiday gatherings comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise statewide to be in alignment with the CDC's recommendations for communities with substantial and high transmission. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement. 

This measure is effective until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions, and brings added layers of mitigation during the holiday season when more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday-themed destinations.     

Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "Taking this action now is critical to slowing the COVID-19 winter surge during the holidays. Each of you can contribute: get vaccinated, get boosted if you are already vaccinated and wear a mask. We urge the public to support these new requirements in indoor public places by cooperating with the venues. We need everyone to do their part to get through this together."

For information how businesses and venues can implement a proof of vaccination requirement or a mask wearing requirement, see the Frequently Asked Questions here.

COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses are free and widely available statewide. New Yorkers can visit vaccines.gov, text their ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find nearby locations. To schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site, New Yorkers can visit the Am-I-Eligible site. New Yorkers can also contact their health care provider, county health departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), rural health centers, or pharmacies. 

New Yorkers can retrieve their Excelsior Pass or Excelsior Pass Plus here. Businesses and venues can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app—free for any business nationwide and available in more than ten languages—here

November 22, 2021 - 8:49pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Kathy Hochul, covid-19 vaccine.

Image result for nysacRural counties in New York State currently have Gov. Kathy Hochul’s ear concerning the pressing issues of the day, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said today, and the possibility of vaccine mandates is at the top of the list.

“There is a big consensus among, especially the more rural counties, what we want to communicate to the governor,” Landers said at the Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “And we are pleased that the governor, in a phone call last evening … for county administrators and decision-makers and the governor's office .. is trying to make an effort to at least listen to the viewpoints of counties, which was something that the previous governor wasn’t doing.”

Landers said rural county leaders are “looking for less mandates, less restrictions – not the other way around.”

“We understand that it's going be difficult, but those are some of the takeaways that the county administrators in more rural counties are looking for moving forward, and less of a hammer,” he said.

County officials need more testing resources, he said.

“That's one thing that in order for us to comply with -- or are trying to dig ourselves out; having more testing resources is critical. And we are sorely lacking in a testing resources,”

He also said the state needs to put out more positive messaging, with a focus on help and communicating success stories.

“We’d like to see an endgame laid out,” Landers said. “I know that our schools are asking for this. County administrators are asking for this. What does success look like? We’d like to have an endgame laid out and a greater focus on hospitalizations and less on just straight (COVID-19) positives.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein added that counties are dead set against a possible state mandate “being overlaid onto rural counties.”

“That raised some ire,” she said.

Landers said state officials are looking at New York City’s low positivity rates, which have come as (partially) as a result of vaccine mandates, and could use that model for upstate counties.

“Leaders are pointing to the fact that they have vaccine mandates in place if you want to go to dining establishments and things like that, so that that comparison was provided to us,” he said. “And it's something that if our hospitalization rates don't improve then everything's on the table, even something like that.”

Landers also mentioned the situation in Erie County, which announced today that a mask mandate for all indoor public locations will start Tuesday at 6 a.m.

Rural county administrators think mandates do more harm than good, he said, and Stein agreed, adding that if mandates are required, then New York State should be responsible for enforcement.

“We also asked for the fact that if these mandates came down, that the enforcement is not something that is pushed down onto the county government but it is held at the state level,” she said. “And that's where the responsibility lies. That was very clear in that conversation.”

Landers said the ability to enforce has to be clear as well.

“If left open to local interpretation, it's not going to be effective. The enforcement, the ability, the right, the law, whatever you want to say, (needs to be) clear cut and able to be enforced and the state has to provide resources on the enforcement side.”

Turning to resolutions, as expected, the legislature adopted the county’s 2022 budget – a $158,502,898 All Funds spending plan that keeps the property tax levy the same as the 2021 budget.

The 2022 General Fund (operating) budget is set at $119,394,176, about $9.1 million more than the 2021 budget.

By keeping the same tax levy, the property tax rate falls from $9.80 to $9.18 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This was accomplished by using an additional $680,000 in unexpended reserves than originally proposed.

In other action, the legislature approved:

  • Revision of Local Law Introductory No. 6, which changes the Genesee County Hotel and Motel Occupancy Tax Law to include Airbnb-type short-term lodging sites.

Landers commended County Attorney Kevin Earl for his efforts to close any “loopholes: and to “clean up” the wording of the law, which was supported by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. Key revisions reduced the number of units from six to one and stipulate that the property would have to be rented out for more than 14 days in a year.

Short-term sites such as Airbnb now will be subject to the 3 percent “bed tax” that is added on to hotel/motel bills.

  • Funding five capital improvement projects as Genesee Community College – four next year and one in 2023 – at a maximum cost of $1.7 million as long as New York State commits the same amount.
  • Holding a public hearing on Dec. 8 to consider a local law to set the salaries of the following county elected or appointed fixed term employees: Commission of Elections, Director of Human Resources, Commissioner of Social Services, Director of Real Property Tax Services, County Clerk, Treasurer, Sheriff, and Highway Superintendent.
  • Reappointing Molly Haungs, marketing manager of LandPro Equipment, to a two-year term on the GLOW Workforce Development Board and James Kingston of Elba to a two-year term to the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District board of directors.
October 20, 2021 - 2:04pm

hochul_at_stamp.jpg

Gov. Kathy Hochul touted the hard working Western New York community today as she took part in a groundbreaking ceremony to recognize Plug Power, Inc.’s $290 million investment at the Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama.

“There is a strong work ethic here,” said Hochul, a Buffalo native who spent much time in Genesee and surrounding counties during her days as a U.S. Congresswoman and New York State lieutenant governor. “I come from just a little bit down the road – the granddaughter of a steel worker in a steel plant; my dad worked in the steel plant. In Rochester, he worked at Eastman Kodak and many other jobs.

“People are used to working hard, and employers are recognizing it. This is in our DNA. This is what they will get when they come here and invest here. They’ll get the very best people.”

Hochul was joined by Andy Marsh, chief executive officer of the Latham-based Plug Power, which is set to construct a major green hydrogen fuel production plant and a 450-megawatt electric substation that will provide power to the entire STAMP site.

Officials from the New York Power Authority were also on hand at the Genesee County Economic Development Center-coordinate event, which drew around 100 people.

The NYPA board previously approved a 10,000-kilowatt hydropower provision along with $1.5 million in funding from the Western New York Power Proceeds program, and 143 MW of High-Load Factor power that NYPA will procure for Plug Power on the energy market, drastically lowering electric bills through a reduction in electricity delivery chargers.

Other speakers were State Sen. Edward Rath, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein and GCEDC Vice President of Operations Mark Masse.

A CLEAN ENERGY REVOLUTION

Hochul said that the location “is the place where the clean energy revolution is happening.”

She thanked officials at the NYPA for “harnessing the power of the Niagara River … and (being able to) spread that energy across the state – literally, spread the energy across the state.”

“To invest here and to send a message that this project is important enough to have your investment, but also to transfer electricity here and power here, and the conversion into green hydrogen. That’s not happening anywhere else; nowhere else are they being that creative,” she said.

She drew a round of applause when she said, “It’s happening here in Genesee County. And as a result, we’ll have North America’s largest green hydrogen production facility here in the State of New York, but right here in Genesee County.”

The governor said she was “so delighted” to be back home again as this county has special meaning to her.

“I heard Mark (Masse) say I was here a few times,” she said. “I was here a few times a week – to your candy stores and your shops and your restaurants and your downtown, and had the opportunity to talk about the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and so many other transformative projects. So, when I come back home here it gives me the sense of not just (being) excited about what we’ve done in the past but the possibilities in the future. And, ladies and gentlemen, the future is starting today.”

THANKING THE 'EARLY VISIONARIES'

She credited “early visionaries” such as Steve Hyde, former Senator Mary Lou Rath, Assemblyman Steven Hawley, Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein and local government officials.

“Thank you for never giving up, for always having the faith. Your persistence and patience has paid off. And that’s what today is all about.”

And she thanked Marsh for seeing the possibilities in Genesee County.

“It’s companies, it’s people and it’s also places, and this place has been crying out for an opportunity like this to show what it was really made out of,” she said. “And the location, I’ve always said this. This region is spectacular because of its proximity to two larger urban areas …”

Masse said interest in STAMP from corporate site selectors from the advanced manufacturing sector -- including semiconductor and clean energy -- has never been stronger.

“There’s a long queue of prospects constantly asking for information, meetings and visiting the site. Our region and our site are very suitable for companies such as Plug Power to succeed and make a lasting impact,” he said.

MASSE PROMOTES SHOVEL-READINESS

Noting that the region has 2.1 million people in a 60-mile radius with 57 colleges and universities – and 4,000 engineering graduates annually, Masse said, “The only thing holding us back now is the increasing of our capacities of existing infrastructure to make this site completely shovel-ready.”

“This would have the full water, sewer, electric at the property line for any company looking to locate here so they can move quickly to construct their facility and be up and running as soon as possible.”

Masse said he was hopeful that New York State will continue to make infrastructure investments to advance the shovel-readiness of mega-sites such as STAMP.

Marsh compared Plug Power’s expansion to George Westinghouse’s pioneering electrical network more than 100 years ago.

“Hydrogen is really important, and green hydrogen is especially important,” he said, adding that projections show that 18 percent of the world’s energy is going to come from hydrogen.

MARSH FORESEES ACCELERATION

“And right here in the field will be the first large-scale green hydrogen network, not only in New York, not only in the U.S., but around the world. Just like George Westinghouse did with electricity years and years ago.”

He called that “a great accelerator for this local economy and Plug Power believes, with its investments here, which we hope to continue to grow – with our investments in Rochester – we will see the same.”

Marsh, mentioning that Plug Power’s green hydrogen will power forklifts at several big companies, said that 25 percent of food during COVID moved through Plug Power products.

“It really made the world realize what Plug Power was doing. We were able to raise $5 billion in the public market, which supplements a lot that goes on with support in New York and other places,” he offered.

CLICK HERE for more about today's developments.

a76y4523.jpg

stamp_crowd.jpg

Photo above: Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking at this morning's Plug Power groundbreaking event at WNY STAMP in the Town of Alabama. Photos below: Hochul and Plug Power CEO (center) and other regional and state officials take part in the ceremony; state, regional and local government leaders turned out for the event. Photos by Steve Ognibene.

September 30, 2021 - 12:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Kathy Hochul, UMMC, Rochester Regional Health.

Vaccination rates for United Memorial Medical Center employees are right around the 90 percent mark as hospitals and other facilities around the state contend with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Sept. 27th mandate requiring health care workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

According to statistics on the New York State COVID-19 vaccine website -- www.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov, 94 percent of workers at UMMC’s Bank Street campus have been vaccinated compared to 89 percent at UMMC’s North Street campus.

UMMC is part of Rochester Regional Health System, which is showing a 90 percent vaccination rate for all of its employees – a percentage point less than data for Strong Memorial Hospital University of Rochester Medical Center.

(Watch for an update later today).

The percentage of hospital workers vaccinated in the Finger Lakes Region is 90 percent, with Genesee and Orleans counties at 89 and Wyoming County at 90.

These figures are calculated from the number of hospital staff eligible for vaccination and the number completing the recommended series of a given COVID-19 vaccine product (e.g. 2 doses of the 2-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 1-dose of the 1-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine), per the state website.

Statistics for nursing homes and assisted living facilities reveal the following for Genesee County (as reported by the individual facilities as of Sept. 27):

Nursing homes:

  • Le Roy Village Green – Residents’ complete dose: 92.7 percent; Staff complete dose: 83 percent.
  • Premier Genesee – Residents’ complete dose: 90.3 percent; Staff complete dose: 92.4 percent.
  • The Grand – Residents’ complete dose: 91.4 percent; Staff complete dose: 90.7 percent.

Assisted living:

  • Genesee Adult Home – Residents’ complete dose: 94.5 percent; Staff complete dose: 72.7 percent.
  • Le Roy Manor -- Residents’ complete dose: 97.2 percent; Staff compete dose: 92.3 percent.
  • The Manor House, Batavia – Residents’ complete dose: 100 percent; Staff compete dose: 93.6 percent.

Calls seeking comment from the administrators at the nursing homes listed above were not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Samantha Vagg is the administrator at Le Roy Village Green, Sharon Zeams is the administrator at Premier Genesee and Timothy Srye is the administrator at The Grand.

All told in Genesee County, skilled nursing facilities vaccination rates as of Sept. 28 were 94 percent for residents and 90 percent for workers and adult care facilities vaccination rates as of Sept. 28 were 97 percent for residents and 87 percent for workers.

REPORT FROM GOV. HOCHUL

On Wednesday, Hochul said that 92 percent of hospital and nursing home workforce have gotten at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 89 percent of adult care facilities employees have received at least one dose.

Based on total number of hospital employees in the state, an 8 percent unvaccinated rate equates to more than 41,000 who have not received at least one dose. As a result, the governor’s staff is monitoring the impact of her mandate, with the possibility of bringing in health care workers from out of the state or even from other countries.

The Genesee County Legislature, along with about seven other counties in the region, has sent a letter to the governor asking for her to include a coronavirus testing option for health care workers.

“I fully support the legislature’s position … to ensure that we didn’t have any lapse in service,” County Manager Matt Landers said today. “It’s a common sense, logical approach to the situation at hand. Obviously, we’d like to see as many people vaccinated as possible, but at the end of the day, we can’t jeopardize the care of our sick and our elderly because of the mandate.”

DATA FOR GENERAL PUBLIC

Latest statistics (as of Sept. 29) also show that 56.1 percent of Genesee County residents age 12 and over are fully vaccinated, which is less than the 63.6 percent for all New York state residents.

By zip code (as of Sept. 28), these are the percentages of those fully vaccinated:

  • Batavia – 50.4
  • East Bethany – 38.8
  • Alexander – 44
  • Basom – 44.4
  • Oakfield – 45.3
  • Byron – 48
  • Corfu – 49.6
  • Darien Center – 51.1
  • Pavilion – 53.8
  • Bergen – 55.3
  • Le Roy – 56.5
  • Stafford – 65.5
  • Elba – 73.6

In the Finger Lakes Region, the total number of people with at least one vaccine dose has increased over the past week by 7,695 to 760,752, and the total number of people with the complete vaccine series has increased over the past week by 5,590 to 706,944.

BOOSTER SHOT STATUS LOCALLY

Nola Goodrich-Kresse, public health educator, reported that the Genesee Orleans Health Department has set up clinics for those eligible for booster shots, beginning next week.

“Boosters are offered during the regular clinic day with the only difference being registration is required for boosters,” she said.

The booster shot schedule, for those 65 and older who became fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago:

  • Oct. 6 from 12:45 to 3:30 p.m., Genesee County Health Department, 3837 West Main Street Rd., Batavia;
  • Oct. 7, from 12:45 to 3:30 p.m., Orleans County Health Department, 14016 State Route 31, Suite 101, Albion.

These shots are administered by appointment only.

September 22, 2021 - 7:39pm

mandate_protesters_.jpg

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  Comments are closed.  It's become too much of a battle, taking too much time, to deal with all of the misinformation being posted in comments.

Several Genesee County residents exercised their right to peacefully assemble this afternoon, gathering in front of the Upton Monument at the Route 5 and 63 fork to protest governmental COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“We’ve been rallying to help the cause of healthcare workers,” Roxie Winegar said. “I’m a DSP (Direct Support Professional) for ARC (The Arc of Genesee Orleans) and I don’t want to lose my job; I don’t want anybody to lose their job over being forced to be vaccinated when it’s a choice to put something into your body.”

Winegar said she believes vaccines cause death and impairment, “and long-term effects that you can not get out of your body – you cannot reverse.”

“They are not a vaccine. They are an mRNA (messenger RNA) genetic changer, and once you have that, you don’t have the human genetic makeup anymore – it’s totally changed,” she stated.

She said she has done much research into the vaccine, and doesn’t buy most of mainstream media’s reporting on the matter.

“They are so very evidently biased … they all say the same thing. It’s the same script. They’re all given a script and they all say it,” she said.

Sue Wlazlak, an employee (analyst) of United Memorial Medical Center, said the mandate is violating people’s freedoms.

“They’ve taken away our freedom of choice and it’s completely against the Constitution. I don’t understand any of this,” she said.

When asked if she thought natural immunity for those who have had COVID should be considered, she replied, “That’s the other piece that is huge. They’re not testing for the immunity. I had to get tested for the chicken pox and that proved that I had immunity, so they didn’t offer me a vaccine. They should be doing that.”

Wlazlak said she sees the vaccines as experimental and full of risks.

“So, if you have reasons why (you don’t want it), you shouldn't be forced to infect your body to go to work,” she offered.

Another protester said the issue goes beyond just the vaccine mandate.

“Vladimir Putin said it best: The United States is heading toward communism with breathtaking speed,” Gary DiSanto said. “We’re becoming a totalitarian, one-party state.”

Thousands of healthcare workers at hospitals run by New York State could face suspension or loss of jobs beginning on Monday as a result of the mandate originally ordered by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and kept in force by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The directive does not allow for regular testing instead of being vaccinated. Hochul’s administration and numerous labor unions are in negotiations to see if an agreement could be reached. Mass firings or resignations would cripple the state’s healthcare system.

In a related development, as first reported by The Batavian, the Genesee County Legislature yesterday passed a resolution adopted by the Ways & Means Committee to modify the COVID-19 mandate by providing options such as regular testing for those opting to not take the vaccine at this time.

Copies of the resolution are being sent to Hochul, Health Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

Photo: Among those protesting vaccine mandates today are, from left, Gary DiSanto, Roxie Winegar, Bob Hoskins, Sue Wlazlak, Jo Coburn, Theresa Wlazlak and Evelyn Aubrey. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button

News Break