Blog - Williamstown, MA
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Update, Wednesday April 8th, 2020

Subsequent to potential dangers the COVID-19 pandemic has brought,the BRTA will now be providing transportation for CRITICAL TRIPS ONLY.

The BRTA recommends all customers wear a medical or cloth mask to cover their mouth and nose, as recommended by the CDC, while onboard any BRTA vehicle. (visit cdc.gov for a tutorial on making your own cloth face mask). They’re also indicating that riders practice social distancing while riding on the bus; maintain space when seating. Makes sense, right? We encourage anyone needing our van to do the same and wear masks and gloves. Safety first!

All riders must be traveling to a critical, essential destination. Critical trips are defined as work related, vital appointments, or necessary shopping trips. All riders are required to exit the bus at the end of the route, or stated destination, and may not re-board the same vehicle for a return trip. Multiple or consecutive round trips will not be permitted and riders who appear to be loitering will be asked to get off the bus.

For your health and the health of others, if you are sick, have a cough, fever, or other COVID-19 symptoms, do not ride the BRTA bus. Stay home! 

If you’re a SNAP recipient (used to be called food stamps..) and you’re not yet receiving the 

maximum benefit, you’ll be receiving extra funds, a supplement, for April and May.The difference will be calculated by comparing the amount each person currently receives and the maximum for their household size and then adding funds to bring everyone up to the maximum level. If you’re already at the max, there will not be an added amount. It’s only for the people who aren’t yet at the maximum.

If you do get a supplement, you’ll be notified by phone or text.You can check the balance on your individual account via the DTA-Connect website or by calling the number on the back of your EBT card.

Berkshire County COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund has arranged a weekend meal delivery service through local restaurants to those community members who are currently unable to leave their homes and unable to access food on the weekend.  This initiative is open to people who reside in any seven north Berkshire towns [Williamstown, North Adams, Clarksburg, Florida, Adams, Cheshire, and Savoy]. At this time, 150 meals for each weekend are available.

This program is intended to reach individuals and families with no other access to food resources on weekends.  They are trying to reach those families and individuals who are not already connected with a food pantry or meal program. They’ll  be asking interested participants about food resources they are already accessing. They’re trying to avoid any duplication of efforts to expand our community’s ability to provide for vulnerable populations.  

If you know of any individual who is in need of food on the weekend because they are dependent on food delivery services, please contact the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition office at 413-663-7588. They’ll be taking phone calls Monday through Friday, 9am-3pm. Orders for weekend delivery will be placed on Fridays at 3pm and deliveries will be coordinated for Saturday at a designated time

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is offering virtual programs for caregivers and friends. Here’s a list;

Technology Class: Staying Connected, April 9th at 2:30

Broadway Concert, 2:30 on April 10th

Art with Emily, April 11th at 2:30

And finally Self Care Sunday:caregiver Stress reduction Series at 12:00 April 12th.

You can join in on any program by visiting the AFA Facebook page, and if you missed out on any of these programs, you can access them at any time through the AFA Facebook page.

By the Way, the Alzheimer’s Foundation Helpline is open seven days a week to answer any caregiving questions you might have. They’re at 866.232.8484.

That’s it for today. Talk again soon!

Brian O’Grady

Updates, Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

I went for a walk on the Spruces grounds for a change of scenery. It was sunny, still warm in the early evening and there were other people there as well, walking dogs and baby carriages, children chasing each other around. A park. Oh yes, I know what was there and what ultimately happened on that site.  I remember. Today it’s a different kind of peaceful spot, it’s flat, the former streets are still laid out in their original grid and while not paved, are kept open and are quite walkable. It’s a big space, no worry about needing to come close to anyone else. As they say, you can see them coming! There are picnic tables, cans for depositing trash and dog waste, soon there will be birds and bees and flowers. If you haven’t been there, or climbing hills isn’t your thing, take a walk on the level at the Spruces.

I see more people wearing masks while out in a close public space-think grocery stores. Good for those people. We realize that not everyone has a mask to wear, there’s a real shortage. Attached is a video from the Center for Disease Control showing how to make one yourself if you’re so inclined. Or, actually, have that talent, which I do not. These may well be very helpful if you’re going out, as long as you still practice social distancing. These should be washed after use as well because you just never know!

Oh, and before you ask, yes, we are working on the mask supply issue. Stay tuned, we’ll let you know what’s up. We’re not likely to be able to find a supply of genuine made for emergency responders medical masks for obvious reasons but decent locally made options are a possibility.

CDC web site has instructions

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

The Williamstown Food Pantry at St. Patrick/St. Raphael is open for business again this week, tomorrow, Wednesday April 8th, 9:30-noon.Same access plan, use Mission Park Drive to circle around behind the church, stay in your car, someone will help you. Walkers, go to the head of the line and they’ll try to get to you first. Nobody gets into the building and they’re all set for volunteers.

Next week, April15th, they’re only handling emergency food requests and new people. New means that you’ve never been there before. Also-if you’re thinking about donating a food item, they’re really short of rice and would appreciate this gift if you are able.

Added to the other food resources we’ve been listing, Whitney’s Farm and Market in Cheshire has opened for the season. They are designated as an essential business and are doing curbside pick up, you can ask them about that by calling 413.442.4749. I know that some folks have enjoyed going there and if you should happen to be out for a ride, it might be a stop, right?

We’ve received news that the Williamstown Theatre Festival has had to put a hold on the 2020 summer season and, at this moment at least, will not be moving forward as planned. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible to proceed. It’s just not safe for them to work or  for audiences to come out and enjoy. It is a hard but very responsible action on their part, dontcha think? 

Obviously this will impact those of you who have been involved with Community Works. If anything changes, they’ll make an announcement. 

Now, an  unusual bit of information. We all know that there are people dying as a result of this pandemic and the restrictions on gathering together will certainly put a hold on all sorts of services and memorials for lost friends and family everywhere. There is an organization out there called the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts, some of you were here a couple years ago when Sandy Ward, the local contact person,came to Harper to talk about funeral costs and necessities. They have become a great resource for information regarding funerals and burials, cost, what to look for, etc. Recently they have posted a series of short informational videos on the topic of delayed funerals and funerals for COVID-19 victims. The address is funeralconsumerswmass.org

Talk again soon.

.

Sunday April 5th, 2020

I wanted to call this the weekend update but someone else got there first…so I’ll just call it Sunday April 5th, 2020.

I found myself seriously bored with the same old routine yesterday and so took a different route on my daily walk. I decided to check out the trails behind the Clark and discovered that I was not alone, at least a dozen others were out there, observing social distance spaces by at least 100 yards…It’s a different view from the top at this moment, there are no leaves and the sky was grey but the view from Stone Hill was as fantastic as ever. Check it out. If you do go, the paths are mostly in fine shape but the section called  “Woodland Trail” was a bit muddy and the pasture across the top is soggy in places, but not bad. There are welcome signs from the Clark asking people to honor social distancing practices while out there and also noting that the surfaces in the Thomas Schutte Crystal installation are cleaned once daily. 

Kudos to the wonderful people at the Clark for being sensitive to everything happening out there at the moment. 

If you miss going out to catch a movie, the Images are screening films online that you can watch from your computer. There is a fee involved, the movies being screened and the day and time they’re showing are to be found on the Images website; www.imagescinema.org

The Williamstown Historical Museum  has posted their April Newsletter online. It’s always an interesting read but in this month’s edition there’s an article about the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu epidemic and its impact on Williamstown. Very eerie similarities with the current situation.  

They’ve also touched upon the 1955 Polio scare. 

The record shows that both of these threats passed. This one will too.

You can find the newsletter on their website at www.williamstownhistoricalmuseum.org

Finally our friends at the Williamstown Theatre Festival are hosting a live virtual workshop via Facebook Live on April 14th and a telephone audio version of the same workshop on April 15th from 5:00-5:45 PM . You can find information for the live event on their website www.wtfestival.org I’ll post the audio call in information when I get it.

Talk again soon.

Update, April 2nd, 2020

Today is the day after National Census Day so if you haven’t done it yet, get to it!

Take the Census | US Census Bureau

If you drive or know someone who does, effective April 1, 2020, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles says that  all passenger and dealer plate registrations that expired in March and passenger plates that are expiring in April have been extended for 60 days. Registrations that expired in March have been extended until May 31 and registrations that expire in April have been extended until June 30. Registration renewals can continue to be performed online at Mass.Gov/RMV. There will be no in-person renewals at this time.

All Driver’s Licenses, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits, including Commercial Licenses and Permits that have expired or are expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, have had a 60-day extension applied to the current expiration date and do not need to be renewed at this time. 

This does not apply to customers whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their Driver’s License, ID card, or Learner’s Permit

The annual motor vehicle and emissions inspection stickers that expire on March 31 and April 30 have been extended 60 days and all motorcycle inspection stickers originally set to expire on May 31 must be inspected by June 30. The RMV is also extending the time during which newly registered vehicles must be inspected based on the purchase date.

Now they tell me….

More good news; The Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service  announced that Social Security beneficiaries who are not required to file tax returns will NOT need to file an abbreviated tax return to receive an Economic Impact Payment. Instead, payments will be automatically deposited into their bank accounts. “Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return do not need to take an action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. That’s a quote folks. He said it.

The IRS will use the information from Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 Economic Impact Payments to Social Security recipients who didn’t  file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, whichever way you usually receive your Social Security.

Governor Baker made an appeal for Massachusetts residents who are able to donate, to donate blood to help save lives. There will be a blood drive at MountainOne Investment on 296 Main Street in Williamstown on Thursday, April 9th from 9:00 AM to 2:30 PM. That’s the site of the former Howard Johnson Restaurant, not the other one, FYI…Donors need to be healthy without any symptoms of cough, cold, fever…The drive is being facilitated by Berkshire Health Systems, appointments are appreciated, 414.447.2597, extension 2  is the number to call or you can reserve electronically at; camuso@bhs1.org

Speaking of Berkshire Health Systems, if you have COVID-19 concerns, contact your primary health care physician., as only that individual can authorize testing at this moment. BHS has set up a helpline to answer any questions about this pandemic, or any other health care issues for that matter. Call them at 855.262.5465.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there.

Wednesday April 1st, 2020

Hi everyone,

Today is National Walking Day! Get out there! Just stay away from other people!

Today is also National Census day. If you haven’t taken a moment to fill out the census, please do it now. It’s so critical for Williamstown and Berkshire County to have an accurate count of who lives here now. The census numbers determine future access to services and funding across many paths of life-health, education, business, government, infrastructure. We’re all going to have a lot of work ahead of us when the pandemic finally passes and an accurate population count will give us one more tool in the recovery process. Here’s the address to complete it:

Take the Census | US Census Bureau

Today we’ll share some at home exercises and yoga movements created by our friends Mary and Jane to help you stay in touch and limber at home! If you’re new to these programs, enjoy! If you’re already a member of the class, consider this to be homework. There may be a quiz someday..

Enjoy! We’ll talk again soon!

Yoga Sequence Using Hand/Arm Weights

Opening Sequence on a Chair

Keep moving with Jane Jezouit’s Harper Center Exercise Class– a whole body workout!  

(Jane’s class is also on TV channel 1303 every Mon, Wed, Fri, & Sat at 11:15 am) or

Take the class anytime on willinet.org

Updates for Tuesday March 31st, 2020

Well now, here we are at the beginning of the third week of official social distancing. There have been lots of closures and shut downs necessitated by our need to aggressively flatten the COVID-19 curve and avoid spreading it around here. Yup, it’s hard. No doubt. Remember, we’re here to help, 413.458.8250 is the number, call us for information, assistance with referrals, if you’re looking for shopping assistance, medical transportation or need to talk to someone.  We’ll see what we can do.

We’ve noticed an uptick this week in the number  people looking for a bit of help with grocery shopping. We suspect that supplies stocked away may be running down, no worries. You can call the COA office at the Harper Center, 413.458.8250 and talk to us, we’ll tell you what we need to know and then connect you with a shopper to help out. You can also email your information, please include a phone number, to; bogrady@williamstownma.gov and someone will contact you.

The local food pantries, the Al Nelson Friendship Center Food Pantry in North Adams, temporarily located in the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Center, 70 Holden Street, opposite the Big Y and the St. Patrick/St.Raphael Food Pantry are both in operation this Wednesday. The Friendship Center hours are from 10:00 to 2:00 and then again 3:30 to 5:30. They’re also looking for volunteers, if interested contact them through northernberkshireinterfaith@gmail.com  St.Patrick/Raphael’s hours are 9:30-12:00. Use Mission Park Drive drive to enter the church lot, circle around behind the building, stay in your car and someone will assist you. Walkers go to the front of the line, they’ll try to help you first. Again, no one will be allowed into the building! Sorry.

The IRS website www.irs.gov has put up some interesting information regarding the “Economic Stimulus Payments”. They say that the distribution should begin within the next three weeks and will be done automatically. No action will be required for most people, however, individuals who normally do not file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive the payment. The instructions to do this will be posted under IRS.gov/coronavirus as soon as the process becomes available.

If you’ve already filed taxes for 2018 or 2019, they’ll use this figure to calculate an amount and send it electronically. Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples will essentially receive $1200 each to be deposited directly into your bank account. There are adjustments for children and incomes above these amounts. The IRS will use the bank account information reflected on your tax return for deposits. If they don’t have your direct deposit information, the Treasury Department will be developing a web based portal to provide banking information enabling quick payment. These economic impact payments will be available through 2020 so if you are worried about timing, there are 9 months left.

Answers to other questions or information needs can be found on their website.

Just in case you were wondering, I do not have any other information regarding the currently suspended AARP Tax Aide program but if we hear something, it will be passed along.

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)  has launched a new online application portal which can help elders (and others) apply for benefits such as SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) or emergency aid to elders, disabled individuals and children. There are grandparents raising grandchildren out there right? Given the closure of just about everything subsequent to this virus, including local DTA offices, the site will enable quick applications without face to face contact. The address is;

dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov

Share it as needed.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there.