In This Update:
Hearing Examines Impact of Governor’s COVID-19 Mitigation Plans
This week, members of two Senate committees explored numerous concerns related to Governor Wolf’s mitigation plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The lack of clarity, consistency and execution from the Wolf Administration in some areas has caused lasting harm to employers and pushed more than 1.5 million Pennsylvanians onto the unemployment rolls – more than every state except California.
The hearing offered an opportunity for lawmakers to hear from leading employers and advocates, and also question members of the Administration about the reasoning behind certain mitigation strategies. Topics discussed during the hearing included ways employers could operate safely during the pandemic, numerous concerns about inconsistencies with the waiver process for businesses that wanted to remain open, the timeline for reopening industries and additional steps that could be taken to protect vulnerable populations and prevent the spread of the virus.
Full hearing video and written testimony from this joint hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee are available here.
Governor Outlines Plans to Reopen Pennsylvania
On Wednesday, Governor Wolf outlined his plans to slowly reopen the state, region by region, in the weeks and months to come. The plan is targeted to begin in areas with the lowest rate of infection, including the north-central and northwest regions, on May 8. Other regions of the state could follow based on the rate of new infections over the next several weeks.
Under the plan, not all employers will reopen at the same time; different industries would reopen based on their ability to adhere to employee and customer protection guidelines.
Although the timeline is slower than most would like, it is encouraging that we are at least moving in a positive direction to allow more Pennsylvanians to get back to work safely and responsibly. More details about the governor’s proposal are available here.
Website Helps Pennsylvanians Support Local Restaurants
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many restaurants to make drastic changes in operations, including temporarily eliminating dine-in options. A new website helps Pennsylvanians support their local restaurants by providing a list of takeout, curbside and delivery services operating during the public health emergency.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association developed the new CarryoutPA website to serve as a resource to connect community residents with dine-out options in their area.
Restaurant owners who would like to be featured on the new site can enter their business information at www.carryoutpa.com/join-now/.
Construction Reopening Date Moved to May 1
Construction activities that were previously deemed non-life-sustaining will be allowed to continue beginning on May 1. The reopening date was originally set for May 8, but was moved up to May 1 earlier this week.
Guidelines about how these businesses can operate safely during COVID-19 are available here.
New Online Portal Supports Donations of Critical Medical Supplies
Healthcare providers still have a critical need for medical supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves, as well as alcohol-based sanitizer. A new online portal will help individuals, corporations and community organizations donate these supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PA Critical Donation Portal will help coordinate donations of PPE to hospitals, medical facilities and emergency management services that need the supplies most. Questions about making a donation can be submitted to PACriticalDonations@pa.gov.
DCED Announces Business Loan Deferrals
The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA), Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA), and the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) are deferring loan payments for three months, according to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Temporary License Process Created for Insurance Producers
Individuals who wish to pursue a new career in Pennsylvania’s insurance industry can now receive a temporary producer license. Temporary licenses will only be allowed for individuals who are sponsored by an insurance company holding an active certificate of authority in Pennsylvania.
The process to receive a temporary insurance producer license is outlined here.
More Funding Distributed for Food Assistance
Pennsylvania has received nearly $15 million in funding from the federal government to support charitable food efforts during the pandemic. The funding will not only support the distribution of food through the state’s emergency food distribution network, but also ease the additional burdens of transporting, storing and delivering products.
A list of Pennsylvania food banks sorted by county is available here.
Deadline Extended to Apply for PHEAA State Grants Until May 15; Loan Forbearance Available
In response to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has extended the deadline for college students to apply for state grants from May 1 to May 15 for the 2020-21 academic year. The new deadline applies both to renewals and first-time applicants.
In addition, the agency recently offered a three-month forbearance on all PHEAA-owned private loans for borrowers affected by COVID-19. More details are available here. Borrowers must contact their loan servicer, American Education Services (AES), in order to request this forbearance. The AES COVID-19 webpage includes more information about options for borrowers to postpone payments for both federal and private student loans.
Guidelines Available for Construction Industry Reopening
Following Governor Wolf’s announcement that the construction industry can resume normal operations on May 1, the Department of Health extended guidelines to ensure these employers can operate in a way that minimizes the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The guidelines include cleaning frequently touched surfaces, providing sufficient distance between employees, staggering breaks and shifts, providing masks for employees and more. The full list of guidelines is available here.
Mental Health Resources Available for Pennsylvanians in Need
The coronavirus public health emergency has created a great deal of stress and anxiety throughout the state. A number of mental health resources are available to help Pennsylvanians who are struggling during these challenging times.
An overview of mental health resources for state residents is available here. Resources are also available through the Crisis Text Line by texting “PA” to 741-741.
Essential Court Functions Still Available for Older Pennsylvanians
Although the courts remain closed for most purposes during COVID-19, essential functions are still being provided to protect seniors. This includes temporary protection from abuse actions, guardianship defense, motions related to public health concerns, emergency petitions and other functions determined by a president judge to be essential.
More details on essential court functions that are still available are detailed here.
Curbside Delivery Expanded to More PLCB Stores
Beginning this week, more Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores throughout the state will begin offering curbside pickup service for customers. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) released a new list of stores offering this service.
Orders are limited to a total of six bottles per order, and customers must call ahead and pay with a credit card over the phone. Orders are filled on a first-call, first-served basis. Voicemail orders will not be accepted. Many frequently asked questions about curbside pickup and online ordering are answered here.
Expiration Dates Extended for Many Temporary Professional Licenses and Permits
At the outset of the pandemic, the Department of State extended the expiration dates for several types of professional licenses and permits. Several other temporary permits were recently added to the list, including physical therapy, respiratory therapy, genetic counseling, massage therapy and many more.
A complete list of temporary licenses and permits that have been extended is available here.
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