Brewster's HamletHub Sat, 04 Apr 2020 10:15:49 -0400 Maloney: Bills piling up this month? You've got rights. Know them.

Rent is due and a whole lot of folks are struggling. That's why New York has strict protections in place to keep a roof over people's heads during these tough times. Your landlord can't just throw you out or charge late fees. Know your rights and spread the word.

If you're worried about making your monthly payments, call all your bill providers and ask to defer your April payment - credit cards, phone bills, rent, and mortgages. Federal student loans have also been suspended for two months, but you must call your servicer to make that happen. 

Having trouble? Call my district office at (845) 561-1259, and we'll go to bat for you.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney is the U.S. Representative for New York's 18th congressional district


]]> (Office of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney) Politics Fri, 03 Apr 2020 21:59:12 -0400
What's Up: Skywatching Tips from NASA

 What to Look For: April 1-5. Watch each night as Venus climbs higher in the sky each evening, crossing through the Pleiades star cluster. The real highlight is on April 3rd, when Venus will appear inside the Pleiades — meaning it'll be in the same field of view through binoculars or a telescope with a wide field of view.


What's Up for April? The Seven Sisters meet the evening star, Mars continues its getaway, and unpacking the Moon illusion.

What's Up Video: April 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASA

At the beginning of April, look to the west each evening in the couple of hours after sunset as Venus visits the Pleiades.

Watch each night from the 1st through the 5th, as Venus climbs higher in the sky each evening, crossing through the Pleiades star cluster. The real highlight is on April 3rd, when Venus will appear inside the Pleiades — meaning it'll be in the same field of view through binoculars or a telescope with a wide field of view. This should be spectacular if the weather's clear where you are, so here's wishing you clear skies.

The planetary quartet of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and the Moon once again make a showing in mid-April. Since giving Jupiter and Saturn the slip last month, the Red Planet continues its getaway from the gas giants in this month's morning skies. Mars begins the month just beneath Saturn, but by the middle of April, it's moved a decent distance away. The Moon swings by on the 14th, 15th and 16th. The three planets won't appear close together in the sky again for a couple of years, so catch them now if you can!

Earth is currently catching up to Mars in its orbit, as the two planets come into the right position for the launch of NASA's Mars 2020 mission and its newly named Perseverance rover.

Most of us have had the experience of watching the full moon rise in the distance, maybe over a city or a distant mountain, and it looks HUGE. In fact, it's got the very appropriate (if unimaginative) name of "the Moon illusion." Although this illusion has been known for thousands of years, there still isn't a truly satisfying scientific explanation for why we see it.

Now the Moon is essentially the same width in the sky on any specific night, whether it's rising, setting or overhead. (There are a variety of experiments you can do to prove this for yourself.)

Photographers can simulate the Moon illusion by taking shots of the moon low on the horizon using a long lens with buildings, mountains or trees in the frame.

It's known not to be an optical effect of our atmosphere, though the atmosphere does add to the yellowish color of the rising and setting Moon, much as it makes the rising and setting Sun look redder.

Even airline pilots and astronauts have reported seeing the moon illusion — in the absence of trees, buildings and mountains to help provide a sense of scale.

Researchers have shown that it's definitely something going on in our brains that has to do with the way we perceive the size of distant objects near the horizon, versus high in the sky, but the precise explanation for why it happens is still elusive.

So until someone puzzles out exactly what our brains are up to, it's probably best to just enjoy the Moon illusion, and the moody, atmospheric and sometimes downright haunting vistas it creates.

Here are the phases of the Moon for April.

]]> (Preston Dyches. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory) Places Fri, 03 Apr 2020 13:06:38 -0400
Cuomo Announces the State Department of Health Has Approved New Protocol to Allow BiPAP Machines to be Converted Into Ventilators


State Has Purchased 3,000 BiPAP Machines from Philips in Pittsburgh; 750 BiPAP Machines Already In Stock

State Will Conduct a Hospital-by-Hospital Survey on a Nightly Basis to Take Inventory of Every Hospital's Supplies; All Hospitals Are Being Asked to Contribute Supplies They Don't Currently Need to a Centralized Stockpile to be Distributed to Hospitals with Greatest Need

  21,000 Out-of-State Individuals Have Volunteered to Work in New York's Healthcare System During COVID-19 Pandemic; 85,400 Health Professionals Have Signed up to Volunteer as Part of the State's Surge Healthcare Force to Date

Urges Businesses to Begin Manufacturing PPE Products; State Will Pay to Convert Manufacturing Facilities to Make PPE Products

Consumers and Small Businesses Experiencing Financial Hardship Due to COVID-19 May Defer Paying Health Insurance Premiums through June 1, 2020

Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured New Yorkers to Apply for Coverage Through NY State of Health or Directly to Insurers Extended Through May 15, 2020

If You Lost Employer Coverage, You Must Apply Within 60 Days of Losing That Coverage; Because of Loss of Income, New Yorkers May Also Be Eligible for Medicaid, the Essential Plan, Subsidized Qualified Health Plans or Child Health Plus

Confirms 8,669 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State - Bringing Statewide Total to 92,381; New Cases in 46 Counties


Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the State Department of Health has approved Northwell's protocol allowing BiPAP machines to be converted into ventilators. The State has purchased 3,000 BiPAP machines from Philips in Pittsburgh, and 750 machines are already in stock and will be distributed to hospitals. The State has already taken a number of extraordinary measures to acquire more ventilators and build the State's stockpile, including tracking where all the ventilators are located in New York and shifting their locations to meet the highest need and ending elective surgeries. If necessary, hospitals may also use anesthesia machine ventilators or use a "splitting" protocol where one ventilator is used for two patients using separate tubes. 

Governor Cuomo also announced the State has begun conducting a hospital-by-hospital survey on a nightly basis to take inventory of every hospital's supplies. Additionally, all hospitals are being asked to contribute the supplies they don't currently need to a central stockpile to be distributed to hospitals with the greatest need.


The Governor also announced that 21,000 out-of-state individuals have volunteered to work in New York's healthcare system on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, 85,400 health professionals in New York have signed up to volunteer as part of the State's surge healthcare force.

The Governor is also encouraging any company with the proper equipment or personnel to begin to manufacture PPE products if possible. The state is willing to provide funding to any company to obtain the proper equipment and personnel. Businesses interested in receiving state funding to manufacture PPE products should call 212-803-3100 or email

The Governor announced that, through June 1, 2020, consumers and businesses experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 may defer paying premiums under individual and small group health insurance policies. DFS shall consider any liquidity or solvency concerns of the health plans. During this period, health plans will be required to continue to pay claims, not to report late payments to credit rating agencies, and to work with individuals to help them transition to new coverage, if appropriate. In addition, insurers are reminded that they cannot impose late payment fees. Governor Cuomo thanked Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont for his collaboration on this initiative.


"We are continuing to plan forward and prepare our healthcare system for when the apex of the curve hits." Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The NY State of Health and the New York State Department of Financial Services announced a one-month extension of the special enrollment period through May 15, 2020 to allow uninsured New Yorkers to apply for coverage through NY State of Health or directly to insurers. If you lost employer coverage, you must apply within 60 days of losing that coverage. Because of a loss of income, New Yorkers may also be eligible for Medicaid, the Essential Plan, subsidized Qualified Health Plans or Child Health Plus.

"We are continuing to plan forward and prepare our healthcare system for when the apex of the curve hits," Governor Cuomo said. "We are taking extraordinary measures to acquire more personal protective equipment, find beds to increase hospital capacity and recruit staff, but there is still a critical need for all three of these components, and we need all three in order for our hospitals to actually function and provide care. Ventilators remain our most significant challenge, and today the State Department of Health has approved protocols that will allow us to use BiPAP machines as ventilators, and we have already acquired 3,000 of these machines to be deployed to hospitals with the greatest need."


Finally, the Governor confirmed 8,669 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 92,381 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 92,381 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:


Total Positive

New Positive








































































































































St. Lawrence







































Governor Cuomo Announces DOH Has Approved New Prot...

]]> (Office of the Governor. ) Public safety Fri, 03 Apr 2020 12:47:51 -0400
Putnam County Covid-19 Update for April 3, 2020

Putnam County officials have released todays update on Covid-19 in the County. Putnam Hospital Center has reported 4 new deaths in the last 24 hours bringing the total to 11 and another 18 confirmed cases (down from 21 yesterday) who are currently undergoing treatment at the hospital. Eight (8) other individuals are "Under Investigation" for the virus and currently in the hospital.

As of March 6th, when the virus was first identified in Putnam County, 11 people have passed away due to the virus. 

(Information listed above regarding Putnam Hospital Center cases is provided by Putnam County Hospital Center NOT Putnam County Government)

Totals, by Town, of Laboratory confirmed cases.

Carmel 90 (+4)

Kent 40 (+7)

Patterson 28 (no change)

Phillipstown 19 (no change)

Putnam Valley 28 (+5)

Southeast 51 (+4)

Putnam County now has 256 confirmed cases as of 11:00 am this morning, April 3, 2020.

Click on the accompanying photo to enlarge the photo and see more statistics.

]]> (Peter Carey) Public safety Fri, 03 Apr 2020 08:14:51 -0400
Governor Cuomo Announces Highlights of New Budget

Enacts Strongest-in-the-Nation Paid Sick Leave Program & Cuts Middle Class Taxes

Legalizes Gestational Surrogacy

Enacts First-in-the-Nation Domestic Terrorism Law

Prohibits Individuals Who Commit Serious Offenses in Other States from Obtaining NY Gun License

Bans Flavored E-Cigarettes & Caps Insulin Co-Pays at $100 per Month

Outlaws 'Pink Tax' that Allowed Gender-Based Pricing Discrimination

Permanently Bans Hydro-Fracking and the Distribution and Use of Styrofoam


Governor Cuomo: "It would have been very easy to say, 'Oh, this is an extraordinary year; let's just do the bare minimum and go home.' We did the opposite. We said there is a lot of need and there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and we stepped up to the plate and we got it done."

VIDEO of the Governor's Remarks is Available on YouTube Here and in TV Quality Format Here  

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced highlights of the FY2021 Enacted Budget, which advances the Governor's Making Progress Happen agenda. The budget is balanced, includes no new taxes, continues to phase in tax cuts for the middle class, enacts the strongest Paid Sick Leave program in the nation, and advances other progressive priorities including the legalization of gestational surrogacy.

The Budget also enacts the "Josef Neumann Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act" — named in memory of the Monsey stabbing victim who passed away this past Monday — defining hate-fueled murder with the intent to cause mass casualties as an act of domestic terrorism with penalties equivalent to other acts of terrorism.

The Budget closes a loophole to prohibit individuals who commit serious offenses in other states from obtaining a gun license in New York. It also allows judges to ban high-risk sexual offenders and those who assault MTA employees from accessing the MTA subway, bus and rail systems. 

The Budget promotes public health by banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and capping insulin co-payments at $100 per month.

The Budget also prohibits gender-based pricing discrimination by eliminating the "pink tax."

The enacted budget will also permanently ban hydrofracking in state law to ensure we protect our natural resources.

The budget also authorizes a reduction in spending by $10 billion to account for the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This is a moment in history unlike any other, and government needs to function and deliver results for the people of this state now more than ever — and that's exactly what we did with this budget," Governor Cuomo said. "That the legislature and the Executive got this budget done with all of these policy initiatives is an extraordinary feat, and I praise Speaker Heastie, Leader Stewart-Cousins and every member of the legislature. It would have been very easy to say, 'Oh, this is an extraordinary year; let's just do the bare minimum and go home.' We did the opposite. We said there is a lot of need and there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, and we stepped up to the plate and we got it done. That it was done this year is really extraordinary."


Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Working New Yorkers: To further empower New York's workers and protect all consumers in the State, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget enacts a paid sick leave program for working New Yorkers. Businesses with five to 99 employees will provide their employees at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave per year and businesses with 100 employees or more will provide at least seven days of paid sick leave per year. Smaller businesses, with four or fewer employees, will guarantee five days of job-protected unpaid sick leave to their employees every year. Small businesses already providing paid sick leave will be able to so.

Legalizing Gestational Surrogacy in New York State: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget legalizes gestational surrogacy in New York State once and for all, helping LGBTQ couples and couples struggling with infertility. The legislation will also establish criteria for surrogacy contracts that provide the strongest protections in the nation for parents and surrogates, ensuring all parties provide informed consent at every step of the process, and will create a Surrogates' Bill of Rights, which would ensure the unfettered right of surrogates to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether to terminate or continue a pregnancy and that surrogates have access to comprehensive health insurance and independent legal counsel of their choosing, all paid for by the intended parents. The legislation included in the Budget will also create a streamlined process for establishing parenthood when one of the individuals is a non-biological parent, a process known as "second parent adoption."

Passing the "New York Hate Crime Anti-Terrorism Act":  The FY 20201 Budget establishes a "domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate" crime as a new A-1 class felony punishable by up to life in prison without parole.

Closing the Out-of-State Gun Loophole: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes legislation to prohibit individuals from obtaining a gun license who commit serious offenses out-of-state that would disqualify them from obtaining a gun license if committed in New York. This will provide greater consistency in New York's licensing scheme and ensure individuals who are prohibited from purchasing a firearm are not able to do so. The Enacted Budget also includes legislation to require all state and local law enforcement agencies in the state to opt in to the ATF's crime gun trace data sharing program and submit crime guns recovered through the ATF's eTrace system. Additionally, the Enacted Budget includes legislation to amend the Mental Hygiene Law to allow New York to share reports of individuals who are a danger to themselves or others with other states.

Housing and Services for People who are Homeless, Including Those with Mental Illness: New York's homeless community and those with mental illness are among the hardest populations to help. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes an aggressive strategy and additional support to provide housing and services to these vulnerable populations.

Enact a Comprehensive Tobacco Control Policy: Governor Cuomo has taken unprecedented steps to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers by combatting the use of harmful tobacco and nicotine products. The Enacted Budget prohibits the sale or distribution of e-cigarettes or vapor products that have a characterizing flavor unless approved as part of an FDA pre-market approval; prohibits the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in all pharmacies; restricts the delivery of e-liquid products only to NYS-licensed vapor retailers; restricts the public display of tobacco and vapor products near schools; requires manufacturers of vapor products to disclose to the DOH Commissioner and the public, information regarding the ingredients, by-products, or contaminants in vapor products, whether intentional or unintentionally added; bans certain carrier oils if they are determined to be harmful; bans coupons and manufacturer discounts and displays in shops; and increases penalties for illegally selling tobacco products to minors.

Prescription Drugs: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes a three-part plan to lower prescription drug costs for all New Yorkers. The Budget caps insulin co-payments at $100 per month for insured patients to help address the rising cost of insulin that has resulted in diabetes patients rationing, skipping doses and not filling prescriptions. Finally, the Enacted Budget establishes a commission of experts to study the feasibility and benefits of a Canadian drug importation program and submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review.

Banning the "Pink Tax": The FY 2021 Enacted Budget prohibits gender-based pricing discrimination for substantially similar or like kind goods and services. The legislation would require certain service providers to provide price lists for standard services upon request and notice that gender-based price discrimination is prohibited under state law. Businesses that violate the law would be subject to civil penalties.

Authorized the Creation of a $3 Billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act: The Budget authorizes the creation of a Bond Act to fund critical environmental restoration and climate mitigation projects in every corner of the state to ensure New York is able to adapt to the intensifying impacts of climate change, and reduce emissions, while creating jobs and local economic development. As part of the larger Restore Mother Nature Initiative, the Bond Act will be a key source of funding for projects focused on reducing flood risk, investing in resilient infrastructure, restoring freshwater and tidal wetlands, preserving open space, conserving forest areas, and reducing pollution from agricultural and storm water runoff. It will also fund up to $700 million in projects to fight climate change, including green buildings. It also aims to spend 35 percent of the funds on projects to benefit underserved areas of the state. The Budget Director will assess the state's finances and the economic outlook later this year and make a determination as to whether to move forward with the Bond Act.

Permanently Banning Hydrofracking: The Enacted Budget codifies Governor Cuomo's ban on the Department of Environmental Conservation approving permits that would authorize an applicant to drill, deepen, plug back or convert wells that use high-volume hydraulic fracturing as a means to complete or recomplete a well. In addition, it places a moratorium on future gelled propane hydrofracking applications until the Department can conduct an analysis of the impacts of this completion method. This will protect the health of New Yorkers and ensuring permanently that our environment is not harmed by this practice.

Continuing Middle Class Tax Cuts: This year's Enacted Budget continues to lower Personal Income Tax rates for middle-class New Yorkers. In 2020, the third year of the multi-year tax cuts enacted in 2016, income tax rates have been lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.09 percent for taxpayers in the $43,000-$161,550 income bracket, and to 6.41 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 income bracket. These cuts are expected to save 4.7 million New Yorkers over $1.8 billion this year. Furthermore, income tax rates will continue to drop to 5.5 percent for taxpayers in the $27,900-$161,550 tax bracket and 6 percent in the $161,550-$323,200 bracket. When the cuts are fully phased in, middle class taxpayers will have received an income tax rate cut up to 20 percent, amounting to a projected $4.2 billion in annual savings for six million filers by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the State's lowest middle-class tax rates in more than 70 years.

Increasing and Modernizing Emergency Response Capacity: Over 60 percent of New York counties have been flooded twice in the past 10 years. We must be ready to handle these increasing, life-threatening, emergency situations. It is a new and growing challenge for our state operations. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget sustains $12 million in capital funding to increase and update the State's emergency response capacity so our brave women and men have the right equipment to do their jobs.

Addressing Veteran and Law Enforcement Suicides: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget invests $1 million to partner with organizations to help veterans, law enforcement and first responders with suicide prevention efforts. The Budget also directs state agencies to expand suicide prevention strategies for veterans, law enforcement, correctional officers and first responders, including a new campaign by the Office of Mental Health to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Additionally, the State will convene a panel of stakeholders and experts at its annual Suicide Prevention Conference to develop and implement strategies for preventing suicide among these special populations.

Adding E Pluribus Unum to the State Coat of Arms: Our founding fathers said clearly that the idea of unity was the key to America's future. In 1782, on the first seal of the United States, they said it in three simple words - E pluribus unum, out of many one. This federal government and our nation seem to have forgotten that essential American principle. In this time of turmoil, New York State will remind the nation of who we are by adding E pluribus unum to the State's coat of arms as part of the FY 2021 Enacted Budget, proclaiming at this ugly time the simple truth that without unity we are nothing.


Accelerating Renewable Energy Projects and Driving Economic Growth as Part of Nation-Leading Climate Agenda: The Enacted Budget includes the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which will dramatically speed up the permitting and construction of renewable energy projects, combat climate change and grow the state's green economy. The State will also accelerate renewable transmission delivery. The Act will create a new Office of Renewable Energy Permitting to improve and streamline the process for environmentally responsible and cost-effective siting of large-scale renewable energy projects across New York while delivering significant benefits to local communities. "Build Ready" sites will be pre-approved, permitted and auctioned to developers to prioritize the re-use of abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and otherwise underutilized sites. These actions will accelerate progress towards Governor Cuomo's nation-leading clean energy and climate goals - including the mandate to obtain 70 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources - as identified under the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. 

Banning the Distribution and Use of Styrofoam: The Enacted Budget prohibits the distribution and use of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, single-use food containers. It also bans the sale of expanded polystyrene packaging materials known as packing peanuts. This is the strongest statewide ban in the United States and will go into effect by January 1, 2022.

Enacting Comprehensive E-Bike and E-Scooter Legislation: To get more people out of cars, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes comprehensive legislation to legalize and expand the e-bike and e-scooter network without compromising on public safety.

Green Economy Tax Credit: The budget creates a new refundable, discretionary Green Jobs Tax Credit totaling up to 7.5 percent of wages for each net new job created fostering the expansion of green economy businesses and position New York State to further capitalize on significant projected green economic growth.  The State will also create a refundable, discretionary Green Investment Tax Credit totaling up to 5 percent of qualifying new capital investments in connection with qualifying green economy projects and increasing to up to 8 percent of eligible investment for research and development in qualifying green economy projects.


Reimagining the Erie Canal: Building on the findings of the Reimagine the Canal Task Force, the New York Power Authority, which now oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, will invest $300 million over the next five years to integrate the Empire State Trail and Erie Canal through a new program that will stimulate tourism and economic development, address environmental challenges unknown a century ago, and create an asset that will improve the quality of life in communities along the 360-mile spine of the Erie Canal. A first phase of funding will start this year that will have two parts: a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area. The remaining $135 million of the plan's funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutions related to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

Developing an Innovative Strategy to Build High Speed Rail in New York: Governor Cuomo will convene a team of forward-thinking experts and engineers to reexamine past high-speed rail plans, question and rethink every assumption and method and recommend a new plan for how to build faster, greener, more reliable high-speed rail in New York.

Investing in Roads and Bridges: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget supports $6 billion for the Department of Transportation capital plan in FY 2021, including $2.6 billion for Upstate roads and bridges.

Regional Targeted Investments

Transferring Pier 76 Tow Pound to Hudson River Park for Reuse: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget requires the long deferred transfer of Pier 76 from its use as a tow pound for the NYPD to the operational control of the Hudson River Park Trust to integrate into the park complex, maximizing green space, recreation and community access and market potential. As part of the legislation, the NYPD must vacate Pier 76 by the end of 2020.

Transforming Buffalo's North Aud Block: Supported by the FY 2021 Enacted Budget, the State will develop Buffalo Canalside's North Aud Block and improve access to the city's waterfront, featuring mixed use residential and commercial buildings and a piazza for public use, based on community and stakeholder input. This also includes the rail station that is forthcoming in Buffalo and its coordination with the new North Aud Block neighborhood.

Creating the State's First Comprehensive Education and Training Center in Syracuse: To meet the emerging science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics demands in Syracuse, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget supports the creation of the State's first regional Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center in Central New York. Administered by the Syracuse City School District in partnership with SUNY Empire State College and other local colleges and universities, the Center will provide specialized educational opportunities and state of the art workforce training programs in advanced technologies to students and residents throughout the region. The State will reimburse 98 percent, or $71.4 million, of the cost to renovate the building that will house the Center. The Syracuse Comprehensive Education and Workforce Training Center is scheduled to open in 2021 and will serve ultimately 1,000 students, as well as residents of the community.

Expanding High Technology Companies in Rochester: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget supports the expansion of three industry-leading high technology companies in the City of Rochester that will further grow the Finger Lakes regional economy as part of the Governor's continued commitment to growing the high-tech ecosystem in and around Rochester's Downtown Innovation Zone. The expansion of these companies will create more than 700 jobs in and near Rochester's Downtown Innovation Zone.

Job Training for the Future: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget supports first-in-the-nation Future of Work Centers that will build on the success of the Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo and establish two nation-leading Future of Work Centers. These Future of Work Centers will partner with the private sector, community organizations and SUNY/CUNY to create new short-term, non-degree credential and micro-credential programs to quickly address employer skill needs, both for existing workers as well as new workers.


Banning high-risk sexual offenders from accessing the MTA subway, bus and rail systems: The Budget includes a new measure authorizing a judge to prohibit individuals who engage in unlawful sexual conduct against an MTA passenger or employee or a crime involving assault against an MTA employee from using MTA transportation services for up to three years, or as long as on probation, if less. Anyone who violates that condition can have contempt sanctions brought against them. The Governor proposed this measure in response to a number of recent MTA incidents involving repeat sex offenders. 

Funding for State Police Hate Crimes Task Force: The State Police Hate Crimes Task Force was established by the Governor in the 2018 to address the increase in bias-motivated threats, harassment and violence throughout New York State. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes $2 million to support the Task Force's ongoing work, and to bolster the monitoring of digital media which promote violence, intolerance, selling of illicit substances and terrorism.

Removing Guns from Domestic Abusers: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget authorize law enforcement to remove guns from the scene of a domestic violence incident.  It would also establish a domestic violence misdemeanor to ensure abusers lose access to firearms immediately upon conviction. Further, it would authorize law enforcement officers to seize weapons from the home of an individual who becomes subject to a protective order arising out of a domestic dispute.

Banning Fentanyl Analogs: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget explicitly designates certain fentanyl analogs as controlled substances in New York State. This gives police and law enforcement the authority to prosecute the manufacturing, sale and distribution of these drugs to the fullest extent of the law. The measure also gives the State Department of Health Commissioner the authority to add additional analogs to the list of controlled substances, enabling the State to stay in front of these deadly substances as they appear on the market.

Adjustments to 2019 Criminal Justice Reform Law: The budget also makes adjustments to the 2019 bail reform law that addressed inequities in the criminal justice system. The budget clarifies the 2019 law to make sure judges know all the options available to them with respect to non-monetary conditions for release; enhances the options upon which a judge can condition release, including mental health referrals and requirements to attend counseling; and it adds several offenses that can be bail eligible, including sex trafficking offenses, money laundering in support of terrorism in the 3rd and 4th degree, child pornography offenses, repeat offenders, and those who commit crimes resulting in death.


Requiring Automatic Manual Recounts in Close Elections: To fortify confidence in the integrity of election results in every race around the state, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget includes legislation establishing statewide standards for when automatic ballot recounts are triggered and the process for how such recounts will be carried out. The legislation requires automatic, manual recounts in all statewide elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.2 percent of all votes cast in the contest. It also requires an automatic manual recount in all other elections in which the margin of victory for a candidate or ballot proposition is 0.5 percent of all votes cast.

Counting Every New Yorker in the 2020 Census: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget provides additional funding to ensure a fair and complete count of every New Yorker in the upcoming 2020 census. This funding builds on the statewide campaign to inform the public about the Census, encourage residents to complete the questionnaire and reach hard-to-count communities.

Strengthening Disclosure Laws: In June 2016, amid an increased lack of transparency in politics, Governor Cuomo advanced ethics reform legislation to address the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that resulted in strengthened campaign finance regulations. Upon passage of ethics reform bills by both the Senate and the Assembly, the Governor signed New York Executive Law § 172, requiring disclosures of political relationships and behaviors widely recognized to be influential but which operate without exposure. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget Governor Cuomo strengthens this law by streamlining the reporting process for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations.


Establishing the SUNY Curing Alzheimer's Health Consortium: The Consortium will work to identify genes that predict an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's and collaborate with public and private research institutions on projects and studies to identify opportunities to develop new therapeutic treatment and cures for Alzheimer's. The goal of the Consortium will be to map the genetics of 1 million people, suffering from or at-risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, over 5 years. This new wealth of data will support researchers as they work towards developing new treatments and cures for the disease.

Medical Transparency Website Increasing Transparency in Healthcare Costs to Empower Patients: To enable consumers to more easily search for healthcare services, the FY 2021 Enacted Budget supports the creation of a consumer-friendly, one-stop website, called NYHealthcareCompare, where New Yorkers can easily compare the cost and quality of healthcare procedures at hospitals around the state. The website will be created by the Department of Health, the Department of Financial Services and the New York State Digital and Media Services Center.

Student Mental Health Program: The Budget provides $10 million in funding for grants to school districts to address student mental health in light of recent school closures. These grants are intended to improve student access to mental health resources and assist students who have experienced trauma that negatively affects their educational experience. This program will be administered by the Office of Mental Health, and developed in consultation with the State Education Department.


Investing in Opportunity Programs: More than just developing programs to assist with tuition, the Governor supported and created additional programs to address the cost of attendance and help students with unique educational challenges. This includes a significant increase in opportunity programs in Open Educational Resources to reduce or eliminate some of the costs of textbooks and expanding food pantries at SUNY and CUNY. The FY 2021 Enacted Budget will make $213 million available for higher education opportunity programs and training centers, a 57 percent increase since FY 2012.

Requiring Transparency and Accountability for For-Profit Colleges: The FY 2021 Enacted budget includes for-profit college accountability initiative that is focused on transparency and outcomes to ensure that our students are well served in these schools. Numerous studies have found that for-profit colleges correlate to negative outcomes for students, especially low-income, minority and female students. For the $45 million in taxpayer funds going to these institutions, we need a higher level of accountability and transparency. The Budget will require for-profit schools to demonstrate positive outcomes for their students and include basic disclosure of funding and financing, including compensation packages of senior leadership and ownership, including any relevant bonuses and incentives. In addition, to further protect New York's veterans from unscrupulous schools that target them for their education benefits, the Governor will work with the Department of Veteran Services to bring more transparency to for-profit schools, identify opportunities to clarify state and federal commitments to education and ensure New York State's veterans will be protected in the for-profit education space.

Expanding College Student Enrollment in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits: The Governor has acted to reduce food insecurity among college students, so they are better able to focus on their studies and successfully graduate. To continue these efforts, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will establish policy to make more community college students eligible for essential SNAP benefits by establishing a state policy that community college students engaged at least half-time in career and technical education courses of study are exempt from the requirement to work 20 hours weekly to qualify for SNAP. This policy change will increase the participation of low-income college students in SNAP, providing them with essential nutritional benefits so they are more likely to obtain their college certification or degree.

Stopping Abusive and Deceptive Practices from Student Loan Debt Relief Companies: Governor Cuomo has championed financial assistance and debt relief for New York students, establishing the Get on Your Feet Loan Forgiveness Program—the nation's only state-sponsored need-based loan forgiveness program and enacting regulations prescribing standards of conduct for student loan servicing companies. However, additional protections are needed to protect New Yorkers from student debt relief companies that have had a poor record of serving their customers.  These companies typically charge student loan borrowers substantial upfront fees and promise to assist them with consolidating multiple student loans into a single loan or alternative repayment arrangements. Borrowers, however, can often achieve the same results through free government programs. The Budget includes legislation setting standards for the student loan debt relief industry in New York.


Prevailing Wage: Requires that workers on private projects receiving a significant public subsidy will be paid a prevailing wage. Private projects larger than $5 million where at least 30 percent of construction expenses are supported by public grants, tax credits, or certain other incentives will be required to pay prevailing wage, extending important worker protections to even more components of New York's largest-in-the-nation building program.

Making the "New York Buy American" Act Permanent: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget makes the Buy American Act, which is set to expire in April 2020, a permanent fixture in New York State. The Buy American Act requires State agencies to use high-quality American-made structural iron and steel, continuing to support the State's steel and iron industry, create union jobs and ensure our infrastructure projects will last long into the future.

Expanding Access to Safe and Affordable Banking Services, Credit and Financial Education: The FY 2021 Enacted Budget invests $25 million in new funding over five years to support New York's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI). CDFIs are often the sole providers of banking services in low-income areas and underserved communities across the state. CDFIs will leverage this funding to an aggregate $30 million in targeted investment in these communities. This funding is part of the Governor's sweeping financial access and inclusion agenda that builds on the work his administration has done to expand access to safe and affordable banking services, credit and financial education. The Budget also creates a statewide Office of Financial Inclusion and Empowerment, based at the Department of Financial Services, to meet the financial services needs of low- and middle- income New Yorkers across the state.


Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented negative impact on the global economy, the Enacted Budget maintains vital services and programs, while ensuring sustainability to weather this downtown, authorizes a reduction in spending by $10 billion and empowers the State Budget Director to develop a plan for across the board reductions and implement that plan as necessary over the course of the year. The budget also puts in place mechanisms to control spending through the year if revenues fall even further, and raise spending if either revenues come in higher than expected or the federal government delivers support that offsets the state's revenue losses. All funds spending is estimated to total approximately $177 billion and state operating spending is authorized up to $105.8 billion, however in the absence of additional federal assistance or a faster than anticipated economic recovery, spending will initially total $95.8 billion.

Realigning School Aid

Due to the extraordinary challenges from our COVID-19 health crisis, creating a $10 billion loss in revenue to the State, support for schools will remain nearly flat for a total of $27.9 billion in school aid.

Redesigning Medicaid and Health Care

The FY 2021 Enacted Budget advances reforms to the Medicaid program that will ensure it remains financially viable for the future so it can continue to provide high-quality care to more than six million New Yorkers.

Medicaid spending will increase by 3%, or about $500 million ensuring continuing high-quality care for the 30 percent of New Yorkers who rely on Medicaid for health care. Spending growth is now back in line with targets established by the Governor in 2012 that kept New York State's Medicaid spending growth to less than half the national average, saving taxpayers more than $19 billion.

Many of these reforms were developed and unanimously endorsed by the Medicaid Redesign Team II, a cross section of health care providers, labor, local government and other industry stakeholders. They were tasked with reforming the system, and their recommendations stuck to the Governor's guidelines that they must have zero impact on local government and zero impact on beneficiaries.

The reforms included in the FY 2021 Enacted Budget include a transformation of the hospital reimbursement structure to better support services to the uninsured, increases investments in primary care to avoid more costly hospitalizations, and new requirements that enhance oversight of managed care and transportation.

The reforms also address managed long-term care, by far the fastest growing sector of Medicaid. These include aligning New York State's eligibility requirements with those of other states for new applicants for Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program and Personal Care Services and enhancing reporting requirements for both programs; capping statewide enrollment in managed long-term care to incentivize plans to assist in ensuring appropriate enrollment; and creating a statewide independent assessor to achieve efficiencies by removing duplicative efforts to determining eligibility and enrollment in the managed long-term care program.

]]> (Office of the Governor. ) Politics Fri, 03 Apr 2020 08:05:45 -0400
Welcoming SPACE's First Managing Director, Lauren Burke!

After a four month long search we are over the moon to announce that Lauren Burke will become SPACE on Ryder Farm’s first-ever Managing Director, beginning full time on April 13th. Lauren’s wide and varied career has allowed her to work at non profits of all shapes and sizes around the country, first as an attorney, then as a founder herself. Lauren has deep experience helping nonprofits form, grow and navigate change. After spending most of 2017 living in a van and providing legal services in rural areas of the country, Lauren has spent the past three years running The Possible LAB where she supports founders, non profits and the institutions that support them to create a better world. Lauren states, 

“Each and every one of us is thinking deeply about our lives like never before and I can think of no greater organization that speaks to the possible beauty of this exact moment in time than SPACE. In these moments of quiet solitude I find myself coming back to that which matters most; the budding magnolia outside my window, a favorite poem that has comforted me for years and those with whom I choose to spend my time. We will hopefully emerge from this tragedy with a renewed understanding of the magic of everyday life, a magic which SPACE harnesses, and cultivates and shares with the artists and activists who feed our souls and push us forward. I am humbled by what SPACE has created and am honored to be a part of the organization’s future.” 

Lauren has been named a Skadden Fellow for public interest lawyers, an Echoing Green Fellow for International Social Entrepreneurs and a Forbes 30 Under 30 in law and policy. Her work, writings and ideas have been featured in the New York Times, on All Things Considered and in four documentary films. Along with The Possible LAB, she is the founder of Atlas: DIYImmigration Nation and Notehouse. We cannot wait to welcome her to the farm and this community. Please join us in welcoming Lauren!

]]> (SPACE on Ryder Farm) Places Fri, 03 Apr 2020 07:56:02 -0400
New York State Police open application process, will hold entrance exam in October 2020

Superintendent Keith M. Corlett announced the State Police have launched a new recruiting effort to attract the best and brightest qualified candidates to join one of the most highly respected law enforcement organizations in the country. The State Police will be holding a new Trooper entrance examination this fall. The exams are scheduled for October 3, October 10, October 17 and October 24, 2020, and will be offered at several convenient locations around the state. 

Online applications are now being accepted. Interested candidates have several options to start the application process. To apply, candidates can visit and apply online, they can text JoinNYSP to (518) 240-3959, or call 1-866-NYSP-EXAM.

“The strength of our agency is built on the diversity of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities and their state” said Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “We are actively seeking qualified, committed, and motivated candidates from all walks of life to take the Trooper exam this fall.  Candidates will be competing for the chance to join the ranks of the New York State Police and have a rewarding career of public service.”

Opportunities within the State Police include training and membership in specialized units, as well as opportunities for advancement through the State Police ranks.  Some of the specialized areas of expertise include positions such as: Crime Scene Evidence Technicians; Field Training Officers; Canine Handlers; Firearms Instructors; and Motor Vehicle Collision Reconstructionist.  Troopers are also eligible for assignments to specialized details and units including: the Aviation Unit; the Dive Team; the Special Operations Response Team; the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team; and the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit.  Troopers may also pursue assignments as investigators in the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Applicants can use Visa, or MasterCard to pay for the application fee.  The application has also been optimized for mobile devices.  To help reduce paper and mailing costs, applicants with military service can upload their supporting documents as PDF or scanned images directly into their application. 

Applicants that provide an e-mail address will receive confirmation of their application submission. 

Applicants can now also request notifications by text or email for examination, study guide availability and candidate processing information. Notifications will be sent when updates, such as changing a test location or date, are made to their application online.             

Online applications must be submitted by September 13, 2020.  Results from the examination will establish an eligibility list that may remain in effect up to four years. 

The New York State Police is an Equal Opportunity Employer that values diversity and encourages all individuals interested in public service to apply.

Here are the qualifications:


  • Must be a citizen of the United States and be at least 20 years old by the application deadline of September 13, 2020.
  • Must not have reached their 30th birthday by the date of the application deadline.  The maximum age may be extended one year for each year of full-time active federal military duty – up to a maximum of 6 years. If you have questions, contact your local recruiter.


  • Must be at least 21 years old to be appointed.
  • Must be appointed prior to 36th birthday, except the maximum age may be extended one year for each year of full-time active Federal military duty – up to a maximum of 6 years.
  • Must be a New York State resident and have a valid New York State driver’s license at the time of appointment. 
  • Must be able to pass a Physical Ability Test (PAT): sit-ups, push-ups and a one-and-one-half mile run. 
  • Must be able to work rotating shifts any day of the week, including holidays.  
  • Vision Requirements: uncorrected – no worse than 20/100 in each eye able to be corrected to 20/20 in each eye.  Correction may be achieved using glasses, contact lenses, or surgery.  Color blindness is disqualifying.
  • Must comply with New York State policy which requires all members to present a neat and professional appearance at all times.  Tattoos, brands, body piercings, and other body art shall not be visible while a member is in uniform or other business attire.  The uniform includes the short sleeve shirt open at the front of the neck.  In addition to visibility, some tattoos or brands may have symbolic meanings that are inconsistent with the values of the New York State Police.
  • Must possess a:
  • Graduate certificate from senior high school, Or
  • New York State High School Equivalency Diploma; Or
  • Military GED certificate, Or
  • High School Equivalency diploma from another state converted to a NYS High School Equivalency Diploma,


  • Must have completed 60 college credit hours at an accredited college or university at the time of appointment. 

Exceptions: 30 college credits may be waived, if the candidate has either:

Received an Honorable Discharge from the United States military after two years of active military service;


Successfully completed a Certified Police Officer Training Course approved by, or equivalent to a course approved by, the New York State Municipal Police Training Council.  A certified Peace Officer Training course does not qualify. 

  • Must be of good moral character.  A felony conviction or a dishonorable discharge, from any military service, is an automatic disqualifier.
  • Must successfully complete a medical examination, vision test, hearing test, background investigation including a polygraph examination, and psychological evaluation to be appointed.


  • $57,297 Starting Salary; (during Academy training and first year)
  • $81,056 after one year;
  • $96,387 after five years.

Salaries do not include: Longevity compensation; hazardous duty compensation; expanded duty pay or additional location compensation for New York City and the following counties: Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.

Additional information on becoming a New York State Trooper, including all requirements and benefits, can be found online at

]]> (NYS Police) Life Fri, 03 Apr 2020 07:49:25 -0400
Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is offering 2 FREE Virtual Sessions Weekly

In response to the COVID-19 closures, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk will be streaming two of its popular educational programs for free each week, while also making a selection of paid marine-science classes available to Norwalk schools.

Students, families and individuals can take part in a virtual “citizen science” class on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., while a story-time program for younger children will go online at 10 a.m. each Friday. Both of the 40-minute live-streaming programs are free but do require advance reservations to receive a needed link.

Additionally, The Maritime Aquarium has adapted its educational programming for schools into live streamable sessions available to any online Norwalk classroom beginning next week. There are options for students ranging from early childhood through high school.

Learn more about these virtual educational programs here.

]]> (Maritime Aquarium) Life Fri, 03 Apr 2020 04:02:11 -0400
Small businesses: Where to go for financial relief information

If you own a small business or work for one, you’ve seen the headlines about financial relief that may be available to some companies through the Small Business Administration (SBA). But you’ve also heard about scammers who extract a grain of truth from the news and distort it in an effort to cheat small businesses. Now more than ever it’s critical for small businesses to go straight to the source for accurate information about what’s happening at the SBA. And that source, of course, is the Small Business Administration’s dedicated page,

The SBA’s Coronavirus Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources page offers the latest information about the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Loan Advances, SBA Debt Relief, and SBA Express Bridge Loans. Yes, there are legitimate business groups and financial institutions sharing information, too. But given the number of fraudsters out to make a quick buck with bogus websites and phony email, your safest best it to go straight to the SBA by carefully typing the URL into the address bar at the top of your browser.

Here are more tips to help you avoid scams targeting small businesses.

  • Scammers often mimic the look and feel of legitimate email. You’ve heard warnings for years about email phishing attempts. Fraudsters have upped their game in response. They’ve been known to copy logos of financial institutions and government agencies, including the SBA, and use wording that sounds familiar. They also manipulate email addresses so that a message looks to be from a legitimate source – but isn’t. That’s why it’s dangerous to respond to those emails. Instead go directly to the SBA site.
  • Don’t click on links. Say you get an email that says it’s from your bank or a government agency. Don’t click on any links. It could load malware onto your computer. If you think you may need to respond, pick up the phone and call the office directly, but don’t use a number listed in the email. That could be fake, too. Instead, search online for a genuine telephone number or call your banker using the number you’ve always used. Yes, now is a good time to keep in close contact with your financial institution, but employ the same established lines of communication you used before COVID-19 became a concern.
  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls. Some scammers may try the personal approach by calling you and impersonating someone from a financial institution or government agency. Don’t engage in conversation. If you think you may need to respond, call using a number you know is legit.
  • Watch out for application scams. Some small businesses report they’ve received unsolicited calls or email from people claiming to have an inside track to expedite financial relief. The people contacting them may charge upfront fees or ask for sensitive financial information – account numbers, tax IDs, Social Security numbers, and the like. Don’t take the bait. It’s a scam. Applying for a loan was a step-by-step process before the Coronavirus crisis and it’s a step-by-step process now. That’s why the SBA’s site is the safest place for you to start.
  • Alert others to Coronavirus relief check scams. Most people have read the news about Coronavirus relief checks that many Americans may receive. The FTC Consumer Blog has advice about spotting relief check scams. Share the tips with your co-workers, family, and social networks.

If you spot a potential Coronavirus-related scam, report it to the FTC at

]]> (by Lesley Fair Attorney, FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection) Politics Fri, 03 Apr 2020 02:36:31 -0400
Social Security Benefits Will be Paid On Time and Other Updates Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, reminds the public that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments will continue to be paid on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency also reminds everyone to be aware of scammers who try to take advantage of the pandemic to trick people into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain Social Security benefit payments or receive economic impact payments from the Department of the Treasury.

“Social Security will pay monthly benefits on time and these payments will not be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Saul said. “I want our beneficiaries to be aware that scammers may try to trick you into thinking the pandemic is stopping or somehow changing your Social Security payments, but that is not true. Don’t be fooled.”

The Department of the Treasury will soon provide information about economic impact payments under the recently enacted law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Treasury, not Social Security, will be making direct payments to eligible people. Please do not call Social Security about these payments as the agency does not have information to share.

The agency continues to direct the public to its online self-service options whenever possible. Local offices are closed to the public but are available by phone. People can find their local field office phone number by accessing the Field Office Locator.

To allow available agents to provide better phone coverage, the agency is temporarily changing the National 800 Number hours starting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The hours will change from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time to 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. local time. The agency is experiencing longer than normal wait times on the 800 Number and asks the public to remain patient, use its online services at, or call their local office.

Please visit the agency’s COVID-19 web page at for important information and updates.

]]> (Social Security Administration) Politics Thu, 02 Apr 2020 17:31:43 -0400
World Autism Awareness Day is Today

The thirteenth annual World Autism Awareness Day is today, April 2, 2020.

Joined by the international community, hundreds of thousands of landmarks, buildings, homes and communities around the world come together on April 2, Autism Awareness Day, to Light It Up Blue in recognition of people with autism and those who love and support them.

Autism-friendly events and educational activities take place all month, aiming to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, foster worldwide support and inspire a kinder, more inclusive world. 

Join us for World Autism Awareness Month (April) to help us spread kindness and autism awareness! 

]]> (Autism Speaks) Charities Thu, 02 Apr 2020 17:00:15 -0400
Get Free Help with Mortgage Forbearance

Owning a home is exciting, scary, empowering and comforting. However, it can also be extremely stressful in unprecedented times such as these.

I am a licensed mortgage originator NMLS #598526 and I have been in the home financing business for almost 40 years and have been through numerous financial downturns. Through all those cycles of the financial markets, I’ve never witnessed this kind of financial turmoil. With that being said, I can guarantee you the market WILL bounce back as soon as this virus has been contained. Yet many homeowners are concerned about the now and how they’re going to pay their mortgage. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The government has instructed the banks and the servicers to put a forbearance on mortgages for 90 days with no impact to your credit report. This means that those 90 days that you are not making your mortgage payment will not appear as late on your credit report and no foreclosures proceedings can be instituted.

Because I understand that this is a frightening unprecedented time, I am offering, free of charge, to contact your mortgage company and find out what their policies are regarding this period and what paperwork needs to be completed.

If you would like to take advantage of this free service, email me your mortgage statement to donna@asapmortgageinccom, I will happily contact your servicer on your behalf. Should you have any questions, feel free tor reach out to me via email or my cell phone 845-282-0514.

Donna Doria
Licensed Mortgage Loan Originator
A.S.A.P. Mortgage Corp.
NMLS# 598529
]]> (Donna Doria) Life Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:17:16 -0400
Harckham: Some Silver Linings in State’s 2020-2021 Budget

New York State Senator Pete Harckham, following his votes on the recently passed and signed 2020-2021 State Budget, delivered this assessment for constituents in the 40th Senate District: there is little to cheer about in terms of funding increases, but there are some silver linings.

“During the particularly difficult budget deliberations that took place under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, where we saw our economy close overnight and livelihoods disappear, we knew that our priority needed to be the safeguarding and care of state residents,” said Harckham. “This required a major shifting of resources, due to the disappearance of billions of dollars in tax revenue, and a determination to make the best of these circumstances. As a result, many spending initiatives and investments were either scaled back or put off for now. Along with my colleagues in the Senate Majority, though, I continued to fight for education aid, healthcare spending and maintaining essential services in order to support the struggling taxpayers, small business owners and local municipalities who are facing incredible challenges right now.”

Education: A major accomplishment in the 2020-2021 State Budget was the restoration of nearly all proposed cuts in education and a holding the line on funding for New York State schools and education programs, despite the momentous economic downturn and lower anticipated revenue. This meant:

  • Providing a $104 million increase in School Aid for a total of $27.9 billion;
  • Ensuring every school district is held harmless in Foundation Aid and will receive the same amount as in 2019-20—a total state-wide investment of $18.4 billion;
  • Providing a $96 million increase for expense-based aids for a total funding level of $8.99 billion;
  • Providing $10 million in new funding for student mental health support grants and $1 million for civics curriculum development;
  • Additionally, past years’ competitive grants are maintained, totaling more than $230 million in funding to school districts for programs such as early college high schools, after-school programming, and advanced courses.

Total funding for school districts in the 40th Senate District amounted to more $391 million in the new budget, a decrease of only $2.2 million overall from the previous year, remarkably enough.

Veterans: Harckham is fully committed to protecting and providing services to over 800,000 veterans in New York State. The 2020-21 budget includes: 

  • Providing funds for programs that help connect veterans with peers, address PTSD and transition back to civilian life;
  • Extending the ‘Hire-a-Vet’ tax credit to help incentivize New York businesses to provide good paying jobs for returning veterans;
  •          A return to last year’s funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer to Peer Services, a $2,017,500 increase from the initial budget proposal.

Harckham managed to ensure $370,000 in the budget for the Dwyer Peer to Peer program in Westchester and Putnam counties.

Public Safety: Harckham, along with Senator Shelley Mayer and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, managed to maintain $2.2 million of support for the Westchester County Public Safety’s policing program, same as last year’s level, while also providing $1.25 million for the 2-1-1 Helpline operated by United Way of Westchester and Putnam.

Health and Health Care Services: As New York battles the coronavirus pandemic, the need to protect health care spending and invest in quality medical services for New Yorkers has never been more essential. The new budget, Harckham noted, includes:

  • Expanding access to telehealth in the Medicaid program so more New Yorkers can connect with their physical and mental health providers;
  •          Prohibiting the retail sale of flavored vapor products, unless the product is FDA approved; regulating dangerous carrier oils that cause vaping illnesses; and creating a new education campaign regarding the dangers of vaping for school aged youth;
  • Designating 13 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I controlled substances to get these drugs off the streets and protect New Yorkers;
  • Authorizing the Department of Financial Services to investigate prescription drug price increases of over 50% and indications of fraud, and creating the Drug Accountability Board to participate in the investigations;
  • Limiting out-of-pocket expenses for a 30-day supply of insulin to be capped at $100;
  • Establishing the Curing Alzheimer’s Health Consortium within SUNY to identify genes that predict an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Harckham has been a staunch advocate for expanding use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Substance Use Disorder treatment by eliminating prior authorization for patients with Medicaid.

The new budget, through the Medicaid Redesign Team II recommendations, creates a single State formulary for Medication Assisted Treatment prescription drugs for opioid use disorder by expanding the provision to also include gene therapies and other “high cost” drugs. These classes of drugs would not be subject to prior authorization if they were placed on the single state formulary. “This provision, in itself, will save many lives,” said Harckham. In January 2020, Governor Cuomo signed a new law, which was introduced by Harckham, that prohibits insurance companies from requiring prior authorization for medications used in the treatment of substance use disorders. 

Environmental Protection and Conservation: New York State’s environment and natural resources received strong investment in the 2020-2021 budget, and includes:

  • Authorizing the $3 billion ‘Restore Mother Nature Bond Act’ which includes: 
  • $1 billion for restoration and flood risk reduction;
  • $700 million for climate change mitigation; 
  • $550 million for open space land conservation and recreation;
  • $550 million for water quality improvement and resilient infrastructure; and
  • Specific provisions for projects benefiting environmental justice communities.
  •          Reauthorizing the Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million;
  • Banning polystyrene food packaging and polystyrene packaging peanuts beginning January 1, 2022; 
  • Banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing, plus imposing a moratorium on applications for gelled propane hydraulic fracturing filed with the Department of Environmental Conservation;
  • Creating a new Office of Renewable Energy Siting, a NYSERDA build-ready program, and an electric power transmission plan to accelerate the development of renewable energy, while ensuring community input and benefits and environmental protections.

The new budget also bans high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and imposes a moratorium on applications for gelled propane hydraulic fracturing filed with the Department of Environmental Conservation—“the strongest stance against fracking in the entire country,” said Harckham.

Bail Reform and Law Enforcement: As part of the state’s ongoing efforts to fix the criminal justice system and keep New York communities safe, key provisions were advanced in the budget to modify last year’s Bail Reform Law. These include:

  • Making several high-level offenses now bail eligible, including certain sex crimes, high level drug offenses, domestic violence felonies, crimes resulting in a death, and offenses directly related to an individual's flight risk.
  •          Creating a mechanism to address individuals who repeatedly commit crimes;
  •          Expanding the reporting requirements so that the Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Office of Court Administration can better track outcomes of the state's new bail law; and
  •          Maintaining the existing bail structure where most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies are not bail eligible.

The new budget also provides $40 million to support the implementation of discovery reforms, which will help prosecutors disclose evidence with defense earlier in court proceedings.

“While this isn’t the state budget we hoped for three weeks ago, the enacted budget provides security and stability to all New Yorkers and their families as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis,” said Harckham. “This is a responsible budget that protects New Yorkers’ health and values during these difficult times. I will keep working with my colleagues to advance important legislation over the coming months to address this pandemic and continue providing the essential government services New Yorkers rely on.”

State Senator Harckham represents New York's 40th District, which includes the towns of Beekman, Pawling and the village of Pawling in Dutchess County; the towns of Carmel, Patterson and Southeast, and the village of Brewster in Putnam County; and the city of Peekskill, the towns of Cortlandt, Lewisboro, Mount Pleasant, New Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers and Yorktown, the town/village of Mount Kisco, and the villages of Briarcliff Manor, Buchanan, Croton-on-Hudson, Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County. 

]]> (Office of Senator Harckham) Politics Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:15:44 -0400
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne "EMS and 911 Dispatchers are Essential in COVID-19 "

Since Gov. Cuomo has announced the 100 percent workforce reduction of all non-essential businesses, I’ve heard many of you expressing your concern and dismay about the lack of EMS and 911 dispatch not being listed alongside fire protection and law enforcement.

Due to this, I have had multiple conversations with representatives from the governor’s office and, unfortunately, it is clear that this was an oversight in language. As someone who has both worked and volunteered as an EMT for years, I understand how sad and fairly common it is for EMS to be overlooked. Initially, fire protection and law enforcement were singled out as essential in the guidance, but emergency medical services and 911 dispatch were not. Empire State Development (ESD) had initially interpreted EMS and 911 dispatch to be included under the category of ‘emergency management and response,' but the lack of clarity regarding EMS and 911 dispatch had bewildered many who work and/or volunteer in emergency management.

After our advocacy, which was joined by many others, I am pleased to report the ESD Guidance for Essential Businesses was updated to specifically include both EMS and 911 dispatch. I’d like to thank the reps from ESD and Gov. Cuomo’s office for their assistance in making this important clarification happen. You can learn more about what qualifies as an essential business at

To all our first responders out there who are working hard during this frightening and difficult time, thank you for all you do. Your community truly appreciates all of the hard work you have done to help keep us all safe.

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne

94th Assembly District

Assemblyman Kevin Byrne is the ranking member of the Assembly Health Committee and represents the 94th Assembly District, including portions of Westchester and Putnam Counties.

]]> (Office of Assemblyman Kevin Byrne) Public safety Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:15:35 -0400
COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Shows Promise in First Peer-Reviewed Research

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine scientists announced a potential vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. When tested in mice, the vaccine, delivered through a fingertip-sized patch, produces antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2 at quantities thought to be sufficient for neutralizing the virus.

The paper appeared April 2 in eBioMedicine, which is published by The Lancet, and is the first study to be published after critique from fellow scientists at outside institutions that describes a candidate vaccine for COVID-19. The researchers were able to act quickly because they had already laid the groundwork during earlier coronavirus epidemics.

“We had previous experience on SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2014. These two viruses, which are closely related to SARS-CoV-2, teach us that a particular protein, called a spike protein, is important for inducing immunity against the virus. We knew exactly where to fight this new virus,” said co-senior author Andrea Gambotto, associate professor of surgery at the Pitt School of Medicine. “

That’s why it’s important to fund vaccine research. You never know where the next pandemic will come from.” “Our ability to rapidly develop this vaccine was a result of scientists with expertise in diverse areas of research working together with a common goal,” said co-senior author Louis Falo, professor and chair of dermatology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and UPMC. Compared to the experimental mRNA vaccine candidate that just entered clinical trials, the vaccine described in this paper—which the authors are calling PittCoVacc, short for Pittsburgh CoronaVirus Vaccine—follows a more established approach, using lab-made pieces of viral protein to build immunity. It’s the same way the current flu shots work.



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The researchers also used a novel approach to deliver the drug, called a microneedle array, to increase potency. This array is a fingertip-sized patch of 400 tiny needles that delivers the spike protein pieces into the skin, where the immune reaction is strongest. The patch goes on like a Band-Aid and then the needles—which are made entirely of sugar and the protein pieces—simply dissolve into the skin.

“We developed this to build on the original scratch method used to deliver the smallpox vaccine to the skin, but as a high-tech version that is more efficient and reproducible patient to patient,” Falo said. “And it’s actually pretty painless—it feels kind of like Velcro.” The system is also highly scalable. The protein pieces are manufactured by a “cell factory”—layers upon layers of cultured cells engineered to express the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—that can be stacked further to multiply yield. Purifying the protein can also be done at industrial scale.

Mass-producing the microneedle array involves spinning down the protein-sugar mixture into a mold using a centrifuge. Once manufactured, the vaccine can sit at room temperature until it’s needed, eliminating the need for refrigeration during transport or storage. “For most vaccines, you don’t need to address scalability to begin with,” Gambotto said. “But when you try to develop a vaccine quickly against a pandemic that’s the first requirement.”

When tested in mice, PittCoVacc generated a surge of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 within two weeks of the microneedle prick. Those animals haven’t been tracked long term yet, but the researchers point out that mice who got their MERS-CoV vaccine produced a sufficient level of antibodies to neutralize the virus for at least a year, and so far the antibody levels of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccinated animals seem to be following the same trend. Importantly, the SARS-CoV-2 microneedle vaccine maintains its potency even after being thoroughly sterilized with gamma radiation—a key step toward making a product that’s suitable for use in humans.

The authors are now in the process of applying for an investigational new drug (IND) approval from the Food and Drug Administration in anticipation of starting a phase I human clinical trial in the next few months. “Testing in patients would typically require at least a year and probably longer,” Falo said. “This particular situation is different from anything we’ve ever seen, so we don’t know how long the clinical development process will take. Recently announced revisions to the normal processes suggest we may be able to advance this faster.”

Additional authors on the study are Eun Kim, Geza Erdos, Shaohua Huang, Thomas Kenniston, Stephen Balmert, Cara Donahue Carey, Michael Epperly, William Klimstra and Emrullah Korkmaz, all of Pitt; and Bart Haagmans, of Erasmus Medical Center. Funding for this study was provided by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant R21-AI114264, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases grants R01-AR074285, R01-AR071277 and R01-AR068249, and National Cancer Institute grant T32-CA175294.

]]> (University of Pittsburgh) Public safety Thu, 02 Apr 2020 13:22:25 -0400