In This Update:
Committee Leadership Offers Opportunities to Protect Vulnerable Pennsylvanians
I was honored this week to be appointed to serve as Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee for the 2021-22 Legislative Session. I was proud to lead this panel in 2020 and play a leading role in reviewing flaws in the Wolf Administration’s handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to ensure these facilities received adequate testing, PPE and other resources to protect seniors.
I look forward to serving in this capacity again this year to strengthen some of our most critical programs designed to protect vulnerable Pennsylvanians. More details about this appointment are available here.
Federal Stimulus Bill Boosts Unemployment Payments
The federal stimulus bill approved by Congress last month extended the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Program to include an additional $300 in weekly unemployment payments. The additional payments are now being paid out to Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits claimants and will be added for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants soon.
The FPUC payments are automatically added to each claimant’s payment and are retroactive to the week ending January 2. The program is scheduled to run through March 13.
Paycheck Protection Program Reopens
Small employers impacted by the pandemic can apply now for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which reopened on Monday. The program was originally created to offer loans to cover payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utility costs for employers affected by coronavirus mitigation. Eligible expenses were recently expanded to include operations expenditures, property damage costs, supplier costs and worker protection expenditures.
The program is open to new borrowers, as well as existing borrowers who meet certain eligibility criteria. New guidelines are available for both new borrowers and existing borrowers; applicants should contact their local lender for additional information.
New Law Improves Photo ID, License and CDL Requirements
A law approved late last year will help homeless state residents receive a free ID, allow Pennsylvanians with certain visual impairments to receive a driver’s license, and help bring the state into compliance with new federal regulations for commercial driver licenses (CDLs).
As a result of Act 131 of 2020, state residents who are experiencing homelessness can receive a free photo ID or renewal by applying in person at any Driver License Center. In addition, the law allows the use of bioptic telescope lenses to help eligible individuals with visual impairments qualify for a driver’s license. Pennsylvania will join 28 other states in allowing the use of these devices.
The updated CDL requirements include reporting requirements for convictions and violations. In addition, the new law will ensure CDL holders who participate in human trafficking offenses receive a lifetime ban.
Financial Assistance Programs Available for Utility Customers
The COVID-19 pandemic has created financial challenges for hundreds of thousands of families in Pennsylvania, including problems in paying energy bills. It is important for consumers who are affected by unexpected job losses, business closures and other financial difficulties to contact their utility providers to find out whether assistance is available. A list of utility providers is available from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission at the links below.
In addition to programs offered directly through service providers, Dollar Energy Fund works with more than a dozen electricity, water, natural gas and other utility companies to offer financial relief to customers in need. A list of participating providers is available here.
Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
On Monday, the nation will pause in remembrance of one of the nation’s greatest civil rights icons –Martin Luther King, Jr. As a result of the critical role he played in the struggle for justice in the 1960s, he became the first modern private citizen to be honored with a federal holiday. Dr. King’s writings, advocacy and peaceful activism continues to inspire Americans today, more than 50 years after his assassination in 1968.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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