In This Edition:
A Week of Senate Hearings on Wolf Administration’s Response to COVID-19
Many aspects of the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 have been questioned and criticized since mitigation measures first began in Pennsylvania in March. The Senate is holding a series of hearings this week to examine many of the questions that have been raised over the past two months, including serious problems with the Unemployment Compensation system, inconsistencies in Governor Wolf’s plans to reopen Pennsylvania, difficulties with state Wine & Spirits store sales, and the unique challenges facing nursing homes during the public health emergency.
Senate Committees Dig Deeper on Unemployment Compensation Problems
This week, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee and Senate Communications and Technology Committee held a joint hearing to examine the problems with the UC system that have created significant delays in assistance and extreme frustrations from claimants.
During yesterday’s hearing, I had the opportunity to question L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak.
A fundamental question that the Administration has failed to answer is why the experienced professionals at the Department of Labor & Industry were not fully consulted on the Governor’s executive order that shut down businesses across Pennsylvania, forcing almost 1.8 million Pennsylvanians out of work and overwhelming the unemployment compensation system.
The Workforce Development Board, under the direction of the Department of Labor & Industry, has talented leaders from organized labor organizations and private sector industries who would have been a great resource to the Administration. They could have used the Board’s expert advice on how to safely operate businesses and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus without decimating the Pennsylvania economy.
The lack of a collaborative and transparent process in designing the Governor’s executive order to shut down businesses has resulted in millions of Pennsylvania families struggling with a public health crisis while they deal with the tangible human costs of a personal economic crisis.
Hearing Examines Concerns Surrounding Governor Wolf’s Delayed Reopening Plans
The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee took a closer look at the impact of Governor Wolf’s plan to reopen more Pennsylvania employers during a joint hearing with medical experts, local government officials and members of the Wolf Administration this week.
The hearing included discussion of topics including the reasons why some counties with low case counts remain in the red phase, while counties with higher counts have moved to the yellow phase; why the Wolf Administration’s guidelines are more restrictive than guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; the time frame for moving more counties from red to yellow, and from yellow to green; testing and tracing capacity; and the Administration’s lack of collaboration with the General Assembly.
Challenges Facing Nursing Homes to be Explored at Senate Hearing
Nursing homes have faced some incredibly challenging circumstances in caring for vulnerable patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As of Tuesday, 2,029 of Pennsylvania’s 3,012 COVID-19 deaths were associated with nursing homes and personal care homes.
On Thursday beginning at 10:30 a.m., the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will take a closer look at these challenges and explore solutions to ensure these facilities can better protect the health and safety of residents. I will be testifying on the first panel during the hearing.
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