I hope you are staying well during this health crisis. My thoughts are with each and every one of you. My staff and I are working remotely and have been fielding hundreds of calls and emails from constituents. We are here to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have. This month’s eNews is devoted to updates on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s important that we continue doing all we can to help flatten the curve to slow the spread of this disease. The goal is to not overwhelm our local health care system, as we see happening in so many other places. Please stay home as much as possible, and when you do need to go out, remember to practice proper social distancing. And let’s all give a big thank you to those essential workers who are sacrificing so much for our safety: doctors, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, farmers, grocery workers, truck drivers, mail carriers, cleaners and so many more. We will never forget your heroic efforts.
1. GUIDANCE FOR FAMILIES:
For families with school-aged children, there are numerous resources to help keep them learning while schools remain closed. Broome-Tioga BOCES has a school closure toolkit on its website and many local school districts have lessons and other resources available on their individual web pages. School districts also have a number of distribution sites set up for students in need of meals.
As we know, older people are more at risk for complications if they contract COVID-19. While it may be difficult, it is important for older family members, like grandparents, to stay at home and isolate as much as possible. However, many adult children are the primary caregivers for their aging parents, which means some contact may be necessary. In instances like these, both the caregiver and the person they’re caring for need to be extra cautious. The CDC advises to contact healthcare providers to get extra supplies of medications and medical supplies, keep extra food on hand, and monitor the health of other people nearby (such as other residents of a senior living facility). As much as possible, caregivers should also stay home as much as possible to help limit exposure. AARP and the John A. Hartford Foundation have compiled helpful information related to caring for older family members. Click on each organization’s name to learn more.
There’s no doubt that this pandemic is taxing on all of us, physically and emotionally. New York State has established a hotline for anyone seeking mental health services as this crisis continues. Visit https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/covid-19-resources.html or call 1-844-863-9314 to talk to someone today. Thank you to the thousands of mental health professionals that have volunteered their time and expertise.
2. BUSINESS, TAX, AND UNEMPLOYMENT INFORMATION:
As you know, the Governor has ordered that all businesses, except for those considered essential, work from home or otherwise close temporarily. For a complete list, click here; if your business is not considered essential, but you think it should be, you can request a waiver here. The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce has also compiled a list of helpful information, which you can find here.
Due to the extremely large volume of requests, many individuals are experiencing delays with the New York State unemployment system. All requests will be processed retroactive to the date of unemployment; those in need of assistance will receive it. If you continue to experience issues filing for unemployment, contact my office and we will do our best to assist you.
Additionally, the deadline to file state and federal income taxes has been pushed back from April 15th to July 15th. Sales tax payments and returns were due on March 20th, but penalty and interest may be waived for quarterly and annual filers who were unable to file or pay on time due to COVID-19. Visit the NYS Department of Tax & Finance’s website for more information.
3. LOCAL FOOD SYSTEM IS SAFE & SECURE:
As Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I’ve been working closely with the Department of Agriculture & Markets; we do not expect any food shortages during this pandemic as food producers, distributors, and retailers have been deemed essential. While you may want to have a little extra on hand to help limit your trips to the store, there is no need to buy in bulk and stock up for several months at a time. Please consider older residents and those with fixed and lower incomes who cannot purchase large quantities at a time; these individuals have been having trouble finding many everyday essentials.
Please note that our Regional Farmers Market and Taste New York stores, as well as smaller food markets, also remain open. Consider making some of your purchases there; not only will you be able to access fresh foods, but you will be supporting local businesses that really need our help right now. I would also urge you to, if possible, order take out or delivery from a local restaurant. They too are feeling the effects of the restrictions on businesses and need our support more than ever. Click here or here for lists of some restaurants that are still open. These lists don’t include EVERY restaurant that is open; for example, Consol’s in Endicott is still serving food. So if you don’t see your favorite spot listed, give them a call to see if they’re doing take out. Consider using apps like Grub Hub or Door Dash that make it even more convenient.
4. CARING FOR PETS & HELPING OTHERS:
The Agriculture Committee also oversees animal welfare in the state, so I have received many inquiries about pets and farm animals. International health and animal experts have indicated that animals are NOT at risk to contract COVID-19. It’s important to have a little extra food, treats, and any of your pets’ medication on hand to avoid having to leave the house more than needed. Veterinarians are still open, and many have adapted their practices to ensure the safety of their human clients by taking animals to and from their cars and having payments made online. Pet supply stores are also open, so you can continue getting necessary food and other necessities for companion animals. Click here for other helpful information regarding animals and COVID-19.
Animal shelters also remain open to help care for homeless animals. The Broome County Humane Society are able to provide foster care for dogs and cats whose families are having trouble caring for them because of the pandemic. And they are also looking for families who themselves may want to temporarily foster an animal.
I am also working with the Humane Society on a pet food drive to help out others.
If you can, please consider dropping off dog and cat food to the Humane Society on Conklin Avenue in Binghamton, Creature Comforts, Endicott Agway, Harpursville Farm & Garden, or the Ross Park Zoo Education Center. The Humane Society will also be distributing food directly from their site for those who need it. Click here for details about the pet food drive.
5. HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Each time our community deals with a crisis, be it one of our historic floods or the current pandemic, the response from the public is overwhelming. If you have a preferred charity or non-profit that you regularly support, call them and see what they may need. The Food Bank and CHOW can certainly use food and monetary donations to keep their shelves stocked; the Red Cross is in desperate need of blood donors as many blood drives have been cancelled; as mentioned above, animal shelters are still open and can use help as they will likely be seeing an increase in animals; mental health non-profits can also use your support now more than ever.
You can also get directly involved by donating any unused medical supplies at the former Macy’s store in the Oakdale Mall. The collection site is open Monday through Friday from 8:30-2:30; click here to see what they are accepting. Our local hospitals are also accepting homemade face masks sewn by crafters throughout the community. The State is also calling on retired licensed healthcare providers to “reenlist” to help at our hospitals.