In this Issue:
Aument Calls for Greater Collaboration & A Transparent Exit Plan in Coronavirus Fight
This past Friday, Governor Tom Wolf officially added Lancaster County to the list of counties under stay-at-home orders. While these dramatic actions may in fact be necessary in the near-term, and we should all take them seriously so that we can prevent overwhelming our healthcare industry and the further loss of life – we need a path forward. Just as necessary as these severe social distancing and mitigation orders is a plan back to normalcy – an exit strategy.
Federal Action Could Offer Relief for Self-Employed Pennsylvanians Affected by COVID-19 Mitigation
Governor Wolf’s order for all non-life-sustaining businesses to close has created unprecedented financial hardships for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers who were suddenly left without a paycheck.
Although the state has eased eligibility criteria and waived certain requirements to help many affected workers through a new law I supported last week, contractors and other self-employed individuals who are not typically eligible for unemployment compensation still faced a great deal of uncertainty.
However, a new program just approved by our counterparts in Congress could offer relief to these individuals and families. The newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is designed to provide payments to individuals who are not usually eligible for unemployment benefits and are unable to work due to the coronavirus public health emergency.
The program requires an agreement between the state and the federal government, and a separate application may be necessary for these workers to collect benefits. Work is ongoing between the state and federal government to get this program up and running, and it is expected that an application process will be created very soon. I will share additional updates as soon as information becomes available.
More information for businesses and employees affected by coronavirus mitigation is available here.
Coronavirus Response Bills Signed Into Law
Four bills I supported last week to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency were signed into law by Governor Wolf on Friday, March 27.
The new laws will provide more funding to purchase medical supplies and equipment; amend the Unemployment Compensation law to ease eligibility requirements for affected workers; extend the deadline for local EIT tax filing; change the School Code to waive requirements pertaining to instructional time; and move the date of Pennsylvania’s primary election from April 28 to June 2.
More details about the new laws are available here.
In order to prevent close contact between individuals in a large group, most Senators voted remotely through teleconference technology for the first time in the state’s history. In order to ensure transparency and public access, session and committee meetings were all streamed live. A full, gavel-to-gavel recording of session and committee activity is available here.
List of Life-Sustaining Businesses Updated; Up to 10,000 Businesses Submit Waiver Requests
A little more than a week ago, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. A number of concerns were raised about potential oversights on the list, and nearly 10,000 businesses submitted waiver requests in the first few days following the order.
Since the list was first issued, it has been revised several times to allow a wider range of essential businesses to operate. Some of these industries include mining, logging, some types of manufacturing, insurance, laundry services and other industries that are critical parts of the supply chain for essential businesses.
A list of frequently asked questions about the governor’s order is available here. Waiver requests can be submitted here. The PA Chamber of Business and Industry has also developed a new webpage with resources for businesses during the coronavirus, which is available here.
License Renewal Deadlines Extended for Nurses and Other Professionals
Nurses, graduate medical trainees, nursing home administrators and other professionals have been given more time to renew their state occupational licenses.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of State is extending the April, May, and June license renewal deadlines for these professionals — as well as for barbers, navigation pilots, and real estate professionals — to July, August, and September.
You can find a complete list of extended professional and occupational renewal deadlines here.
DHS Assists Essential Workers in Finding Child Care Providers
The Department of Human Services (DHS) recently unveiled a new tool to help essential workers find childcare providers that are permitted to serve the families of essential personnel during the COVID-19 emergency.
All licensed child care centers and group child care homes operating outside of a residence have been ordered to close. In order to meet the needs of essential personnel – such as healthcare providers, first responders, and grocery and food service employees – the DHS Office of Child Development and Early Learning is processing waiver requests for centers and group care homes that serve only these families.
Information about child care providers that have been granted waivers is available on the DHS website. Family child care homes and group child care homes operated inside a residence may continue to operate at their discretion without a waiver. Information about these providers is available at www.findchildcare.pa.gov.
PennDOT Extends Deadlines for Driver Licenses, Registrations and More
Since all Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers remain closed due to COVID-19, PennDOT recently extended the expiration date for many driver licenses, vehicle registrations and other products that are typically renewed at these locations.
Any of the following that are set to expire from March 16 through April 30 will be extended to May 31:
Although all of PennDOT’s physical locations are closed, driver and vehicle services are still available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at www.dmv.pa.gov.
More information about PennDOT’s response to the coronavirus, including a list of frequently asked questions and answers, is available here.
USDA Approves COVID-19 Disaster Food Distribution
The federal government has approved Pennsylvania’s request to operate a Disaster Household Distribution program to provide critical food supplies to individuals and families adversely affected by statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Now through April 26, Pennsylvania is authorized to serve up to 772,500 individuals using available foods from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The disaster distribution food packages will be provided through a network of food banks, as well as mobile and pop-up sites.
Foods approved for distribution include: frozen meats, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned soups, dried and canned beans, rice, nuts, cereal, juice, shelf stable milk, fresh apples, fresh oranges, fresh potatoes, boxed pastas, canned tomato sauce, and eggs.
More information on this announcement is available here.
Efforts Underway to Bolster Healthcare System
Healthcare professionals are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19, and the virus is already placing new demands on hospitals and workers. A number of steps have been taken over the past week to bolster our healthcare system and support the men and women who are working day and night to support patients in need.
I supported passage of a bill that was signed into law on Friday to provide an additional $50 million for medical supplies and equipment to protect healthcare professionals and aid in their life-saving efforts. More details about this bill and other COVID-19 mitigation measures I supported last week are available here.
The Department of State has also taken a number of steps to support the healthcare community, including:
Easing the process for recently retired healthcare providers to re-enter the field to assist in COVID-19 response.
Waiving certain requirements and extending deadlines for nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing school graduates.
Supporting the use of telemedicine to treat patients safely and remotely.
Ensuring out-of-state pharmacies can ship medicines and supplies to Pennsylvania.
A breakdown of Pennsylvania’s efforts to bolster our healthcare system is available here.
Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Hosts Coronavirus Webinars for Businesses
The Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce continues to offer a series of FREE, informative business webinars to assist businesses during this difficult time. Here is a list of this week’s webinars:
Coronavirus And It’s Legislative Impacts Webinar
Remote Work Series: Cybersecurity at Home
Interested individuals can register for this free webinar here.
Remote Work Series: How Do I Work From Home?
Interested individuals can register for this free webinar here.