In This Update:
Senator Aument: “Pennsylvania Needs a Clear Path Forward”
“Public officials need to clearly identify a path forward that will not sacrifice public health for economic prosperity or vice versa, because we need both to build a stronger Pennsylvania. The interbranch COVID-19 Cost & Recovery Task Force established by Senate Bill 327 will lay out this path for Pennsylvanians.
“This task force, if signed in to law, will develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania that will couple short-term actions with long-term strategies, including proposals to restore education, housing, transportation, and business activity to pre-disaster levels.”
Senate Returns to Session This Week to Consider More COVID-19 Response Measures
The Senate will be in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week to consider a number of bills to aid in the state’s response to COVID-19. Session and all committee meetings will take place remotely and will be streamed live at www.PAsenateGOP.com. A full, gavel-to-gavel video will be available after the conclusion of each day’s legislative action.
New Online Tool Designed to Meet Growing Medical Supply Demands
A new web portal will help manufacturers and distributors meet the increased demand for medical products and supplies created by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The new Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action Portal will help existing manufacturers produce COVID-19 related supplies and connect them with available distributors. The new resource will also assist other companies in retooling their operations to begin developing those supplies, and help businesses identify skilled workers that can fill workforce gaps and needs.
Manufacturers, distributors and other suppliers can inform the Department of Community and Economic Development of their critical supply chain capabilities, needs, workforce gaps and innovative opportunities through the portal here.
Turnpike Travelers No Longer Need to Stop at Tollbooths During Public Health Emergency
In order to limit person-to-person contact during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will no longer accept cash or credit cards at tollbooths. All tolls will be assessed electronically through the E-ZPass system or the Toll By Plate program.
During coronavirus mitigation, motorists will no longer stop at tollbooths. Instead, the Toll By Plate system will take a photo of the license plate of each vehicle that does not have E-ZPass and send the registered owner an invoice within 30 days.
More information about how the Toll By Plate system works is available at www.nocashzone.com.
Volunteer Fire Departments Eligible for Federal Loan Programs
Under the federal CARES Act, volunteer fire departments are eligible for two types of federal loans: Emergency Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program loans.
For volunteer fire departments with IRC 501(c)(3) or IRC 501(c)(4) status, Emergency Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other costs. If approved, EIDLs provide up to $2 million for working capital, have a 2.75% interest rate for non-profits, and can be repaid over 30 years.
The International Fire Chiefs Association has more information.
Department of Health Advises Use of Masks When Leaving Home
When Pennsylvanians leave the house to collect groceries, pick up prescriptions or perform other essential activities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health are advising everyone to wear a mask to limit the spread of COVID-19. Paper masks and N-95 masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals, but cloth and homemade masks also can offer an important measure of protection.
Additional information about this recommendation and directions for creating homemade masks are available here.
Continuity of Education Grant Applications Available April 6
Pennsylvania schools that need additional support for their continuity of education plans may be eligible for equity grants to support distance learning programs for students. The Pennsylvania Department of Education will begin accepting applications for its Continuity of Education Equity Grant program on April 6.
Grants are available to fund the purchase of computer equipment – such as laptops, tablets, and internet hot spots – or instructional materials, including paper lessons and coursework. Applications must be completed by April 10.
More details about the program are available here.
New COVID-19 Resource Guide Available Now
Since the state first ramped up its efforts to contain COVID-19 a few weeks ago, my office has responded to thousands of calls and emails from concerned citizens, business owners, municipal officials and non-profit groups who did not know where else to turn during these uncertain times.
In order to help everyone deal with the financial challenges created by this virus, a new COVID-19 Resource Guide for Municipalities, Nonprofits and Community Organizations has been created to connect individuals, families and groups with federal, state, local and private sources of funding. A link to the resource guide is available here.
I hope this guide will enable more local individuals and groups to access the financial resources they need in the weeks ahead. My office is ready and willing to help local individuals and groups locate available programs and apply for funding.
Tele-town Hall Will Focus on Pennsylvania Veterans’ Issues During COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a tele-town hall on April 7 at 4 p.m. to provide an update about the VA’s COVID-19 response efforts and other initiatives to support veterans.
Community residents can participate by calling 844-227-7557 and following prompts on the call.
New Behavioral Health Support and Referral Helpline Available Now
Pennsylvanians who are struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions during the COVID-19 public health emergency can receive support through a new helpline created by the Department of Human Services. Referrals to community-based resources are available for patients in need.
Public health professionals are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer support for state residents at 1-855-284-2494.
More information about the helpline and other resources for individuals in need of support is available here.
Department of Agriculture Finds No Evidence COVID-19 is Transmissible Through Food
The state Department of Agriculture (PDA) is reassuring Pennsylvanians that there is no evidence that human or animal food or food packaging is associated with transmission of COVID-19. The department re-deployed the state’s food safety inspectors to ensure continued protection of Pennsylvanians and prevent foodborne illness as of April 1.
Grocery stores, food manufacturers, distributors and manufacturing environments were given guidance to protect their workforce and consumers from COVID-19. More information is available here.
Additional Tax Filing Dates Extended
I supported a package of bills that was signed into law last Friday to help the state move forward during the COVID-19 crisis. One of these new laws extended the deadline for taxpayers to file local tax returns.
A number of important tax deadlines have been extended in recent weeks, including:
Additional information on new tax filing deadlines and other changes related to COVID-19 are available here.
Pennsylvania Waives Spay/Neuter Requirement for Pet Adoptions
In an effort to conserve personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is temporarily waiving a requirement that all shelters and rescues must spay/neuter dogs and cats prior to adoption.
Shelters will be required to keep a list of adopters to follow up with post-pandemic. Adoptive pet owners will then have to have the procedure completed.
Shelters and rescues can continue adopting pets out and are advised to follow guidance for virtual, limited contact adoptions from the Humane Society of the United States. Rescues and shelters should also follow guidance issued from the department to protect their workforce and continue operations.
Before adopting, Pennsylvanians should consider if they’re able to provide for all the pets’ needs during COVID-19 mitigation and follow the department’s Guidance to Pet Owners.
Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Hosts Coronavirus Webinars for Businesses
The Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce continues to offer a series of FREE, informative business webinars to assist businesses during this difficult time. Here is a list of this week’s webinars:
Leading Through Uncertainty Webinar
How To Market Your Business To Survive The Coronavirus