It is good to see most Western New Yorkers doing their part to flatten the COVID-19 curve with social distancing, staying close to home and generally taking proper care to help reduce the spread of the virus. There is plenty of good neighboring going on that hopefully will bring better times a little closer.
The personal tragedies of severe illness and death are difficult to bear, as is the uncertainty of it all. Most everyone will come to personally know someone who has been affected directly or through quarantine.
The economic impact is rather mind-boggling. The current economic downturn will be much worse than most Americans have ever lived through. While the federal relief efforts thus far will help cushion the blow, there will still be lots of pain from jobs lost and businesses closed.
There are still some politics and other government activities going on. Here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets:
- Donald Trump, who told us at the 2016 Republican National Convention, that he “alone can fix it,” obviously can’t. And neither can boy-wonder Jared. More importantly, Trump’s denial of the impending problem and the disorganized response to the medical supply needs; his refusal to extend Medicaid coverage; and his efforts to totally eliminate health coverage through the Affordable Care Act will leave major negative marks on the history of his administration.
- Mike Pence has shown himself to lack a mind of his own, faithfully echoing whatever Trump says. This will make it all the more likely that Pence will be dropped from the national ticket.
- On the other hand we have the outstanding work of governors and local elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, to get this crisis under some control. The Johnny-come-latelies like Governor Jim DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia, along with about eight other Trumpster governors, may live to regret their allegiance to Fearless Leader and the state media that supports him.
- Governor Andrew Cuomo is getting great praise for the work he is doing. It seems like an overwhelming charge for one man. He is made for a situation like this.
- While the state’s impending budget cuts are mostly necessary and understandable, Cuomo will at some point pay a political price for what will end up being very drastic cuts in education, Medicaid and a whole host of other things.
- Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy recently sent a letter to the party faithful noting that “we see our families, friends and neighbors working together like never before to help each other through the sacrifices that we are all making while we are taking care of our loved ones, trying to keep businesses running and educating our children from home.” Well said.
- He went on to say “President Donald Trump has delivered a stimulus package to stabilize industries, offer small business relief, and provide cash for families. They have fast-tracked a trial for a Coronavirus treatment and more tests are becoming available.”
- While a half trillion dollars has been set aside for big business, Trump announced that he will not abide by congressional oversight of how all that money is spent. Banks that are supposed to administer the small business loans are saying the activity has not been well organized, which will lead to delays and likely some permanent business closing results. The cash for families will not get out quickly for everyone or last long enough. Virus testing deficiencies, which Trump has declined responsibility for, would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious a matter.
- Following up on my SUNY Erie post of last week, there is some additional information to pass on concerning the school’s finances and operations.
- The College’s auditors, Drescher & Malecki LLC, on March 26th reported to the Board of Trustees on their audit for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. The auditor and school management noted:
- There was an overall decrease of $2.7 million in operating revenues compared to 2017-2018 and a decline of $3 million in non-operating revenue and the county contribution. The declines were related mostly to drops in federal and state aid resulting from reduced enrollment.
- Overall operating expenses decreased $1.6 million compared with the previous year. Salaries, wages and benefit spending, however, increased a total of $4.1 million.
- The numbers reported in the audit are in some cases substantially different from what the College’s Finance Department reported to the Board in October 2019 and January 2020.
- In what the auditor described as the College’s biggest “red flag,” the College’s cash position decreased $7.8 million or 20 percent.
- The unrestricted fund balance of the College decreased $3,340,854 or 18 percent. This is a much larger drop than the College’s CFO reported to the Board in January. The auditor noted that the Board had just last year adopted a policy on fund balance which suggested that it be maintained at 16.7 percent of annual operating expenses. The drop in 2018-2019 takes the fund balance down to 13.6 percent.
- The Board was told that the school has done all it can and is at the end of the road on reducing the expense side of the budget.
- The Chairman of the Board’s Budget & Audit Committee told his colleagues that “there is no way we are going to be able to manage” without a tuition increase.
- College President Dr. Dan Hocoy reported at the meeting about an “area of potential opportunity for SUNY Erie.” He noted that local colleges and universities “are really going through a tough time now.” He went on: “many of them if not all may still [be] in remote instruction in the fall semester…” If those colleges can’t offer the traditional on-campus experience “students may choose to not enroll… So instead of paying fifty thousand to take an online at Canisius, Daemen or Medaille,“ why not “take the same courses at SUNY Erie for a tenth of the cost and then transfer credits later?”
- June 23rd will now be a very big political day in New York State with the Democratic presidential primary, the special congressional election in NY27, and state legislative primaries in several districts.
- Joe Biden should coast to victory on June 23rd on his way to the nomination.
- While Republican Chris Jacobs battles Democrat Nate McMurray in the special election, the Republicans will have their primary among Jacobs, Stefan Mychajliw and Beth Parlato for the party nomination in November. Jacobs is the odds-on favorite in both races. Campaign financials for the first quarter of 2020 have not been filed yet.
- Democrats will have primaries in the 61st Senate District (retiring Republican Michael Ranzenhofer’s seat) and the 140th Assembly District (retiring Democrat Robin Schimminger).
- How we all will vote this year will pose multiple dilemmas. How will early voting be handled? Can we move to excuseless absentee voting for everyone? Where will the parties find elections inspectors? Let’s hope and pray that things are better by November.