DCNR Announces Plan for Reopening State Park, Forest Facilities
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Pandemic Unemployment Now Available

If you’re self-employed, an independent contractor, gig worker, or someone not normally eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC) and haven’t yet applied for benefits under Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is reminding you to submit your application at www.uc.pa.gov/PUA.

The new PUA website, which launched on April 18, is now fully operational. Individuals who already applied can now file their weekly claims for which they should be paid approximately two to three days later if there are no issues to resolve.

PUA applicants are now able to file for all weeks, including those dating back to the first week of unemployment. If approved, you will receive in one lump sum the backdated payments to January 27, 2020 or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later.)

Additionally, when you begin receiving PUA payments, you will automatically receive an extra $600 per week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. FPUC payments are made separately from your regular PUA payments and should generally be in your account a week after you receive your PUA payment.

FPUC benefits are for the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. These payments will also be paid in one lump sum for any backdated weeks.

Even if you soon return to work as part of Pennsylvania’s yellow phase reopening, you will still be able to claim and receive backpay if your PUA application is approved. Individuals who return to work part time must report their weekly earnings when claiming weekly benefits, and those who return full time may simply stop filing. Claims can be reopened at a later date if your employment situation changes.

Click here for more information.
DCNR Announces Plan for Reopening State Park, Forest Facilities

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has outlined its plans for a phased reopening of some state park and forest facilities.

  •   Public golf courses at Caledonia and Evansburg state parks and Michaux State Forest, which are operated by private concessions, reopened last Friday, May 1.
  •   At least one restroom in day use areas and in marinas at state parks and forests statewide will be open to the public on May 8 with additional cleaning protocols in place.
  •   All nine marinas in state parks will be open to the public on May 8, or their typical designated opening date.

This is in addition to shoreline mooring sites at all state parks. State park and forest facilities in counties entering the “yellow phase” of mitigation will be open to the public on May 15. This includes offices, campgrounds and the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle. Cabins in these areas will not open until June 12, to allow returning staff the ability to thoroughly clean them and prepare them for use. Campgrounds and cabins in all other state parks will remain closed.

For more details on the phased opening plan, click here.  
Alzheimer’s Association Offers Virtual Support Groups

My office has received the following information from the Greater Pennsylvania Alzheimer’s Association:

Caring for a loved one during the COVID-19 outbreak can add stress for dementia caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter recognizes this challenge and has created a new way to provide caregivers the support and resources they need.

The chapter is currently offering virtual support groups for caregivers to connect with others, give and share support, and obtain information without leaving home. Attendees can participate via computer or phone.

Click here or call 1-800-272-3900 to register for a virtual support group today.
New Essential Job Bank Launches

For your information: In response to the devastating economic impact of COVID-19, a new job bank was recently announced to help unemployed workers find employment with essential businesses.

www.HelpOneBillion.com unites individuals experiencing job loss with committed companies that are hiring, such as the Hershey Company.

Job seekers can quickly identify jobs that are best for them, as the site personalizes jobs based on location, industry, experience and skills. As HelpOneBillion continues to evolve—and the economy heads toward recovery—users will be able to find work based on culture fit, as well as remote and gig opportunities.

Visit www.HelpOneBillion.com for more information, and to find more than 18,000 jobs available now.
PennDOT Further Extends Expiration Dates

Expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards and learner's permits are being extended again due to the statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Any of these items that are scheduled to expire between March 16 and May 31, 2020, are now extended through June 30, 2020.

You may, however, renew your driver license or identification online anytime at www.dmv.pa.gov. Driver License Centers, Photo License Centers and the Harrisburg Riverfront Office Center remain closed until further notice. For more information about PennDOT actions related to COVID-19, click here.  
USDA Launches $19 Billion Aid Program for Farmers 

United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

CFAP will use funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and other USDA existing authorities. This $19 billion immediate relief program will provide critical direct support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to have access to the food they need. Visit www.farmers.gov/cfap for updated information as it becomes available.

In addition to implementing the CARES Act, the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency are working to provide additional flexibilities to help producers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.
Visit www.farmers.gov/coronavirus for the latest updates on USDA assistance for farmers and ranchers in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
New Campaign Urges Pennsylvanians to “Choose PA Dairy”

The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association recently launched a new campaign, entitled: “We Are Your Dairy Farmers: Stronger Together, Buy Local, Choose PA Dairy,” to encourage families to support their local farm families who work hard daily to produce fresh, local milk and dairy products to feed families.

During COVID-19, milk is in high demand at grocery stores, but was suspended in other supply chain locations due to business, school and government shutdowns. Families can do their part to support local farms by purchasing milk and other dairy products made right here in Pennsylvania.

The Dairymen’s Association also created a new “Family Resources” tab for educators and families featuring dairy activities at www.PaDairymens.com:

  •   Discover Dairy – Brings the farm to you through this interactive cross-curricular, multi-level lesson series.
  •   Virtual Learning Library for elementary and middle school teachers and students.
  •   Farm Life – A Virtual Experience – Where visitors can explore a dairy farm or meet a dairy farmer to learn more about farm life.
  •   Free educational games, children’s books and songs, arts, crafts, experiments, family and kids-friendly recipes and more.
  •   The Calving Corner – Highlights the live dairy cow birthing center at the PA Farm Show, where dairy farm families share life on the farm videos.
  •   American Dairy Association North East (ADANE) – Offers “Farm Fun” with dairy farm tours and activities.
COVID-19 Funding and Assistance Available to Fire, EMS Departments

I want to remind you that there are funds and programs available at both the state and federal levels to support the first responders of our local fire and EMS departments. These include:

State Funding: $50,000,000

To acquire medical equipment and supplies for health care entities to meet urgent patient and staff needs to address surge demand. This includes EMS entities.

Federal Assistance

Emergency Responder Provisions

  •   $45 Billion Disaster Relief Fund: Grants made available under the FEMA Public Assistance Program to state and local governments to address the recovery from COVID-19 including reimbursement for medical response, PPE and backfilling positions. The funding highlights the critical need for access by emergency responders to PPE and other resources. For-profit ambulance service organizations would be eligible for funding through their state or local government. If your organization faces an issue with government officials as to eligibility, please provide them the FEMA Fact Sheet: Public Assistance for Ambulance Services which in 2009 the AAA had successfully encouraged FEMA to issue.
  •   $3.5 Billion Child Care Grants: Provides funding for childcare programs for essential workers including emergency responders such as paramedics and EMTs.

Health Care Provider Provisions

  •   $100 Billion Grant Program: Direct funding to public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and for-profit entities and not-for-profit entities as the Secretary may specify to reimburse for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus. Ambulance service suppliers and providers will file applicants for funding with the Department of Health and Human Services.
  •   Sequestration Delay: Suspension of the 2% sequestration cut in Medicare funding for ambulance service and other providers and suppliers. The suspension would begin May 1 and end December 31, 2020 with sequestration then extended from 2029 to 2030.
  •   Telehealth: Authorizes the Secretary to waive any of the current requirements in statute for telehealth services during the emergency.

Business Provisions

  •   Payroll Tax Deferral: Employers including ambulance service organizations starting upon enactment of the legislation will defer payment of their 6.2% share of the payroll tax through December 31, 2020. Half of the tax will be due by the end of 2021 and the second half by the end of 2022.
  •   Small Business Loans: Provides $350 billion in loans under the Payment Protection Program for employers including ambulance service organizations with 500 or fewer employees. Loans available up to $10 million per employer. 
Federal Assistance to Fire Departments 
  •   FEMA will soon announce the release of the Notice of Funding Opportunity for $100 million under the Fiscal Year 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program - COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S). The supplemental award will provide financial assistance directly to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated emergency medical service (NAEMS) organizations and State Fire Training Academies (SFTA) for critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies needed to respond to the coronavirus public health emergency.
  •   The application period for AFG-S will be short. Please thoroughly review the AFG-S Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) once it's available online at https://www.fema.gov/grants and https://www.grants.gov/ before beginning the application process. A follow-up email notification will be made once the NOFO is published.
  •   For more information regarding the AFG Program visit https://www.fema.gov/welcome-assistance-firefighters-grant-program. Visit https://www.fema.gov for the latest on the whole-of-America COVID-19 response and learn what other help is available to state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
  •   FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ADMINISTRATION (FEMA) – $45.4 BILLION including $45 billion to continue FEMA’s entire suite of response and recovery activities and reimbursements provided to states and localities nationwide by the Disaster Relief Fund for emergency and major disaster declarations, as well as funding for FEMA facilities and information technology required to support FEMA’s lead role in coordinating federal response activities.
  •   The bill also includes $400 million for grants that can be disbursed in a timely manner for firefighters, emergency managers, and providers of emergency food and shelter.

District Office Information

In the interest of protecting public health, my offices in Harrisburg, Dallas and Tunkhannock are temporarily closed to walk-in service. However, we remain ready to assist via phone and email during regular office hours Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

For Harrisburg inquiries, please call 717-787-1117 or email bzablots@pahousegop.com.

For Dallas inquiries, please call 570-675-6000 or email ahoussoc@pahousegop.com; or csweeney@pahousegop.com.

For Tunkhannock inquiries, please call 570-836-4777 or email csweeney@pahousegop.com; lcadden@pahousegop.com; or jwilliams@pahousegop.com.

District Office Information

In the interest of protecting public health, my offices in Harrisburg, Dallas and Tunkhannock are temporarily closed to walk-in service. However, we remain ready to assist via phone and email during regular office hours Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

For Harrisburg inquiries, please call 717-787-1117 or email bzablots@pahousegop.com.

For Dallas inquiries, please call 570-675-6000 or email ahoussoc@pahousegop.com; or csweeney@pahousegop.com.

For Tunkhannock inquiries, please call 570-836-4777 or email csweeney@pahousegop.com; lcadden@pahousegop.com; or jwilliams@pahousegop.com.
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Office Locations
105 Lieutenant Michael Cleary Drive, Dallas, PA 18612 | (570) 675-6000, (800) 278-3930
133 West Tioga Street, Suite 4, Tunkhannock, PA 18657 | Phone: (570) 836-4777
41-B East Wing, Main Capitol, PO Box 202117, Harrisburg PA 17120-2117 | Phone: (717) 787-1117
Email: kboback@pahousegop.com