In This Update:
Senate Votes to Strengthen State’s Emergency Response
State government’s efforts to respond to emergencies could be bolstered by a potential amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would limit the length of future disaster declarations unless an extension is approved by lawmakers.
Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. Under Senate Bill 2, the emergency declaration would be limited to 21 days unless the General Assembly approved a longer duration. It also clarifies that the legislature is not required to present the resolution ending the declaration to the governor for his consideration.
An emergency, especially a pandemic of this magnitude, demands collaborative leadership and all branches of state government working together. If approved by the voters, Senate Bill 2 would simply ensure that all voices are heard and that no one branch of government works unilaterally in times of emergencies. We are a stronger Commonwealth when we work together.
COVID-19 Relief Package Earns Senate Approval
The Senate took the first steps toward providing a new round of financial assistance to restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the pandemic by passing a comprehensive $912 million COVID-19 relief bill this week.
Pennsylvania families and Pennsylvania small businesses are still suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic and deserve the full, unwavering support of their government. Supporting workers who have lost their jobs, investing in our children’s education, and getting our businesses back on the path to economic recovery are all essential elements of helping Pennsylvania get beyond the pandemic.
Senate Bill 109 allocates $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance, $197 million for education programs, and $145 million to support Pennsylvania’s struggling hospitality industry. The bill has to still be considered by the House of Representatives.
Legislation Advances to Enhance Penalties for Child Pornography
The Senate approved a bill this week that would crack down on individuals charged with possession of child pornography. The legislation would boost penalties in all cases of child pornography in which the child is under the age of 10 or prepubescent and provide sentencing enhancements for offenders who sexually abuse children who are known to them.
In addition, the bill would create a special task force to review all laws pertaining to child pornography and make recommendations to improve the investigation and prosecution of offenders.
The bill was previously sponsored by the late Senator Dave Arnold (R-48), who tragically passed away earlier this month.
New Online Filing Option Available for Property Tax and Rent Rebates
The state’s popular Property Tax Rent Rebate program provides rebates of up to $650 on rent or property taxes paid in the previous year by low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. A new online filing tool will make it easier to file applications for the program.
The new myPATH system allows applicants to complete applications online, track the status of their claim and benefit from faster processing and direct deposit options. Rebates will be distributed beginning July 1.
Applicants can also still file by mail. I encourage community residents to contact my district office if they need additional information on filing Property Tax Rent Rebate claims.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program Reopens
The Department of Labor and Industry reopened the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) on Sunday. The program provides additional benefit weeks to qualified individuals who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Compensation benefits.
Claimants can receive an additional 11 weeks due to the extension of the program. More details are available here.
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