In This Update:
Senate Approves Bills to Support Safe, Responsible Reopening of Many Employers
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline, it is important for businesses to begin reopening safely and responsibly in a way that protects employees and customers. I supported passage of a package of bills this week that would give county leaders a strong say in the process and allow more industries to operate under strict guidance from state and federal health experts.
One of these bills would give county governments the option to develop and implement individual plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under the bill, counties would have the authority to reopen some industries shuttered by the governor if they can do so safely.
Other bills in the package would authorize waivers for a number of businesses to operate under guidelines that have been proposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Industries included in the bills are: vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons, barber shops, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services, manufacturing operations, legal services and real estate sales activities, as well as the sale of prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premise consumption.
The package of bills would bring back 200,000 jobs across the state.
PA Senate COVID-19 Hearings Explore Impacts on Education, Transportation and Safety
This week, Senate committees continued to examine the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 in regards to education and transportation, as well as the ability to protect vulnerable populations while reopening various industries throughout the state.
A hearing of the Senate Education Committee on Monday focused on continuity of education for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the path forward for schools to reopen in the fall. Video and Testimony
On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee explored the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on transportation projects, as well as the cost of the shutdown to taxpayers. Video and Testimony
The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a joint hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony from medical experts and county officials about how to protect older Pennsylvanians and others at the highest risk from COVID-19 as counties begin the process of reopening. Video and Testimony
The hearings this week come on the heels of a series of four hearings last week that covered topics like Unemployment Compensation problems, efforts to protecting nursing home residents, Wine & Spirts store issues, and the governor’s plan to reopen the state.
After Senate Hearing, Department of Health Reverses Course on Nursing Home Testing
In response to a Senate hearing last week that uncovered gross inadequacies in the Wolf Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health announced this week that it would ramp up testing of staff and residents of long-term care facilities. To date, more than two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have been residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
While the Department of Health’s new emphasis on protecting residents and staff of these facilities is a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done to ensure they get the resources and supplies they need.
New Funding Provided to Long-term Care Facilities, First Responders
Nursing homes throughout the country and our Commonwealth have become the epicenter for the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s clear that the lack of a statewide plan has contributed to our long term care facilities not getting the resources they need in order to protect their residents and employees. In the absence of a statewide strategic plan, local organizations like the Earth Conservancy and the AllOne Foundation have stepped up and helped our nursing homes in northeastern Pennsylvania, but it’s evident that additional resources are needed.
This week I voted for Senate Bill 1122 which includes $507 million from federal CARES Act funding for long term care programs. The $507 million in “Caring for Those Who Care for Us” funding in Senate Bill 1122 would be provided to:
The bill would also establish a special one-time grant program for Pennsylvania’s volunteer fire companies and EMS squads as they address the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program would provide a total of $31 million in grants to organizations that were approved for annual funding by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC). SB 1122 will be considered by the House next.
PennDOT Driver Licenses and Photo IDs Can Use Existing Photos
In order to limit the number of people who must visit PennDOT Photo License Centers, the department recently announced that they will use existing photos on file for customers who renew driver licenses and photo ID cards. All customers who renew their driver’s license or photo ID card online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo of that individual that exists in PennDOT’s system.
Individuals who completed a renewal form prior to May 10 will still receive a camera card in the mail and will need to have an updated photo taken. A list of PennDOT office locations that have been reopened is available at www.dmv.pa.gov.
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