Mar. 27, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong# The latest news from the State Capitol
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COVID-19 Update: March 27

If you’ve been following my social media, the local news media and daily briefings from the Wolf administration, you know the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread.

As state and federal health officials continue to remind us, it is important to stay calm and stay home if possible. It is also important to stay informed, so I’d like to provide a quick rundown of all the latest news you can use about mitigation orders, relief efforts, delays and cancellations, and more.
Getting Construction Workers Back to Work

I joined nine other local members of the House to call on Gov. Tom Wolf to allow construction workers to get back to work. Below is the statement I and other representatives issued.

“We understand the need to take measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect all Pennsylvanians. We also recognize the tough decisions the governor has had to make during this crisis.

“However, we believe the governor is wrong to shut down all construction in Pennsylvania. Though the administration’s list of businesses permitted to operate is supposed to be based on guidelines from the federal government, he failed to follow its recommendation to allow construction to continue, similar to our bordering states.

“Since the governor issued his sudden and confusing order to close numerous businesses, homes that were under construction are left to deteriorate in the elements, causing environmental harm, as well as costing businesses and would-be homeowners thousands of dollars. Though emergency repairs are permitted as part of the governor’s list, he has been unclear if that means workers can shore up homes to protect materials.

“Unfinished homes and other buildings also pose safety risks to those, particularly children, who would venture onto sites. In addition, roadwork projects ceased even though the drastically reduced amount of traffic provides an opportune time for the projects to move forward.

“We believe construction can continue when workers follow social distancing practices. At most construction sites, workers aren’t often near their colleagues, but rather work solitarily, or in very small groups. In fact, there are most likely fewer people on the average home construction site at any given time than there are shoppers at a typical grocery store.

“That is why we ask the governor to allow the more than 250,000 Pennsylvania construction workers to incorporate safety protocols and to get back to work.”

Important Information for Businesses

Businesses deemed to be “non-life-sustaining” by the Wolf administration are to remain closed until further notice. To review the administration’s guidelines about which businesses may continue to operate and which must close, click here.

To help businesses impacted by the spread of coronavirus and subsequent mitigation efforts, there are two loan programs available so far that may be of interest to you:

  •   The COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program provides loans of up to $100,000 for working capital with a 0% interest rate. Funds are limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified businesses employing 100 or fewer full-time employees. This includes businesses in the agricultural, service and hospitality sectors. The program is being administered through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA). All PIDA loan applications must be submitted through a Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO). For more information, click here.

  •   The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75%. Businesses may obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or by emailing Loan applications can also be downloaded at 
Unemployment Help

With so many businesses closing due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, many people find themselves unemployed and in need of help. This short tutorial offers some guidance on how to go about filing for unemployment. See below for more information on legislative actions related to the availability of unemployment compensation.
Session Update: Primary Election Moved; School Changes Approved

Click here to view video.

The House met in session this week to consider legislation necessary to address some of the impacts of the spread of coronavirus in the Commonwealth. As a result of a change made to the House rules last week, more than half of the members opted to participate virtually from their  homes or district offices. To ensure your voices at heard in Harrisburg, I attended session in person. I ask you to watch the above video to learn more.

We voted to delay the primary election until Tuesday, June 2. This would give counties more time to prepare contingency plans for election day. One of the major challenges has been an inability to train poll workers, as well as concerns voiced by those poll workers, many of whom are senior citizens who tend to be more vulnerable to coronavirus. All of these changes are due to the coronavirus emergency and apply ONLY to the upcoming primary.

In addition to moving the date of the election, Senate Bill 422 would allow counties to consolidate polling places, as long as they provide notice of the changes (which won’t require court approval) at least 20 days before the election; provide public notification of all polling locations at least 15 days prior to the election; and locate polling places in buildings where malt or brewed beverages and liquors are served, as long as voting does not occur in a room where those beverages are dispensed nor requires voters to go through those rooms. These changes would allow counties to adjust if regular polling locations are not available on the new date.

To help expedite results, the bill would allow counties to begin processing absentee and mail-in ballots at 7 a.m. on election day, with counting starting at the close of the polls.

This will be the first election in which Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to vote by mail-in ballot without an excuse (absentee ballots were permitted only for people who were unable to make it to their polling place on election day for very specific reasons).  Voters interested in voting by mail for the June 2 primary should click here to learn more.            

We approved several changes to address ongoing school closures. The governor announced earlier this week schools would remain closed through AT LEAST April 6, with students tentatively scheduled to return to classes April 9.

First and foremost, the Senate Bill 751 would ensure school districts are making a “good faith effort” to develop a plan to offer continuing education during the closure of schools, with the plans to be developed locally by each district with guidance from the state Department of Education and technical assistance from the districts’ intermediate units. The plans would need to be submitted to the department and published on the school districts’ websites.

Regarding special education, the legislation would ask that notice be given to the parents of all special education students for a plan to ensure the students are receiving “free and appropriate public education.”

The bill would eliminate the 180-day instruction requirement on all public and non-public schools. It would allow the secretary of Education to increase the number of allowable flexible instruction days and waive the timeline regarding those days. Additionally, the bill would ensure there will be no loss of school subsidies, including for charter schools, and no staff member of any public school would see any less or more compensation than would have been received without the school closures. It also seeks to address school bus contractors to ensure that once the current crisis has ended, school buses would be ready to provide service.

We voted to ensure workers have access to the unemployment compensation (UC) they need. House Bill 68 would enact several emergency measures, which would expire Jan. 1, 2021. Most notably, the bill would waive the waiting week requirement and job search/registration requirements for all UC claimants for the duration of the disaster emergency.

For employers, the bill would provide relief from charges for contributory employers who pay UC taxes and reimbursable employers (nonprofits and public employers) who elected to pay a solvency fee to the UC Trust Fund.

The measure also would offer more lenient repayment terms for reimbursable employers who did not pay the solvency fee by increasing the timeline for repayment from the current 30 days to 120 days. It would be up to the Department of Labor and Industry to make additional adjustments based on hardship requests from employers. No interest on late payments would accrue or be charged until Jan. 1, 2021.

Finally, the bill would authorize the department to enact any emergency regulations necessary to comply with requirements for any federal assistance for administrative costs, extended benefits, disaster unemployment, or any other unemployment assistance. Emergency regulations will expire 120 days after the federal emergency provisions expire.

We also authorized the transfer of up to $50 million to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services to meet patient and staff needs to respond to COVID-19. House Bill 1232 would also provide temporary authorization to the Department of Revenue to extend the local filing for tax liabilities through July 15, 2020, and to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to extend the filing and payment deadlines for local Earned Income Tax to coincide with the extension granted for federal and state income taxes.
How Can I Help?

With hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians losing their jobs due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, there is an increased demand on social services programs, including food banks.

As noted in a news briefing with the administration earlier this week, the Department of Human Services is continuing to process applications and benefit renewals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Emergency SNAP applications can be expedited and issued in five days. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at

The Department of Agriculture has provided resources for Pennsylvanians to access emergency food assistance during COVID-19 mitigation, including locations of food banks and food pantries that are assisting individuals and families during this time. And to ensure that food banks and related organizations remain operable with healthy volunteers, the department provided guidelines for ways to limit contact while providing their essential services.

If you are willing and able to help, contact one of our local food banks to see what donations or volunteer help they may need.

The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to COVID-19. If you would like to donate blood, visit the American Red Cross Blood Services website at to schedule an appointment at a location near you.
Other Notable News Regarding COVID-19

In light of school closures, the Department of Education has canceled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). For more information of interest to schools, students and families, click here. 

The state (read more here) and federal (read more here) income tax filing deadlines have been changed to from April 15 to July 15. Taxpayers are still encouraged to file sooner rather than later, especially if they are expecting a refund. Online filings are able to be processed more quickly.

The deadline for seniors and people with disabilities to apply for the 2019 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended to Dec. 31. Click here for more information.

The federal enforcement deadline for REAL ID has been extended by the Trump administration. This extension means you will continue to be able to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal building with a standard driver's license. The new deadline is Oct. 1, 2021.

After initially closing all of its rest areas, including for parking, PennDOT has now reopened the majority of its facilities in response to feedback from truckers, lawmakers and others. The facilities reopened with sanitation protocols in place to protect against the spread of coronavirus. For a list of open locations, click here. The department will continue to evaluate and will determine whether additional rest areas can be reopened.

On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, cash and credit cards are no longer being accepted on the mainline ticket system. All tolls are being assessed electronically via E-ZPass or the PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE program as vehicles travel at posted speed limits through tolling points. Service plazas along the turnpike are offering limited services. Click here for details.

All driver license and photo centers are currently closed. You are encouraged to visit the driver and vehicle services website ( 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process a variety of transactions including driver's license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration

letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; and driver license and photo ID duplicates. There are no additional fees for using online services. PLEASE NOTE: Licenses scheduled to expire during the last week of March will now expire April 30. The same deadline extension applies to vehicle inspection deadlines.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently issued a waiver of federal regulations related to the Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC) that CDL holders need to file with PennDOT in order to retain their CDL. PennDOT issued the following guidance in response to this waiver:
  •   FMCSA waives the requirement under 49 CFR 391.45 that CDL holders, CLP holders, and non-CDL drivers have a medical examination and certification, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification that was issued for a period of 90 days or longer and that expired on or after March 1, 2020.
  •   FMCSA waives the requirement under 49 CFR 383.71(h)(3) that, in order to maintain the medical certification status of “certified,” CDL or CLP holders provide the State Driver Licensing Agency with an original or copy of a subsequently issued medical examiner’s certificate, provided that they have proof of a valid medical certification that expired on or after March 1, 2020.
  •   Drivers claiming relief under this waiver from the requirement for a valid medical certificate must have proof of a valid medical certificate that expired on or after March 1, 2020, and carry a paper copy of their expired medical certificates.
  •   Drivers who cannot produce evidence of a prior medical certification that expired on or after March 1, 2020, are not covered under this waiver, including new drivers who have never obtained a medical certification.
  •   PennDOT has temporarily stopped processes to downgrade CDL drivers who are unable to provide their updated MECs as indicated in the FMCSA waiver.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has closed all facilities at state parks and forests through at least April 30. This includes visitor centers; restrooms; campgrounds, cabins and other overnight accommodations; and public programs and events. The public may continue to access trails, lakes, roads and parking for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking.

While much attention is being paid to the physical illness that can be caused by coronavirus, the Department of Health is also reminding people to take care of their emotional health. Residents are encouraged to practice self-care, read only news from reliable sources, take breaks from the news and focus on things you can control, like having good hygiene. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the state’s crisis hotline by texting PA to 741-741.

To support the ability of nurses, physician assistants and others to treat patients during the current public health emergency, the Department of State has suspended a number of license requirements. Click here for details.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has announced that the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program will offer refill extensions for older adults. PACE will now reimburse refills even if the program participants haven’t used 75% of their supply, which was a prior requirement for refills to be reimbursed under the program. Program participants who would like to receive this exception must have their pharmacy contact PACE at 1-800-835-8040. (This exception excludes opioids and other controlled substances, which will be handled on a case-by-case basis.) To help older adults comply with COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the PACE program is helping enrollees receive free home delivery of their medications from their pharmacies. Read more here.

To ensure access to medications, the Department of State is allowing out-of-state pharmacies to ship goods into Pennsylvania under some circumstances, and temporary licensure will be granted to pharmacies in other states so they can provide goods and services to Pennsylvanians for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Also, pharmacists will be permitted to provide remote supervision by telephone or computer to pharmacy technicians and interns, ensuring these employees can continue to dispense medications without a pharmacist physically on the premises. Read more here. 

District Office Reminder

In the interest of protecting public health, my office is temporarily closed to walk-in service. However, we remain ready to assist via phone, email and internet.

We made this decision based on recommendations offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to help prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. We encourage you to reach out for assistance with any state-related issues by contacting us online at, or by calling 717-432-0792.

To stay informed, please follow me on Facebook at, and visit the Coronavirus Information page on my website for links to important resources, including the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is available at
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