In This Update:
Underscoring Secretary Levine’s Record in PA
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine was nominated this week by the Biden Administration to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Despite what is certainly a personal achievement for Secretary Levine, we cannot ignore the shortcomings in her performance at the helm of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I recently released a statement with background information about the questionable policies pursued under her leadership. The full statement is available here.
Committee Assignments Allow Action on Local Concerns
In addition to serving as Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I was appointed recently to serve on five other committees that will address some of the most important issues facing our region and our Commonwealth.
In the upcoming session, I will serve as Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee, which plays a key role in considering issues and legislation related to Pennsylvania’s education system, including school safety, funding issues and post-secondary opportunities for students.
I will also serve on the Senate Finance Committee; Senate Health and Human Services Committee; Senate Law and Justice Committee; and Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. I look forward to using my membership on these panels to ensure our local communities have a stronger voice in state government.
Department of Health Updates Vaccine Distribution Plan
My offices have received many questions about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Department of Health recently updated its vaccine distribution plan to include older Pennsylvanians and individuals with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The new plan expands vaccine eligibility to include Pennsylvanians age 65 or older, as well as state residents who have conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cancer, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease or other specific medical concerns. Vaccine supplies are currently limited. A map of vaccine providers is available here.
The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, but is recommended by public health officials. The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers information to help state residents make an informed choice on whether to get the vaccine, including a special section on its website regarding vaccine safety.
Honoring the Life and Service of Senator Dave Arnold
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing this week of my friend and colleague Senator Dave Arnold, who served residents of Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties. Although his time both in the Senate and in this world were much too short, he earned an incredible reputation as a leader and a fighter for the causes he believed in.
His legacy will live on for years to come based on his dedicated work on behalf of his constituents, especially the progress he made toward protecting Pennsylvania’s children from being abused and exploited. Dave’s character, advocacy and professionalism will be sorely missed in Harrisburg.
Our Commonwealth is a better place today because of his efforts. Please join me in praying for all those who knew and loved him, including his wife, Alicia, and his daughter, Reese.
Hearing Explores Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccine in Rural Areas
Last week, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania held a hearing to gather more information on the challenges facing the state in terms of delivering and administering the vaccine in rural areas.
The hearing focused on the need to build trust around the safety and necessity of vaccines; communicating how, where and when residents can get vaccines; and making sure there are sufficient staff and funding to administer and distribute vaccines.
Schools Set to Receive Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding
The COVID-19 relief bill approved by Congress in December included more than $2.2 billion in funding to Pennsylvania school districts and charter schools affected by the pandemic. Local education agencies can apply through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to receive their share of funding.
Senate Returns to Session Next Week
The Senate will return to session next week beginning on Monday. A complete schedule of committee hearings and meetings is available here, and all of the meetings and floor activity will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com.
Applications Available for Recreation and Conservation Grants
Local governments and conservation organizations can apply now for grants to support parks, recreation and conservation projects. The grants are funded through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
State Funding Supports Bellwood Water Treatment and Dam Upgrades
Two loans from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority will help finance upgrades to the Bellwood Water Treatment Facility and the Bellwood Dam. The projects will repair critical infrastructure and improve water quality and reliability for the communities served by the system.
More information about the projects is available here.
Volunteers Needed to Help Honor PA Veterans
The Wreaths Across America organization is asking volunteers to support efforts to pick up more than 40,000 wreaths that were laid on graves at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in December in honor of some of our nation’s greatest heroes. Operation Clean Sweep will take place on Saturday, January 30, to pick up the wreaths and return the cemetery to its pristine state.
More information is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fish and Boat Commission Announces Photo Contest
Have a special fishing or boating moment captured on camera? The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) recently announced its 2021 photography contest that showcases the state’s anglers, boaters, waterways and aquatic resources.
The deadline for entries is August 31. Contest rules, prize information and entry details are available on the PFBC website.