PHASE 2 TAKE 2

After yet even more confusing and conflicting reports from the Governor’s office… finally… on Friday… half of New York State entered the second phase of reopening what Governor Cuomo says are nonessential businesses. The North Country, along with the Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions were cleared as of Friday afternoon. Professional services including barber shops and hair salons, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support, real estate and rental leasing, and other office-based businesses were permitted to reopen under the second phase. New York City is expected to start reopening very soon now according to the governor, as COVID-19 numbers continue to drop.

FRANKLIN ACADEMY TO BE ON PARADE THIS SATURDAY

Families and members of the community will be supporting the Franklin Academy Class of 2020 This Saturday, June 6th at 11am. The class will start in the Parking area near Runnings Sporting Goods in Malone and drive through town finishing near Yando’s Big M. Seniors will meet at 10:45am and remain in their vehicles, as local Law Enforcement and the Malone Fire Department will escort the Seniors through town… all while adhering to the social distancing rules in effect. Show your support with banners, flags, decorations, honk from your car, or wave while remaining in your vehicle.

CUOMO ISSUES ANOTHER ORDER – THIS ONE ON BUSINESSES AND MASKS

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued yet another executive order last week… the latest of more than 30 he has issued just since March 7th. This one allows New York businesses to prohibit serving customers who do not wear a mask or facial covering, and it complements Cuomo’s April 15th order requiring all New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public when social distancing is not possible. The governor said the store owner has a right to protect themselves and to protect the other patrons, but customers also have a right to choose not to wear a mask if they wish, and to do business with another store that doesn’t require masks as well.

NORTH FRANKLIN FEDERAL EXPANDING

A construction and renovation project planned for this summer will mean that the North Franklin Federal Credit Union building on East Main Street in Malone will nearly triple in size. The credit union plans to remain open during the construction of the 7,500 square foot addition… and the renovation of the existing 4,500 square foot building. The entire project is expected to wrap up by the early part of 2021. The work will mean more jobs too. Right now, 15 full-time employees work there, but after the expansion, they will have enough space for at least 35.

CONFERENCE CALL TO DISCUSS CONTINUED BENEFITS

A conference call last week included a number of people from both business and tourism… and US Representative Elise Stefanik. All who participated echoed pretty much the same claim… Congress should let the excess $600 per week federal unemployment benefits expire for those without a job because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which President Trump signed into law on March 27th. It’s set to expire on July 31st. Stefanik agreed… saying her focus is on getting people back to work as soon as possible, and State Assemblyman Billy Jones agreed, saying we need to get people back to work, and our businesses up and running.

BURKE MOVES CLOSER ON AMBULANCE DEAL

In Burke, the Town Board voted Thursday to create a townwide ambulance district. Yesterday’s vote though, is simply the first step toward combining with Chateaugay and Bellmont. Yesterday’s decision however, does not commit Burke to joining forces with the others, and it is only a decision to begin moving in that direction. The final call will depend on a thorough examination of all the financial implications of such an arrangement. The plan currently under consideration has Burke responsible for 16% of the start-up costs and annual expenses of the joint district… which is estimated to add up to a total of possibly as much as $500,000 or more.

NORTH COUNTRY CENSUS RESPONSE VERY LOW

The 2020 census is underway, but it seems like a lot of people in Essex County haven’t noticed or just don’t care. 32%… that is the response rate for the census in Essex County… putting it near the bottom of the list for the entire state… in 60th place out of New York’s 62 total counties. The only two counties with worse response rates are Hamilton County, with just a 6.9% response rate, and Sullivan County, with a 27.4% rate. Franklin County’s response rate is 43.1%. The statewide average is 55.3%, and the national response rate to the 2020 census is 60.3%.

CUOMO ISSUES MASK RULE ON THE SAME DAY W.H.O. RECOMMENDS NO MASKS FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE

On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued another new executive order… Now, businesses here in the Empire State can refuse to serve customers who don’t wear a mask or face covering. Yesterday’s executive order is in additon to Cuomo’s April 15th order requiring all New Yorkers to wear face coverings in public when social distancing is not possible, and on the same day the World Health Organization recommended healthy people, including those who don’t exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, should only wear masks when taking care of someone infected with COVID-19. Yesterday, Dr. April Baller, a public health specialist for the World Health Organizaion, said people who have no symptoms such as fever, cough or runny nose, do not need to wear a mask.

FRANKLIN COUNTY EXTENDS INTEREST AND PENALTY WAIVER

Franklin County legislators on Thursday, agreed informally to extend the interest and penalty waiver they voted for back in April, for property owners who have not yet paid their 2020 town and county taxes. In April, county leaders agreed to waive interest on tax bills paid after April 1st for April and May, and to postpone the 5% penalty on late tax payments until June 1st. Yesterday, they said they would make the extended waiver retroactive to June 1st. The second amnesty is now set to expire June 22nd. The waiver applies to county and town taxes, which are turned over for collection after April 1st. It does not affect the amount of taxes due.

GOVERNOR CUOMO “MOVES THE GOALPOSTS” AND DENIES NORTH COUNTRY PHASE 2

Another delay… Governor Andrew Cuomo pulled the rug out from under the North Country late Thursday evening, after originally saying we would be moving on to Phase 2 of reopening today. Late last evening, the governor changed his mind and said he does not believe any region in the entire state is ready to move to Phase 2. As of Thursday, the North Country region still met all the original benchmarks. Local officials now say Cuomo moved the goal posts. Assemblyman Billy Jones and Rep. Elise Stefanik on Thursday, said now they put the blame on continued delay and confusion squarely on the governor’s office. Jones said the North Country has met all the metrics necessary to enter Phase 2 today. Cuomo didn’t mention a new target date.