December 16, 2020 4:00 pm – Vaccine distribution plan and retail assistance

During today’s statewide update, Governor Cuomo outlined the plan to distribute and manage the COVID vaccination process as vaccines become available. 

As vaccines are delivered to the state, they will be distributed to all regions proportionately.  Currently New York is following recommendations to vaccinate all high-risk hospital workers, nursing home residents and nursing home staff.  The next group to be vaccinated will be long-term and congregate care residents and staff, EMS workers, other health care workers, coroners and medical examiners.  Phase II of the vaccination plan calls for essential workers and individuals with some underlying health conditions. 

To manage this process, the state has established regional vaccination hubs led by local hospital systems.  These groups are being tasked with developing a plan in coordination with local community leaders to create the vaccination network once doses are available.  The plans will be submitted to the NY Department of Health in the first week of January which will review and approve them.  In the Southern Tier, United Health Services will be leading this effort. 

More details on the state’s vaccination plan can be found at

The state also recently launched the second phase of New York’s Empire State Digital initiative to support the state’s restaurants and food service industry affected by COVID-19. Through April 2021, e-commerce company Ritual will offer its commission-free digital ordering platform Ritual ONE to New York’s restaurants and food service businesses at no cost for pickup and delivery.

Restaurants and food service businesses that join Ritual through the Empire State Digital initiative will be able to accept touch-free payments from customers using their PayPal and Venmo apps and will not be subject to Ritual processing fees for a limited time. As part of this initiative, Ritual will waive its set-up, monthly subscription and credit-card processing fees. More information is available here.  

To help support food service establishments further, PayPal and Ritual have committed to invest $1 million to encourage customers to support their favorite local restaurants and eateries. Beginning in February, businesses enrolled in Ritual One can offer customers a discount on eligible purchases at up to three different store locations during the promotional period.

To further support retail businesses impacted by COVID, Shopify has partnered with the state to conduct a Retail Roundtable on Friday, December 18th from 11am to 12pm.  They will be instructing retail businesses on how they can start selling on Shopify, how Shopify can assist them in making the most of their online store and answer questions. Retail businesses interested in attending this roundtable session can register here.

The state also recently announced the Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership. Recognizing the economic impact of COVID-19, this program will provide small businesses and their landlords with informational resources and pro bono assistance to help both parties reach mutually beneficial lease workout agreements. This service is available to all New York State small businesses and landlords, and participation is voluntary. To initiate a lease renegotiation, please visit: New York Forward Small Business Lease Assistance Partnership | Empire State Development (