Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook
Vivian E. Cook
Reports to the People

Fall 2009

Dear Neighbor:

I am pleased to provide my Fall News Report which I hope you will find useful and informative. It contains information on a number of important issues, including the Swine Flu. As you know, Swine Flu (H1NI) has affected many New York families, and while H1N1 is cause for concern, there is no reason to panic. Taking the necessary precautions and contacting health authorities if you believe you may have H1N1 will go a long way toward reducing its effects. Please read the enclosed article regarding H1N1 for more information. Also contained within this news report are articles on the Tax Credit for First-time Homebuyers; the new law that provides sex offender registration updates via e-mail; how to avoid falling victim to debt settlement companies, and much more.

In closing, I would like to thank the many residents of the district for participating in our effort to promote community pride by keeping the sidewalks, streets, and lots in our neighborhoods clean and beautiful. I would encourage you to continue working together in this regard by renewing your commitment to the community pride initiative so that our community is a safe, clean and attractive one, thus making it a more desirable place for everyone to live and work. This initiative also demonstrates that we value our community, and encourages the investment of additional time, energy, and resources in revitalization efforts in our area.

As always, if you are in need of any assistance or information, please feel free to stop by my office or call me at (718) 322-3975.

Vivian E. Cook

While H1N1 Remains A Threat, Vaccine Should Soon Be Available

With well over 100 reported cases in New York State, H1N1 flu – commonly referred to as “swine flu” – remains a significant concern for health officials, public schools and families. Since schools are now opened and since traditional flu season is quickly approaching, the number of H1N1 cases is expected to rise.

While the majority of affected individuals experience mild to moderate symptoms and most have recovered without hospitalization or antiviral treatment, H1N1 continues to be an issue. As evidenced by the June declaration from the World Health Organization, the virus has reached the level of a pandemic, meaning a global outbreak of the disease. New Yorkers are urged to follow the precautionary measures that have been recommended since the beginning of the outbreak:
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;

  • wash your hands often with soap and water;

  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, as germs spread easily this way;

  • avoid close contact with sick people; and

  • follow public health advice regarding school closings and other social distancing measures

For the latest information about H1N1, visit the NYSDOH’s Web site at For more information about the NYSIIS – a statewide Web-based registry that contains an individual’s immunization history – visit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently provided information about the October availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine. The amounts will be limited and the vaccine required may vary. The CDC has recommended getting vaccinated against seasonal flu in the meantime to help maintain a healthy immune system, lessening your chances of catching H1N1.

A “priority list” has been created by the CDC regarding the importance of vaccination for specific populations. Pregnant women, caregivers in direct contact with children younger than 6 months old, emergency personnel and health care workers in direct contact with patients, and children and young adults between the ages of 6 months and 24 years head the list. If vaccination availability is insufficient, the CDC says that prioritization within these target groups might be necessary. Only after the demand for these groups has been met will vaccines be made available to adults aged 25 to 64, and then to those 65 and older.

There will be approximately 3,000 “drop sites” throughout the state. At these sites, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) will distribute vaccinations in accordance with local health departments. Pharmaceutical companies have produced two forms of the vaccine to be administered independently of the other – a shot and a nasal spray – both of which are multi-dose. The vaccine and its required supplies will be provided to physicians by the federal government at no cost, and health insurance companies are being urged to reimburse doctors and their practices for administration of the vaccine. All H1N1 vaccination providers are required to register patients under the age of 19 with the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) in order to maintain accountability of the vaccine.

We are facing historically difficult economic times. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate across the United States continues to rise, and New York State faces the same bleak picture. The current fiscal crisis has put many New Yorkers in debt. People who never struggled to pay their bills are now being forced to consider defaulting on their debt.

In this precarious economic climate, there are reports about deceptive debt settlement companies that have seized the opportunity to squeeze the last penny out of those who are desperately trying to pay their bills. Some of these companies promise relief by being the buffer between the credit card company and the debtor, but sometimes a debt settlement plan fails to solve the debtor’s financial problems and even makes them worse. Over the last few years, the number of debt settlement companies has tripled to 2,000. At the same time, complaints to state attorneys general offices about how these companies conduct business have increased.

Assembly is doing its part:

This year, the Assembly passed a package of bills that would protect consumers from improper debt collection practices and implement penalties for those who violate the law.

Those bills:
  • Require debt collectors to send consumers a written notice of their rights under state law. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.271-A).

  • Require third-party debt collectors and debt buyers to obtain licenses from the Department of State and obtain surety bonding. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.3926-C).

  • Require debt collectors to inform certain relatives and household members of a deceased individual that they are not obligated to repay the outstanding debts of that deceased individual. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.7889-B).

  • Reduce harassment by debt collectors by allowing debtors a private right of action in debt collection cases. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.3532-A).

  • Reduce the statute of limitations on consumer credit actions from six years to three years and bar debt collectors from trying to collect debts on which the statute of limitations has expired. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.7558-A). Implement protections against improper and abusive debt collection practices and align New York law with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (Passed Assembly, awaiting Senate action, A.8840-B).

Important Numbers:

Attorney General’s Office • (800)771-7755

NYS Banking Department • (877)BANK-NYS

Better Business Bureau • (703) 276-0100

This article outlines how you can avoid being deceived and what you can do to help put yourself on firmer financial ground. If you have any questions or comments about this or any other subject, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.


Managing your debt

Researching your options


A debt settlement company’s smooth sell

Be aware

Additional signs of trouble:

If a company:

New law provides sex offender registration updates via e-mail
Cracking down on sex offenders who prey on our children is one of my top priorities in the state Assembly. Under a new law I helped pass, it will be easier for families to find out if a dangerous sexual predator has moved into their neighborhood.

Residents will be able to receive free automatic e-mail updates about the presence of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders in their community beginning next March (Ch. 478 of 2009). This legislation is an important tool for families to help keep their children safe.

In the past, concerned residents, if not otherwise specifically notified, would have to check the sex offender registry for updates themselves. This law, which I supported, allows any New York State resident who signs up with the Division of Criminal Justice Services to receive automatic e-mail notifications when a registered sex offender moves into the neighborhood. This initiative will help protect our communities through increased awareness.

The law provides residents with an additional means to acquire information about registered Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders who reside in their communities. Residents will be able to request e-mail updates for up to three counties or ZIP codes, and the service will be free of charge.

E-mail notifications allow families to keep tabs on sex offenders who live in the community in a convenient and hassle-free way. Giving families more information about sex offenders in their community helps keep their children safe.

The law builds on the Assembly’s record of keeping New York’s families safe:

These bills work to keep sex offenders from preying on victims and build on the Assembly’s longstanding commitment to protect children from dangerous sexual predators. I will continue fighting for new ways to protect children from sexual predators.


State program could save average homebuyer $1,500 each year

Owning your own home is a great investment that helps provide stability for you and your family. For some people, now may be a perfect time to purchase a home because of affordable prices and low interest rates. To stimulate home sales across the state and assist homebuyers in their quest to purchase a home, the state has made a new tax credit available that is expected to save qualified homebuyers thousands of dollars over the life of their loans.

The New York State Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) will enable first-time homebuyers to claim a federal tax credit equal to 20 percent of their annual mortgage interest costs, potentially saving the average homebuyer about $1,500 each year. This credit is in addition to the $8,000 tax credit the federal government is offering for first-time homebuyers. Unlike the federal tax credit that expires Nov. 30, the state program has no expiration date.

With the MCC, 20 percent of your annual mortgage interest can be converted into a tax credit and deducted dollar for dollar from your federal income tax liability. The remaining 80 percent of mortgage interest continues to qualify as an itemized tax deduction. For example, for a mortgage of $200,000 with an interest rate of 5.5 percent, the mortgage interest paid in the first year is $10,993. The MCC converts 20 percent of that interest to a direct tax credit – a savings of $182 per month. The program is made possible by an Internal Revenue Service rule that allows states to trade their bonding authority for tax credits; it will not impact the state’s budget.

The program is available to prospective homebuyers purchasing their first home – it does not apply to existing homeowners. Only fixed-rate mortgages are eligible, participants must keep the house as their primary residence, and the loan can’t be refinanced.

Working families are the backbones of our community, and we need to do everything possible to ensure our families can afford to buy homes in our neighborhoods. If you’re considering buying a home, I urge you to take advantage of all the cost-saving opportunities these programs have to offer.

For more information about the first-time homebuyer tax credit and low interest fixed-rate mortgages, visit For information on the federal First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, visit or call my district office at (718) 322-3975.

Assemblymember Cook at the Annual NYS Legislative Women’s Caucus Dinner. The Women’s Caucus is a bi-partisan organization, comprised of 52 women from the NYS Assembly and Senate who represent urban, suburban and rural districts across the State. The Caucus meets regularly to address issues relating to women.

Assemblymember Cook with Senator Malcolm Smith and Assemblymember Patricia Eddington, former Chair of the New York State Legislative Women’s Caucus.
Assemblymember Cook congratulates newly elected Women’s Caucus Chair Assemblymember Michele Titus at the 2009 Legislative Women’s Caucus Annual Dinner.
Assemblymember Cook with Senator Malcolm Smith and Assemblymember Michele Titus.

Be aware and prepared for disasters by signing up for NY-Alert

Unexpected disasters can destroy communities and devastate families. Whether it’s a natural emergency like high winds, flooding or an ice storm, or it’s a man-made threat, the more information we have the better we can respond to emergencies. That’s why I encourage all residents to sign up for NY-Alert, a program that is part of New York State’s ongoing commitment to providing New Yorkers with information that keeps them aware of threats and emergency situations and instructs them how to respond accordingly.

Signing up for NY-Alert is free. By doing so, you will receive warnings and emergency information, including road closures, inclement weather events and terrorist alerts issued by New York State and local governments. Information can be sent to you via your cell phone, your home phone, e-mail and other technologies. You can list up to three phone numbers, two e-mail addresses and three cell phones to receive text messages. Receiving alerts through these modern, high-tech devices accelerates communication, which allows you to be aware of any perilous events that may be affecting your community in a faster and more convenient way.

In addition, once you sign up for NY-Alert, you will also be able to customize locations, types of emergencies and the threat level, from minor to extreme, you would like to receive information about. Most alerts are issued by your county or local municipality. Every emergency is different and alerts are tailored to meet the notification needs of each incident.

We all have a responsibility to keep our families and communities protected when alarming situations occur. Emergency-response personnel are trained to respond quickly and effectively, but every community’s level of preparedness starts with individuals being aware and informed. NY-Alert helps serve that purpose. It is designed to expedite critical and lifesaving information in times of emergency, which can mean the difference between life and death.

To sign up for NY-Alert, go to or call (888) 697-6972. For more information on how to deal with emergencies, contact my office at (718) 322-3975 and ask to receive my Coping with Disasters brochure.

October marks the 25th anniversary of
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast Cancer Ribbon
Close to 14,000 New York women and around 150 New York men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It may be a family member, co-worker, neighbor, friend or even yourself who has battled this disease. Even though it is one of the most common cancers in New York, early detection can lead to successful treatment in many cases – which makes breast cancer awareness a key component to maintaining a healthy life.

The importance of early detection can’t be stressed enough. Since breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early, more treatable stage, survival rates are up and treatment can be successful. Practicing regular self-breast exams to identify any changes or irregularities and scheduling regular visits and annual mammograms for women over 40 with health care providers increase the chances of early detection – further increasing the chances of becoming a breast cancer survivor.

There are certain steps that can be taken to reduce the risks of developing breast cancer. Here are a few steps New Yorkers could try, as suggested by the American Cancer Society:

Not all possible causes of breast cancer are known and more research is certainly needed to identify them. And while National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has helped make numerous strides over the past 25 years, there is much more that needs to be done. It’s encouraging that early detection and improved treatment have decreased the chance of dying from breast cancer to 1 in 35, but it still remains that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. That’s why this year the Assembly continued its commitment to keeping New Yorkers healthy by passing the following legislation pertaining to breast cancer prevention:

Throughout New York, numerous walks, fundraisers, silent auctions and the like will be held in October to support breast cancer awareness. Functions such as this one allow the community to come together to raise both awareness and money to keep up the fight against breast cancer.

I urge each of you to get informed, share information with loved ones, attend or support a breast cancer awareness function, and reduce your risks of developing breast cancer. To see which cancer service programs are offered in each county, visit the New York State Department of Health’s Web site at or call its cancer service hotline at (866) 442-2262. You may also visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s Web site at or call my office at (718) 322-3975.

Earning $7.25 per hour?

It’s the law! Any questions, call the New York State Department of Labor at 1-800-447-3992 • Monday-Friday • 8 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

By law, New Yorkers must earn at least
$7.25/hour, including tips, as of July 24, 2009.

General Minimum Wage:
People who wait and bus tables:
Other service employees:

For most New York workers, extra overtime hours
worked must be paid at one and half times your regular wage.

Albany Office: L.O.B., Room 939, Albany, NY 12248 • phone 518-455-4203 • fax 518-455-3606
District Office: 142-15 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11436 • phone 718-322-3975 • fax 718-322-4085
Monday – Friday: 9:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. • E-mail: