Covid-19 Briefs April 3: BRTA Modifies Bus Routes

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BRTA Modifying Weekday Routes

Berkshire Regional Transit Authority is reducing the normal weekday service to a modified schedule effective Monday, April 6. Saturday service has not been affected and will run as scheduled. Modified schedules of
the effected routes below will be posted to the BRTA website
 
The following routes will have 120-minute headways instead of the usual weekday 60-minute service headways:
  • Route 1 Pittsfield to North Adams,
  • Route 2 Pittsfield to Lee,
  • Route 4 Pittsfield to Dalton/Hinsdale,
  • Route 11 Pittsfield to BCC,
  • Route 21 Lee to Great Barrington.
  • The following routes will not run:
  • Route 3S Pittsfield to Williamstown,
  • Route 14 Pittsfield shopping loop,
  • Route 21X Pittsfield express service to Great Barrington,
  • Route 22 Great Barrington circulator loop.
  • The remaining routes will operate on a regular weekday schedule:
  • Route 1 Evening Pilot Pittsfield to North Adams,
  • Route 3 Williamstown to North Adams,
  • Route 5 Pittsfield to Lanesborough,
  • Route 11N Evening Pilot to Walmart,
  • Route 12 Pittsfield shopping loop,
  • Route 15 West Pittsfield,
  • Route 16 Crane Avenue,
  • Route 34 North Adams loop.
 
These lifeline services provide to the BRTA communities will continue as long as possible during this pandemic. The safety of our staff, operators, and customers remains very important to us.
 
For additional information regarding these changes, contact the BRTA at 413-499-2782.
 

Freeman Center Providing Services for Abuse Survivors

The Elizabeth Freeman Center, the county's provider of services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, is still operating but the is concerned about the decline in requests for help. 
 
Domestic violence rates have risen dramatically during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to data gathered world wide. Yet the numbers of calls to the agency and walk-in clients have actually decreased significantly during the past few weeks, as they have across the United States.
 
Abuse survivors depend on many services that are increasingly difficult to access. Many are terrified to go near a hospital out of fear of exposure to the virus. Motels are closed and restaurants can't offer on-site dining. Public facilities with access to the internet are closed, as are courthouses although protections of order can still be obtained.
 
"These are scary times for all of us, but especially for already vulnerable populations like abuse survivors. It is vitally important for the public to know that we are open and still providing services at our offices in Pittsfield and Great Barrington. The North Adams office is temporarily closed, but is expected to reopen next week," said Executive Director Janis Broderick 
 
The offices are set up with hand sanitizers and can provide social distancing for walk-in clients. Emergency services (including food and shelter) are available to those fleeing abuse. Call the hotline 24 hours a day/7 days a week at 866-401-2425. 

 

Bartlett's Orchard Food Pantry

Barltett's Orchard has a set up a food pantry for those in need. You may pick up or drop off at the store during their normal hours Sunday through Saturday from 8 to 4. Staff will be able to assist you with any questions or you can call Cindy Bartlett at 413-698- 2559.

The orchard's farm store is currently open and has implemented extra cleaning measures.

 

Downtown Pittsfield's Gift Card Effort Nearing $10,000 Goal

Downtown Pittsfield Inc. recently launched an online store where the public can purchase gift cards in the amount of $25, $50 or $100 to local restaurants, retailers, and cultural organizations.
 
Since March 24, DPI has sold $8,425 in gift cards and hopes to reach its first goal of $10,000 in gift card purchases by the beginning of next week.
 
The goal of the online store is to use gift card sales to help bolster businesses reeling from statewide closures. A gift card purchased today can help sustain a local business now and it can be used as a treat or gift for later when normal business operations resume.
 
So far, there are almost 50 businesses selling gift cards through the new online store, which you can find at business.downtownpittsfield.com/store.
 

Northern Berkshire Tip Jar Donations Exceed $20,000

A GoFundMe set up to help servers and bartenders who lost their jobs because of the dining shutdown has raised $33,735 for North County residents. 
 
The fund is limited to restaurants in North Adams, Williamstown, Adams, Cheshire, Savoy, Clarksburg, Florida, Hancock, New Ashford, and Lanesborough. Contributors can request their donation go to a specific restaurant to be shared by employees or to a particular waiter or bartender. 
 
"The servers and bartenders who make our dining and drinking experiences enjoyable are in big trouble. Most of them have lost their jobs and, for many, their primary source of income. They rely on tips to pay their rent, keep their kids clothed and fed, and other expenses. They smile and take care of us no matter what is going on in their lives.  Their lives have been upended in a very big way, and it's time for us to take care of them."
 

SBA Accepting Applications for Forgivable Loans

Starting Friday, April, 3, the Small Business Administration will start accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program. 
 
The purpose of this program is to help businesses -- including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal business concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors -- with 500 or fewer employees to keep them on payroll for at least the next eight weeks. Forgivable loan funds can be used for payroll, group health benefits/insurance premiums, rent/mortgage payments, utilities, and interest on certain debt obligations. 
 
Applications must be facilitated through your financial institution (bank, lender, credit union) and will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. 
 

Access to NBT Bank Branches During the Pandemic

NBT Bank is making adjustments to branch access designed to enable continued banking service while maintaining strong protocols for social distancing and cleaning.
 
To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of employees and customers, all in-person banking transactions are being conducted through drive-up lanes and walk-up windows. Hours of operation have been adjusted, and some offices have been temporarily consolidated with nearby locations. Customers are encouraged to contact their preferred branch to check current hours or to visit www.nbtbank.com/access for information.
 
Self-service banking options, including the NBT Bank Mobile app, online banking at www.nbtbank.com and automated telephone banking at 1-800-NBT-BANK (1-800-628-2265, Option 2) are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
 
"The health and safety of our employees, customers and communities is our top priority," said President and CEO John H. Watt Jr. "We are in this together as we look forward to greeting all of our customers in person again, once it is safe for all."
 
For more information about hours, relief programs and more, visit www.nbtbank.com/coronavirus.

 


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North Adams Trying to Determine 'Worst Case' Budget Picture

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city administration is looking at what kind of scenario North Adams can operate under without knowing how the state budget will play out. 
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard told the City Council on Tuesday night that "worst case is a hard thing to project right now simply because with 44 percent of our budget coming from state sources, a worst case is something that we can't manage, so what we're trying to figure out is what the worst case is that we can reasonably operate under."
 
The mayor said, in response to Councilor Jason LaForest's questions about an "emaciated" budget, that they would be  "slicing something that's already been cut pretty deeply." However, he is looking at how City Hall can streamline functions, such as in the finance offices by focusing on needs and not who is in which office.
 
The novel coronavirus is expected to devastate budgets across the state as revenues have dropped over the past two months both locally and at the state level. The Legislature is basically rewriting the fiscal 2021 spending plan and figures provided to communities early in the year are no longer in play. If a budget is not in place by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the city could have to adopt a continuation or 1/12 budget. 
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