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This Week in New York State Government

Governor:

Governor Cuomo Launches $50 Million Innovation Venture Capital Fund to Support and Attract New High-Growth Businesses

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched the New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund to support entrepreneurs making the transition from research to marketplace, and incentivize them to stay and grow their businesses in New York. As part of the Governor’s economic development agenda, the Fund will provide critical seed funding for the development of early-stage companies in high growth areas to create jobs and help launch, as well as attract new businesses to New York State. The $50 million fund is expected to leverage at least $100 million in private capital to support high growth areas including advanced materials, clean technology, life sciences/biotechnology and information technology.

The Fund will be comprised of two distinct segments. The Technology Commercialization Segment willfacilitate the commercialization efforts of start-up companies associated with New York’s universities and make small pre-seed stage investments of up to $100,000. The Seed and Early Stage Co-Investment Segment will invest directly in seedand/or early stage companies, with an emphasis on strategic industries such as information technology and life sciences/biotech, as well as relatively underserved areas of the state, with investments ranging from $100,000 to $5 million. Empire State Development will review each and approve all of the Fund’s investments.

The Fund is part of Governor Cuomo’s broader commercialization agenda in order to encourage innovation and drive economic growth in communities across the State. It is being coordinated with the State’s existing business resources and innovation investments, including the Governor’s START-UP NY program, Innovation Hot Spots, the Regional Economic Development Councils, the Centers of Advanced Technology and Centers of Excellence networks and the SUNY 2020 Initiative.

Governor Cuomo Announces $709.2 Million in Economic Development Resources Awarded in Fourth Round of Regional

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that $709.2 million in economic and community development funding has been awarded through Round IV of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative.

A centerpiece of the Governor’s strategy to jumpstart the economy and create jobs, the Regional Councils were established in 2011 to transform the State’s approach to economic development from a top-down model to one that is community-based and performance-driven. The initiative empowers community, business, and academic leaders, as well as members of the public in each region of the state, to develop strategic plans specifically tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources in order to create jobs, improve quality of life and grow the economy.

Governor Cuomo Announces Action to Help Ensure Transgender New Yorkers Receive Equal Access to Health

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that regulatory guidance has been issued to help ensure that transgender New Yorkers have equal access to commercial health insurance coverage. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) today sent industry guidance to all New York insurers stating that they may not deny medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria – a condition when a person’s gender at birth is contrary to the one with which they identify.

An insurer retains the right to review gender dysphoria treatment for medical necessity purposes, as it may do with any benefit covered under a health insurance policy. But, as with any covered benefit, any such review in a gender dysphoria treatment case must be performed with the full range of appeal rights set forth in Article 49 of both the Insurance Law and the Public Health Law.

A consumer whose gender dysphoria treatment has been denied has the right to file an internal appeal of the denial with the insurer. Information on filing an internal appeal is provided on the notice of the denial that an insurer is required to provide to the consumer. If an insurer denies the treatment on internal appeal, the consumer has the right to file an external appeal with an independent external appeal agent who will make their own medical necessity determination. Information on filing an external appeal can be found here.

Governor Cuomo Announces $7.2 Million For Supportive Housing Projects 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $7.2 million in funding for supportive housing projects in the Bronx and Buffalo. These projects will provide a total of 80 units of supportive housing for homeless individuals and families, including veterans and high-need Medicaid beneficiaries, with funding through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.

In the Bronx, Postgraduate Center for Mental Health is being awarded $5.5 million and, in Buffalo, HELP Development Corporation is being awarded $1.7 million.Postgraduate Center for Mental Health’s project calls for a newly-constructed, 100-unit building with affordable and supportive housing, to be known as the Marion Avenue Residence. It will include 50 units for single homeless adults living with serious mental illnesses who are high-cost Medicaid users and 15 two-bedroom units serving chronically homeless families, in which the head of household is chemically addicted or suffering from a serious mental illness. The total cost of the project is $46 million.

The State’s $5.5 million for the Center includes more than $4.2 million from the State’s Medicaid Redesign Team and nearly $1.3 million from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. The Medicaid Redesign Team has allocated $10 million to the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance for the development of housing projects specifically targeting homeless individuals who are also high-cost Medicaid users.

HELP Development Corporation’s project will rehabilitate a vacant building and construct an adjacent building that will include 47 units of supportive and affordable housing. Fifteen of the units will be reserved for homeless single veterans and veterans with families. The total cost of the project is $12 million, with $1.7 million coming from the State Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.

Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of $2.6 Million NY Works Project to Renovate Riverbank Ice Rink 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced completion of a $2.6 million NY Works project to renovate the Riverbank State Park ice rink in Harlem. The winter skating season kicked off this afternoon with an evening that included skills clinics led by members of the New York Rangers, youth hockey games, and skating as well as an exhibition hockey game featuring Rangers alumni.

Funded by Governor Cuomo’s NY Works initiative, the skating rink recently completed the second phase of a 13-month renovation. Improvements include:

  • Refurbishing the rink’s 20-year-old refrigeration system to prevent breakdowns and ensure continued ice-making at the rink;
  • Installing new dasher boards and anti-fog glass around the rink;
  • Replacing the cracked concrete rink surface, which will provide a smoother skating surface, including for roller skating in warm months; and
  • Installing new sun shades at the rink’s southern exposure to protect and prolong the quality of the ice surface.

Complementing these efforts, New York Rangers Assist, supported by Chase Bank, which is part of an expanding list of Rangers “Go Skate!” community initiatives that focus on growing hockey throughout the tri-state, today took part in a variety of activities on the improved rink such as a “Try Hockey for Free” clinic and an exhibition hockey game featuring The New York Rangers. Chase Bank donated $25,000 to the Riverbank State Park Youth Hockey Program to help build a new off-ice training zone, provide portable boards to divide the ice, create a tent to be used as additional locker space, and provide additional youth hockey equipment.

Riverbank State Park’s rink is used by approximately 400,000 people a year for learn-to-skate programs, open skating programs, figure skating, hockey leagues and roller skating. Completed in 1993, Riverbank State Park is a unique 28-acre multi-level landscaped recreational facility rising 69 feet above the Hudson River, located atop a water pollution control plant.

The rink improvements reflect a statewide revitalization of the park system. Under the NY Works program, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature dedicated $90 million in the 2014-2015 State Budget for State Parks capital improvement projections. This commitment follows the past two years’ NY Works initiative, which allocated $179 million in new capital funds. Together with additional leveraged funds, NY Works has supported a total of $421 million to advance 279 capital improvement projects at 109 parks since 2012, including Riverbank’s outdoor athletic field, track gymnasium and heating system.

Governor Cuomo Announces $25 Million to Expand Pre-K in Communities With High Student Needs

Governor Cuomo announced that New York State has been awarded approximately $25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education to support pre-k programs in New York City, Yonkers, Uniondale, Indian River and Port Chester. In addition to being based in communities with high poverty rates, these districts serve high numbers of children who are Dual Language Learners.

New York State expects to create 1,725 new full-day slots and improve an additional 1,350 existing slots to meet the definition of a full-day High-Quality Preschool Program. This funding opportunity will allow the State to continue implementing the largest expansion of full-day pre-kindergarten in New York’s history.

The $25 million award represents year one of this federal grant. New York State applied for a total of $100 million over four years, and further allocations up to that $100 million are subject to the State’s progress in achieving its benchmarks in these districts and the availability of funds.

Final district-level allocations are subject to further review and discussion with the federal government, but initial budgeted awards for the first year of the program as as follows: $9 million for New York City, $9.6 million for Yonkers, $1.8 million for Port Chester, $1.5 million for Indian River, and $1.9 million for Uniondale. New York will also receive funding to invest in State-level infrastructure.

This funding is made available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Preschool Development Grants program. A total of 35 states and Puerto Rico submitted applications to the program this year, but New York is one of only 18 to receive funding.

Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Plaza Improvements

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Bridges and Tunnels has completed a $50 million project to rebuild the Staten Island toll plaza of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, improving traffic flow from Staten Island approaches onto the bridge. The three-year project was completed on budget and seven months ahead of schedule.

The MTA began this comprehensive project to improve Staten Island’s bridge approaches in 2011. This included removing the last three unused Brooklyn-bound toll booths, which had required drivers to reduce speed even though they had not been used since the federal government mandated one-way tolling in 1986. With the booths removed, roadways that had been designed for stop-and-go traffic were rebuilt to accommodate vehicles traveling at highway speeds.

The project also constructed a new connector ramp for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, providing an easier two-lane path for traffic to move directly onto the lower level and ensuring a more even distribution of traffic between the bridge’s two levels.

Governor Cuomo Announces New York Selected For USDA Pilot to Increase Procurement of Locally-Grown Produce in Schools

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York State has been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to participate in a federal pilot program for the procurement of locally-grown produce in New York State schools. The Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables was included in the 2014 federal Farm Bill and creates a new project to procure unprocessed fruits and vegetables. New York is one of eight states selected to participate in this first-of-its-kind federal initiative, the application for which was submitted by the New York State Office of General Services.

New York’s pilot will be administered by the State Office of General Services and will begin in Rochester. Next week, OGS will begin talking with farmers, food hubs and schools in the region about the program and how they can participate. Because many of the Rochester organizations have not worked with the USDA before, OGS will help walk them through the process.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Governor’s newly-created “Buy NY” initiative, which was announced at last week’s Upstate-Downstate Agriculture Summit. “Buy NY” is a joint effort by the State Department of Agriculture & Markets, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, Office of General Services and Cornell Cooperative Extension to leverage existing centralized contracts regarding the purchase of State food products, including produce and dairy products.

Governor Cuomo Announces $3.2 Million to Promote College Access to Low Income Students

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $3.2 million in federal College Access Challenge Grant Program funding has been awarded to 20 organizations across the State to help increase college enrollment and directly serve low-income students. This funding comes from a $6.2 million grant awarded to the State in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Education and will be administered by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation. A $6.5 million grant was also awarded in 2014 and will be used to support college access services and activities for the 2015-16 school year.

Governor Cuomo Announces Spreemo to Relocate to Lower Manhattan New York State

New York State announced that Spreemo, LLC, a fast-growing digital healthcare start-up currently based in Hoboken, New Jersey, will relocate and expand in lower Manhattan next year. The company will be moving into its new headquarters at 88 Pine Street in the Financial District by early 2015, and plans to create more than 95 new jobs in New York.

Launched in 2011, Spreemo is a value-driven, quality-first healthcare platform currently focused on radiology services for the workers’ compensation market. Its quality-based metrics and predictive analytics enable large employers and insurers to make more informed decisions and provide the best treatment for injured employees. Spreemo is also performing transformative clinical research to establish objective quality metrics in radiology and understand how quality ultimately affects the trajectory of patient care and outcomes.

Comptroller:

State Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Report on Environmental Funding in New York State

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has experienced staff cuts and constrained funding since 2003 while its responsibilities have grown, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

DiNapoli’s report, “Environmental Funding in New York State,”examines DEC funding and workforce in the context of its mission. The report also highlights receipts and spending in several of the state’s major dedicated funds for environmental purposes.

DEC is responsible for most of New York’s programs to protect wildlife, natural resources and environmental quality. DEC programs range widely from managing fish and game populations and overseeing the extraction of natural resources to monitoring the discharge of pollutants and hazardous materials and cleaning up contaminated sites.

Attorney General:

Attorney General Schneiderman

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced

Attorney General Schneiderman Requests Executive Order To Restore Public Confidence In Criminal Justice System

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced was joined by a broad coalition of elected officials in outlining an immediate first step toward restoring public trust and confidence in the fairness of reviews of cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers.  In a letter sent to Governor Cuomo, Attorney General Schneiderman formally requested that the Governor immediately issue an interim executive order now directing the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute cases involving unarmed civilians killed by police officers.

While several proposals for reforming the criminal justice system are expected to be considered when the State Legislature reconvenes, the Attorney General noted the urgent need for immediate action to restore public trust in the outcome of  cases involving unarmed civilians killed by law enforcement officers by ensuring these cases receive a thorough, impartial and independent review. The proposed order would be drafted to expire when the Legislature acts to permanently address this problem.

Attorney General Schneiderman announced his proposal at a news conference in Manhattan, where he was joined by a broad coalition of elected officials, including New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

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