The American Rescue Plan Act (The ARP Act), signed into law in March this year, is a transformative undertaking that will re-shape our communities and business climate for decades to come. The $1.9 trillion spending package is the sixth federal relief package through which the federal government has allocated a total of $5.7 trillion to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that ensued as a result of it. The ARP Act includes $350 billion for “Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.” As laid out by The Brookings Institution, “these funds will be deployed to state and local governments in two tranches (the first within 60 days and the second a year after that initial allotment) to mitigate the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Rockefeller Institute identified the following allowable usages for these funds, included but not limited to:
addressing the COVID-19 emergency and its negative impacts;
assistance to households, businesses, non-profits and impacted industries;
restoring government services that were reduced in response to revenue losses;
investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure;
support for public transit;
offering premium pay to first responders and essential workers or grants for workers.
As communities make their decisions and set priorities, Brookings suggests a threefold approach:
stabilize operating budgets;
strategize (i.e., invest in infrastructure and small businesses);
and organize (i.e., set up public / private partnerships to set goals, and monitor and track results).
Since the beginning of the pandemic, some of the recovery efforts implemented across the country have included:
Training Programs / Coaching
Broadened Access to Capital
Reshoring (bringing manufacturing and services back to the United States from overseas)
Supporting Transition to New Career Paths
Digital Equity (expanding broadband and improving digital skills)
Strengthened Community Development Organizations
Building Capacity of Local Governance Organizations
Building Resilient Communities
Municipalities are currently inviting input from residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations to assess community needs and determine spending priorities. The City of Albany, for instance, has created a COVID Recovery Task Force and is asking businesses and residents to complete a survey that will inform decision-making.
The decisions made now will lead to vibrant and resilient communities in the months and years ahead – the stakes are high, and the investments must be strategic.
New York State has expanded low-cost rapid testing while continuing to ramp up vaccinations, and has launched the Excelsior pass, a secure application for storing test results and vaccination status that will enable New Yorkers to attend events such as wedding receptions, arts and entertainment venues as well as sports stadiums and arenas. Notably however, the Excelsior pass is not mandatory: New Yorkers may opt to either use the Excelsior pass or alternatively show original records of a negative Covid test (taken within 72 hours of the day of the event) or a CDC vaccination card. Read full guidelines here.
NY Forward Rapid Test Program lists all the vaccination sites where New Yorkers can get a rapid test for $30 with the results delivered within 30 minutes. Note that even individuals who do not experience symptoms or have not had a recent exposure to Covid-19 can use these sites to get a rapid test. Most of these facilities are however located downstate.
The Excelsior Pass enables New Yorkers to have their test and immunization records digitized and stored in one place for convenience of use when gaining access to venues. To get the pass, New Yorkers must register at https://epass.ny.gov, and once their identity is verified, they can either download the Excelsior Pass Wallet or print the Excelsior Pass – its QR code will be scanned by venues to allow entry at events. Participating businesses may download the Excelsior Pass Scanner at https://forward.ny.gov/excelsior-pass-business. Its use is free and will facilitate the reopening of venues and businesses in New York.
March 7th marks the one-year anniversary since New York State declared the state of emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 20th, 2020 statewide stay-at-home order was declared, all non-essential businesses were ordered to close, and all non-essential gatherings and events were canceled or postponed. A year later, vaccinations are well under way, and the economy is re-opening step-by-step. New York Forward website provides current information by industry and re-opening phase, travel advisory guidelines, hot spots, as well as testing and vaccination sites. The grim reality is that the U.S. surpassed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 on February 22nd, which makes the virus the leading cause of death in the country, along with heart disease and cancer. John Hopkins University has a Coronavirus Resource Center where you can track more data.
Consumer spending habits have changed. The lockdown has forced everyone to rethink their priorities and make adjustments. After the initial panic buying in March, April and May last year, when staple products were flying off the shelves, consumers have shifted their attention to remodeling their homes for the era of the indefinite home office, and replaced restaurant and entertainment expenses with home cooking and streaming services. Casual fashion has replaced business suits, and masks have made lipstick irrelevant. These are some of the few pandemic induced lifestyle changes. Read more about consumer spending in the U.S. in this Brookings Institution study.
The most dramatic change in our lives over the past year has been not being able to travel and spend time with family. Another significant change has been remote work and remote learning as the new norm, with some companies announcing indefinite work from home policies. The essential workers of course cannot work remotely, and hence they have been deemed indispensable to keeping our economy and daily lives running.
A year later, we have adapted to wearing masks, using hand sanitizers, and staying six feet apart, while at the same time contemplating how the new normal would look like once the pandemic is over. Socializing in restaurants, cafes, theaters, museums, and art galleries is sorely missed, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Rapid testing and vaccinations are key to re-opening the economy. Google, for instance, is now offering its employees free weekly at home COVID-19 tests. Also, the company announced that its employees won’t return to office until September, and when they do, flexible work weeks will be assessed. Other companies have announced that a significant number of their employees could be working remotely over the next ten years, and some may work from home permanently.
The debate over work-life balance is taking on a new meaning as working from home has eliminated some of the boundaries, and over-work is common. According to an article published in Bloomberg last April, “America’s always-on work culture has reached new heights.” One cannot escape work.
As for team building, people are getting creative. Peek is launching a platform that will offer teams and clients the opportunity to share experiences other than business meetings, and connect in a cooking or mixology class, wine tasting, chess competitions, and other fun activities.
Almost a year since the lockdown, The New York Times reports that “There are hints that the economy has turned a corner: Retail sales jumped last month as the latest round of government aid began showing up in consumers’ bank accounts. New unemployment claims have declined from early January, though they remain high. Measures of business investment have picked up, a sign of confidence from corporate leaders.”
As reported by The New York Times, movie theaters in New York City will be permitted to open for the first time in nearly a year on March 5 at 25 percent of their maximum capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening – movie theaters in the rest of the State were permitted to open last October. Also, as reported in The New York Times, a public-private partnership, New York Arts Revival, was formed to bring back arts to life, offering pop-up performances spearheaded by the producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, along with the New York State Council on the Arts. Since the pandemic started, employment in New York City’s arts sector has decreased by 66 percent.
As countries prepare to reopen their economies, the idea of introducing vaccine passports is seen by some as a way to facilitating traveling abroad and even gaining access to venues like restaurants and bars. Vaccination for vacation is an Internet meme that is catching on. There are however ethical concerns surrounding this issue, and it remains to be seen how it can be implemented.
Lifestyle changes that are here to stay: remote work, online shopping, cashless payments, telehealth, digitized operations, and reduced contact. This article in The Harvard Gazette tackles the question on everybody’s mind: What will the new post-pandemic normal look like? Some experts think that we may have a clear idea by the end of the summer if we don’t experience another outbreak in September.
The Zadock Pratt Museum has just released a coloring book for adults, essentially a collection of historical quilts accompanied by text and drawings that provide a unique perspective of the region’s settlement history. Inspired by the 2018 exhibition titled “Undercover Stories,” the book was partly funded by The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and The Nicholas J. Juried Family Foundation. All text and drawings are by Suzanne M. Walsh, who curated the exhibition.
Coloring books for adults have been around for decades but have become quite popular in recent years, as a stress relief activity. In 2015 Crayola launched its own line of adult coloring books, for the first time in its more than a century history. The company also expanded its variety of colored pencils and markers, including the ones with extra fine tip, to fit a wider range of projects. Coloring a book is not only a relaxing activity but it’s also a means of self-expression and a creativity jump-starter. Some users frame their artworks to display and share with family and friends. The richness of possibilities is motivating.
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s Collection of Twenty-Six Catskill Historical Quilting Designs is more than a coloring book. It’s also a reflection of Early America coded in the quilting designs of the women who moved to the region which eventually became the Schoharie and Greene Counties of New York State. In a note prefacing the book, Ms. Walsh explains: “the women of mixed Palatine and Dutch heritage arriving in Schoharie Kill in the 1700s found themselves living during the time when the screams of the mountain lion were a chilling reminder of just how wild this frontier outpost really was; nonetheless, with brave hearts and steady hands they cut and stitched their quilts with the astonishing skill and imagination they passed to their descendants. Some of their legacies are found in this book today.”
Quilting has been described by scholars as “the art of necessity.” When textiles were scarce, women patched old blankets, coverlets, and table runners with cloth they had available and ready to use. European settlers brought this practice to the New World, and it flourished here and took on a new life. A utilitarian activity at first, quilting did eventually become an American folk art.
According to Lisa J. Allen who writes about the history of quilting in America, “In the 100 years between 1750 and 1850 thousands of quilts were pieced and patched, and many of them are preserved. Many of these quilts were so elaborate that years were spent making and quilting them. It is no wonder they are cherished as precious heirlooms and occupy honored places in homes and museums. Those early quilts provide a glimpse into the history of quilting as well as the history of the United States.”
American Folk Art Museum in New York City has an impressive textile collection, and has begun the New York Quilt Project to locate, document, preserve, and create an archive for New York State quilts. Dr. Jacqueline M. Atkins, a curator who worked at the Folk Art Museum, wrote the introduction for the The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book, and shared “the thrill of the hunt, as one is never sure just what new and exciting quilts, patterns, and designs will turn up in addition to renewing acquaintances with many old favorites.”
Among the 26 quilts included in the book, our favorites are the Japanese Fan (a 19th century feed sack quilt), Honeycomb (a coverlet dated 1929), and the Friendship Quilt (dated around 1850s). The Japanese fan motif became popular in the U.S. after the Centennial International Exhibition that took place in Philadelphia in 1876, as related by Atkins; Catskill artisans quickly incorporated the motif in their work. The Honeycomb quilt block known by other names as well, most notably Hexagon, but also Mosaic or French Rose, may be in fact one of the oldest known quilt blocks in America. The Friendship Quilt was created by several women as a solace for a loved one who would move West. Each block was sewn in secret by a friend or a relative who signed their name in ink or embroidered it on their finished block. During the 1850s it became popular to embroider the name rather than sign it in ink, a practice that would help historians date the quilts.
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s Collection of Twenty-Six Catskill Historical Quilting Designs can be ordered by phone at (518) 299-3395, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail at Pratt Museum, PO Box 333, Prattsville, NY 12468. For questions about this project, you may contact Suzanne Walsh at (518) 937-6120 or email@example.com. All funds go to support the Museum’s mission. To learn more, visit zadockprattmuseum.org.
Writers in the Mountains (WIM) presents Micro-Memoir, a six-week long workshop with Linda Lowen, January 8 – February 12, 2021. The class will be held online Fridays, from 10 am to 12 noon. Once they register and pay, participants will be given instructions on how to join the class.
Memoir doesn’t have to cover decades to tell a story. Sometimes a single moment, vividly depicted, illuminates a life. If you’ve wanted to write memoir but are overwhelmed at the immensity of the task—or you’re already writing but need a fresh approach—consider micro memoir. The smaller format can be freeing, allowing you to focus on an event that serves as a microcosm of the larger experience. In this workshop you’ll write short 200-word pieces and discover less is more. Weeks 5 and 6 we’ll focus on Tiny Love Stories, relationship tales of 100 words or less, and you’ll come away with one piece suitable to submit to the New York Times column of the same name.
A book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Linda’s nonfiction has been published in the New York Times and is forthcoming in “Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less” from Artisan Books in December. Her writing advice has appeared in The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazines. She teaches creative nonfiction at the Downtown Writer’s Center in Syracuse, NY, and has led workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and HippoCamp, the annual CNF conference sponsored by Hippocampus magazine. Her website is lindalowen.com
To register, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To register online, visit writersinthemountains.org. Class fee is $100, if you register and pay by December 18, and $125 after that.
Writers in the Mountains is a 501 ( c ) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. Learn more at writersinthemountains.org.
For quite some time I’ve had the honor and privilege to work with both the Hospital Foundation and the Auxiliary to raise funds for this worthy cause. Read about the Auxiliary leadership team in the Catskills Chronicle, and learn about the goals set for the next two years. Visit margaretvillehospitalauxiliary.com for more details.
Writers Unbound, Seventh Annual Catskills Literary Festival, scheduled for April 26, has been postponed.
The program included:
12:30 p.m.—Poetry Reading hosted by Sharon Israel / Featured Poet Jared Daniel Fagen
1:30 p.m.—Publishing Panel moderated by Simona David / Group Discussion Addressing the Latest News and Trends in Publishing
Panelists include Leslie T. Sharpe (author and editor), Carrie Bradley Neves (editor), Andrew Flach (publisher, Hatherleigh Press), Brett Barry (publisher, Silver Hollow Audio)
2:00 p.m.—Keynote Address with Beth Lisick, author of the New York Times bestseller Everybody Into the Pool
3:00 p.m.— SPARK! with Lilly Golden and Lorrayne Bolger
The Roxbury SPARK!:Art and Literary Magazine is the student-run magazine of Roxbury Central School. In its sixth year, this publication showcases creative works of students in fifth through twelve grades, including paintings, drawings, photographs, poems, short stories, and even novellas and plays. SPARK! is produced by the students, for the students, to display, publish, and archive their work. The process of experimenting with writing, workshopping projects together and encouraging fellow student writers and artists makes the journey as meaningful as the final publication.
3:30 p.m.— New Release with Anique Sara Taylor, author of Where Space Bends (Finishing Line Press), forthcoming in 2020
4:00 p.m. — The Bounty of Books Raffle, with a prize of ten selected book titles, will be awarded (come early, tickets are limited!), and the winner of the Best Cover Contest will be announced.
Keynote Speaker Beth Lisick is a writer, actor, and the author of five books, including the New York Times bestseller Everybody Into the Pool. Her work has been published in various magazines and journals, including Best American Poetry. She co-founded San Francisco’s Porchlight storytelling series, traveled the country with the Sister Spit performance tours, and received a Creative Work Fund grant for a chapbook series with Creativity Explored, a San Francisco studio for artists with developmental disabilities. Beth has appeared in films that have screened at Cannes, Sundance, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Her first novel Edie on the Green Screen was just published by 7.13 Books. Beth is a resident of Brooklyn and West Hurley. Her website is bethlisick.com.
Brands will adapt and lifestyle will change in a post-coronavirus economy. Morgan Stanley anticipates the U.S. GDP will shrink 30% in the second quarter due to record unemployment caused by Covid-19. Restaurants, retailers, museums and other organizations have laid off staff while consumers have cut spending on travel, dining out and entertainment. Creative minds are already at work envisioning a post-coronavirus society. Politico surveyed 30 thinkers who shared their predictions on what changes we may see in our lifestyle, technology, health, economy, and government. Research is accelerating to diagnose and treat those affected by the pandemic.
The U.N. has invited content creators around the world to come up with innovative messages to inform communities about Covid-19 and help stop the spread of the virus. Six key areas of interest were identified: personal hygiene, social distancing, knowing the symptoms, global solidarity, myth-busting and donation.
We are inviting our followers to keep a journal to record the changes they see in their lives. We can help publish a book, whether be poetry, memoir, essays, or illustrations, etc. Write or make art for the sake of history, but also to help process the changes all around.