In tandem with nationwide figures, Tompkins County has also experienced a dramatic increase in unemployment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Cornell Daily Sun.
The rate rose from 3.5 percent to 10.5 percent between March and April. The county has previously been known for distinctively low unemployment, but April marked the most dramatic increase Tompkins county has seen since at least 1990. Over 1400 people applied for unemployment in the last week of March, compared to the 25 who applied the same week in 2019.
The rates only include individuals who have tried to find work and have not worked for a certain amount of time but excludes those who have stopped looking for employment, which may mean the data is inaccurate. Cornell Professor Ian Greer says this applies to a large number of individuals, like those who lost their jobs but cannot look for a new one because of other responsibilities related to the pandemic, like looking after children or sick loved ones.
Greer also said the lack of students in the area could contribute to the decrease, because of the economy being dependent on students.
Looking at the local coronavirus caseload, there were no new cases in either Schuyler or Tompkins County. There have been 166 cases in Tompkins County, while 158 of those cases recovered as of Thursday, according to the Tompkins Health Department. In Schuyler county, there have been 14 total cases and all have recovered.
New York state has again reached the lowest percentage of positive COVID-19 tests since the pandemic first began. Of the over 68,500 tests conducted in the State Wednesday, only 618 -- or less than one percent -- were positive.
Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the State will issue guidance to colleges and universities to allow some in person instruction and on-campus housing and for the fall semester. Those Campuses must then develop a plan in tandem with guidance from the state, and file plans thereafter.
A resolution in the Tompkins county legislature to shorten term lengths for county legislators on a one time basis has failed. According to a press release from the legislature, the measure would have reduced the term limits for the next election from 4 years to 2 years. The motive behind the shortened term was to accommodate for the expected delay of the 2020 US Census, as a result of COVID-19. Getting the census results helps the county ensure proper representation in the legislature by ensuring districts have enough elected officials for their total population. The resolution failed 7-7, so the 2021 election will follow the regular 4 year term.
The Tompkins County legislature also passed a resolution that calls on New York State to release $222 million dollars in available funds for childcare and afterschool programs. This comes alongside calls from US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand calling for the creation of a $50 billion stabilization fund so that child care providers can stay open, according to State of Politics. The fund would give grants to child care providers that have stayed open during the pandemic and provide assistance to places that have had to close and want to reopen.
Gillibrand says that more than 355,000 people have lost their jobs in the childcare industry due to the pandemic and some places will not be able to reopen without financial assistance. Other advocates say that the $3.5 billion CARES Act for child care and development block grants are not enough to solve the problem.
In more New York State News, Governor Cuomo signed 20 coronavirus-related bills yesterday, including controversial rent relief legislation. New York Daily News reports that the rent relief act would give 100 million dollars of the federal stimulus plan for rental vouchers. To be eligible, a tenant would need to spend more than 30% of their income in rent, have lost income between April 1st and July 31st, and make less than 80% of an area’s median income. Some tenant advocacy groups have criticized the bill for not doing enough to address concerns during the pandemic.
Other notable legislation signed yesterday includes a bill that will ban utility companies from shutting off service during state emergencies, as well as one that will authorize licensed pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine once one gets approved. Cuomo also signed off on bill that will prohibit healthcare employers from penalizing employees for complaints of employer violations, and one that will allow schools that were closed due to the pandemic to continue to receive state funding.
A proposed bill by state legislative health committees would assist in protecting the privacy of New Yorkers who give personal information to contact tracers for the coronavirus pandemic.
WSKG reports that the committees say contact tracing will not work unless these protections are in place to ensure that personal data is not given to law enforcement, federal immigration, or Customs Enforcement. The fear is that without these protections, residents of the state will be hesitant in giving out their information, making it difficult to track cases.
Some individuals in support of the bill say it is especially important as the disease has come at the same time as the Black Lives Matter movement, meaning there is increased concern with the interaction between law enforcement and those in communities of color. The bill would prevent law enforcement from participating in contact tracing.
Governor Andrew Cuomo commented on the bill proposal, stating that the health department would only be sharing information related to general demographics, like sex, ethnicity, and zip code. He said this information would not be protected as it is necessary for the execution of contact tracing.
Contributing writing by WRFI News Interns Jon Donville, Phoebe Harms, and Tessie Devlin