Albion man recovering after heart, liver transplant
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2021 at 1:13 pm

Matt Grammatico had surgery last week at Cleveland Clinic

Photo courtesy of Grammatico family: Matt Grammatico gives thumbs up while he recovers after getting a heart and liver transplant on Jan. 12. Grammatico has been at the Cleveland Clinic for more than three months.

CLEVELAND – An Albion man is recovering so well after getting a heart and liver transplant last week that he has been moved out of the intensive care unit at the Cleveland Clinic – a week ahead of schedule .

Matt Grammatico, 47, has been at the hospital in Cleveland since Oct. 16. He had the transplant surgery on Jan. 12.

“I’m hopeful for the future,” Grammatico said by phone on Wednesday. “The doctors are all happy where I’m at. Honestly, they are stunned with how fast I’m coming out of it.”

Grammatico was born with a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome. He had major heart surgery as a baby followed by an open-heart reconstructive surgery when he was 11. He has needed multiple procedures and surgeries throughout the next 30-plus years of his life.

During one of the surgeries as a child, he was unknowingly given a Hepatitis C tainted blood transfusion. The virus attacked his liver, undiscovered, for more than 20 years, further complicating his health. He has endured end-stage liver disease.

Grammatico’s health deteriorated in the past year, and Cleveland Clinic kept him in good enough condition for the surgery. He was in the operating room for about 19 hours.

Normally patients are in the ICU for two weeks after the surgery. Grammatico was able to move out of ICU after one week and is now in a transplant step down unit. He said he is in a lot of pain and feels a little groggy.

But he is very thankful for the medical team, the organ donor and for a supportive community. He praises God for the surgery’s success so far.

It was almost three years ago when the Albion community put on a spaghetti dinner and basket raffle for Grammatico on Jan. 27, 2018 at the Carlton Rec Hall.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Matt Grammatico is pictured in January 2018 at his former auto repair shop, MPG Automotive in Hamlin.

Grammatico’s wife Rhonda has been in Cleveland since Oct. 16, but hasn’t been able to see her husband, face to face, due to Covid restrictions. She has been staying in a hotel room and having frequent phone and video conversations with her husband.

Grammatico said the separation from his family, including son Nate, has been very difficult. If he continues to progress, he could be released from the hospital possibly next week. Usually patients are in the transplant step down unit for a week to three weeks before being released. He then has to stay in Cleveland and check in for daily tests at the hospital for at least a month.

His wife has been providing updates on her husband’s journey at the Cleveland Clinic on Facebook through the “Feel The Love With Matt” page.

Matt Grammatico chats with friends on Jan. 27, 2018 during a fundraiser on his behalf at the Carlton Rec Hall.

Grammatico worked as a truck driver for 17 years and then owned his auto repair business in Hamlin. His father, Mike Grammatico, was a long-time music teacher at Albion.

Matt was informed there were organs for him and he was prepped for the transplant surgery on Dec. 30. But the doctors determined the liver had “declined” and it would be better to wait. Mrs. Grammatico shared that patients and their loved ones need to be prepared for “dry runs” where the surgery gets cancelled.

“We love you so much, thank you for rallying and praying and cheerleading alongside of us,” Mrs. Grammatico wrote on Facebook on Dec. 30. “We know the next call is coming in God’s good time. Praise God, Matt is in great spirits and he is in the wonderful hands of the doctors and our Lord! We will continue to be patient and wait for the next call.”

The call came in the morning on Jan. 12. Grammatico was prepared for surgery and his donor heart was in place inside his chest just after noon. The liver proved to be more time consuming. He was out of surgery at about 2:30 a.m.

“Transplant surgeries are done, Matt is doing well!” Mrs. Grammatico posted at 2:31 a.m. on Jan. 13. “He is closed and is heading down to Cardio/Vascular ICU now.

“While we are full of joy for this opportunity for a new and healthy life for Matt we are closing out tonight in a moment of silence in honor of the angel donor who saved the lives of multiple people today~ Beautiful Soul, may God bless you and keep you in perfect joy and peace with Him, all the days of eternity~”

Grammatico was able to call his wife later that day and came through with a strong voice – “I AM HERE, THANK YOU GOD, I AM HERE, PRAISE YOU LORD, I AM HERE,” he proclaimed on the call to his wife.

Mrs. Grammatico, an aide at the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School in Albion, said the family is very thankful to be at this stage. She said the nurses, physician assistants, doctors, surgeons and medical staff are “God-appointed miracle workers.”

“We can never say thank you enough to these absolutely outstanding folks, and we will never stop saying it – God bless you all, we are forever thankful for each one of you!” Mrs. Grammatico wrote.

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Albion native inducted into NYS Athletic Administrators Assoc. Hall of Fame
By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 21 January 2021 at 12:25 pm

Contributed Photo – Michael Monacelli

Albion native and former long time Caledonia-Mumford High varsity football coach and Athletic Director Michael Monacelli has been inducted into the New York State Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame.

Monacelli, who received his B.S. Degree at Eastern Kentucky University and his M.S. in Education degree and post masters studies in Educational Administration at SUNY Brockport, taught and coached at Cal-Mum for 44 years before retiring in 2014. He coached football for 39 years as served as Director of Athletics for 11 years.

During his 23 years as head football coach Cal-Mum compiled a won-loss record of 186- 50 which including winning four state championships and 10 Section V titles.

He previously has been inducted into the Section V Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in Rochester in 2010.

In addition, he received the Gerald R. Ford Coaching Excellence and Power of Influence Award in 2004 from the American Football Coaches Association and American Coaches Foundation. Also in 2004, he was a nominee for the National High School Athletes Association Coach of the Year award.

He was a member of the Chapter 5 Executive Committee and an original member of the Chapter 5 Concussion Management Team.

The release announcing his induction notes that “Mike realized the need to have his district be on task with concussion protocols. He developed and implemented this new district policy. As a result of this, in May of 2010, Mike appeared before the House Committee on Education and Labor in Washington, D.C., presenting on how the districts’ concussion management policies were integrated into the school’s master plan. Caledonia-Mumford’s Concussion Management Protocols were eventually used as a template for local high schools as they developed their own.”

The release adds that “in his years as Director of Athletics, Mike developed and implemented new district policies: Coaching manuals, Middle School Athletic Policies and Procedures, Coaching Evaluations, Contest Management Procedures and Security Protocols.

Over the years Monacelli has also been very active in the Caledonia-Mumford community having served as the village recreation director and as a member of the Lions Club, the Knights of Columbus and the Sons of the American Legion.

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Orleans, Genesee set schedule for vaccine clinics
Staff Reports Posted 21 January 2021 at 10:57 am

Orleans will have clinics at Ridgeway Fire Hall while GCC hosts the events in Genesee

Orleans and Genesee counties are announcing they will be hosting vaccine clinics.

Orleans will administer Covid-19 vaccinations on Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. starting Tuesday, January 26, at the Ridgeway Fire Hall (11392 Ridge Road, Medina, NY).

Vaccinations for the Orleans County vaccine clinic are through online appointment only (click here for more information).

Genesee will administer the vaccines on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. at Genesee Community College (1 College Road, Batavia, NY) starting Monday, January 25.

Vaccinations for the GCC clinics are through online appointment only (click here for more information).

Vaccinations at both sites will be conducted inside and are based on the availability of the vaccine, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments said.

“As we have stressed since the vaccine became available and the number of people eligible to receive the vaccine has increased significantly, we are urging people to be patient,” said Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments Director Paul Pettit. “Everything regarding scheduling a vaccine appointment no matter if you are trying through the county health department, through a local pharmacy or for the state-run clinics is being funneled to the state’s data management page.”

People should not be calling the health departments, vaccination sites such as pharmacies or their provider to schedule a test, the local public health officials said.

The registration links will direct people to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) website specific to available appointments for that provider. If a person visits the Genesee County Department of Health Vaccine Webpage, click the Clinic Schedule button and click one of the listed provider links to schedule an appointment. People will be directed to the appointment page on NYSDOH data management system for that provider’s vaccine clinic.

Those making appointments should be aware that the state appointment system has experienced technical issues due to the volume of people trying to access it for appointments.

If a person tries to schedule an appointment at a local pharmacy e.g. Tops Markets, Rite-Aid, etc. by visiting their website, whatever link you click on will direct you to the NYSDOH website for that location. Providers’ clinic schedules are subject to change based on vaccine availability.

Pettit noted that there are approximately 50,000 residents in Genesee and Orleans currently eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine and approximately 1,600 doses available this week, although all appointments are full. Vaccine allocation is on a week-by-week schedule, with the possibility of no vaccine to each of the providers requesting it.

“This is resulting in people receiving the message of ‘no appointments available’ when clicking on the link and we are being told anecdotally that some people keep clicking on the link for hours at a time and getting this same message,” Pettit said. “We don’t want to deter people for going on-line and trying to schedule an appointment, but we want to make them aware of what to expect because it can get frustrating very easily.”

Please continue to monitor the local vaccine site and the state site for a list of additional clinics to receive the vaccine.

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Albion students in Rotary Interact deliver donuts to essential workers
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2021 at 9:48 am

Provided photos

ALBION – Members of the Rotary Interact Club at Albion High School delivered 10 dozen donut boxes to different groups of essential workers in community. Rotary Interact wanted to show their appreciation to the groups for their extra hard work during the pandemic.

The top photo shows the group delivering two boxes of donuts to staff at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee.

Pictured form left include Sarah Mathes, Kiarra Shuler, advisor Tim Archer, Leah Kania, Bonnie Malakie (director of children and youth service for Community Action), Renee Hungerford (director of Community Action), Annette Finch (director of community services for the agency) and Alison Mathes.

Leah Kania of the Rotary Interact presents a box of donuts to Vicki Havholm, Nutrition Program Coordinator for Meals on Wheels.

Sarah Mathes hands off a box of donuts to Melissa Blanar, director of the Orleans County Office for the Aging.

The Rotary Interact members delivered a box of donuts Supportive Care of Orleans (Hospice). Kathy Strong, an RN for Supportive Care, accepted the donuts on behalf of her coworkers.

Rotary Interact also brought donuts to The Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center, the Public Health Department in Orleans County and the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency.

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3 in Army National Guard killed in helicopter crash in Mendon
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 9:26 pm

Governor directs flags to be lowered in their honor on Thursday

MENDON – Three soldiers in the NY Army National Guard were killed this evening in Mendon when a helicopter crashed while on a routine training mission.

The UH-60 medical evacuation helicopter is based at the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport. In crashed in the Town of Mendon in Monroe County at about 6:30 p.m. The aircraft was assigned to the C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation battalion, the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued this statement:

“I am devastated by the news tonight of a New York Army National Guard helicopter crash in the Town of Mendon that killed three of New York’s bravest during a training mission.

“National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honorable heroes who we will never forget.

“I am directing that flags on all State buildings be lowered to half-staff tomorrow in honor of and in tribute to these New Yorkers who dedicated their service to nation and state.”

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, issued this statement:

“The men and women of our armed forces risk their lives every day, and some even make the ultimate sacrifice serving our country. Whether serving overseas or at home, what they do is extremely dangerous and puts our nation’s needs before the needs of oneself. Tonight’s news of a crash involving a New York Army National Guard aircraft and the loss of three soldiers’ lives is a sober reminder of the dangers that come with service. We pray for those who have perished, and our thoughts are with the loved ones they leave behind.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs, R-Orchard Park, issued this statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the National Guard helicopter crash in Mendon this evening that resulted in the loss of three lives. My prayers are with the loved ones of these service members lost. I am closely monitoring the situation as details emerge, and stand ready to provide assistance in any way I can.”

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John Keding – “Mr. Lion” – passes away at 85, just months after retiring as mechanic
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 7:13 pm

Albion man worked as a mechanic for 70 years, served in Lions Club for more than 50 years

Photos by Tom Rivers: John Keding is shown outside Keding Automotive in Albion when he celebrated his 80th birthday on Sept. 2, 2015.

ALBION – The community is mourning John Keding, a long-time mechanic and active member of the Albion Lions Club for more than a half century.

Besides fixing automobiles for decades, Keding served with the Lions since 1968. If people had the sausage and peppers at the Lions Club booth at the Strawberry Festival or at other community events, there’s a good chance that Keding was working the grill.

He was “the keeper of the roses” for the Lions Club, using space at his shop to store about 350 dozen roses that the Lions Club sold as a fundraiser near Mother’s Day. He also had a collection box at Keding Automotive for people to donate used glasses to Lions, which would give them to people in need.

Keding also cooked pancakes at the fly-in breakfasts at the Pine Hill Airport in Barre.

“He was the backbone of the Albion Lions Club,” said longtime member Dennis Smith. “He really helped to establish the Lions Club in Albion.”

For 25 years he did the thankless job of being club secretary, keeping track of reports and other paperwork and sending monthly reports to Lions International. The other club members often referred to him as “Mr. Lion.”

“I enjoy the camaraderie with the guys,” Keding told the Orleans Hub in February 2014, when he was recognized for 45 years in the Lions Club. “We do things for the community without getting paid for it.”

John Keding works the grill during the Rock the Park Festival at Bullard Park in July 2015.

Keding retired as a mechanic in August, a month before his 85thbirthday. He intended to retire at 65 but enjoyed interacting with customers and getting their vehicles back on the road, said his daughter Christine Buorgiorne.

His last three years he continued to run Keding Automotive on East Avenue, despite needing dialysis three times a week due to failed kidneys. Often he would take a short nap after dialysis and show up at the shop, grabbing a wrench.

Kevin Howard, a retire state trooper and senior investigator, met Keding in the late ’70s when Keding worked on the patrol cars for the State Police.

“He was always so accommodating to us,” Howard said today.

Howard joined the Lions Club about 15 years ago and also served as a local town justice. Keding, even while battling health issues, kept showing up at work and for the Lions, Howard said.

“He was always willing to help the community,” Howard said. “He never seemed to want to quit.”

Keding started as a mechanic at age 14, first fixing lawn mowers and installing turning signals. He learned the auto mechanic trade at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich., beginning the two-year program in 1953. He worked for General Motors for three years before a two-year stint in Army at Fort Dix from 1958 to 1960.

He returned to Albion in 1960 and worked as a mechanic for a car dealership for 13 years before a brief stint as an electrician.

John Keding of Albion cooks sausage at the fly-in breakfast at Pine Hill Airport in September 2013.

He opened his own business at the East Avenue location in January 1974. During an interview in August, Keding said the work has become more high-tech with problems in cars more difficult to diagnose due to computers and electronics in vehicles.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said about his career. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”

Keding also taught mechanics at BOCES and led an evening class that he called W.O.W. (Women on Wheels), giving women the basics in keeping a car running.

Keding and his wife of 63 years, Pat, raised three children in Albion. Their daughter Christine Buongiorne said her dad made family time a priority and enjoyed Sunday drives with his wife, including trips to Letchworth State Park.

Keding was a good teacher, and encouraged his kids, including two daughters, to know how to use tools.

“Dad was from a different era and time,” Buongiorne said today. “Being in a service club was a way for him to give back. With his career as a mechanic, he loved what he did. He was not a quitter in any way, shape or form.”

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New Covid cases today include 28 in Orleans, 55 in Genesee
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 4:40 pm

Genesee County reaches 100 deaths from Covid

There are 83 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Genesee and Orleans counties today, bringing the combined total in the two counties to 5,454 since March.

Genesee County is reporting the death of a resident over age 65 who lived at Genesee Senior Living in Batavia. This is the 100thdeath from Covid in Genesee County, according to the state Department of Health.

“We do not provide any further information to protect the privacy of the individual and their family,” the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments said in a news briefing today. “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Orleans County also is reporting a death from Covid, a person over age 65. This person wasn;t a nursing home resident and lived in the community, the Health Departments said. The state DOH data says Orleans County has had 69 residents die from Covid during the pandemic.

In Orleans County today there are also 28 new confirmed cases to report for a total of 1,946 during the pandemic.

The positive cases reside in the West Region (Yates, Ridgeway, Shelby), Central Region (Carlton, Gaines, Albion, Barre) and East Region (Kendall, Murray, Clarendon). The individuals are in the age groups of 0-19, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s.

None of the new cases were people on quarantine prior to testing positive.

Of the new cases, four are residents of Orchard Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Orleans is reporting 20 of the previous positive individuals have recovered and been removed from the isolation list.

The county currently has 13 individuals hospitalized due to Covid.

In Genesee County, there are 55 new positive cases of Covid for a total of 3,508 cases since March.

The new positive cases reside in the West Region (Alabama, Darien, Pembroke), Central Region (Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Elba, Oakfield) and East Region (Bergen, Byron, LeRoy, Pavilion, Stafford). The individuals are in the age groups of 0-19, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Genesee is reporting that 57 more people have recovered and been removed from the isolation list.

The county has 15 residents hospitalized due to Covid.

• Covid-19 related fatality data: The G-O Health Departments said they are only able to report the number of Covid-related deaths that are provided by the hospitals, nursing homes and family members.

The hospitals and nursing homes are not required to report these deaths to the local health departments, but have been as they are able. Please note the chart will now include the state fatalities link on Monday through Thursday and will include the state’s updated data on the Friday report. Click here to see the state data on Covid deaths per county.

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Biden calls on unity as nation faces challenges, deep divisions
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 2:50 pm

‘I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.’ – President Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Joe Biden took the oath as the country’s 46th president today and called on Americans to come together to face daunting challenges, including a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans, an economy crippled by Covid-19, a warming planet and an “Uncivil War” where people from opposing views can’t see to simply disagree but see the other side as the enemy.

Biden, the former vice president and senator from Delaware, said the country needs its collective efforts to overcome so many challenges, including racism.

He asked people who supported Donald Trump for president to give him a chance while he strives to be a president for everyone.

“I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did,” Biden said. “For all those who supported our campaign, I’m humbled by the faith you placed in us. To all those who did not support us, let me say this. Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America.”

Biden, at 78, is the oldest person to be sworn in as president. He vowed to defend the Constitution, democracy and America while pursing the “public good.”

The new president observed a moment of silence for the 400,000 Americans who have died due to Covid-19. The “once-in-a-century virus” has taken more American lives than the country lost in all of World War II, Biden said.

Covid-19 has also left millions of people out of work.

“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words,” Biden said. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”

He pledged to “repair our alliances” in the world, end the isolationist “America First” approach under Trump.

Kamala Harris, the former U.S. senator from California, was sworn in as vice president, the first woman to serve in the role. She is also the first Black and first person from South Asia to serve in the position.

The inauguration outside the Capitol included Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, Jennifer Lopez performing “America the Beautiful” and Garth Brooks singing “Amazing Grace.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, issued this statement:

“Today’s inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris was a demonstration of the American people’s resolve and optimism. While our nation continues to face an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, the inauguration was a moment of hope, and the start of a journey to not only recover from the pandemic, but to rebuild and strengthen our nation.

“To see my friend Kamala Harris, a daughter of immigrants, be sworn in as our nation’s first woman vice president and first Black and South Asian vice president, was a truly historic and unforgettable moment. President Biden will be a president for all Americans and I’m ready to work with him to lay the foundation for a brighter future.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs issued this statement on the inauguration:

“It was an honor to represent the citizens of the 27th Congressional District at the 59th Presidential Inauguration to witness the peaceful transition of power that has, and always will be, a cornerstone of our democracy. I wish President Biden and Vice President Harris well as they lead our nation and I commit to working with their administration to advance the interests of Western New York.

“This is a time to move our nation forward and unite. It is not the time for partisan agenda items – but actionable solutions that directly address the serious needs of the American people. We must work together to safely reopen our economy and schools, confront the national security threats facing our nation, and set a course toward future prosperity for small businesses, farmers, and workers.”

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Catholic Charities launches $10 million fundraising appeal
Posted 20 January 2021 at 10:49 am

Funding supports 57 programs and services in WNY

Press Release, Catholic Charities

Provided photo: Bishop Michael W. Fisher speaks during the Catholic Charities kickoff on Tuesday at the Russell J. Salvatore Food Pantry and Outreach in Lackawanna, one of nine Catholic Charities’ food pantries. Catholic Charities funds programs in eight Western New York counties, including Orleans.

BUFFALO – Appeal 2021 was launched on Tuesday at Catholic Charities of Buffalo’s Russell J. Salvatore Food Pantry and Outreach in Lackawanna with a goal of raising $10 million by June 30. This year’s theme is “HOPE.”

“For 97 years Catholic Charities has been supporting the community with basic and crucial needs, providing a beacon of hope to our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet and those who are facing challenges with their health and well-being,” said Deacon Steve Schumer, president and CEO, Catholic Charities. “We are confident that in the days and weeks ahead, Western New Yorkers will once again show their generosity by supporting Appeal 2021 and giving hope to individuals, children and families in need throughout our region.”

The annual Appeal helps fund 57 programs and services administered by Catholic Charities across 80 locations, along with several ministries that benefit all parishes through the Fund for the Faith. Catholic Charities is the most comprehensive human services provider serving people of all faiths across all eight counties of Western New York.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher, in one of his first public appearances as newly installed 15th Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, spoke about the Appeal as being where the “rubber meets the road and how we demonstrate and experience the transformative love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Programs and services provided by Catholic Charities supported more than 149,000 individuals, children, and families in 2020. These included basic emergency assistance such as food pantries, educational and vocational advancement services, family safety and stabilization services, immigration and refugee assistance, mental health and substance use treatment, and youth and family support services.

Once again, donors can designate their Appeal gift. Donors can choose from three options: give to the Appeal, which benefits both Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith; give to Catholic Charities only; or give to the Fund for the Faith only.

To donate to Appeal 2021, visit or call 716-218-1400. To find help through Catholic Charities, call the Helpline at 716-218-1419.

(Editor’s Note: Last year’s Catholic Charities Appeal raised $8.4 million, $1.6 million short of the goal.)

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Farm Bureau, School Boards Association, others see positives in Cuomo budget
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 10:17 am

Organizations representing highway superintendents, schools, agriculture and other industries are praising a budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, which was presented on Tuesday. Cuomo said many of the proposals are contingent on the federal government coming through with aid for the state and local governments.

Cuomo is urging the Biden Administration and Congress to come through with $15 billion in addition relief for the state.

Here are some responses to the governor’s budget.

New York Farm Bureau: Broadband and Nourish NY are priorities

“Governor Cuomo’s proposed executive budget rests on many uncertainties facing our state’s fiscal future. Without additional federal support, agricultural programs and rural needs would undoubtedly suffer.

“The Governor’s budget address highlighted two priority issues for New York Farm Bureau, universal and accessible broadband and $25 million in additional funding for Nourish NY. Many rural communities are still lacking affordable and fast broadband which in turn slows down business activity and family necessities that many New Yorkers take for granted.

“Nourish NY has proven a lifeline for people in need as well as for many of our farms. When there were major disruptions along the food supply chain at the beginning of the pandemic, Nourish NY stepped in to coordinate a pathway to move food from the farms to food banks, compensating farmers for their products and reducing food waste at the same time. The program must continue.

“As we take a deep dive into the budget, we are pleased that Governor Cuomo has also extended the farm workforce retention tax credit of $600 per employee. Its purpose was to ease the burden of climbing minimum wage rates on the fragile farm economy. New York Farm Bureau will continue to monitor budget information as it rolls out, especially considering the mounting deficit the state finds itself in this year.

“We urge lawmakers to be careful how they spend money. The agricultural budget is a tiny fraction of overall state spending, but farms feed all New Yorkers and are an economic engine that returns state investment exponentially. Funding reductions for research, marketing, conservation programs and the like would place even larger barriers in front of the state’s farms and food system that would prove more costly to correct down the road.”

Highway Superintendents: ‘Essential to invest in local roads and bridges’

Statement from New York State County Highway Superintendents Association President Todd Gadd: “The New York State County Highway Superintendents Association is encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s continued focus on infrastructure. As detailed in the State of the State address, the governor’s ambitious agenda will create good-paying jobs and revive communities around those projects. As our leaders in Albany begin to rebuild the state’s economy, it’s essential that they invest in local roads and bridges.

“Restoring funding for important initiatives like New York’s Consolidated Local Streets & Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), BRIDGE-NY, PAVE-NY and other local transportation programs will put thousands of New Yorkers to work right away while ensuring the safety of motorists. Additionally, Governor Cuomo and legislators should increase the level; of funding for the state’s Extreme Winter Recovery program to $100 million. These are smart investments that will yield significant returns.

“Our organization looks forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Beastie and all legislators to ensure significant funding for essential local roads and bridges. Together, we can get our economy moving again.”

School Boards: Budget should provide stability for education, not unpredictability and anxiety

Statement from New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert Schneider: “Governor Cuomo presented a budget proposal – or actually, two proposals – today that includes a lot of unknowns and uncertainty for school districts. The unusual design of his budget presentation – one that assumes a minimum level of federal assistance to New York and one that provides a fairer share – underscores the fact that the governor’s budget plan is, more this year than ever, a work in progress.

“We are heartened by the state’s success in paring back the projected budget deficit, though the gap still remains daunting. New York is in dire need of assistance from the federal government, and we join with the governor in calling for our state to receive its fair share of future Covid relief packages.

“We remain concerned with the governor’s proposals to help balance the state’s budget at the expense of school districts. Those proposals include: using federal money to offset state aid cuts, reducing and consolidating categorical aids, limiting reimbursement for the steps districts took to keep their transportation programs intact last spring and eliminating prior year aid claims.

“We fully support the governor’s call for the federal government to remove the “SALT” cap on state and local tax deductibility, which has hurt so many New Yorkers who support their local school districts with their property tax payments.

“On the heels of the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic, our schools and our students need and deserve a recovery that provides financial stability, not more unpredictability and anxiety. We are hopeful that, with sufficient federal help, our students and schools will thrive in the post-Covid recovery. We look forward to working with our state lawmakers to chart a course that provides the financial stability that our schools and students need.

Teachers: Don’t cut funding to schools, colleges and other public services

Statement from New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta: “This tale of two budgets is stark and a clear message to Washington that New York needs its fair share in additional stimulus funding. We agree. But, as we’ve said since last year, a two-pronged approach to the state’s fiscal crisis that includes additional federal funding for public services and new state taxes on the ultrawealthy is a long-term imperative.

“It’s a positive signal to hear that the governor’s best case scenario budget would turn fair funding from Washington into significant resources for K-12 education, higher education and health care. However, under the ‘worst case scenario,’ using federal money while reducing the state’s share of education funding — rather than supplementing state funding — is reminiscent of the Gap Elimination Adjustment we fought for years to close. As a state, we can’t afford to view cuts of any kind to public schools and colleges, public health care, and other public services funded by state and local governments as a default option — especially when the billionaire class has seen its wealth grow as millions of New York families have struggled during this pandemic.

“We look forward to reviewing the executive budget legislation in detail and amplifying the voices of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in education, higher education, human services and health care in Albany and Washington in the months ahead to fight for a budget that meets New Yorkers’ needs during this COVID crisis.”

Restaurant workers: Relief needed for restaurant industry

Statement from Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit representing subminimum wage workers: “One Fair Wage appreciates Cuomo’s singling out the restaurant industry, given the devastating blow it’s taken by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, we hope that the much-needed relief for the industry will include those struggling the most – restaurant workers – by eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers. New York restaurants cannot recover and thrive after the pandemic without their essential workers, and workers cannot return to work without One Fair Wage.

“With tips down 50-75% and instances of sexual harassment on the job increasing every day, the subminimum wage for tipped workers has changed from an issue of racial, economic and gender injustice to becoming an issue of life or death, not to mention a public health emergency.

“President-Elect Biden recognized this when he announced on Thursday that a $15 minimum wage and One Fair Wage – a full minimum wage for tipped workers with tips on top – would be part of his Covid-10 relief package that is moving quickly in Congress. We hope that Governor Cuomo can align with President-Elect Biden and make New York a leader in getting ahead of this federal legislation by making One Fair Wage a part of his Covid-19 relief package for small businesses and restaurants, in particular in New York.”

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Association of Counties backs governor’s call for significant federal aid
Posted 20 January 2021 at 9:21 am

Press Release, New York Association of Counties

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday outlined the 2021-22 New York State Executive Budget, which calls on Washington to deliver state and local aid.

Counties have pledged to continue working with the Governor, State Lawmakers, and our NYS Congressional Delegation to urge Washington to provide federal funds for states and local governments. Without this aid, the Governor said he will be forced to make dramatic cuts, which would impact county budgets, place new burdens on local taxpayers, and jeopardize county health and human service programs for the New Yorkers most in need.

Included in the budget presentation materials supplied by the Division of Budget were several key proposals that counties proposed in November, including:

  • Making local sales tax authority permanent and allowing all counties to go to 4% percent
  • Collecting of local sales tax on recreational cannabis transactions
  • Reducing in the state’s withholding of local aid – contingent upon the amount of federal aid
  • Reducing the judgement interest rates to the market interest rate.
  • Extending the authority to piggyback on contracts for 2 years
  • Allowing shared jails between contiguous counties
  • Providing flexibility in jail staffing
  • Reforming Early Intervention to provide savings and greater flexibility
  • Expanding investment options for local governments

NYSAC will provide more details from the proposed spending plan as they become available.

“While this state budget proposal includes plenty of unknowns, especially whether the federal government will provide state and local Covid response funding, we are optimistic that our county leaders can work with state lawmakers to finalize a budget that strengthens our communities and help rebuild our local economies,” said NYSAC President Jack Marren, who is chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors. “Our staff of legislative experts at NYSAC will be looking through the budget bills as they become available, and they will report on areas of direct and indirect impact on counties.”

“This state budget depends of federal funding from Congress and the new administration,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario. “Counties, too, have made the case for the over $2 billion in lost county revenues during this Covid-19 pandemic. We are confident that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and New York’s congressional delegation understand the challenges facing our local governments, and they will work in Washington to ensure the passage of a federal stimulus packages that helps states and local governments as we fight to win this war against Covid.”

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Local state legislators say Cuomo shifts blame in describing state’s fiscal woes
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 9:11 am

Orleans County representatives in the State Legislature are critical of the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget proposal.

Cuomo on Tuesday said the state is in dire need of federal aid to close a $15 billion budget gap. Without that aid, the state would be forced to make cuts to education and critical programs, borrow money, raise taxes and put off capital investments, Cuomo said.

Here are the statements from the local state legislators.

State Sen. Robert Ortt (R-Tonawanda), who is also the State Senate Republican leader:

“(The) 2021 Executive Budget presentation was full of wishful thinking but lacked any sort of tangible substance. The Governor continues to shift blame to the federal government while Albany Democrats skirt responsibility and allow the Governor to make all of the decisions unilaterally. New York’s overtaxing and overspending far predate Covid, and it’s time for the state government to realize that on behalf of our struggling businesses and middle-class families. This is poor financial management and poor governing.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R-Batavia):

“Over the course of an hour the Governor got on TV and continued to blame everyone and everything but himself for our state’s financial woes. Instead of threatening to sue the federal government if they don’t do enough to bail us out of the mess the Governor had a great deal to do with, he should be talking about what we can do ourselves to cut wasteful spending, because we can’t always rely on Washington to save us from our Governor’s bad spending habits.

“What New Yorkers needed to hear was a detailed plan to work with local governments to distribute vaccines effectively, save our small businesses and help families keep food on their tables, but all they got were a few helpful proposals mixed among a sea of wasteful ones, including a proposal to spend $10 million this year on helping illegal immigrants pay their legal fees. Now more than ever we need to tighten our belts fiscally and focus on what matters, and I am disappointed (Tuesday’s) budget address did neither.”

State Assemblyman Mike Norris (R-Lockport):

“After a week of State of the State speeches, New Yorkers need real action to move our state forward. I am ready to work together with the governor and my colleagues to get a fiscally responsible state budget passed. This year’s budget will be unlike any we have seen before, and while now is the time for restraint and prudence, it is also the time to focus on our economy, infrastructure and our schools.

“We cannot allow Albany to impose another tax-and-spend, policy-heavy budget on our state. New Yorkers need a simple, clear fiscal plan that will help our businesses, local governments and schools get back on their feet and move forward. For the better part of a year, through no fault of their own, the hardworking people of our state have been shut down and shut out of the discussion about their future in our state. Already over one million people have left New York and, if Albany doesn’t take action soon, more will follow.

“While I review the governor’s plan and work with my colleagues to oversee the budget process as a member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, I will be focused on three important priorities for our Western New York community. First, infrastructure projects are needed in order to get our state up and running.

“Claims that 98 percent of our state has access to broadband internet are simply not true, especially in rural parts of our community. That must be remedied immediately. Our roads, bridges and sewers also need to be modernized.

“Secondly, our businesses need immediate help. The aid we anticipate coming in from Washington, D.C. must go in large part to helping our local employers before more of our businesses close their doors forever. People need jobs. We need local economies all across our state. This is an emergency of the state’s creation, and Albany needs to treat it as such.

“And finally, but certainly of extreme importance, are the organizations in our community that make living here truly home. Our schools need help, that’s without doubt. But our local volunteer fire companies are also in dire straits. Because of the shutdown, they were unable to fundraise for the necessary, basic operating capital they need to protect our lives and property during life threatening emergencies and natural disasters. Without them, how will we be protected?

“The state’s primary obligation is to ensure public safety, and it needs to step up to make things right by including provisions of my legislation to reimburse volunteer fire companies for lost operating aid as part of this year’s budget. I have fought very hard to advocate for our volunteer firefighters over the years, and I will continue doing so to make sure they have a voice during this budget.”

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Cuomo’s 2021-22 state budget plan leans on federal aid to close $15 billion gap
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 8:55 am

Photo from Governor’s Office: Andrew Cuomo presents his executive budget on Tuesday in Albany.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday presented his executive budget that totals $192.9 billion for the fiscal year 2021-22. New York will need the federal government to fill a $15 billion budget gap or else the state will have to make cuts, reduce reimbursements to local governments and non-profits, borrow money and raise taxes, Cuomo said.

“New York cannot manage a $15 billion deficit,” Cuomo said. “These numbers are all hard to put into context. The largest deficit in the State in history was $10 billion and I managed a $10 billion deficit. It was very, very hard. $15 billion in this environment is just impossible for a state to manage. It’s beyond what we can do. It is going to require assistance from the federal government. The question is how much assistance will we get?”

The governor said he believes the Biden Administration and Congress will come through with the aid and help the state get through their fiscal challenges that are expected to last through 2024, when the state anticipates the economy and jobs returning from the pandemic shutdowns. About half of the 1.9 million jobs lost are back, Cuomo said.

The lost jobs include 6,000 people on the state payroll, positions that became vacant this past year and were not refilled.

The state’s tax revenues have taken a hit from Covid’s impact on the economy and the federal government also has siphoned off revenue from the state, Cuomo said, calling New York “a political piñata for this federal government.”

Biden has proposed the American Rescue plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help the country recover from the cost of Covid. Part of the plan includes $350 billion for state and local financing.

“The question becomes how do they distribute that $350 billion?” Cuomo said. “How much of that funding goes to the New York State government?”

Some highlights of the executive budget include:

• Education – $31.7 billion, up from $29.6 billion or by 7.1 percent. This includes funding for school districts through School Aid, STAR, and federal funds to support operational costs of school districts that educate 2.6 million students statewide. Approximately 70 percent of these funds are targeted to high-need school districts.

The school aid includes $4.3 Billion in Federal Supplemental Funds. Given the extraordinary strain that the pandemic has placed on school districts, educators and students, the budget allocates funds to schools to support ongoing operational and pandemic-related costs.

Cuomo is proposing two new revenue generators that could bring in $800 million to the state.

•Mobile Sports Betting: A new mobile sports wagering market will provide more than $500 million for the state and grow what could be the largest sports wagering market in the U.S. into a profitable industry long-term, Cuomo said.

• Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis: Cuomo proposes to legalize cannabis for adult use. Legalization will not only ensure public health and safety, but provide an opportunity for the state to generate more than $300 million in tax revenue.

• Reimagine the Erie Canal: Building on the findings of the Reimagine the Canal Task Force, the New York Power Authority Board, which now oversees the Canal Corporation, will invest $300 million over the next five years to integrate the Empire State Trail and Erie Canal into a new “Empire Line” system that will stimulate tourism and economic development, address environmental challenges unknown a century ago, and create an asset that will improve the quality of life in communities along the 360-mile spine of the Erie Canal.

• Affordable Internet for All Low-Income Families: Currently, a basic high-speed internet plan costs, on average, more than $50 a month. The Executive Budget includes first-in-the-nation legislation requiring internet service providers to offer an affordable $15 per month high speed internet plan to all low-income households.

To further bridge the gap, the State will partner with Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation to launch a new hardship fund to pay for internet subscriptions for our most in need students who cannot afford $15 per month during this crisis.

• Downtown Revitalization: The pandemic has kept New Yorkers at home to save lives, disrupting the flow of commerce in the downtown communities across the State. These areas need support now more than ever, Cuomo said. To that end, the budget provides $100 million for another round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which has been transforming downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise families, Cuomo said.

• Enact the Pandemic Recovery and Restart Program: New York will establish three new tax credits and expand another totaling $130 million to help smaller businesses in the accommodation, arts and entertainment, restaurant and musical and theatrical production industries to recover from the pandemic and bring back jobs to New York.

  • Small Business Return-To-Work Tax Credit: This provides up to $50 million in tax credits to support small businesses in highly impacted sectors in the hiring of additional workers through 2021.
  • Restaurant Return-To-Work Tax Credit: This tax credit provides up to $50 million in tax credits to support restaurants hard hit by the pandemic through 2021.
  • Tackling Food Insecurities: The Budget includes $150 million to tackle food insecurity, and adds $25 million to Nourish New York for a total $60 million investment. This critical program helps people who are food insecure to access the nourishment that they need, while providing a market for farmers to sell their products.

• Renewable Energy Projects: New York will contract for another 24 large-scale renewable energy generation projects in 2021, to bring the state’s total clean energy build-out to nearly 100 projects. The 23 solar farms and one hydroelectric facility will produce more than 2,200 megawatts of clean power, generating more than $2.9 billion of investment and creating 3,400 jobs in 16 counties upstate.

• Fund Body Worn Cameras: The budget includes funding to support recently passed legislation requiring all State Police officers on patrol to wear body cameras.

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3 arraigned in Niagara County Court in connection to death of Medina woman
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 January 2021 at 9:17 pm

Cheyenne Farewell, 20, was shot during a Halloween party in Lockport on Oct. 17

LOCKPORT – Three people were arraigned in Niagara County Court today in the death of a Medina woman and for five others who were wounded at a Halloween party on Oct. 17.

Two adolescents were charged with second-degree murder of Cheyenne Farewell, 20, who was shot at the Halloween party in Lockport. The five other people who were wounded by gun shots include two current Medina High School students.

Two adolescents were arraigned for second-murder, District Attorney Brian Seaman said. The two adolescents also face multiple counts of assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree, reckless endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon.

Jonathan Frey, an adult, was charged with one count of hindering prosecution in the first degree for his participation in the offenses, Seaman said.

The two adolescents are being held on $500,000 bail. All three defendants remain in custody, Seaman said.

First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann and ADA Mary-Jean Bowman are prosecuting the case. The next court date is Feb. 16 for a discovery compliance conference.

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Orleans planning vaccine clinics next week at Ridgeway Fire Hall
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 January 2021 at 6:58 pm

GCC will host vaccine clinics in Genesee County, beginning this week

Vaccine clinics will begin this week in Genesee County at GCC in Batavia and next week in Orleans County at the Ridgeway Fire Hall.

That doesn’t mean there is an abundance of vaccine locally. Paul Pettit, the public health director for Genesee and Orleans, said supply still is far short of demand.

He said doing the clinics at a lower volume in the beginning will have the two counties prepared when the vaccine supply increases.

GCC in Batavia will host the vaccine clinics on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while Ridgeway hosts the events in Orleans on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Some of the details are still being worked out and Pettit said the local health Departments will release more information soon.

The Orleans County Health Department this week is expecting 200 doses of the vaccine, with another 100 at Orleans Community health, and additional supply at some pharmacies. Pettit said the registrations to sign up for the vaccines quickly fill up.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to get more vaccines from the federal government, to then release to the regions of the state to distribute. He knows many people are frustrated by the process so far, with many people declared eligible for the vaccine, but not nearly enough is available to fill the need right now.

“We are doing the best we can with what we have been given,” Pettit told elected officials in Orleans County in a conference call this evening.

The public clinics at GCC and Ridgeway will be “vaccine pending,” Pettit said.

“If more vaccine becomes available we’ll be able to scale up,” he said.

The two counties combined this week expect to have 1,600 doses, which includes the pharmacy providers in both counties, the hospitals in both counties and both Health Departments. Some of the people vaccinated with the first dose also will soon need the second dose of the vaccine.

At this time all appointments are full, the Health Department said, but encouraged people to check in case people have canceled. People are encouraged to cancel their appointment if they are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, the flu or a cold, and if they have been placed on mandatory quarantine because they are identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive.

To check for vaccination clinics in Genesee and Orleans counties, click here.

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