In This Update:
Lancaster County Senators Issue Statement on Local Unrest
Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) issued the following statement regarding protests and violence in response to an officer-involved shooting in Lancaster County over the weekend:
“We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the Lancaster Bureau of Police and the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office for quickly releasing the body cam footage from the recent officer-involved shooting and for providing the highest level of transparency in the subsequent investigation. As many in the Lancaster County community are now aware, an incident occurred on Sunday, September 13th when officers were called to respond to a domestic violence situation that quickly turned into a dangerous encounter when a man charged at the responding officer with a large knife.
“While the body cam footage supports the use of force as being justified in this case, any loss of life is always a tragedy for the community. As we wait for the Lancaster County District Attorney’s office to release their findings from the investigation, we urge all community residents to have compassion for the family of the deceased as they grieve the loss of a loved one.
“It is extremely unfortunate that this incident sparked a rush to judgement that led to numerous acts of violence throughout our community last night. It is even more unfortunate that many of those arrested for perpetrating those acts came here from outside Lancaster County, as they do not represent the majority of community members wishing to protest peacefully. The Constitutional right to assemble and protest peacefully is a pillar of our society, and we offer our support to those who wish to make their voices heard. However, the acts of destruction that we saw last night completely undermine the message that peaceful protestors wish to deliver. It is our hope that the perpetrators of these terrible acts are identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“We remain hopeful that the extraordinary transparency and accountability of the Lancaster Police will ensure last night’s unfortunate period of unrest will be an isolated incident. As always, we are deeply grateful for their efforts and those of the many supporting police departments to keep our communities safe during these most difficult circumstances.”
Federal Court Rules Wolf Business Shutdowns, Other Restrictions Unconstitutional
For months, many lawmakers have stressed the need to strike the proper balance between ensuring the health and safety of Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting the freedoms we are guaranteed in the Constitution. A federal judge agreed this week, ruling that some of the actions taken by the Wolf Administration during the pandemic were unconstitutional.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV said, “Even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered. The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms — in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble.” Senate leaders are encouraging Governor Wolf to work cooperatively with lawmakers on a COVID-19 mitigation and recovery plan that puts Pennsylvanians first.
The ruling applies to Governor Wolf’s mandated business shutdowns, as well as his restrictions on large gatherings. The Wolf Administration has announced that they will request a stay of the ruling and will appeal the decision. I will provide an update on what this ruling means for all of us as soon as more information is available.
Workshop Discussion Focuses on Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits, Veterans Groups
Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 business shutdown orders created difficult financial circumstances for many nonprofit groups, including many organizations serving veterans. In many cases, the shutdown order prevented these groups from assisting Pennsylvanians at a time when their needs were greatest.
A workshop discussion hosted by the Senate Majority Policy Committee this week explored how these organizations are navigating the pandemic and what challenges remain to be addressed.
PennDOT Resumes REAL ID Processing
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has resumed issuing REAL IDs at reopened Driver License Centers throughout the state. REAL ID processing was suspended in March when most PennDOT offices closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline to comply with REAL ID requirements was pushed back one year due to the pandemic. REAL ID is optional for drivers, but driver licenses and photo ID cards will no longer be accepted as a valid form of identification for boarding commercial flights or visiting federal buildings beginning on October 1, 2021.
More information about REAL ID is available on PennDOT’s website.
Funding Available for Transportation Improvement Projects
Transportation improvement projects throughout the state could receive a boost from grants through the Multimodal Transportation Fund. The program provides funding for ports and rail freight, increases aviation investments, establishes dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and allows targeted funding for all modes of transportation.
The program is open to municipalities, councils of governments, business/non-profit organizations, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, public airports, airport authorities, and ports and rail entities. Applications for grants will be accepted through November 6.
Senate Committee Explores Challenges Facing Rural Pharmacies
Many rural pharmacies faced severe financial challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic due to low reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers and bureaucratic red tape. This week, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion to learn more about the challenges facing these businesses to ensure they remain an important part of the health system in rural communities.
Testifiers encouraged lawmakers to consider measures to provide greater pricing transparency of prescription drugs and greater oversight of prescription benefit managers.
Committee Hears Testimony on Western PA Economic Recovery
Local and statewide business leaders offered input on how to help western Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic during a workshop discussion with the Senate Majority Policy Committee this week. The discussion highlighted the need for clear communications from state government leaders and more collaboration with local government officials to keep the state’s economy strong while keeping state residents safe and healthy.
Other topics of discussion included improving financial assistance programs, making better use of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, preventing future business shutdowns, strengthening infrastructure and more.
Environmental Education Grants Available
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently announced $400,000 in environmental education grant funding available to schools, colleges, nonprofit community and environmental organizations, county conservation districts, and businesses. Project examples include, but are not limited to, opportunities to educate the public on topics such as green infrastructure, renewable energy, alternative transportation, and improving air quality. The Department has made public a list of projects that previously won these grant awards so that applicants can use them as a reference.
Furthermore, the Department is offering a free webinar on October 14, from 1pm to 2:30pm to offer tips on how to apply and answer any questions. Applicants can register for this free webinar here.
The deadline to apply for these environmental education grants is December 11, 2020.
Learn more about these grants and how to apply here.
Grants Available to Train Direct Care Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on patients and employees in long-term care settings. Grants are available through the Department of Labor and Industry to provide new career opportunities for direct care workers and improve the quality of care provided to patients.
The Direct Care Worker Training Grants program helps create and develop training programs that increase the quality of services, offer specialty certifications, and create viable career opportunities for personal care assistants, home health aides and certified nursing assistants. The deadline to apply is October 2.