Two more county COVID deaths, Nourish NY signed into law, sales-tax revenues up

— Photo from Senator Michelle Hinchey’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul on Saturday signs a bill making the Nourish New York program permanent. Looking on are the bill’s sponsors: Senator Michelle Hinchey, at left, and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz at far right.

ALBANY COUNTY — The weekend brought two more notices of COVID-19 deaths from Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

On Saturday, he announced a man in his sixties had succumbed to the disease and on Sunday, he announced a woman in her nineties had died of the virus — bringing the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 439.

McCoy noted, in his Sunday release, that he had reported new daily COVID infections in the triple digits for the last four days.

He urged residents to get vaccinated and to get booster shots; every fully vaccinated adult is now eligible for a booster shot.

“No one wants holiday gatherings to turn into super spreader events,” said McCoy.

“We look at the data and we look at the facts,” McCoy said in his Saturday release. “It tells us that overall, those who are vaccinated, should they contract the virus, experience less severe symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalized. Boosters are needed because we also know that the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes over time.”


Nourish NY

On Saturday, the governor was in Queens to sign into law a bill that makes the pandemic’s Nourish New York permanent.

The program at once helps farmers who have lost markets because of the pandemic and helps people who need food by rerouting surplus products to food banks.

A total of $85 million has been committed to Nourish NY since its launch in May 2020, impacting 4,178 businesses across the state, according to the governor’s office. 

The bill was sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey, a Democrat representing the western Capital District and Hudson Valley, and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Democrat from Queens.

“It’s very difficult to stand here today,” said Kathy Hochul before signing the bill, “and look out just over the parking lot there and see thousands and thousands of fellow New Yorkers lined up, some since 6 a.m., just to get a coat or a meal for the rest of the week. That, my friends, is not the New York that I want to govern. I want that to change. I want people to have hope.”

She also said, “This pandemic is not over. People are still suffering. People still don’t have their homes and their jobs.”

Hochul said she had talked to farmers during the worst of the pandemic, when restaurants and schools were closed, who were on the brink of losing farms that had been in their families for generations.

“At the same time,” she said, “people never dreamed they’d be having to walk up to a food bank or an assembly member’s office or get in a vehicle and drive around a parking lot while some generous person puts food in their trunk and they can finally say, ‘My kids will eat tonight.’ That’s what this nation witnessed during this pandemic.” 

Hochul said she found figures on the program shocking. “We’ve had 35 million pounds of food go from New York State farms to the homes and kitchen tables of New Yorkers throughout this state,” she said. “That equates to 30 million meals.”

The demand is not diminished, Hochul said.

“We enter Thanksgiving week and yes, as Americans, we are thankful. We’re thankful to live in this great country and to live in this state. But with that gratitude comes a sense of responsibility to others….,” she said. “This war against poverty is going to continue until no child goes to bed in the State of New York with a hungry stomach, never again in our state.”

The Hinchey-Cruz legislation charges the commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, in consultation with the state’s health department, to conduct an annual review assessing the needs of the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance, which provides emergency food relief and nutrition services to food insecure populations in New York State.

The law also addresses the issue of cold storage as emergency food providers across the state have had to turn away farm products because they do not have the cold-storage capacity to keep perishable food fresh. Under the new law, the  commissioner is tasked with reviewing and reporting on the need to establish a grant program to fund the purchase of cold storage equipment for emergency food providers.

“Nourish New York is the definition of a strong upstate-downstate partnership that brilliantly demonstrates what’s possible when we work together to deliver a life-sustaining service for New Yorkers who have fallen on hard times while simultaneously sparking food system innovation,” said Hinchey in a statement.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the hunger and food insecurity problems already plaguing many communities across the state, including thousands of families in my district,” said Cruz in a statement. “Our farms also saw their bottom line impacted when the supply chain was disrupted. Nourish NY presented a life-saving opportunity to support the food pantries caring for our neighbors while fighting for the survival of our farming community.”


Sales-tax revenues up

Local sales-tax collections in New York grew by 12.9 percent in October compared to a year ago, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced this week.

Collections for all localities totaled more than $1.5 billion, up $175 million from October 2020. This exceeds pre-pandemic levels by 7 percent.

This growth continues the trend that began in April of monthly sales tax collections exceeding last year’s results.

In Albany County, from January through October 2021, sales-tax revenues are up 20 percent, from $215 million for that same 10-month time span in 2020 — to $258 million in 2021, the comptroller’s report says.

Albany County’s fluctuation follows the statewide trends: Sales-tax revenues were down 7.5 percent in January of this year and down 8.1 percent in February compared to those months in 2020.

Then there was a huge rebound in the spring: an increase of 12.5 percent in March for Albany County, crescendoing to 48.5 percent in April, 48.8 percent in May, and 49.8 percent in June.

The percentage increase over the summer was about half that: 13.7 percent in July over July 2020 and 20.6 percent in August.

This September, the Albany County increase in sales-tax revenues was 16.0 percent over the previous year; and, in October, the latest numbers show a 13.3-percent increase over October 2020, from $21 million to $24 million..

New York City’s collections totaled $672 million, an increase of 8.3 percent — or more than $51 million — over October of 2020.

Nearly every county saw year-over-year collections for October grow by double digits, with Monroe County having the largest growth at 37 percent.

“Sales tax collections came in strong in October, boosting local revenues,” DiNapoli said in a statement, releasing the figures. “The consistent growth over the last few months is a positive sign of our economic recovery and life moving forward as we deal with the ongoing reality of COVID-19.”

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