NY/PA Updates

$108 million rent relief goes unused, glitch underreports COVID-19 and more

What's new in the Upper Delaware region December 24-30

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Delgado, Cartwright receive vaccine

REGION — Reps. Antonio Delgado (NY-19) and Matt Cartwright (PA-08) both received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday. After his vaccination, Delgado released the following statement:

“Following the advice of public health officials, I received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the weeks and months ahead, I encourage everyone who is able to be vaccinated to do so as we look to protect each other and save lives. While I have received the first dose of the vaccine, I will continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash my hands frequently. It is incumbent upon all of us to follow the advice of medical professionals to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Cartwright said that Northeast Pennsylvanians should be confident in the vaccine, calling it a “medical breakthrough” and “historic achievement.”

Software glitch underreports COVID-19

LIBERTY, NY — Sullivan County Public Health Services is working closely with private health care provider Middletown Medical to quickly account for missing data arising from a software malfunction earlier this month. On December 8, Middletown Medical implemented an automated system for reporting positive COVID-19 test results to the state and Sullivan and Orange counties’ public health departments.

 Since implementation, “some discrepancies were discovered... as isolated portions of data from test results were not successfully delivered,” said Middletown Medical communications officer Caitlin Huebner.

 “According to what we’ve been able to determine thus far, approximately 200 positive test results in Sullivan County, from tests as far back as November 25, were never received by our office due to this software glitch,” said Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw.

Upon this discovery, Middletown Medical returned to manually uploading cases to the state and is directing all patients who tested positive at a Middletown Medical location to reach out to their local county health department if they have not been contacted by their respective county officials already.

Cuomo: feds should ban UK travel

ALBANY, NY — Amid reports of a highly contagious COVID-19 variant spreading throughout the United Kingdom, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to join 120 countries that are requiring travelers to produce a negative test before coming to the U.S. from the U.K. Other European countries have completely barred travel from the U.K.

“Right now, this variant in the U.K. is getting on a plane and flying to JFK. Right now, today. One-hundred twenty countries require a test, we don’t,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “Now, to me, this is reprehensible because this is what happened in the spring... This is the mistake we made. Where is HHS? Where is the CDC? Where is the NIH?”

Commissioners request unemployment formula adjustment

HONESDALE, PA — The Wayne County Commissioners have penned a letter to state Reps. Mike Peifer and Jonathan Fritz, as well as Sen. Lisa Baker, asking them to consider rethinking the state’s unemployment compensation formula. They also contacted the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania executive director Lisa Schaefer.

The commissioners said that due to the effects of COVID-19, the standard process used to determine an applicant’s eligibility, known as a five-quarter look back, might not result in sufficient compensation for many who are in dire need. The commissioners said that they hope the legislature can make a temporary adjustment for the pandemic.

“We recognize that no matter what you do with unemployment compensation, you begin to also have to recognize that sustainability of the funds is something that’s a concern also,” chairman Brian Smith said. “We just hope it gets ample consideration, and hopefully they can bring in some CARES funding to help.”

PA: $108 million in rent, mortgage relief goes unused

PENNSYLVANIA — According to a report from Spotlight PA, roughly $108 million out of $175 million in CARES funding that Pennsylvania had slated for rent and mortgage relief went unused due to a convoluted application process. The remaining money is being reallocated to the PA Department of Corrections.

The rent relief program was meant to support both tenants and landlords, “but the program was hindered by a cap on the assistance each applicant could receive, $750 a month—significantly less than the median rent in some parts of the state. The program also required that landlords forgive any other outstanding rent above that amount. As a result, many refused to participate.” Spotlight PA also reported that many Pennsylvanians struggled to acquire the required documentation before the deadline.

Concerns about homelessness are widespread with the federal moratorium on evictions set to end at the end of the year. Experts say it’s unclear whether Congress’s next relief package, which is expected to include $25 million in emergency rent relief, can come quickly enough to prevent a January eviction spike.

Spectrum mends buildout plan

ALBANY, NY — The New York State Department of Public Service has announced that Charter Communications, Inc., known better as Spectrum, has agreed to remove 1,241 ineligible addresses that it had claimed toward meeting its 145,000 passings requirement, and to refund 100 customers who paid a connection fee, or else remove those addresses as well.

In a sharply worded letter to the company on November 18, the department’s special counsel for ratepayer protection Rory I. Lancman said Spectrum had failed to resolve issues raised over a several month period. Lancman said unless Spectrum removed ineligible addresses from its reports, he would seek an order to show cause from the Public Service Commission to resolve the issue.

 In the resolution of the issue, Charter agreed to remove addresses from its plan that were not within franchise areas at the time of the approval order or overlap with areas already covered by existing plans, refund customer-funded contributions and correct all data entry errors in the plan.

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