Apr. 24, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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#Listrak\DateStamplong# The latest news from the State Capitol
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The General Assembly returned to session this week, as we continued our fight for the people of Pennsylvania. We advanced legislation to safely reopen businesses that can comply with scientific guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while continuing to protect our citizens, frontline health care providers and first responders from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Week’s Session Update

We tackled several pieces of legislation this week, many of which were centered around getting Pennsylvanians back to work safely as soon as possible. Pennsylvanians are fed up with the governor picking and choosing which businesses can remain open while others remain closed. We took these measures to restore fairness, consistency and transparency.

Senate Bill 613
We passed Senate Bill 613 that would help create clear and consistent guidelines about business closures and give businesses across the Commonwealth the opportunity to reopen ONLY IF they could do so safely.

While I am disappointed the governor chose to veto this bill earlier this week, it’s clear our vote to start reopening the economy safely using scientific CDC guidelines forced the governor to take a step in this direction himself by setting a target date to partially resume private construction and possibly start lifting stay-at-home orders in areas of the state with minimal COVID-19 cases.

House Bill 2400
To keep us moving in the direction of safely reopening the construction industry, we passed House Bill 2400, which would allow all public and private construction activities that can adhere to scientific CDC guidelines to protect workers to resume operations.

These efforts also made a difference, as the governor announced Wednesday evening that he would now allow the reopening of ALL construction on May 1. This is an industry that has continued to operate without interruption in the vast majority of other states because it is important work but also because it is an industry that can easily comply with CDC guidelines.

Senate Bill 841
We passed Senate Bill 841 to, among other things, allow online car sales in the Commonwealth. The governor has signed this bill into law. Surrounding states have allowed dealerships to remain open to sell cars in a safe manner, and I believe Pennsylvania should be doing the same, again following scientific CDC guidelines. On Tuesday, we passed House Bill 2388 that would allow all auto dealerships to reopen if they choose to do so, safely.

House Bill 2376
We passed House Bill 2376, the One Staffer/One Shopper bill, that would allow a retail business staffed by one employee to open for business as long as it allowed only one customer into the store at a time. The bill is designed to enable shoppers to visit smaller venue retailers and avoid the larger crowds often present at big box stores.

House Bill 1822
We passed House Bill 1822, which would provide protections for workers impacted by COVID-19, ensuring they cannot be terminated or demoted for becoming ill or abiding by a doctor’s order to quarantine.

House Bill 1869
We passed House Bill 1869 that would help ambulance companies meet staffing requirements and continue to serve their communities, as well as ensure benefits for first responders and National Guard members who may be impacted by COVID-19.

Senate Bill 857
Finally, a bill to enhance the availability of telemedicine in the Commonwealth was sent to the governor’s desk on Tuesday. If signed into law by the governor, Senate Bill 857 would improve safe access to care in this time of social distancing, as well as boost accessibility and affordability of care in rural and other underserved areas of the Commonwealth.
Jobs Available on PA CareerLink Portal

PA’s COVID-19 Job Portal is now live. This site posts immediate job openings in critical industries. Even under the governor’s order, there are many available jobs that can be done safely.

Click here for more information. 
Unemployment Compensation Update

With so many people left unemployed as a result of the governor’s orders to close non-essential businesses, the Department of Labor and Industry has received more than 1.5 million unemployment claims since mid-March.

I am unfortunately well aware of the extreme delays, system crashes and other problems filers have experienced in trying to claim the benefits you need. I continue to stress to administration officials the dire need of so many Pennsylvanians struggling to pay their bills and put food on their tables. For general information about unemployment compensation benefits, click here.  

If you have lost wages as a result of COVID-19, but do not qualify for regular unemployment, you can take advantage of the new, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program now available. The PUA program was created to provide benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, individuals who recently started a new job or were scheduled to do so before the pandemic.

That system has also had more than a few bugs, but I’m told it is functioning properly at this time. To learn more about how to apply for assistance through PUA, click here. 
Governor Outlines Plan to Reopen PA

While the stay-at-home order has been extended to May 8 statewide, Gov. Tom Wolf this week also outlined a phased plan he intends to use to reopen the Commonwealth’s economy. Areas with fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be the first to move toward reopening with other regions remaining under current orders until they reach a level of fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people for a period of 14 days.

The governor compared the three phases to a traffic light, with the entire state currently in the red phase. Areas in the northwest and northcentral portions of the state are the most likely candidates to move into the yellow phase, and ultimately the green phase, first. For details about what the governor would permit in each phase, review the chart below.
Track COVID-19 Cases by ZIP Code

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is now releasing both county and ZIP code-level information about COVID-19 cases. An interactive map shows the number of confirmed cases and negative tests, as well as the number of deaths if applicable. Click here to check out the map.  
PA Food Banks to Receive Critical Assistance

Nearly $16 million is on its way to Pennsylvania food banks, which are providing meals to countless Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 health crisis. The state received $14.9 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for The Emergency Food Assistance Program to provide critical support and food to Pennsylvania’s food banks and emergency food assistance network working to feed the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians in need. To find a food pantry near you, click here.  
Resources Available for Older Adults

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has launched an online COVID-19 resource guide for older adults, their family members and caregivers. The guide includes information on meals, prescriptions, protective services, scams, and how to stay active and connected. Click here for more information.  

Student Grant Deadline Extended

Student Grant Deadline Extended
To give students and families more flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is extending the May 1 PA State Grant application deadline by two weeks to May 15 for the 2020-21 Academic Year. To apply for a PA State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2020-21 FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

Applicants can access this form online at www.pheaa.org/fafsa or www.fafsa.gov.
The following browsers have been certified for use with the online FAFSA form: Mozilla Firefox (Version 68 and above), Apple Safari (Version 9 and above) and Google Chrome (Version 76 and above).
Support Local Restaurants with CarryoutPA

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Tourism Office is encouraging Pennsylvanians to support local restaurants by visiting the CarryoutPA website, which offers a comprehensive list of restaurants offering takeout, curbside or delivery services during the state’s stay-at-home order.

CarryoutPA.com was developed by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association to serve as a go-to resource for dine-out options in support of the Commonwealth’s restaurant industry, which accounts for 10% of jobs statewide. Pennsylvania restaurants that would like to be added to the registry can register at CarryoutPA.com
District Office Reminder

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.

REMINDER: For unemployment inquiries, please utilize the links and resources above.

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
Our District

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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