Salvation Army begins Red Kettle campaign early

For the first time in 130 years, the Salvation Army started its annual holiday fundraising campaign in October in an effort to #RescueChristmas, the nonprofit said this week.

“We are expecting more than 2,000 families in Monroe County to come to the Salvation Army for help to put food on their table and presents under the Christmas tree for their children,” said Salvation Army of Greater Rochester Director of Operation for Monroe County Debbie Burr. “This is a substantial increase from the 1,500 families we served last year during the Christmas season.”

At a time when requests for Salvation Army services are at an all-time high due to COVID-19, the funds raised through the organization’s iconic Red Kettles are at risk due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

In Rochester, the Salvation Army has seen a more than 50 percent increase in need since March, which includes helping families put food on the table, helping to pay for prescriptions and providing shelter for the homeless.

Since March, the Salvation Army has served more than 9,000 people and given out more than 5,000 boxes of food, for a total of more than 100,000 meals, officials said this week.

“Our four homeless shelters have also remained open during these turbulent times as the Salvation Army remains committed to continued care for the most vulnerable people in our community,” Burr said.

The Red Kettle campaign will kick off Thursday, Nov. 12 with the first bell ringers headed out on Friday. The goal is to raise $350,000 by Christmas Eve.

“We know this is going to be a challenging Christmas season as many people who would normally donate to the campaign may not be going out as much or might not be able to afford to donate this year,” Burr said. “We are going to adapt to the situation as best we can, and we need the community’s help so that we can provide hope to those who need it the most.”

This year there are more ways to donate including via text, online or digitally with Apple Pay or Google Pay.

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Ontario County gallery to hold virtual exhibitions

Main Street Arts, a Clifton Springs not-for-profit art gallery, will hold its 7th annual “Small Works” and 5th annual “The Cup, The Mug” virtually this year.

Both events are national juried exhibitions. Main Street Arts will use Facebook live on Nov. 7 as its venue for a walkthrough of both exhibitions. A total of $3,000 will be awarded to artist winners. An online interactive version of both shows will be available, as well as the ability to preview and purchase all available work in each exhibition online.

Sue Arends (Evanston, IL) - Time 11:55, Acrylic on corrugated cardboard
Sue Arends (Evanston, Ill.) – Time 11:55, Acrylic on corrugated cardboard

The exhibitions are juried by Tiffany Gaines of the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo. It is the largest year for “Small Works,” with 182 artists from 30 states. This year’s “The Cup, The Mug” exhibition includes drinking containers by 55 artists from 25 states, as well as ceramic works by each of the exhibition jurors including Christina Erives from California and Masa Sasaki of Georgia.

“Jurying this exhibition was a pleasant reminder of the many ways art serves as a record of our lifetimes,” Gaines said. “Art has long been a tool of contemplation to foster understanding; a source for documentation, catharsis, emotion and a statement of the times. During this unprecedented moment in history, it is humbling and increasingly necessary to contribute to the amplification of art as a vessel of response.”

Nate Ditzler and Laura Konecne (Wichita Falls, TX) - Glob Mug, Ceramic
Nate Ditzler and Laura Konecne (Wichita Falls, Texas) – Glob Mug, Ceramic

Both exhibitions run Nov. 7 through Dec. 4. The gallery will be open for appointments and a limited number of walk-ins during that time.

Main Street Arts is a nonprofit arts organization and art gallery specializing in showcasing contemporary art and fine craft from emerging and established Upstate New York artists. Located in the historic village of Clifton Springs, the 3,600-square-foot space has two floors offering exhibitions, an artist residency program, workshops, literary arts programming and youth programs.

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Groups collaborate to fund remote learning internet issues

The County of Monroe is teaming with ESL Federal Credit Union, Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation on a solution to improve internet connectivity to help more students actively participate in their lessons throughout the school day.

Officials noted that the pandemic uncovered gaps in technology for students in the city of Rochester. Local and national foundations and other organizations responded quickly to ensure city students had laptop computers, tablets and devices to provide internet connections into the homes of students who needed them.

But the continuation of remote learning this fall has brought about another issue: Hotspot devices have not provided enough speed or consistent connection required for effective online learning.

“I am extremely grateful for the generosity and innovative spirit of our partners who are helping to ensure that our students receive the best education possible during a global pandemic,” said RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small in a statement. “For many of us, having reliable internet access is a given. For many of our students, getting this access will not only help with their education, it also brings them to a more equitable playing field.”

T-Mobile’s Project 10Million will donate 2,900 mobile hotspots to be distributed to RCSD students in kindergarten through high school who do not have reliable internet connections.

Monroe County has committed to using up to $175,000 of the federal CARES Act money to cover the $43,000 monthly connectivity costs for those devices through Dec. 31. The organizations will work together to coordinate among other area philanthropies to support the purchase of additional mobile hotspots for up to 2,000 more students. The county also will cover the $32,000 monthly unlimited data charges for the devices for November and December.

Local funders have committed to contributing and raising additional resources to continue to pay the $83,000 monthly unlimited data charges for all of the new hotspots through summer school.

“The collaborative work being done in our community across public, private and nonprofit sectors to address the critical needs of families during this pandemic is the exact kind of regional collaboration we need to solve Greater Rochester’s challenges,” said ESL Vice President/Director, Community Impact Ajamu Kitwana. “The collaboration between Monroe County and the city school district has motivated us to match the county’s funding as a show of deep support for that partnership.”

With ESL paying for two months of internet connectivity and GRHF and RACF committing to each pay for a month, that leaves four monthly bills not covered. ESL will help close that gap by matching additional contributions up to $350,000. United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. has offered $25,000 toward that effort.

“As we continue to navigate this unprecedented pandemic, we need to work together to ensure our students have the resources they need to learn and succeed. This is no small task,” said County Executive Adam Bello. “Thanks to the support of our community partners we’re able to ensure that RCSD students will have reliable WiFi for the rest of the school year.”

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Monro sales, earnings down in second quarter

Monro Inc. on Wednesday reported a drop in second-quarter sales and earnings, blaming a reduction in traffic due to COVID-19.

For the quarter ended March 27, the Rochester-based automotive undercar repair and tire company reported revenue of $288.6 million, down 11 percent from $324.1 million in the second quarter last year. The total sales decrease was driven by a comparable store sales decline of 11.4 percent, as well as from closed stores, officials said.

Net income for the quarter was $12.8 million, compared with $20.3 million in the same quarter last year. Diluted earnings per share were 38 cents, down from 60 cents a year ago.

Analysts had expected earnings of 29 cents on sales of $293.7 million.

The company reduced its store hours during the pandemic and added hours at locations where demand improved. Company officials said Monro has “right-sized” store staffing levels since the beginning of the pandemic and has strategically added staffing back to its stores as demand improved.

During the second quarter, Monro closed six company-operated stores, of which five are temporarily closed as a result of damage sustained during Hurricane Laura in Louisiana and Tropical Storm Isaias in the Northeast. During the second quarter, Monro opened one company-operated store, ending the quarter with 1,242 company-operated stores and 97 franchised locations.

Robert Mellor
Robert Mellor

“While the disruption created by the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to weigh on our top-line results in the second quarter and third quarter-to-date, with comparable-store sales down approximately 12% in fiscal October, our performance is tracking in-line with key industry indicators,” said Robert Mellor, Monro chairman and interim chief executive. “Given the ongoing challenges in the operating environment, we continue to focus on the aspects of our business within our control.

“That includes driving profitability by managing our store operating hours and staffing levels to match demand, as well as expanding variable margins through improved tire pricing and labor productivity.

“These efforts combined with targeted cost reductions and working capital management have led to a significant increase in operating cash flow in the first half of the fiscal year,” Mellor said. “Further, we remain committed to our disciplined M&A strategy as evidenced by our continued expansion in the attractive West Coast region with the acquisition of 17 stores in Southern California.”

The Southern California stores are expected to add roughly $20 million in annualized sales, officials said, with a sales mix of 60 percent tires and 40 percent service. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

Monro did not provide a company outlook this week due to ongoing uncertainty as a result of the pandemic.

Shares of company stock (Nasdaq: MNRO) were down more than 5 percent to $40.90 in afternoon trading.

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Xerox Q3 sales, earnings down

Xerox Holdings Corp. on Tuesday reported a decline in third-quarter revenue and earnings but managed to beat Street estimates.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, the document company reported sales of $1.77 billion, down roughly 19 percent from $2.18 billion in the year-ago quarter. Operating income for the quarter was $131 million, down from $262 million in the third quarter last year. On a per-share basis, earnings were down 40 percent to 41 cents from 68 cents a year ago.

Analysts had expected GAAP earnings of 2 cents on revenue of $1.61 billion.

John Visentin
John Visentin

“The flexibility and financial discipline we have built in our company enabled us to increase earnings and cash flow sequentially. While we can’t reliably predict the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic, we are prepared to respond however events unfold and are committed to delivering positive cash flow and earnings in the fourth quarter,” said Xerox Vice Chairman and CEO John Visentin. “Investments in digital solutions and services are paying off as companies prepare for a more hybrid work experience that shifts seamlessly between the office and home.”

Business highlights during the quarter include:

• Added or renewed contracts with Fortune 500 and public sector clients such as Aflac, Bell Canada, Mizuho Bank, the state of Illinois, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Purolator, the Union of Public Purchasing Groups in France and the Government of Bangladesh;
• Grew market share in production in the region Xerox serves and grew share in entry segments in both the Americas and EMEA. Maintained the top market share position in production in the Americas and EMEA, and maintained overall market share leadership for equipment sales revenue in the Americas, according to the most recent IDC data;
• Awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop the next phase of the Ocean of Things, its project to expand what scientists know about the seas;
• Expanded the company’s software portfolio with the launch of DocuShare Go, a cloud-based, SaaS content management platform focused on the small and medium-sized business that automates how users organize, share, collaborate and back up business-critical content;
• Honored with several industry awards including “Best Innovation Project of the Year” by Health Tech Digital and named one of the “World’s Most Sustainably Managed Companies” by the Wall Street Journal; and
• Established a new diversity, inclusion and belonging roadmap, focusing on areas where Xerox can make the biggest impact within the company and society, including a partnership with A Better Chance, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing education, access and opportunity for young people of color.

Xerox ended the quarter with cash of $3.24 billion, up from $2.74 billion in the year-ago quarter. Total assets climbed to $15.35 billion from $15.05 billion a year ago.

For the nine-month period, net income fell to $115 million from $542 million in the same period last year. Due to the pandemic, Xerox officials declined to give future financial guidance.

“During the third quarter, corresponding with business reopenings, the rate of decline of equipment installations (including in areas of our business that support our hybrid workplace initiatives) improved, as did printed-page volumes,” officials said in the earnings report. “These operational improvements resulted in a moderation of our rate of revenue decline during the third quarter as compared to the second quarter, which gives us confidence in the resilience and readiness of our business to recover as progress is made to control the pandemic and as businesses and economies reopen.”

Officials added: “During the current year, the most significant impact from the pandemic has been on sales of our equipment and unbundled supplies. However, due to their transactional nature, these revenues experienced the largest recovery during the third quarter and we expect that they will continue to fluctuate and gradually improve concurrent with business reopenings.”

Shares of company stock (NYSE: XRX) spiked early on Tuesday to $19.06 but had settled at $18.63 at midday, down from Monday’s close at $18.92.

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Xerox releases annual social responsibility report

Xerox Holdings Corp. this week released its annual Global Corporate Social Responsibility Report detailing data, accomplishments and goals related to its environmental work, society and governance.

“While corporate social responsibility isn’t new, this year has crystalized what it really means, and the role we must play as we face three enormous challenges: the impacts of the pandemic, social inequality and climate change,” said Xerox Vice Chairman and CEO John Visentin. “I’m incredibly proud of the strong performance of the Xerox team during this extraordinary time. We have learned in profound ways just how interconnected we are, despite our differences, and that we must work together to make meaningful progress against all that challenges us as individuals and society.

Highlights from this year’s report include the company’s:

• Work to combat COVID-19, from producing low-cost disposable ventilators and hospital-grade sanitizer to helping prepare the U.S. Naval Ship Comfort and USNS Mercy for humanitarian missions, transitioning schools to remote learning and developing software that enabled companies to monitor the health of their employees;
• Addition of clean technology as Xerox’s fifth innovation pillar, focusing on identifying those innovations that help reduce harmful emissions and waste around the world; and
• Plan to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2040 and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60 percent by 2030.

In a letter from the CEO that accompanied the 78-page report, Visentin said that in addition to battling the effects of COVID-19, another challenge demanded immediate action: systemic racism.

John Visentin
John Visentin

“While Xerox has long been a leader in diversity and inclusion (D&I), we believe the best way to honor this legacy is to dig deeper, with a renewed sense of urgency,” Visentin wrote. “With such determination, we established a new diversity, inclusion and belonging roadmap to focus on the areas where we can make the biggest impact — both within and outside of Xerox. We held ‘All of Us Together’ conversations so employees globally could hear firsthand what our colleagues have experienced and personally understand what’s at stake.”

The company’s roadmap includes partnering with organizations such as A Better Chance, a non-profit dedicated to increasing education, access and opportunity for young people of color, accelerating the careers of high-potential employees who come from a diversity of backgrounds, among other things.

“With the enormous challenges this year has brought, we at Xerox are prouder than ever to help provide a more sustainable future for all. We have learned in profound ways just how interconnected we are, despite our differences, and that we must work together to make meaningful progress against all that challenges us as individuals and society,” Visentin wrote.

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L3Harris awards grants to six local charities

Six area nonprofits have received social impact grants from L3Harris Technologies Inc. as part of the manufacturer’s effort to provide relief to communities it resides in.

The L3Harris Foundation this month distributed grants in 19 states to organizations that applied for funds to address a wide range of needs, including the digital divide, food insecurity, veteran aid, mentorships for STEM students, economic opportunities for small businesses and more.

Local recipients include Cameron Community Ministries, Gigi’s Playhouse, Gilda’s Club, Rochester Education Foundation, Warrior Salute Veteran Services and Young Women’s College Prep Foundation.

“The pandemic has placed a tremendous strain on all facets of our Rochester community,” said Dana Mehnert, president, communication systems for L3Harris. The division is based in Rochester. “The L3Harris Foundation social impact grants will help provide some relief to those most in need, especially students, parents, communities and small businesses in areas where our employees work and live.”

Cameron Community Ministries’ goal is to serve the community and to break the cycle of generational poverty by teaching independence. The grant will fund full day and hybrid models of academic support for Rochester City School District students during the COVID crisis.

Gilda’s Club will use the grant to provide cancer transitions and survivorship classes to patients in the wake of COVID-19, while REF plans to use the grant to promote college empowerment and FAFSA aid, which has been absent due to the pandemic.

Warrior Salute Veteran Services will provide no-cost telehealth and tele-therapies for veterans dealing with isolation and depressions due to COVID-19, and the Young Women’s College Prep Foundation will use the grant to buy new Chromebooks for students in grades 7 through 12 that attend its charter school.

In addition to the grants, L3Harris has provided more than $450 million in accelerated payments to small-business suppliers in 45 states to sustain the nation’s supply chain. Company employees have volunteered to provide respirators, free communications apps and STEM-oriented “Tech in 10” videos for students.

Staffers also are volunteering to assist organizations through the company’s L3Harris Investing for Tomorrow volunteer program, which supports numerous initiatives throughout the year.

In New York state, L3Harris has donated $267,000 to charities. The company has 20 locations and more than 5,000 employees statewide.

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Excellus plans $17.6 million premium refunds

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield will issue $17.6 million in medical premium refund credits to roughly 700 large group employer and union-sponsored plans that are prospectively rated as part of its comprehensive community response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the health insurer issued $3.4 million in premium refund credits to employer groups who offered the plan’s dental coverage.

Christopher Booth, president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Christopher Booth

“Keeping health care affordable is our mission as a non-profit insurer and it starts with not collecting more than we need to pay claims and run the business,” said Excellus CEO Christopher Booth. “When Upstate New York went into lockdown and elective medical care decreased, our claims payments also declined. We are returning a portion of the premium.”

The medical premium credit will appear on the bills being sent out in November, while the dental refund was credited on the groups’ October invoice.

To date, the health plan has spent or expects to spend more than $300 million this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That has taken the form of COVID-19 related claims and expanded coverage during the state of emergency, reductions in the administrative burden for health care providers, distribution of personal protective equipment for employers and providers and contributions to food banks and food pantries throughout the health plan’s upstate service territory, company officials said.

“Our priority continues to be taking care of the customer and making sure members have access to the care they need,” Booth said. “Our claim volumes have returned to normal levels given the demand for elective procedures and routine care that may have been put off during the quarantine. We are also still bracing for a possible second wave in COVID-19 related costs. We hope it doesn’t come but we are prepared if it does.”

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County leaders call on Washington for additional funding

New York’s county leaders last week renewed a call to the White House and congressional leaders to reach an agreement that would provide local governments with direct federal COVID-19 stimulus assistance, following the House of Representative’s passage of an updated Heroes Act.

“Every day that passes without a deal on direct aid to local governments, the deeper economic hole that is being dug in our communities,” said New York State Association of Counties President and Chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors John Marren. “Local governments stepped up and expended great resources to stop the spread of the virus and now, with state aid being withheld and revenue collection down, counties are being forced to cut services and lay off employees, which only depresses the economy further. It’s time for Washington to get behind a plan and get this done for the American people.”

NYSAC’s analysis of the Heroes Act shows that counties statewide would receive nearly $3 billion in federal stimulus from the modified act. Through the Community Development Block Grant program, entitlement communities across New York, or those with populations of 50,000 or more, would receive roughly $2.4 billion. Smaller cities and localities would receive $2.2 billion.

New York City, which is home to more than half of the state’s 19 million people, would receive $5.35 billion.

“We are in the middle of a national emergency that is impacting every community in New York and across the country,” said Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, president of the New York State County Executives’ Association. “The federal government has provided emergency assistance to businesses and individuals, now it must do the same for the local governments who have been most impacted by this public health crisis so we can continue to battle COVID-19 and prevent further damage to our economy.”

In August, NYSAC released its fourth in a series of Coronavirus Economic Impact reports designed to highlight the impact the pandemic is having on business activity and county revenues.

The report confirmed NYSAC’s previous lost revenue projections that estimated that total lost revenues for counties and New York City over the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years could reach $13.5 billion, including $4.5 billion for counties statewide.

“This report is another piece of evidence in what has become an open-and-shut case for the need for direct federal aid to local governments,” NYSAC’s Marren said at the time the report was released. “As counties stepped up to respond to the pandemic, sales tax revenues, which are the lifeblood of local government, disappeared as the economy came to a screeching halt. Without federal aid, this lost revenue will jeopardize our ability to successfully reopen our economies and provide services for the families most impacted by the economic shutdown.”

The updated Heroes Act, which passed the House on Oct. 1, addresses needs that have arisen since the House first acted. The $2.2 trillion legislation includes strong support for small businesses, improving the Paycheck Protection Program and delivering targeted assistance to restaurants, nonprofits and event venues; additional assistance for airline industry workers; and more funds to bolster education and child care.

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Report: Spending, income, labor market expectations remain weak

The August 2020 Survey of Consumer Expectations from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows a continued decline in pessimism about households’ financial situation.

The report, from the New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data, shows that home price growth expectations returned to levels close last year at this time, while delinquency expectations remain low. However, year-ahead spending, household income and labor market expectations all remain weak compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. Median inflation expectations increased at both the short and medium-term horizons, while uncertainty and disagreement about future inflation remain elevated.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

The report found that median inflation expectations increased 0.1 percentage point in August to 3 percent at the one-year horizon and increased 0.3 percentage point to 3 percent at the three-year horizon. The increase was driven mostly by respondents above the age of 40.

Median inflation uncertainty — or the uncertainty expressed regarding future inflation outcomes — increased for the second consecutive month at both horizons and remains elevated relative to pre-COVID-19 readings.

Median home price change expectations continued its rebound from a series low of 0 percent reached in April 2020, increasing from 2 percent in July to 2.8 percent in August, and inching closer to its 2019 average of 3 percent. The increase was similar across demographic groups and Census regions.

The median one-year ahead expected change in the price of gasoline increased from 5.4 percent to 5.6 percent in August, while median expectations for the cost of a college education and rent both increased by 0.3 and 0.1 percentage points to 5.1 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, according to the report. However, the median expected change in the cost of medical care declined from 9.1 percent to 8.3 percent, but remained elevated, compared to its 2019 average of 7.2 percent. Expected changes in food prices remain unchanged at 5.4 percent.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Median one-year ahead expected earnings growth remained flat at 2 percent in August, below its 2019 average level of 2.3 percent. Mean unemployment expectations — or the mean probability that the U.S. unemployment rate will be higher one year from now — decreased slightly from 39.3 percent in July to 39.1 percent in August.

The mean perceived probability of losing one’s job in the next year increased for the second consecutive month from 16 percent in July to 18 percent in August, well above its February reading of 13.8 percent. The increase was more pronounced among respondents without a college education and those with a household income below $50,000.

Finally, the average perceived probability of missing a minimum debt payment over the next three months increased slightly from last month series’ low of 9.5 percent to 9.7 percent in August. The new reading remains well below its 2019 average of 11.5 percent, according to the report.

The SCE is a nationally representative, internet-based survey of a rotating panel of approximately 1,300 household heads.

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Schumer proposes plan to cancel student loan debt

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer has drawn up a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers.

The resolution outlines how the next president should use existing executive authority under the Higher Education Act to substantially cancel student loan debt for students in New York and across the country, and ensure there is no tax liability for federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt collection.

“Millions of young New Yorkers and their families have been crushed by student loan debt, greatly impeding their ability to begin careers and build the financial resources needed to build their futures,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement this week. “For far too long the sunny, American optimism of our young people has been clouded by crippling student debt. Education is supposed to be a ladder up, but studies have shown that student loans hold people back and prevent young college graduates from owning homes or starting small businesses. This holds our entire economy back, which we cannot afford after the financial devastation of COVID.”

Schumer said addressing the student loan crisis will be one of the first legislative actions he will prioritize in the new 117th Congress in January 2021.

“The bottom line is that the cost of college is out of control and paying for it forces millions of students and families to take on crippling debt, which greatly impedes students’ ability to get started and succeed after graduation. It is like starting a long walk with a backpack stuffed with bricks. This plan to cancel student debt on federal loans will substantially lighten that load and give recent graduates a huge boost that will launch them into a much brighter future – that will energize the economy and substantially expand our dwindling middle class.”

Schumer said the plan will provide complete forgiveness of student loans for more than 75 percent of borrowers across the country and at least some debt forgiveness for 95 percent of people with student loan debt. This is especially good news for the nearly 2.4 million New Yorkers with outstanding student loans and a cumulative debt of $89.5 billion as of March 2020, according to

Congress already has granted the secretary of education the legal authority to broadly cancel student debt under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which grants the secretary the authority to modify, “… compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however, acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption.” The Department of Education has reportedly used this authority to implement modest relief for federal student loan borrowers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution aims to:

• Recognize the secretary of education’s broad administrative authority to cancel federal student loan debt under the existing authorities of section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1082(a));
• Call on the president to take executive action to administratively cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt for federal student loan borrowers using existing legal authorities under such section 432(a), and any other authorities available under the law;
• Encourage the president, in taking such executive action, to use the executive’s authority under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to ensure no tax liability for federal student loan borrowers resulting from administrative debt cancellation;
• Encourage the president, in taking such executive action, to ensure that administrative debt cancellation helps close racial wealth gaps and avoids the bulk of federal student debt cancellation benefits accruing to the wealthiest borrowers; and
• Encourage the president to continue to pause student loan payments and interest accumulation for federal student loan borrowers for the entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schumer introduced the resolution jointly with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The legislation follows their March effort to cancel student loan payments for the duration of the COVID pandemic and provide a minimum $10,000 payoff for all federal student loan borrowers.

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DOL Lost Wages Assistance begins next week

The New York State Department of Labor this week said that payments for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, which provides an additional $300 in weekly benefits to unemployed New Yorkers, will begin next week. Up to 2.4 million New Yorkers will be eligible for the program, including 435,000 who must submit an additional certification to qualify.

During the COVID-19 emergency, New York has paid $43.7 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.5 million New Yorkers, representing more than 20 typical years’ worth of benefits paid in just six months, organization officials said.

“Throughout this crisis, states’ unemployment systems have been pushed to the limit and constantly-changing federal guidance — including this haphazard Presidential executive order — have only delayed our efforts to get benefits to New Yorkers in need. But we have worked day and night to stand up this program, and millions of New Yorkers will see payments next week,” DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement this week. “We are emailing all New Yorkers who are receiving benefits to inform them of their status and, if needed, provide information about certifying for the Lost Wages Assistance program. All New Yorkers should keep an eye out for these messages and, if an additional certification is required, respond immediately.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released funding for the first three weeks of LWA benefits to New York State, covering the benefit weeks ending Aug. 2, Aug. 9, and Aug. 16. The DOL estimates that up to 2.4 million New Yorkers may be eligible for the benefits from those weeks, including recipients of both traditional unemployment insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Roughly 2 million New Yorkers are pre-qualified and will receive payments starting next week. The remainder — roughly 435,000 New Yorkers — must submit an additional certification to qualify.

According to FEMA, funding for the LWA program will continue until any of the following occur:
• The federal Disaster Relief Fund balance falls below $25 billion;
• The $44 billion set aside for the LWA program is depleted;
• Congress enacts a replacement unemployment relief program; OR
• If none of the above scenarios occur before Dec. 27, 2020, funding will terminate on that date.

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Causewave expands team during pandemic

Big changes are coming to Causewave Community Partners as it reaches its 70th anniversary year. The nonprofit collaborative has named its first chief operating officer and made a number of new hires to accommodate the needs of the nonprofit sector brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

Katelin Pellett has been promoted to COO and Elizabeth Murray has been promoted to director of community engagement. In addition, Causewave has hired Tiffany Paine-Cirrincione as a senior program manager and Deb Hanmer, Stanley Byrd and Vanessa Martell as senior project managers.

Todd Butler
Todd Butler

“It’s an exciting time for Causewave. We couldn’t be more pleased to announce the promotions of Katelin Pellett and Elizabeth Murray,” said Causewave President and CEO Todd Butler. “Through their years of service, both Katelin and Elizabeth have proven to be an essential part of our mission, doing work that has made a positive impact on not only our organization but causes and organizations across the region. I’m grateful our organization and community can continue to benefit from their expertise, especially in this time when we are being called on to support nonprofits in new and different ways than ever before.”

Pellett, who has been with the organization for 13 years and most recently served as vice president of programs, will transition her focus to overseeing the organization’s people and operations, as well as spending more time on understanding and responding to nonprofit sector needs.

Murray joined Causewave in 2014 and in her new role will be focused on managing the organization’s raised revenue, including individual donors, corporate membership, grants, events, volunteers and in-kind contributions.

“I’m so thrilled to have added Tiffany, Stanley, Deb and Vanessa to help us meet more of the need we’re seeing,” Pellett said. “Each of them brings a unique and diverse set of experiences to our small but mighty team of changemakers and we know they’ll help Causewave have even more impact for nonprofits across the region through this extremely challenging time.”

Since March, Causewave has served more than 100 organizations through emergency consultations alone. Causewave is a collaborative of local businesses and volunteers that works to achieve meaningful change for organizations and communities through collective impact projects and capacity building programs in the areas of nonprofit management, professional development, fundraising, strategic planning and marketing.

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Child care providers eligible for $90 million in grants

Nearly $90 million has been made available in federal CARES Act funding to assist child care providers through NY Forward grants as they adjust their programs during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding is in addition to $30 million made available in the spring and $48.3 million recently awarded to assist child care providers with reopening or restructuring their physical plans to meet social distancing requirements.

“Child care is essential to getting people back to work and continuing our New York Forward economic reopening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement this week. “Every working parent deserves the peace of mind that goes with having a quality child care program where their child can grow and learn in a space that has been adapted to meet the health and safety requirements of this extraordinary time.”

The state Office of Children and Family Services administered the federal CARES Act grants. Child Care Resource and Referral agencies statewide will process payments to providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities that already existed in our society, particularly among working women, and nowhere is that more present than with child care,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “As co-chair of the Child Care Availability Task Force, I have heard from child care providers throughout our state about how important this funding is as they continue to operate safely with adequate social distancing to keep both staff and children safe. In order to build back our economy better and more inclusive than ever before, we must reduce the stress and cost burden of child care and continue the call for additional federal funding that is critical for New York’s working families and providers.”

Some $20 million of the $88.6 million in grant funding will support child care scholarships for children of essential workers. That includes first responders such as health care providers, pharmaceutical staff, law enforcement, firefighters, food delivery workers, grocery store employees and others. Child care costs will be covered for families of essential workers whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The funding will support 5,400 children in child care for 14 weeks.

An additional $20 million will be made available for rental assistance for school-based child care programs that have been displaced by the pandemic. It will support 2,300 school-age child care programs with $2,000 in monthly rental assistance for four months.

Another $20 million will support grants for closed child care programs to reopen or restructure under new guidelines for social distancing. The remaining $28.6 million will provide grants for child care providers to pay for half of the cost, up to $6,000, to open a new classroom. Temporary funds would be phased out in the second and third months as parents enroll more children in child care.

Child care providers can apply for funding online.

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Carestream Health enters PPE market

Carestream Health has diversified into the personal protective equipment market with the launch of the Carestream Shield.

The shield is designed to solve problems of discomfort and difficulty of use commonly associated with personal face shields, company officials said. Carestream applied its expertise in the development of digital medical imaging systems to the development of its new face shield, which will help frontline health care workers protect themselves from exposure to fluids.

Designed to be used as supplemental protection in conjunction with a face mask, goggles and other PPE, the shield aims to protect health care workers from exposure to infection. The shield is breathable and lightweight with an adjustable visor. It has flexible baseball-cap style straps for a personalized fit. A forehead cushion provides a soft and slip-resistant contact point, eliminating the need to adjust the system during a patient visit.

Carestream plans to make its new face shield available for purchase in the U.S. and will expand to other worldwide locations through the next few months. (photo provided)
Carestream plans to make its new face shield available for purchase in the U.S. and will expand to other worldwide locations through the next few months. (photo provided)

Officials said the face shield reduces the buildup of fog and sweat through an opening at the top, allowing hot air from the body to ventilate away from the face. The shield is available in two distance-from-face options, with a standard model that is two inches from the forehead and an extended model that is 2.5 inches from the forehead, allowing for bulky eyewear.

Carestream plans to make its new face shield available for purchase in the U.S. and will expand to other worldwide locations through the next few months.

Carestream is a worldwide provider of medical imagining systems, X-ray imaging systems for non-destructive testing and precision contract coating services for a wide range of applications. The company is based in Rochester.

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