Unshackle Upstate releases 2021 advocacy agenda

Unshackle Upstate, a pro-taxpayer education and advocacy organization, has released its 2021 Advocacy Agenda. The group again takes issue with taxes, prevailing wage mandates and the Scaffold Law, but this year also addresses the pandemic.

Justin Wilcox
Justin Wilcox

“Given the state of New York’s economy, embracing a pro-growth mindset in 2021 is essential to the future. Over the last year, countless businesses have closed, more than 1 million New Yorkers have lost their jobs and more than 100,000 residents have fled to other states. We’re not just dealing with a public health crisis, we’re also in the midst of a historic economic crisis,” said Unshackle Upstate Executive Director Justin Wilcox. “Our 2021 advocacy agenda offers a map that will get New York on the road to recover. Fast-tracking the proactive measures in this agenda will provide relief to our small businesses and revive our communities. It’s time to stand up for upstate and get our economy growing.”

The organization’s key priorities for the 2021 legislative session include:

• Reducing the income tax rate, corporate tax rate and sales tax rate for localities with fewer than 1 million residents;
• Creating an upstate legislative caucus;
• Enacting COVID-related protections for employers;
• Pausing future minimum wage increases until the upstate economy recovers;
• Reforming Prevailing Wage calculations; and
• Enacting a 5-year moratorium of the Scaffold Law.

The organization noted that statewide, roughly one in four small businesses remain closed since January 2020, according to an analysis from Opportunity Insights — a joint effort between Harvard University, Brown University and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Additional data from the U.S. Census Bureau found that New York lost nearly 1.4 million residents to other states since 2010. According to the latest unemployment figures from the New York state Department of Labor, more than 1 million jobs have been lost since December 2019.

The 2021 agenda states that embracing a pro-growth mindset will be essential this year.

“Now that countless employers and employees across the state are working remotely, they’re realizing they don’t have to live in New York state,” the agenda states. “While many residents will undoubtedly join the 1 million New Yorkers who’ve fled over the last 10 years, those who can’t afford to leave will be left to shoulder the nation’s largest state and local tax burden.”

In addition to reducing income tax, corporate tax and sales tax in communities with fewer than 1 million people, Unshackle Upstate is advocating for a pause on future minimum wage increases until the Upstate economy recovers. Continued increases would lead to business closures and job losses, the group contends.

Unshackle Upstate is supporting legislation that would exclude unemployment charges caused by the impact of COVID-19 from being used to calculate an employer’s experience rating. The group also suggests that employers who act in good faith and follow rules and regulations must be protected from COVID-19 lawsuits.

Unshackle Upstate continues to address reforming how New York’s prevailing wage is calculated in this year’s agenda. Among other things, the organization would like to see a return to the federal Davis-Bacon standard so that prevailing wage reflects the wage of 50 percent of the labor force in a given trade or a weighted average for each construction trade, not New York’s 30 percent standard. And the agenda also addresses what it calls New York’s “antiquated” Scaffold Law, which it contends increases the cost of general liability insurance on every construction project in the state, and serves as a drag on economic development.

Some of the items Unshackle Upstate supports include: maintaining fiscal responsibility within the state budget; enactment of small business tax relief; employer protections regarding marijuana legalization; expanding tax reforms for manufacturers; continuing workers’ compensation reforms; continuing upstate investment initiatives; and expanding broadband and cell phone service access throughout Upstate.

The organization said it opposes increases on existing taxes, fees, assessments or creation of new taxes; creation of a single-payer health system; weakening of the 2 percent property tax cap; use of regionally mandated project labor agreements; over-regulation and product bans on the chemical industry; and reclassification of gig workers from independent contractors to employees.

“The facts about New York’s business closures, population decline, job losses speak for themselves,” Wilcox said. “The question now is simple and stark: Will Albany take the necessary actions to rebuild the state’s shattered economy and reclaim our status as the Empire State?”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Catholic Family Center receives PPE donation from Bank of America

Catholic Family Center has received a second, significant donation of personal protective equipment from community partner Bank of America.

The most recent donation includes 60,000 masks, 50 cases of hand sanitizer and 24,000 pairs of protective gloves. The PPE will be used immediately to serve some of Rochester’s most poor and vulnerable. The donation comes at a critical time, officials said, as the region experiences a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

“This generous gift will enable us to more rapidly respond to the needs of the most vulnerable of the clients we serve, including those who seek shelter who may not have had access to water or a change of clothing, much less a clean supply of face masks,” said Sally Partner, Catholic Family Center’s vice president for community services and advocacy. “Our staff, who interact daily with the families and individuals we serve, will also be better protected with access to this new supply of PPE. CFC is profoundly grateful for the ongoing generosity of Bank of America.”

The PPE donation is connected to Bank of America’s $1 billion four-year commitment to advance racial equity and economic opportunity. The bank already has invested more than $100 million in local communities to address challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Bank of America has been working with local partners like Catholic Family Center to provide resources to vulnerable populations and has already donated 15 million masks and 58,000, 8-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer to underserved communities, including communities of color, across the country,” said Colleen Matteson, Bank of America’s Rochester market president.”

CFC is Rochester’s largest provider of comprehensive family services. Each year the nonprofit organization assists tens of thousands of residents as they work to become healthy, productive, participating members of the community.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Urban League, ESL offer small business grants

The Urban League of Rochester has teamed with ESL Federal Credit Union’s Charitable Foundation to provide small businesses in Monroe County $300,000 total in COVID-19 relief funds.

The Sustaining Small Businesses and COVID-19 Relief Grant Program will support small business owners in a number of vital sectors including service/hospitality and lifestyle; health and wellness; and manufacturing. The businesses will receive direct and immediate assistance to combat the impact of the pandemic and to connect individuals with the knowledge, tools and resources they need for long-term stability and growth, officials said.

Grant recipients may use the funds for needed expenses like rent and mortgage payments, utilities, insurance and salaries. Participants also will receive ongoing training through the Urban League’s Business Development division.

Applicants must be for-profit entities with 20 or fewer employees. The business must be privately-held and have revenue of $500,000 or less. At least 50 percent of the individuals employed by the business must be permanent residents of the county of Monroe.

The application deadline is Feb. 1.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Lawn Love adds contactless snow removal

A local lawn care application firm has added contactless snow removal to its offerings.

Lawn Love, an Uber-like company that connects clients to lawn care firms, has partnered with dozens of Rochester snow removal businesses to offer a contactless, on-demand snow removal service that can be scheduled quickly and easily.

Rochester homeowners can order snow removal instantly through the Lawn Love platform using their smartphone or computer. Quotes are generated in less than two minutes using satellite imaging technology. Once the customer accepts the price, a local snow removal provider is assigned to the property.

“Customers have been telling us for years about how difficult it can be to find reliable snow removal,” said Lawn Love Founder and CEO Jeremy Yamaguchi. “If a service provider doesn’t show up, people are left stranded in their homes with no quick-fix options. We’re thrilled to partner with Rochester businesses to help provide a solution to this problem.”

Lawn Love’s snow removal providers are all local operators with more than one season of experience. The platform offers providers a steady stream of new customers and business management tools that help with their operations.

“A snow removal service traditionally requires a contractor to first come to the property, check out the service area and discuss pricing with the homeowner. Payment is often made in person through cash or check,” Yamaguchi explained. “We’ve built software that eliminates all of that. Our estimates are generated based on satellite images of the property and the management of the service is done through our web app, meaning the entire service from start to finish is done digitally. Not only is this safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also an easier experience for the customer and it frees time up for contractors.”

Users of the app can also schedule snow removal for the entire season without needing to sign a contract. The company’s weather mapping software means that providers will never miss a snow day, Yamaguchi said.

Founded in 2014, Lawn Love is operational in 120 cities nationwide. The company offers a range of services including mowing, aeration, weeding, gutter cleaning, leaf removal and now snow removal.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

ESL invested $10 million in community for COVID-19 relief last year

ESL Federal Credit Union invested more than $10 million last year to help support local organizations with their pandemic efforts, the company said this week. ESL FCU reinvested nearly $20 million in the community overall.

Faheem Masood
Faheem Masood

“Nonprofits have been experiencing critical financial hardships throughout the pandemic and that is expected to continue well into 2021,” said ESL FCU President and CEO Faheem Masood. “To support the stability and resiliency of these agencies so they can continue to provide critical services nonprofit and corporate funders need to join together to lift up these organizations for the benefit of the people in the greater community. Our purpose at ESL is to help our community thrive and prosper, and thanks to the trust and loyalty of our members we are ready and able to do our part to reinvest in the community as we all work together through this public health crisis.”

Some of the grants ESL provided in 2020 to support the pandemic response included:

• $4 million to 20 nonprofit agencies distributed through United Way of Greater Rochester to ensure funding for the agencies remained whole due to a decrease in workplace campaign donations throughout the year
• $2.5 million donated to the Community Crisis Fund organized and managed by United Way of Greater Rochester and Rochester Area Community Foundation
• $385,000 through United Way in Livingston, Ontario, Wayne and Genesee counties to housing agencies in those counties for rent relief
• $350,000 to Rochester City School District to address the digital divide among students and provide WiFi access
• $345,000 to Urban League of Rochester for sustaining small businesses and COVID-19 relief
• $300,000 to PathStone Enterprise for COVID-19 business recovery, supporting minority-owned small businesses
• $250,000 to Child Care Council, which provided $1,000 grants in three counties to child care centers
• Roughly $190,000 to Action for a Better Community to address the digital divide. The grant matched a federal grant for internet devices and years’ worth of internet connectivity for some 150 families
• $100,000 to The Children’s Institute to address the digital divide for pre-k students (3-5 year olds)

Ajamu Kitwana,
Ajamu Kitwana

“The critical issues our community faces because of this pandemic and beyond are best addressed when organizations come together and collaborate for the greater good,” said Ajamu Kitwana, vice president/director, community impact, ESL Federal Credit Union. “This level of collaboration will continue to be a necessity in 2021 and ESL is prepared to learn from our work in 2020 and understand where funding needs are greatest as we move forward.”

ESL’s community impact team was created in an effort to support the building of a healthy, resilient and equitable Greater Rochester. The community impact efforts of ESL focus on expanding individual opportunity, building strong neighborhoods and strengthening organizations and systems. Over the last three years, ESL’s philanthropic reinvestments in the community have totaled more than $40 million.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Manufacturing improves in December

Operating conditions in the manufacturing sector improved significantly in December, a monthly report from IHS Markit shows.

The IHS Markit U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index recorded the sharpest upturn since September 2014. The seasonally adjusted PMI was 57.1 in December, up from 56.7 in November.


Production grew in December, despite the rate of expansion easing slightly from November’s recent high. Companies continued to link the rise to the release of pent-up demand, but some said that a higher number of virus cases dampened output growth at the end of 2020.

The rate of expansion in new orders softened last month, as some firms reported that supplier delays and reduced capacity due to pandemic restrictions had led to order cancellations. Still, the upturn was the second-sharpest since November 2018.

“Manufacturers reported a strong end to 2020, with production and order books continuing to grow, albeit with the rates of expansion slowing as a result of rising virus case numbers and related restrictions,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. “Producers of consumer goods reported a marked downturn in orders and production, reflecting weakened consumer expenditure amid the resurgence of COVID-19.”

New export orders rose at a marginal rate. A number of respondents reported stronger client demand despite the greater prevalence of national lockdowns in key export markets.

Driving the headline figure higher was a substantial breakdown in vendor performance, according to the report. Supply chain disruptions escalated amid supplier shortages and transportation delays stemming from a lack of available drivers and COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“Firms nevertheless remain highly positive about the outlook for the year ahead, anticipating that vaccine rollouts will help drive a further recovery in 2021, although some of November’s post-election exuberance has been tamed by the recent rise in virus case numbers, suggesting the near-term outlook will remain challenging,” Williamson said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Farmington trucking company to offer COVID bonus

Farmington’s Leonard’s Express, an asset-based transportation provider, will reward its drivers with COVID bonus pay. From Nov. 30 through April 2, Leonard’s drivers will earn an extra 3 cents per mile driven.

At the end of the four-month period, the pandemic environment will be reviewed again. In addition, drivers who worked throughout the pandemic have received a lump sum for their efforts.

“Our drivers are the heart and soul of our company,” said Leonard’s CEO Ken Johnson. “They have been the ones working hard to ensure our customers’ product is delivered so that the store shelves stayed full. Our drivers never questioned their role and just quietly got the job done.”

In addition to monetary increases, Leonard’s has implemented a number of improvements to ensure that its drivers are as safe as possible on the road. That includes providing them with reusable masks, sanitizer wipes and hand sanitizer for their trucks; weekly or bi-monthly communication with Johnson that includes updates on the current environment and supply provisions; new Leonard’s branded clothing, including safety yellow winter and lightweight jackets; and the launch of a new driver in-house university program to create more engagement and transparency between company ownership and its driving force and to further develop their professional skills.

“We felt it was important to recognize the sacrifices they made and continue to make with an increase in their paycheck,” Johnson added. “They are not only essential to the supply chain but also heroes in our eyes.”

Leonard’s is a family-owned business headquartered in Ontario County and with offices nationwide. The company offers truckload, intermodal, refrigerated truckload transportation services as well as warehousing and distribution.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Dental lab gives back to community, staffers

A Seneca Falls dental laboratory will spend more than $240,000 to ensure its staffers enjoy their holidays. The company also recently awarded $100,000 to Huntington Living Center to cover staff wages for two weeks during the holidays.

BonaDent Dental Laboratories’ 240 full-time staff members will receive a $1,000 Holiday Relief Payment” from the company, while its 25 part-timers will each receive $500.

Bruce Bonafiglia
Bruce Bonafiglia

“This ‘Holiday COVID Relief Payment’ is our way of giving back to our employees, showing our gratitude for their ongoing dedication and to make their own holiday a bit brighter,” said BonaDent President and CEO Bruce Bonafiglia. “BonaDent is as much a workplace as it is a lifestyle — our people tend to stick around for a long time and are passionate about what they do. In return, we’re very grateful to be there for them during this difficult time.”

While the company has offered bonuses in the past, this is the largest payment it has offered to date and came as a surprise to employees.

“Without question, 2020 has been a very tough year around the globe and locally. Yet through it all, the Bonafiglia family has had laser-focus on what matters most: the people who make BonaDent Dental Laboratories,” said longtime employee David Terrazas. “From the outset, the Bonafiglia family has taken numerous steps to ensure their employees were taken care of and treated with dignity throughout the pandemic. The holiday bonus is a truly unexpected, generous gift from the family as a gesture of their belief that people come first, and not just saying it, but show how much they do care.”

During the onset of the pandemic, BonaDent assisted its furloughed employees by covering their health, dental and vision insurance. To ensure no employee felt financially strained, all staffers received a retention bonus after the dentistry shutdown lifted, as well as a $100 gift card, two days of additional paid time off and three days of early holiday pay. Free boxed lunches were given to employees who had school-aged children at home.

BonaDent leadership also is hopeful that the Holiday COVID Relief Program will stimulate the local economies.

The initiative builds on the company’s yearlong series of in-kind and monetary contributions given to the hometowns it serves nationwide to help with COVID-19 relief efforts. BonaDent has had a presence in the Finger Lakes since 1948, with additional satellite offices in South Caroline, Florida and soon in Tennessee.

Like other companies, BonaDent was impacted by the initial pandemic surge early this year. In April, many of BonaDent’s dentist customers were forced to shut down for emergency dentistry only and the company’s demand decreased to less than 20 percent of its normal volumes, officials noted.

During that time, BonaDent’s team chose to pivot its CAD/CAM department operations away from making dental restorations to begin manufacturing PPE face shields, making more than 7,000 face shields to date. The shields were donated to front-line workers, nursing homes, police, fire and EMT professionals throughout Upstate New York, as well as each satellite lab’s surrounding communities. The company also collected unused, donated equipment from dental offices, including gowns, gloves and masks, to help support area hospitals that were at the front lines of the pandemic.

Additionally, the Bonafiglia family recently donated $100,000 to Huntington Living Center to cover staff wages for two weeks during the holiday. Funding will help support a $10 per hour increase for all Huntington staff members to thank and incentivize them for working on the front lines and caring for the residents during the crisis.

The family also made a $50,000 monetary donation to the Finger Lakes Health Foundation in Geneva to help purchase medical equipment and supplies needed for those on the front line of fighting the pandemic. And the family has gifted more than $50,000 to organizations in Seneca County to help them during the pandemic.

“It’s been a challenging year, but we’ve been very fortunate to have a team of passionate workers who have played a vital role in servicing our clients and our communities,” Bonafiglia said. “Our teams have done whatever they could to help those who needed it the most these past few months. We know that this holiday season will be more difficult than usual, so it’s our company’s turn to give back and send some holiday relief our team’s way.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

State offers lease workout assistance to small businesses

New York’s small businesses have a new program to help negotiate lease workout agreements.

The state earlier this month launched the New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership in response to the economic impact of COVID-19. The program will provide small businesses and their landlords with informational resources and pro bono assistance to help both parties reach mutually-beneficial lease workout agreements. The service is available to all small businesses and landlords statewide.

Throughout the next year, the partnership has the capacity to serve thousands of small businesses, officials said.

“Small businesses are the backbone of any strong economy and it is critical that we work to find ways to support them during these difficult times,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy has been nothing short of devastating, and through partnerships such as this we can help to alleviate the burdens many business owners are facing. While a moratorium on commercial evictions is currently in place, this new public-private partnership will help provide an additional level of stability for small businesses and ensure they are able to play a role in helping build New York’s economy back better than before.”

Empire State Development will partner with the state Bar Association and Start Small Think Big, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting small, under-resourced entrepreneurs with high-quality professional services. Start Small will offer pro bono legal services from its network of more than 1,000 attorneys to commercial tenants and landlords looking for lease amendments to cope with the impacts of the pandemic. The state Bar Association will support the recruitment and training of additional volunteer attorneys.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately created new and unforeseen economic challenges for small business owners and landlords across the state. Working together with Start Small Think Big and the New York State Bar Association to establish this partnership, our goal is to help commercial tenants and landlords reach mutually-beneficial agreements by engaging in productive discussions and taking advantage of the free legal assistance provided through this program,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler.

The Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership website includes information on the lease renegotiation process and details the different types of lease workouts available to help small businesses cope with the financial impacts of COVID-19. Those interested in pro bono assistance to initiate a lease renegotiation are encouraged to review and complete the partnership’s intake form. After completing the form, each small business will receive an email detailing an estimated timeline for placement with a volunteer attorney. Once matched, the volunteer attorney will email the applicant to schedule an appointment.

“We are excited to partner with New York State and the New York Bar Association to help small businesses during this unprecedented time. Start Small Think Big helps small business owners grow and sustain their businesses through free legal, financial planning, and marketing services. We support a diverse network of entrepreneurs, including those who are of color, women, members of disadvantaged groups, and/or low-income by connecting them to lawyers and other high-quality professionals volunteering their time to provide free one-to-one support and the expertise needed to solve their businesses’ legal, financial and marketing issues,” Start Small Legal Program Director Alex Stepick said.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

EZaccessMD offers first mobile in-home COVID-19 testing

An EZaccessMD physician administers a COVID-19 test in-home. (provided)
An EZaccessMD physician administers a COVID-19 test in-home. (provided)

Rochester’s EZaccessMD will begin rapid mobile in-home COVID-19 testing, the first service of its kind.

EZaccessMD is the first and only mobile, employer-based subscription telehealth provider that brings rapid diagnostics to a patient’s home and now will offer free COVID-19 testing for subscribers. The service will bring the testing equipment and a qualified provider into the home with a two-hour response time and will provide results to the patient within 15 minutes.

EZaccessMD’s COVID-19 testing is a rapid antigen test made by Becton Dickinson, delivering an overall accuracy of 98 percent, officials said.

“This unique and convenient testing approach is an absolute game-changer because it allows patients to stay in the comfort of their homes and be treated quickly,” said EZaccessMD President Lois Irwin. “Rapid in-home testing for subscribers is faster and more convenient than any testing option currently available and helps reduce the overall exposure risk to the community.”

EZaccessMD in-home testing is available for subscribers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those who have had prolonged exposure to a COVID-positive individual.

Patients are connected to an EZaccessMD physician via a telemedicine phone consult to determine whether they need a test for COVID-19. A certified technician will arrive at their home within two hours and administer the test with results provided on-the-spot within 15 minutes.

If a patient tests positive for COVID-19, the EZaccessMD physician will determine the best treatment plan and order any necessary medications. Within 24-hours of testing, all test results will be reported to the appropriate state health authority. EZ Care Coordinators follow-up with patients three days after the in-home test to check on their progress and offer an immediate EZaccessMD physician consult if needed.

“Consumers everywhere are seeking home delivery services, so why not healthcare?” said EZaccessMD CEO Will Irwin. “We have removed the cost and travel barriers that traditional brick and mortar medicine necessitates and wholeheartedly believe this new approach will make a significant difference in the fight against this pandemic.”

EZaccessMD is available in multiple states in the Southeast and Northeast.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Kodak shares surge on news of DFC loan investigation

Eastman Kodak Co. shares surged on Monday on news that regulators had found no wrongdoing in a loan process that would have had the company manufacturing chemicals for COVID-19 and generic drugs.

Following a report from the Wall Street Journal indicating that government officials had done nothing wrong in the days and weeks leading up to the announcement of a $765 million loan Kodak was expected to be awarded, shares of Kodak stock (NYSE: KODK) rallied more than 80 percent on Monday, closing the day up 60 percent at $12.04.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday reported that the inspector general of the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., the agency that in July signed a letter of interest with Kodak to provide the loan, found no wrongdoing in the process that created the loan. That follows an internal investigation on behalf of Kodak that cleared the company in September.

In the DFC report, Inspector General Anthony Zakel said he found no evidence that employees of the agency had any conflicts of interest in the plans, according to the Wall Street Journal story. Zakel also said he did not find “any evidence of misconduct on the part of DFC officials.”

The DFC assessment also stated that it was reasonable for the agency to consider Kodak for the loan, noting other companies’ pivots to COVID-19 supply-chain manufacturing and Kodak’s experience providing materials to the pharmaceutical industry.

The Securities & Exchange Commission and Congress also launched investigations into the deal, neither of which have been concluded.

When Kodak and the DFC on July 28 announced details of the loan, which had not been finalized, Kodak shares soared from a July 27 close at $2.62 to more than $16. Within two days, shares had reached $43.45, and at one point the stock reached $60 per share.

A week later, the SEC and Congress said they would look into the possibility of misconduct on behalf of Kodak leaders. Kodak Executive Chairman James Continenza was issued 1.75 million stock options by the board the day before the loan announcement, triggering an outcry by investors and the public.

SEC filings showed that Continenza purchased 46,700 additional shares of Kodak stock, while board member Philippe Katz purchased 5,000 shares on the same day. In an interview with CNBC following the announcement, Continenza said Kodak had been working on the loan deal for a “few months” prior to the July 28 announcement.

The potential windfall from the $765 million loan would have allowed Kodak to reinvent itself with a new division, Kodak Pharmaceuticals, that would manufacture components of generic drugs and enable the U.S. to rely less on China for its pharmaceuticals. It is unclear whether the DFC loan is still on the table, but Kodak officials have repeatedly said the company will move ahead in making the drug ingredients, regardless of whether it receives government assistance.

While Kodak’s internal investigation by an independent law firm found that company executives and officers did not participate in insider trading, the report has no legal bearing on the SEC investigation, said an analyst with ASB Capital in a November Seeking Alpha article. Moreover, this week’s DFC report doesn’t specifically clear Kodak of wrongdoing either.

Shares of company stock midday Tuesday were trading down from Monday’s surge at $11.27.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Area chambers advise businesses to take precautions during surge in COVID

The Advocacy Coalition of Rochester Area Chambers (ACRAC) is encouraging its member businesses and other organizations to take precautions during an upswing in COVID-19 cases in the Finger Lakes Region.

“ACRAC is not interested in taking political sides on this issue but rather focusing on the health and well-being of our region. We believe that each of us has a role to play in helping to tackle the pandemic,” ACRAC chamber executives said in a statement Wednesday. “To avoid further business interruptions, ACRAC is asking our collective members and the community at large to observe social distancing, wear masks, disinfect regularly and employ good hand hygiene. Employers should set good examples for their employees, and employees should set good examples for customers.”

Recovering from the impact of the virus continues to be a struggle, ACRAC acknowledged in the statement.

“We will continue working with our Congressional Delegation to quickly pass an additional stimulus package that includes support for small business owners. So too will we continue to support efforts by state leaders to increase infrastructure for COVID-19 testing, speed up turnaround time for results and improve contact tracing capabilities in an effort to efficiently curb the spread of COVID-19,” the group said.

Formed in 2019, ACRAC is a group of chamber executives from throughout the Finger Lakes region committed to helping its members grow and promoting the region through teamwork and collaborative advocacy. The coalition includes chambers of commerce from Chemung and Wyoming counties, as well as the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Irondequoit Chamber of Commerce, Pittsford Chamber of Commerce, Tompkins Chamber, Victor Chamber of Commerce and Penfield Business Chamber.

“We commend the work of Gov. Cuomo and his administration in working to keep infection rates among the lowest in the country and stand ready to assist in any way that we can,” the coalition said. “Business owners are rightly concerned about the increase in COVID-19 and the effects that another shut down will have on them, especially during the profitable holiday shopping season. Business owners must take every precaution to keep shoppers safe and remain open.”

ACRAC officials said residents can support their local businesses, economies and communities by shopping locally and by following the recommendations set forth by the CDC, New York State and local county health departments.

“Each of us must ask ourselves if we will be part of the solution, or part of the problem,” the chambers said in their guidance.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Schumer pushes for COVID testing funds for Orleans County

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the federal Department of Health and Human Services to release funds to enable local communities to offer free COVID-19 testing.

Schumer was in the Orleans County town of Medina on Thursday, where he joined officials from Medina Memorial Hospital to address the county’s lack of free COVID-19 test sites. Schumer (D-NY) demanded HHS release the testing dollars he reportedly helped to originally secure in prior COVID relief legislation, saying that Orleans County alone will need thousands of dollars to conduct sufficient rapid testing and tracing programs to keep residents safe from the virus. Schumer also announced his intention to fight for more of those funds for communities across Upstate New York as the possibility of a second wave emerges and as a COVID relief deal continues to be negotiated.

“With flu season upon us and a resurgence of COVID in New York, in order to keep everyone safe, we’re going to need rapid tests and we’re going to need them quickly,” Schumer said. “Right now, Orleans County residents have extremely limited access to COVID testing, and often they need to travel to Buffalo or Rochester to get tested, which is unacceptable, inaccessible and could wreak havoc on the health and safety of the community if COVID rates continue to climb. The feds are sitting on over $9 billion that can and should be long out the door, being used to ramp up 100 percent free testing in places like Orleans. Those dollars should immediately be used to get rapid tests to ensure peace of mind and some semblance of stability to Orleans residents who have already endured a tumultuous year.”

The process is especially discouraging for at-risk populations from rural areas like Orleans, Schumer said, where public transportation is limited and long-distance travel is difficult.

Schumer praised Medina Memorial Hospital and the Albion Clinic for offering COVID testing for Orleans County residents but he said funding for a standalone free testing site in Orleans County would dramatically increase access to testing and is critical to containing the virus throughout the winter. County officials project that they will need at least seven or eight rapid test machines and thousands of test kits at minimum, compared with the two machines and 700 rapid test kits they have now.

The need for funding and a robust testing regime is especially strong in Orleans County, Schumer said, where some students are attending school in person. Western and Central New York’s COVID-19 case numbers are rising to May levels, and New York state’s new COVID micro-cluster metrics, which identify areas of high COVID spread and labels them by red, orange or yellow that determine testing and lockdown protocols, have already prompted Orleans County officials to seek additional testing capacity, especially in schools, to meet the new requirements.

Earlier this month, all third-graders in the Lyndonville School District switched to remote learning after a school staff member contracted COVID, and several students testing positive at the Albion school prompted more than 50 families to switch their children from an in-person hybrid model to fully remote schooling. This week Medina High School said it would not resume in-school instruction until Nov. 30th due to the high number of staff members currently out due to mandatory quarantine and/or waiting for COVID test results.

Schumer and Orleans County officials said these reversals back to fully-remote learning as the virus resurges will disrupt student learning and are inevitable without sufficient testing, making it all the more important that HHS releases the funding for more testing immediately.

“There’s absolutely no question that the health and safety of all students across Upstate New York is paramount, bar none. The federal government cannot and must not repeat COVID mistakes of the past months. Instead, it must do everything in its power to keep students, families, and teachers safe, and use the dollars it has and the premise of robust testing and tracing to tamp down any second wave of this virus and lead us to a true recovery,” Schumer said.

Last Thursday, Orleans County reported 30 new COVID cases, which was its highest daily number of new infections since May when the county had 23 cases in one day. On Tuesday, the county confirmed 10 new cases for a total of 529 positive cases since March. The number of people in Finger Lakes region hospitals has roughly doubled since the end of October.

“Increasing COVID testing capacity is vital to keep our community safe and avoid other restrictive measures that can disrupt our businesses, in-school instruction, and families. I applaud Sen. Schumer’s efforts to free up existing federal testing funding now so that communities like Orleans County can have access to more testing,” said Lynne Johnson, chairman of the Orleans County Legislature.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Transit system receives ‘Heroes’ award

The Community Transportation Association of America has honored Rochester’s Regional Transit Service with the Heroes in Motion award for its work during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are proud to honor RTS with our premier Heroes in Motion award for their outstanding transit service and innovation during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Thank you to Bill Carpenter and everyone at RTS for your unwavering devotion and ensuring your community was well taken care of during the most challenging of times,” said Loreal Lance, CTAA membership and business development director.

RGRTA Commissioner Bill McDonald offers his virtual congratulations to RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. (provided)
RGRTA Commissioner Bill McDonald offers his virtual congratulations to RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. (provided)

Heroes in Motion is a new award from CTAA. The organization asked board members and staff to reflect on transit agencies that have been working above and beyond their typical scope of services during the pandemic, agencies that displayed exemplary efforts in their innovation and dedication to their communities. Bill McDonald, who serves on the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and CTAA boards, nominated RTS for the award.

“On behalf of the entire RTS team, I thank CTAA and RGRTA Commissioner Bill McDonald for honoring us with the Heroes in Motion award,” RTS CEO Bill Carpenter said. “From the moment COVID-19 emerged in our region, the RTS team took immediate action to help keep employees and customers safe while ensuring the continued availability of safe and sustainable mobility for our customers. The employees of RTS are performing heroically, are deserving of this award and I thank them for the great work they do each day.”

RTS has more than 900 employees who serve customers and business partners in Monroe, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Jordan Health Respiratory Clinic marks six months

Jordan Health on Saturday marked six months since the opening of its respiratory clinic at the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center. The clinic was opened at the request of Monroe County and the city of Rochester to help address the impacts of COVID-19 on the communities it serves.

More than 2,200 COVID-19 tests have been performed at the Jordan Health Respiratory Clinic. The results of the tests show a 6.1 percent positive rate in the African American community, a 5.38 percent positivity rate in the white community and a 3.25 percent positivity rate in the Latinx community.

People living in poverty have been shown to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and poverty is a common thread among the communities Jordan Health serves, officials said.

“When compared to the COVID-19 positivity rate for Monroe County overall, which rose above 2.5 percent this week, the test results from our respiratory clinic paint a stark picture of the disproportionate way this virus impacts impoverished communities,” said Jordan Health CEO Janice Harbin. “We at Jordan Health have helped alleviate some of the health care challenges of underserved and uninsured individuals for over 100 years and we’re proud to have quickly mobilized to help some of the most vulnerable patients during this pandemic.”

The county and the city asked Jordan Health to address the pandemic in April and within two weeks a respiratory clinic was opened.

“The residents of Monroe County and the city of Rochester are fortunate to have dedicated professionals and (the) exceptional care of Anthony Jordan Health Center,” County Executive Adam Bello said in a statement. “Their efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic have provided countless people and families, particularly those of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, with access to health screenings, testing and other preventative care measures.”

Monroe County on Thursday recorded 300 new COVID-19 positive tests, and the positivity rate now stands at 4.3 percent. With winter months approaching, officials have emphasized the importance of adhering to COVID-19 health and safety protocols such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and washing hands frequently.

“The recent rise in COVID-19 cases in our community proves that now is not the time to let our guard down and skip the steps we know work in preventing the spread,” said Laurie Donohue M.D., Jordan Health Center family medicine specialist. “Even small gatherings of family and friends at restaurants or bars or even at private homes have resulted in outbreaks when masks are not worn and social distancing is not properly implemented. As Thanksgiving approaches, we urge everyone to consider the wellbeing of our community and remember the necessary health protocols when making plans for the holiday.”

The Jordan Health Respiratory Clinic is open to the public on weekdays from 1 to 8 p.m.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer