The Women’s Opportunity Center, or W-O-C, a not-for-profit organization with offices in Tompkins and Onondaga counties, is in danger of shutting down.

The New York State Department of Labor has awarded a sustaining grant amounting to 40 percent of the WOC’s budget for the last several years, the Ithaca Voice reports.  The grant funds the NYS Displaced Homemaker Program, which benefits persons who are unpaid caregivers.  The displaced homemaker program also assists people who are unemployed or underemployed to find a job and begin a career.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state Department of Labor has been unable to fully provide promised grant funds to its recipients.  Aryn Fields, a spokesperson for Women’s Opportunity Center, says that the displaced homemaker grant also fully funds the WOC payroll.   She adds that it is unclear whether the Department of Labor will be able to provide back payment for funds lost since March, or if it will be able to provide funding for 2021.

Due to the lack of funding, the WOC has declared a financial emergency.  It’s since laid off 8 staff members and gave up their office space in Syracuse.

Ryan Harriott, executive director of the Women’s Opportunity Center, says that Tompkins County also withdrew its financial support.  She asserts that if funding is not restored, the WOC could close as early as the end of October, leaving their vulnerable clients in dire straits.

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Another local not-for-profit is in danger of closing due to a financial crisis following budget cuts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cornell Daily Sun reports that Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles, or RIBs, a community shop that sells inexpensive second-hand bikes and helps people learn how to repair them, has been shuttered.

Last week, staff members reporting for work found that the locks to the building had been changed and the program had seemingly been shut down.  RIBs is partially funded by the Southside Community Center in Ithaca, and that organization has been severely affected by city budget cuts.

The now former director of RIBs, Nicholas Desystemizer, told the Sun that the Board of Directors of Southside worried that budget cuts due to COVID-19 would affect the community center, so they suspended all center programs for the foreseeable future.

During its former business hours, people could use tools in the shop and get advice from staff members.  Now that it is closed, bike enthusiasts are still meeting and working outside the shop.  The future of RIBs is unknown, but Desystemizer is currently reaching out to Southside, Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency and Mayor Svante Myrick for financial assistance.  

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Looking at the local COVID-19 caseload, the latest numbers, released Wednesday from the Tompkins County health department, indicate that there are 3 additional positives, and 2 new recoveries. According to the County Health Department, that leaves 22 active cases of COVID-19 in Tompkins.

In Schuyler County, there are no new cases of COVID-19 reported as of Thursday, according to their Health Department. All active cases have recovered.

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The number of New York State teachers that are choosing to retire amid the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase, reports the Ithaca Journal.

Between April and August of this year, the number of teachers who retired increased by 9 percent as compared to last year.  This past August, 580 teachers decided to retire, more than double the number in 2019.

David Albert, spokesman for the state School Boards association, says that teacher retirements are yet another significant challenge for public school districts in the state.  He adds that a wave of teacher retirements would make it more difficult for schools to be properly staffed for educating students. 

A poll taken last month by the New York State United Teachers Union of 1,100 of its members showed that about 55 percent of teachers who are 55 and older were considering early retirement.  About one third of active educators in the state are already over 50 years old.

Contributing writing by WRFI News Volunteer Esther Racoosin