Friday, April 3, 2020

Schuyler County officials warn: Beware phony home repair grant scams from COVID-19 stimulus program.

The Schuyler County Office for the Aging and the Schuyler County Attorney’s Office are warning local seniors to look out for potential scams of homeowners arising from the COVID-19 stimulus program, including a new phony home repair grant offer.

“Earlier this week our office was notified by New York Office for the Aging that other counties have been getting calls from older adults who had received a postcard mailing addressed to ‘resident’ from the National Residential Improvement Association (NRIA) offering to help them get a grant to repair their home,” Schuyler County OFA Director Tamre Waite said.  

“The postcard looks official, but according to New York State, it is not a government program, and the NRIA currently does not have a valid business license. This is a scam.”

According to Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, while there are not yet reports of postcards being sent to Schuyler County residents, the county intends to be proactive, given state and national reports of scams following the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
 
“Government grant scams are on the rise,” Getman said.  “With the recently passed federal stimulus bill, scammers are taking advantage of homeowners of all ages by making bogus offers to secure generous grants for home repairs.”

Waite and Getman are warning residents to look out for:
·       Unsolicited phone calls or emails from someone claiming to be an official from the Federal Grants Administration (which does not exist), or a nonprofit organization like the National Residential Improvement Association offering grants or funding for repairs.
·       Social media messages or posts from people excited to share the thousands of dollars they claim to have received from an organization that secures grants for homeowners.
·       Callers who ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a grant. Federal grants never charge for grant applications.
·       Magazine or newspaper ads that offer “free grants.”
·       Calls or emails that claim you’re eligible for a personal grant that does not restrict how you spend the money.

“The important thing with any scam is to protect yourself,” Waite said.  

“There are simple steps that residents can take to guard against scams,”  Getman noted, offering the following:    
·       Do not answer your telephone if you do not recognize the caller or number.
·       Never share personal information over the telephone, like your Medicare number, Social Security number or banking information.
·       Never pay a fee to a company that says it will help you get a grant.
·       Block or unfriend anyone who offers unsolicited grant information on social media. Even if you are “friends” with that person – they may have been hacked.
·       Only use local contractors with validated references to do work in your home.

According to Waite and Getman, if you have been a victim of a scam, you can contact your local law enforcement agency or any of the following:
·       The New York State Attorney General’s Office: 800-771-7755
·       The National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline: 866-720-5721
·       The AARP Fraud Watch Network: 877-908-3360

The Schuyler County Office for the Aging was established as a result of the Older Americans Act of 1965 with the core function being provision of information, referrals and services for county residents age 60 and over, as well as their caregivers.


The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government, including the Office for Aging, Department of Social Services Adult Protective Unit and other county agencies serving the senior population.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Warning issued: Beware of Scams Related to Federal Relief for COVID-19

“Scammers have been using a variety of tools to take advantage of this crisis and steal from New Yorkers,” said Attorney General James. “The latest example involves scammers pretending to be from the federal government and preying on individuals who desperately need financial support right now. I remind all New Yorkers to be vigilant and take precautions to ensure they do not fall victim to these harmful and heartless scams.”

Attorney General James released the following tips for New Yorkers to protect themselves from these scams:

Never give your personal information or financial information out to someone unless you are absolutely sure who they are.

Be alert: scammers may use emails, texts, or webpages that look like they are from the federal government. If someone claims to be from the government with a check for you, it may be a phishing scam that is illegally trying to obtain your bank account or other personal information.

If you are eligible for a payment, you will receive a payment directly from the IRS. Do not pay anyone who promises that they can expedite or obtain a payment or a loan for you. If you are eligible for relief, you will not need to make any up-front payment or pay any fee to receive a stimulus payment. You will not be charged any "processing fees."

Never open attachments or links sent from anyone who claims to be from the government. Do not reply and delete the message right away.

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, click here.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Schuyler County officials make request to visitors during COVID-19 crisis: Stay home, keep everyone safe

As part of the effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Schuyler County officials are asking potential visitors to the county to follow state and federal instructions and stay home until our nation defeats the pandemic.  

While Schuyler County welcomes its seasonal residents and visitors, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued a State of Emergency and Schuyler County has done the same.   

This has been done to protect both county residents and potential travelers during this unsettling and frightening time.

Schuyler County Legislature and other officials. 
In normal times, Schuyler County emergency services and medical facilities are capable of providing excellent care, officials noted.  However, because Schuyler County is rural and has a population of approximately 18,000 people, its emergency and medical communities are limited in their ability to serve a large number of patients.   Statewide, reports have surfaced that hospitals near New York City are already reaching capacity and workers on the frontlines are falling ill.

There is currently no travel ban in New York State, nor is there a state requirement that individuals coming back into the state or between counties within the state be quarantined for fourteen days.    

However, travel between communities has been flagged as a factor in spreading the virus.  For example, the state has seen reports of New York City residents retreating to their second homes in the Hamptons, stressing local hospitals and preventing local businesses from providing necessary goods and services.

On Tuesday (March 24) the White House urged anyone who has been in New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has become widespread in the city.  

Deborah Minor, Public Health Director
In response to federal and state action, county officials will continue to focus efforts on decreasing population density, which has been proven to slow the spread of the virus.  

Schuyler County Public Health Director Deborah Minor alerted any visitor to follow the same precautions set forth for all community members:
·      Stay home as much as possible.
·   If you must go out into our community, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet from one another.
·  If you are ill, isolate yourself and call your healthcare provider.
·      Wash your hands often.
·      If you have symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, seek testing.

Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers thanked county employees for their efforts in fighting the virus and members of the public for their understanding.

“Together we will get through this and protect those at highest risk for serious illness.  Thank you for your understanding in these unusual times.”

Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Positive Test Update from Schuyler County Public Health

Schuyler County Public Health is notifying the community that a Schuyler County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirusThe individual is currently being isolated and monitored by Schuyler County Public Health. Public Health staff are currently identifying close contacts of the confirmed case and any exposure risksIndividuals with exposure risk are currently being quarantined and monitored for symptoms.

We have prepared for COVID-19 to arrive in Schuyler County said Deborah Minor, Public Health Director.“We ask that people please stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others. We need to slow down how quickly the virus spreads in the community. This will help make sure our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed by too many sick people at once.”

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you develop these symptoms, immediately call your healthcare provider for instructions.

Schuyler County Public Health recommends community members take the following actions to protect themselves, their family, and the overall community from COVID-19:

• Stay home and practice social distancing, only leave your home for absolute necessities. Consider getting items like prescriptions mailed to your home.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as faucet handles and doorknobs.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue available, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
• Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
• Do not return to work or school until you have been fever-free for 24 hours.
• Monitor and treat any mild symptoms at home with over-the-counter medicine as appropriate. If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breathcall your health care provider for instructions.

For current and accurate information, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/ or the New York State Health Department (NYSDOH) website at https://www.health.ny.gov/Members of the public can also call the NYSDOH 24/7 hotline if they have general questions about COVID-19. The hotline number is 1-888-364-3065.

For more information, visit Schuyler County Public Health online at www.schuylercounty.us/publichealth or follow Schuyler County Public Health on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Employee Rights: Paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

According to the Department of Labor, "the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020."

Monday, March 23, 2020

Schuyler County moving forward with centralized arraignment plan for local criminal courts

Schuyler County has received notification that New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks and the Office of Court Administration Administrative Board have given final approval to the county’s Centralized Arraignment Part plan for after-hours arrests. The county is currently targeting Monday March 30 for the first day of operations.

The plan is part of the county’s ongoing effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants

The plan is supported by a number of county officials involved in the legal system, including Sheriff William Yessman, District Attorney Joe Fazzary, Public Defender Wesley Roe and County Attorney Steven Getman. It was developed with input from town and village justices and the New York State Office of Court Administration.

The plan was endorsed by the Schuyler County legislature at its February 10 meeting. All legislators in attendance voted for the measure.

Under the plan, anyone arrested within the county when courts are no longer in session, and not given an appearance ticket, will be arraigned in the lobby of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen, as opposed to a town’s jurisdiction. Town and village judges, prosecutors and public defenders will be placed on rotating on-call schedules for arrests made at night, on weekends or during holidays. There is state funding for implementing the plan, which will pay for the cost of installing a judge’s bench in the sheriff’s office lobby.

“Arresting officers must currently maintain custody of an arrestee until able to locate a local court and justice able to conduct the arraignment which is a process that often consumes officer time and can result in the arraignment occurring outside of the times when the Schuyler County Public Defender is able to appear as counsel for the defendant,” the legislature’s resolution of support noted.

“Those charged with a crime are entitled to the assistance of legal counsel at all important stages of their case including at the initial criminal arraignment,” it continued.

A centralized arraignment part, known as a CAP, is not mandated by the state, but many rural counties have found it to be the most effective way of ensuring compliance with the requirements for counsel at arraignment.

The plan is the county’s latest effort to improve court efficiency, conserve law enforcement resources and protect the rights of criminal defendants.

Other efforts have included an intermunicipal agreement with Tompkins County for that county to assist in administering the Schuyler County assigned counsel plan to provide legal representation to indigent criminal defendants and certain family court litigants.

That agreement, prepared by Roe and Getman with input from Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and representatives of Tompkins County, has been praised as “a model approach and is consistent with statewide efforts to help municipalities identify opportunities for cost savings through inter-municipal cooperation, reorganization, and regionalization,” by the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services.

A copy of the resolution supporting the plan is available here.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Schuyler County Government Update on COVID-19, March 20, 2020

Due to the unprecedented public health impacts associated with responding to the COVID 19 pandemic, Schuyler County has instituted measures intended to limit the spread of this disease. While we have substantially reduced or limited access to all County buildings in the interest of slowing the transmission of this virus, we have taken steps to continue delivery of service.

Specifically, we have increased our capacity to work remotely and will strive to continue to provide County services utilizing a different manner of delivery wherever possible, to minimize in-person contact. Essential services (law enforcement, emergency services, public health…etc.) will continue to operate at full staffing.

Here is specific departmental information outlining the changes that have been instituted to protect our staff and the public we serve.

The County will continue to work closely with our state and federal partners to aggressively battle the spread of this disease and appreciate your understanding and assistance in helping to “flatten the curve” of contagion.

While this is an unprecedented event and response, what is not unprecedented is our community’s ability to persevere and assist our neighbors in a time of crisis. We ask that you continue this tradition, stay calm and heed the directives.

Together we will get through this!