Joe Robach Office Host Forum on Heroin and Opioid Addiction

Joe Robach and other members of the Senate Majority Coalition hosted a public forum on heroin and opioid addiction this week at the Monroe County Office Building Legislative Chambers in Downtown Rochester.

The hearing was part of the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction that will hold forums across the state to solicit input from stakeholders and experts about addiction prevention and treatment options, the rise in heroin and opioid use, and the potential for drug-related crimes and other negative community impacts. The task force will then develop recommendations that will be used to draft legislation to address the issues raised.

The recently enacted 2014-15 state budget included $2.45 million for initiatives to provide prevention, treatment and addiction services to address the growing problems of heroin and opioid abuse. Also in March, the Senate passed legislation to help save lives by allowing authorized health care professionals to increase public access to Narcan/Naloxone which, if timely administered, can prevent an overdose death.

In a press released sent out by his office, Joe Robach said “It’s very concerning to me, not only as a State Senator but as a father of three, to see the recent increase in heroin usage and addiction in our state. We need to do a better job of educating the public, particularly our youth, about the dangers of heroin and all other dangerous recreational opioids. It’s my hope that this task force will help us create measures to prevent future drug addiction.”

The task force will also examine the crimes that accompany increases in illegal drug activity. In February, the New York Times reported that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) heroin seizures in New York State increased 67 percent over the last four years. The DEA’s New York office “seized 144 kilograms of heroin, nearly 20 percent of its seizures nationwide, valued at roughly $43 million.”

Joe Robach encourages anyone with questions or suggestions on how to combat this epidemic, to contact his local office at (585) 225.3650.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCE $40 MILLION FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO MAKE ROAD REPAIRS

This week Joe Robach announced $40 million in State funding to help local governments make necessary repairs to highways and bridges following this year’s exceptionally harsh winter. This funding, passed as part of the 2014-15 Enacted Budget, is a special one-time allocation to compliment the $438 million in existing State support for local transportation infrastructure. All counties, cities, towns and villages will receive capital assistance through the program. Joe Robach noted that his office has received countless calls by concerned citizens regarding pot holes, roads in need of repair and other deteriorating road conditions.

The 2013-14 winter season was particularly punishing, with a state of emergency bring declared on eight separate occasions and many local roads and bridges sustaining damage to the pavement surface, due to frequent plowing and bitterly cold temperatures. Localities will be able to use this funding on capital projects to repair and improve infrastructure and to complement their core construction programs. To help brace for future storms, longer lasting roadway surfacing and overlay projects are eligible expenses.

In a press release sent out by his office this week, Senator Joe Robach said, “I’ve heard from countless constituents, businesses and other public officials who have expressed concern about wear and tear on public roads compared to past winter seasons. This additional money will lessen the burden local governments will feel when budgeting for road repairs, and is particularly important for Upstate governments, whose residents depend so heavily on safe roads on a daily basis.”

The capital grants for extreme winter recovery will be allocated in accordance with existing formulas for local capital transportation aid (the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, or CHIPS).
For more information, Joe Robach encourages residents to visit his website here or call his local office at 585.225.3650.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCE RED LICENSE PLATES FOR EMERGENCY RESPONSE VEHICLES

Joe Robach announced this week that the office of Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the first New York State emergency management red license plates for vehicles registered to State agencies and political subdivisions such as counties, cities, towns, and villages. Vehicles that serve a critical role will be given the new emergency license plates to assure they have immediate access to locations impacted during a state emergency as well as prioritized access for assets such as emergency fuel supplies. The red plates will carry a new Emergency Management (EM) indicator for quick identification.

“Red Plates will assist law enforcement in identifying vehicles during major storms or emergencies,” Joe Robach said. “We are distributing the new red emergency license plates to local governments and agencies free of charge to help prioritize response efforts statewide. “

The new plates will have a white background and a red banner with the “EM” designation appearing in the upper left hand corner. The name of the State Agency or the political subdivision and its county of primary use will also be displayed on the plate. “State” will appear at the bottom of State Agency plates. Sample images of the new plates can be viewed here and here.

Joe Robach went on to explain that the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services office will determine how many red license plates will be available to the various agencies and localities. Initially most localities will be entitled to register for a minimum number of red plates. The vehicle must either be owned or controlled and registered in the name of the State agency or locality in order to be eligible for the new red license plate. Additionally, the highest ranking government official in each locality will certify that the identified vehicles are eligible for this program.

Letters were sent recently to the heads of eligible State Agencies and political subdivisions to advise them of the availability of these plates and to provide them information on how to apply. The new plates will begin to be distributed to the agencies and political subdivisions as applications are received and processed. There is no charge for the new plates.

A political subdivision is defined as a subdivision of New York State that has been delegated certain official functions of state or local government including a government entity created by, or under the authority of, State law. Volunteer organizations are not political subdivisions.

For additional information, on plate availability and use, Joe Robach encourages residents to contact the office of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services at (518) 242

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCE WAYS TO HELP STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES PREPARE FOR COLLEGE

This week, Joe Robach helped announce a new tool that will help students and families interpret financial aid award letters from colleges and get bottom line costs before making a final decision. The Financial Aid Award Letter Comparison Tool, available at HESC.ny.gov, is free and safe to use, with no personal data collected or saved.

Choosing the right college is a decision that lasts a lifetime but navigating and comparing financial aid offers can be confusing. This Comparison Tool makes the real price of attending college more transparent so families can know what they’re getting into ahead of time. Joe Robach encourages students to log on to HESC.ny.gov or contact the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation office directly to learn more.

For many families it can be difficult to choose the best college at an affordable price, especially without a full understanding of the total costs—including which types of aid must be paid back. The tool generates side-by-side comparisons, highlights net costs, and estimates the full two or four-year cost of each college.

The report also recommends the potential income required after graduation, based on an occupation chosen by the user, to be able to pay back student loans. This feature not only helps students and their families understand the impact of borrowing as it relates to current and future circumstances, but encourages students to carefully consider their field of study and make adjustments in career or college choices if necessary. To make these projections, the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) uses current data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook to provide median salary estimates for selected occupations.

Joe Robach explained that the office of HESC is New York State’s student financial aid agency that helps people pay for college, and a national leader in providing need based grant and scholarship award money to college-going students. At HESC’s core are programs like the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), numerous state scholarships, federal college access grants and a highly successful College Savings program. HESC puts college within the reach of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year through programs like these and through the guidance it provides to students, families and counselors. In 2012-13, HESC helped more than 342,000 students achieve their college dreams by providing more than $979.4 million in grants, scholarships and loan forgiveness benefits, including $931 million awarded through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).

In addition to this online tool, Joe Robach also announced a series of Financial Aid Roundtable events that he will be hosting in the month of April. The first will take place in at the Greece Community Center on April 10th at 7pm. The second event will take place at the Brighton Town Library on April 21st at 7pm. Representatives from UPromise, NYS 529, NextStepU, HESC and financial aid representatives from a few local colleges will be in attendance as well.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE HELPS HIGHLIGHT NATIONAL FLOOD SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK

National “Be a Force of Nature” Effort Runs Through the End of the Week – March 22nd

With winter departing and spring upon us, Joe Robach and other elected officials around the state urged all New Yorkers, in honor of The National Weather Service’s Flood Safety Awareness Week, to learn the risks associated with flooding to better protect their families, businesses, offices, and communities from this type of natural disaster.

New York has seen the impact that flooding can have on local communities, but prevention is possible with the proper awareness and advance preparation. All week long, the office of Joe Robach has urged all New Yorkers to take proper precautions to better ensure the safety of our families and property. With considerable amounts of snow melting and precipitation continuing, residents should be prepared for a wet next few weeks and months.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer stated, “Flooding can occur sometimes with very little warning at any time of the year. Knowing the risks associated with flooding and taken precautionary steps such as having a family emergency plan will help you and your family survive a flood if it happens in your community.”

Learning the threats associated with flooding and building or updating emergency supply kits for homes and vehicles are vital steps toward being prepared that can be taken this week. For information to help prepare for and take action during a flood, please visit the New York State Office of Emergency Management’s webpage at http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/safety-info/flood/index.cfm. New Yorkers can also get daily tips from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services twitter feed at @NYSDHSES.

Knowing your areas flood risk, how to prepare for and actions to take before, during and after a flood can save lives, time and money. More information on National Flood Awareness Week can be found on the National Weather Service website at www.floodsafety.noaa.gov.

Joe Robach urge all residents with questions or concerns around preparing their home for a flood to contact their local municipality or his local district office at 585.225.3650.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE URGES RESIDENTS TO EXERCISE CAUTION AS WINTERY MARCH CONTINUES

Senator Joe Robach and the offices of other elected state officials declared a state of emergency for many counties throughout New York State this past week.  Additionally, the National Weather Service declared a Blizzard Warning for many of these same counties.

The storm brought significant snowfall from Wednesday into Thursday in the Western, Central, Capital and North Country regions of the State. As part of the State of the Emergency, the Governor ordered the activation of the State’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Staffing at the EOC include personnel from NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Police, Thruway Authority, Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation and the Public Service Commission.

The Office of Joe Robach reminded residents that under a State of Emergency, critical resources that are normally restricted to State use are mobilized to assist local governments and laws and regulations that would otherwise impede their rapid response are suspended.

Steps taken to ensure readiness for the storm this past week and others include:

  • The State activated 1,794 plows, 306 front loaders and 4,185 operators in affected regions.

  • The State had 406,500 tons of road salt on-hand for the areas in the path of the storm.

  • The Thruway Authority banned long tandem trailers from exit 25A (I-88) to the Pennsylvania state line.

  • All Thruway and New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) maintenance headquarters were and will be fully staffed around the clock for the duration of any storm that enters the region.

Joe Robach Office recommends the following tips to citizens that reside in storm affected regions:

  • Never follow a snowplow too closely or attempt to pass one. Remember that the highway ahead of the plow is usually snow-covered.
  • Adjust speed for road conditions and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.

  • Schedule extra time for winter travel and be patient during ice and snow removal operations.

  • Assume that bridge surfaces are slippery, as they freeze more quickly than road surfaces.

  • Be wary of black ice, which can be difficult to see but makes conditions slippery when pavement temperatures are below freezing.

  • Have a cell phone handy, if possible, but do not text while driving; distracted driving is illegal and becomes even more dangerous during storm events.

  •  Never venture from your vehicle if snowbound.

  • Equip your car with emergency supplies including sand, shovel, flares, booster cables, rope, ice scraper, portable radio, flashlight, blankets and extra warm clothes.

  • Inform a responsible person of your destination, intended route, and estimated time of arrival.

  • Keep calm and do not panic in case of a vehicle breakdown, accident, or if you become snowbound.

If you lose electrical service during the winter, follow these tips:

  • First, call your utility to determine area repair schedules.

  • Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored.

  • If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need.

 If anyone needs information or assistance during any winter storm, Joe Robach encourages residents to call his district office at 585.225.3650.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCE NEW SENATE BILL

The office of Joe Robach announced this week that the New York State Senate today passed legislation that would prosecute those who intentionally or recklessly damage the environment while committing another crime. The bill (S1016), sponsored by Senator Joe Robach would hold criminals accountable for the financial and environmental damage caused by their actions when they contaminate or destroy the quality of water, soil, or air.

In a statement released from his office, Joe Robach noted that the bill was created after an incident occurred in the Town of Greece, Monroe County, where criminals broke into a spare electrical transformer owned by Rochester Gas and Electric, and stole copper to resell for profit. During the process of accessing the copper, 4,800 gallons of oil was drained from the transformer, causing land and water contamination of the surrounding environment at an estimated remediation cost of over $1 million. There are no current Criminal Mischief statutes that adequately address environmental devastation.

“So often, when a crime is committed, we are so focused on seeking justice that we tend to forget about the long-term effects the crime could have on our environment,” said Joe Robach in a press release sent out from his office. “With appropriate penalties, I hope this bill will hold criminals accountable for damaging the environment or contaminating our water, soil or air.”

This bill would make crimes that result in large-scale environmental damage – either intentionally or recklessly – a class C felony.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCE JOE ROBACH NAMED AS CHAIRMAN OF SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

Joe Robach Office announced this week that New York State Senator Joe Robach (R, C, I – Rochester) was named Chairman of the New York State Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

“Our roads, highways, bridges and transportation systems play an important role in the New York State economy and the quality of life for residents, especially those in Upstate New York, and visitors of our state,” said Robach. “I am excited to begin serving as Transportation Committee Chairman, and implementing policies and investments that will not only add to safe travel, but lead to infrastructure improvements that will benefit economic development and job retention throughout New York.”

The Senate Transportation Committee oversees New York State’s transportation system including the Department of Transportation, Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York State Thruway Authority among other agencies.

Prior to being named Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Robach served as the committee’s Vice Chairman. In his role as Vice Chairman, Senator Joe Robach led the fight against proposed toll hikes along the New York State Thruway that would have hurt small businesses, offices and commercial trucking companies, and could have negatively impacted job growth and business development throughout New York State.

In addition to the appointment of Joe Robach, the offices of Senator Dean Skelos and Senator Jeff Klein, co-leaders of the New York State Senate Majority Coalition, announced other appointments. These include:

Senator Valesky, as Chair of the Committee on Aging

Senator Marcellino, as Chair of the Committee on Infrastructure

Senator Avella, as Chair of the Committee on Social Services

Senator Marcellino, as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transportation

Senator Avella, as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Environmental Conservation

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR ALL PHASES OF I-390 RECONSTRUCTION IN ROCHESTER

Joe Robach office announced that funding has been secured to build the final phases of the Interstate 390 Southern Corridor transportation improvement projects in the area of East Henrietta Road and West Henrietta Road in the town of Brighton and city of Rochester, Monroe County. The first phases have already begun on the overall estimated $70 million project, which will improve safety and mobility and set the stage for major economic projects that will create thousands of jobs and boost the region’s profile.

The I-390 improvement project is a 2011 priority project identified by Governor Cuomo’s Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council (FLREDC). Joe Robach noted that the I-390 is a gateway for significant growth in the community, including large projects planned by the University of Rochester, Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology offices and campuses, which will lead to thousands of new jobs in the local economy generated by university growth. At the University of Rochester, those plans feature expansions of its campus, hospital and research facilities. The University of Rochester is the largest employer in the Rochester area and the sixth largest employer in New York State. These improvements will help support the continued growth of the University and the surrounding area.

The series of projects will improve access between I-390 and the adjacent roads, including Kendrick Road, East River Road, West Henrietta Road (Route 15) and East Henrietta Road (Route 15A). The project was split into four phases, the first of which has already been completed, with the second phase currently underway.

The first phase of the project began in the fall of 2012 and was completed in the fall of 2013. Work as part of the $8.2 million phase included:

    · Construction of a modern roundabout at Kendrick Road and East River Road to replace the existing signalized intersection;

    · Improvement of access to I-390 southbound through the construction of a new entrance ramp from E. River Road;

    · Reconstruction and relocation of the existing off-ramp from I-390 southbound to E. River Road; and

    · Construction of a new auxiliary lane at the divergence of I-390 southbound and I-590 northbound near Route 15A in the town of Brighton.

The second contract in the series of I-390 improvements includes the construction of a new ramp from Kendrick Road to I-390 northbound. Work on the $14.8 million phase began last summer and is scheduled to be complete this fall. Piers for the new ramp have been constructed and steel is expected to be set into place in the coming weeks. It is being constructed through the design-build method, which allows for the combining of design and construction services into a single contract to help expedite repair work to vital infrastructure and save taxpayer money.

This new connection to I-390, along with the direct access from E. River Road, will help improve safety, reduce congestion and provide the access necessary for the University of Rochester to move ahead with expansion plans.

Senator Joe Robach said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s office for following through and securing the funds needed to complete this crucial transportation improvement project. The reconstruction of this section of I-390 will not only improve traffic safety for drivers, it will allow better access to the University of Rochester, RIT and MCC, which are not only key academic institutions, but also major employers for our region.”

JOE ROBACH OFFICE ANNOUNCES $50 MILLION IN ADDITIONAL HEAP ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES

The Federal Government has released additional Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding, increasing New York’s total for the 2013-14 heating season to more than $366 million. The additional funding will enable New York to continue operating the regular benefit component of the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) into February.

HEAP is a federally funded program that is administered through the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). HEAP assists low-income New Yorkers with the cost of heating their homes. HEAP also offers an emergency benefit for households in a heat or heat related energy emergency. Regular HEAP benefits assist households that pay a high proportion of household income for energy. The Regular Benefit of the 2013-14 HEAP season opens November 18, 2013. The HEAP emergency benefit component assists qualifying low-income New Yorkers who are facing a heat or heat related energy emergency and do not have resources above the established limits. The Emergency benefit component of the 2013-14 HEAP season opens January 2, 2014. If you have an emergency, Joe Robach encourages you to contact a local department of social services office.

“There is no arguing that the recent extreme cold weather has taken a financial toll on households,” Joe Robach said. “This additional funding will help eligible New Yorkers this season, and I urge those in need of assistance to apply as soon as possible.”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released $454 million in LIHEAP funding to states, providing an additional $50.6 million for New York. That brings New York’s total for the 2013-14 HEAP season to $366.8 million.

Eligible households in New York may receive one regular HEAP benefit per season and could also be eligible for an emergency benefit if they are in impending danger of running out of fuel or having their utility service shut off. More than 1.3 million households have already received HEAP assistance this winter.

Anyone living outside of New York City who is seeking a regular HEAP benefit can submit an application online at myBenefits.ny.gov. Those who need emergency assistance, or live in New York City, should contact their local department of social services. New Yorkers can find contact information for their local social services department at http://otda.ny.gov/programs/heap/HEAP-contacts.pdf.

Joe Robach went on to describe how this massive release of $50.6 million in federal funding to New York will provide critical relief to residents and senior citizens who were being forced to choose between heating their homes, offices and putting food on the table. With record-breaking freezes occurring in New York and across the country, Joe Robach is thrilled that the feds have released this funding to New York for immediate use this winter.

Joe Robach explained that because this has been a usually harsh winter that many families may find themselves unable to keep up with their energy bills. It would be unconscionable to allow them to struggle when we have the resources to relieve the financial strain. The Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an essential program for financially strapped families and the release of these funds will ensure the program remains open as this harsh winter continues.”

Joe Robach also encourages residents who are having trouble getting information on HEAP to contact his district office at 585.225.3650 for assistance.

For more information about HEAP, visit otda.ny.gov/programs/heap.