As Suffolk County moves to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we all must rethink our day-to-day routines, how we interact with each other, and the sacrifices we must all make for the good of …
As Suffolk County moves to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we all must rethink our day-to-day routines, how we interact with each other, and the sacrifices we must all make for the good of the community. Many of us are spending our days responding to this crisis in extraordinary ways. Our health care workers and essential personnel are operating around the clock to keep society moving at a time of unprecedented change. Many others are adapting to the new normal of social isolation and distancing. As we rethink our way of life, this can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reexamine our priorities and emerge with a renewed sense of purpose.
Undoubtedly, many are already feeling the economic effects of the historic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Many small businesses who have been forced to close down will feel this very intensely. Suffolk County has opened a Business Recovery Unit to help connect businesses with resources and aid, and the Small Business Administration is offering emergency disaster loans to help businesses get through this time. More information can be found at disasterloan.sba.gov. This is a critical time for all of us to support our small businesses. Restaurants are allowed to stay open for takeout or delivery service, and I encourage everyone who is still able to support our local restaurants to do so in any way that they can.
Workers who have been laid off or find themselves with reduced hours can qualify for benefits to help them through this difficult time. The one-week waiting period to qualify for unemployment benefits has been waived by New York State. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also ordered banks and financial institutions to suspend mortgage payments for 90 days for anyone who has been adversely affected by COVID-19. Moreover, the state has suspended evictions for all residential and commercial properties for 90 days. Additionally, New York has halted collection of state-held student loan and medical debt until at least April 15. Finally, Albany has passed a sick- leave bill that guarantees paid time for most workers and protections in case of quarantine or sickness. These programs and suspensions are a real benefit for those in a time of need.
Schools have been closed now for weeks and families are adjusting to the new normal. What children need now more than ever is consistency. Creating a daily schedule of education can help keep learning focused and prevent students from treating this as time off from schoolwork. It’s also important to remember to schedule in play and outdoor time to help kids burn off energy. Another way to help them process this period is to encourage them to keep a journal. These simple acts of consistency can help ground the daily experience of children.
Speaking of the outdoors, I want to remind everyone that as of press time, Suffolk County Parks remain open. While large events have been canceled and gatherings are not allowed under the emergency rules issued by the Governor, you can still enjoy nature and all it has to offer. We are lucky to live in a place with breathtaking natural landscapes and hundreds of acres of open space. Now is the time to take advantage of it. With that said, social distancing is still important to prac- tice while outdoors because the virus can still be spread, even in the fresh air. Keep at least 6 feet away from others to keep yourself safe. New York State has waived all fees at state and county parks. Especially as spring approaches, experiencing the outdoors will be an important part of taking care of your mental health throughout this period.
For those rainy spring days when we can’t get out of the house, many of our local libraries and museums are offering free virtual experiences. Beyond Suffolk County, world-class institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera and Broadway are also offering free virtual programs. This is a great opportunity for everyone to expand our horizons and experience something that we may not look for otherwise.
Information on the coronavirus and its effects is changing rapidly. I will be posting regular updates on my Facebook page. I would also encourage everyone to visit the Suffolk County Health Department’s website at www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health and the CDC at www.coronavirus.gov for the most accurate and up-to-date information available. You can text COVIDSUFFOLK to 67283 to receive the latest informa- tion over text messages as well.