Dutchess and Orange Counties Not Recognizing Juneteenth Holiday
Even after becoming a federal holiday, the two Mid-Hudson counties with the highest population of Black residents will not be recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday.
Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the date enslaved African Americans in Texas were finally notified that the Civil War was over and they were free. The date has been a holiday in the state of Texas since 1979 and slowly gained in popularity throughout the rest of the country over the past decade. In response to recent incidents of social injustice, New York and other states across the country recognized the holiday in 2020. After a groundswell of support, June 19 officially became a federal holiday in 2021.
Because the date falls on a Sunday this year, the federal holiday is being observed on Monday, June 20. Like all other federal holidays, there will be no mail service on Monday. Public schools, banks, the stock market and other services will be closed as well. All state and federal employees will have the day off, but employees of Dutchess and Orange will still need to show up for work.
Orange and Dutchess counties have traditionally closed on all federal holidays, including Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In addition, the counties are also closed to observe other non-federal holidays such as Lincoln's Birthday and Election Day. However, despite being both a federal and New York State holiday, Juneteenth is once again not being recognized by either Orange or Dutchess counties.
Steve Neuhaus' office confirmed to us that Orange County will be open on Monday, June 20. Marc Molinaro did not respond to a request for comment, but the Dutchess County schedule does not list Juneteenth as a holiday and county workers do not have the day off.
Ulster County, which has the smallest population of Black residents of all three Mid-Hudson counties, currently lists Juneteenth as a county holiday. This means all county workers will have the day off and county offices will be closed. The City of Kingston has also adopted Juneteenth as a day off for the municipality. Other New York counties have recently adopted the holiday including Erie County which declared Juneteenth a day off earlier this month.
County executives do have the power to declare a county holiday if they wish. Recently, Marc Molinaro closed down county offices for the funeral of former Sheriff Butch Anderson. Neither Molinaro or Neuhaus, however, have indicated a desire to recognize Juneteenth this year.
UPDATE: After the publishing of this article Marc Molinaro's office reached out with a statement saying the county executive "supports Juneteenth being a County holiday and he has gone on the record supporting it." When asked for a record of his statements on making Juneteenth an official county holiday we were supplied with a quote from 2020 in which Molinaro praised the holiday and said Juneteenth "should be a national celebration of freedom." While he has stated his support of the national holiday, we could not find any specific statements from him regarding it being officially adopted as a county holiday.
The County Executive's office says the the approval of Juneteenth is in the hands of the Dutchess County Legislature, something they have not agreed to as of yet. Molinaro's office also said that while he is able close county offices for a number of reasons, he does not have the ability grant paid holidays for workers without approval from the county legislature.
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