Apr. 02, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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#Listrak\DateStamplong# The latest news from the State Capitol
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Coronavirus Update: April 2

Pennsylvania received a “major disaster” declaration from the federal government this week, making the Commonwealth eligible for additional funding support for state, county and municipal governments and certain nonprofits.

Under the declaration, eligible entities can receive reimbursement for up to 75% of eligible expenses related to the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Eligible expenses can include but are not limited to costs associated with paying overtime, or materials and equipment purchases. The declaration also provides direct federal assistance, which provides federal materials and supplies to support state and local response efforts.

According to administration officials, staff from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency will reach out to potential applicants to review the application process and necessary documentation. As the response period for the COVID-19 outbreak is continuing, the process will take weeks. All reimbursements are handled electronically.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is reminding small business owners that the deadline to submit a waiver to continue operating during the COVID-19 emergency is this Friday, April 3 at 5:00 p.m.. You can apply online here. Please send documentation of your waiver claim to me at KBoback@pahousegop.com so my office can further assist you.

Other key developments this week related to COVID-19 include the expansion of stay-at-home orders statewide until April 30 and the extension of school closures indefinitely.

News about COVID-19 is constantly changing. A comprehensive collection of resources, including the state Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is also available on my website. While my district offices are currently closed to in-person service, we remain available to serve you by phone or internet.

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
Wolf Issues Statewide Stay-at-Home Order

Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced all 67 Pennsylvania counties will be under stay-at-home orders effective 8 p.m. Wednesday evening.

Previously, there were 33 counties on stay-at-home orders. The first orders were issued on March 23 for seven counties.

The statewide stay-at-home order took effect at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1 and will continue until April 30. All Pennsylvania schools will remain closed until further notice and non-life-sustaining business closures remain in effect. All essential state services will continue.

The governor’s office has also published a set of guidelines to assist residents in complying with the order.
Essential State Services Will Continue

Pennsylvania is reminding residents that, despite actions taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, the state will continue to deliver essential services critical to the lives, health and safety of vulnerable populations.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has stated that Pennsylvania’s outlets to report abuse, neglect and domestic violence/rape crisis programs are still operational for those who need assistance during COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“We are committed to protecting Pennsylvania’s vulnerable populations at all times,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “DHS relies on reports of potential abuse or neglect so we are able to protect the people we service, and that is why we have made adjustments so we can ensure that ChildLine, Adult Protective Services, and other protective programs continue to operate during COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”

Other essential services that will continue include:
  •   Food assistance
  •   Benefits application processing
  •   Long-term care supports for older adults and individuals with disabilities
  •   Home and community-based supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism
  •   Behavioral health services for individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders
  •   Care for individuals at state-operated facilities
  •   Child-welfare services including foster care and adoption
Construction Industry Sidelined by Shutdown Order

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered non-life sustaining businesses to shut down to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Naturally, this left many Pennsylvanians wondering about the status of our state’s thousands of unfinished constructions projects.

The governor’s office this week offered a partial clarification as it updated its guidance on residential construction:

“Residential construction projects that are substantially finished may continue to completion. For all other residential construction projects, limited activities may continue to the extent necessary to stabilize the site, temporarily prevent weather damage or make emergency repairs only. Projects that are ‘substantially completed’ are those projects that have been issued a final occupancy permit. No new residential construction projects may be started at this time.”
Notes About the Federal CARES Act

Last week, Congress approved and the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. While this is a federal law, I wanted to share a few highlights:

Unemployment Compensation Update: Benefits for Self-Employed
Many people who are self-employed or working as private contractors are now eligible for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act.

PLEASE NOTE: Claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program will be filed through the state Department of Labor and Industry; however, the application must be handled separately and is not yet available.

As soon as the program is up and running, I will share information about how to apply. You should not file under the current system, as your claim will be rejected.

Economic Impact Checks
The majority of Americans will receive “economic impact” checks to help during these challenging times. Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment.

For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible.

Most will need to take no action to receive the check.

More guidance from the IRS available here.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley recently published a helpful guide on the CARES Act that you can read here. 

Assistance for Employers, Small Business
To help small businesses keep their employees and stay open (or reopen), the federal CARES Act creates a “Paycheck Protection” program to provide eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses that maintain their payroll. The program is also available to nonprofits and veterans’ organizations. Read more here.
Attorney General: Beware of CARES Act Scams

The Office of Attorney General is warning that scammers may try to take advantage the CARES Act to steal personal information.

You are advised not to take unsolicited calls that claim to be about the COVID-19 pandemic or the federal stimulus, and report suspicious emails and calls to the attorney general at scams@attorneygeneral.gov.
Other Notable News Regarding COVID-19

Food Distribution Assistance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has granted a waiver to allow the Commonwealth to distribute more food at hundreds of locations across the state, while temporarily waiving the need to verify household eligibility. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) will help provide critical food supplies to Pennsylvanians left unemployed or otherwise adversely affected as a result of statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts through the state’s network of food banks, food pantries and pop-up distribution sites.

Be Counted! 2020 Census Underway Despite COVID-19
You probably already received a letter from the Census Bureau encouraging you to be counted, as it impacts our representation in Congress and how much federal funding comes here to help our state and communities. This year, you have the option of completing the Census online, by phone or the traditional paper questionnaire. The Census Bureau has suspended its field operations as a result of COVID-19, and workers looking to complete the more detailed surveys will be calling rather than visiting the homes of citizens designated to participate. However, it’s important for the Census to move forward with your participation. Learn more at www.pa.gov/census/.

Election Deadline Changes
As a result of legislation passed last week to postpone the primary election until June 2, you now have until May 18 to register to vote and until May 26 to sign up to vote by mail-in ballot. Click here for more information.

PennDOT has further extended the expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, learner’s permits, persons with disability placards, vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections. If you have a driver license, photo ID card or learner’s permit scheduled to expire between March 16 and April 30, it will now be valid through May 31. The same applies to vehicle registrations, safety inspections, emissions inspections and parking placards for people with disabilities. All Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers and the Harrisburg Riverfront Office Center are closed for counter service until further notice.

The Department also announced this week that work is continuing on 61 emergency and critical highway and bridge projects to ensure a reliable transportation system for the Commonwealth. Projects include things like landslide repairs; critical bridge, tunnel and drainage repairs; and work needed to eliminate roadway restrictions that could impede the movement of life-sustaining goods and services.

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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