Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review
  • Election Integrity Legislation    
  • Updated Nursing Home Visitation Guidance
  • Prioritize PA Small Businesses 
  • Two weeks to flatten the curve and the Constitutional amendments for change
  • Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans
  • Franklin County COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program (CHIRP) Open
  • Cumberland County COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program (CHIRP) Open
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now
  • Around the District

Special Committee Set to Begin Bipartisan Election Review

A newly created Senate panel will begin a comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with its first hearing on Monday, March 15, beginning at 10 a.m. The hearing is scheduled to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states.

The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform is anticipated to produce a report that will be presented to the General Assembly with recommendations to improve the administration and safety of elections in Pennsylvania.

State residents are encouraged to submit comments through the online form.

Election Integrity Legislation

Public confidence in our elections is necessary for a functioning democracy. Pennsylvania Senate Republicans are working to restore it by introducing legislation to ensure election integrity. A few of these bills are highlighted below. I am pleased to be the sponsor of two of these bills. 

Updated Nursing Home Visitation Guidance

The Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued updated guidance Wednesday on visitation in nursing homes. Please find below information received from the Pennsylvania Department of Health which provides a summary of the changes to the CMS visitation guidance originally issued in September. You can view the updated Nursing Home Visitation guidelines by clicking here. If you are interested, you can click here for a press release from CMS on the updated guidance and here for a Fact Sheet.   

The revised visitation guidance, which is effective immediately, reflects the positive impact that COVID-19 vaccinations are having on residents and staff in nursing homes. The updated guidelines provide that skilled nursing facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

The document also speaks to outdoor visits, indoor visitations during an outbreak, visitor testing and vaccination, compassionate care visits, access to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, among other items.

  • While visitor testing and vaccination can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, visitors should not be required to be tested or vaccinated (or show proof of such) as a condition of visitation.
  • Compassionate care visits, and visits required under federal disability rights law, should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak.
  • A nursing home must facilitate in-person visitation (unless adequate reason related to clinical necessity or resident safety) consistent with the applicable CMS regulations, which can be done by applying the guidance stated above.

If you have a concern about the inability to visit loved ones in a nursing home and you encounter any problems related to visitations in nursing facilities, you may speak with a long-term care ombudsman. The ombudsman provides assistance when residents or family members have concerns with the rights of older consumers, quality of care/treatment from a provider, and other matters. The local Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging has information about the ombudsman. Also, you can reach out to the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman – (717) 783-8975. The following link provides a list of ombudsman by county: https://www.dibbern.com/ombudsman/pa-long-term-care-ombudsman.htm.

 Prioritize PA Small Businesses

On Monday, I along with some of my colleagues including Senator Ryan P. Aument, Senator Camera Bartolotta and Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill will be holding an event to share our legislative efforts to reduce the financial and regulatory burdens on small businesses.
Details can be found here https://senatorjudyward.com/…/senate-republican…/

Two weeks to flatten the curve and the Constitutional amendments for change

We heard the message loud and clear: “two weeks to flatten the curve.” Governor Tom Wolf talked about how it was our civic duty to lockdown and fight this virus to protect others.

That “two weeks to flatten the curve” turned into six weeks which turned into 20 weeks then 40 weeks and then 52 weeks.

It has been one year since Governor Wolf called on Pennsylvanians to take steps in order to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My heart breaks for the more than 24,300 Pennsylvania residents we have lost. While we mourn their passing and pray for their grieving families, we also mourn the loss of our freedoms.

In the year that has been “two weeks to flatten the curve”, we have seen schools closed, restaurants shut down only to reopen with capacity limits, bars forbidden to serve customers without food and after 11 p.m. Gyms were shut down and Mom-and-Pop retail stores were shuttered. We have experienced economic devastation. Many of our neighbors lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

We expected these limitations to be short term in nature, designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. We did our jobs. We stayed at home. Hospitals did not become overwhelmed, either during those initial few weeks or any time after that. And yet Governor Wolf’s emergency declaration orders march on – 52 weeks and counting. Every time the General Assembly tried to bring a voice of reason to the conversation to address the economic impacts of his shut downs or to end the emergency declaration, Governor Wolf got out his veto pen.

That is the reason two constitutional amendments appearing on the May 18th ballot are so important. One limits an emergency declaration to 21 days unless the General Assembly approves a longer duration. The other clarifies that the governor will not be able to unilaterally veto legislative action that ends the declaration, as Governor Wolf has done.

Under current law, a governor’s emergency declaration can last up to 90 days and be renewed by the governor indefinitely. For 52 weeks, Governor Wolf has used this blanket authority to change and suspend state laws and prevent shuttered businesses from reopening with safety measures in place.

Nothing in these amendments prevents state government from being able to “respond to the dangers facing the Commonwealth” as the Wolf administration claims. Rather, the amendments – if approved –  simply prevent one person from unilaterally throwing tens of thousands of citizens out of work, barring children from school, and spending millions of taxpayer dollars.

Under the changes proposed in the ballot questions, the General Assembly may determine via legislation the general manner in which emergencies will be managed in the future, but the administration’s departments would be responsible to carry them out within that framework. The executive branch would be involved in the entire process, but now it would have to work with the people’s representatives.

These amendments have not been taken lightly. Public health and safety are critically important. This legislation was debated, amended, and passed in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly.

I voted yes to putting these proposals before you, the voters, to give you a voice on these critical issues. Now it is your turn to use your voice when you vote on these ballot questions. Please consider the true intent of these amendments.

Budget Hearings Delve Into Wolf’s Spending and Tax Plans

The Senate Appropriations Committee began the formal process of reviewing Governor Wolf’s budget proposal this week, including exploring how the governor’s massive new spending plans and record-breaking tax increases would impact Pennsylvania communities, families and small employers.

Some of the key points discussed during the hearings this week include:

  • The 470,000 jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of higher taxes on economic growth, the $500 million difference in revenue estimates between the Administration and the Independent Fiscal Office, and the ways a natural gas development tax and a carbon tax could hurt the state’s economy. Key Points, March 8
  • The 500,000 acres of state land that could be used for natural gas development without surface disturbance, and the potential benefits of allowing broadband infrastructure on state game lands. Key Points, March 9
  • The massive increase in spending for human services programs, the need for greater efficiency with the Community HealthChoices Program, and the shared goal of moving able-bodied Medicaid recipients back into the workforce. Key Points, March 10
  • The need for upgrades to the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) system, the use of risk-limiting audits, reimbursements for counties for voting machines, permitting delays, the lack of communication and engagement in the Administration’s decision to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and the number of plant shutdowns and job losses that will result from the state’s participation in RGGI. Key Points, March 11

Franklin County COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program (CHIRP) Open

Franklin County has announced the opening of the application period for the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP). CHIRP offers grants to eligible businesses in the hospitality industry to alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Franklin County has received this funding to help protect and preserve the state’s hospitality industry.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Franklin County for-profit entities with a NAICS code of 721 (Accommodations) or 722 (Food Services & Drinking Places).
  • Was in operation on/or before February 15, 2020.
  • 300 or fewer employees worldwide at the time of application.
  • Is not publicly traded.
  • Was subject to closure by order of the Governor.
  • Can demonstrate a gross revenue reduction of 50% or more between March 31, 2020-December 31, 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. An alternative revenue reduction calculation will be provided for businesses who were in operation on or before February 15, 2020, but not in operation for all four quarters in 2019.

Grant Amounts: $5,000 – $50,000

Application Dates:  Applications will be accepted starting March 15, 2021, at 9:00 AM through June 15, 2021, at 5:00 PM (or earlier if funds have been exhausted).

How to Apply:

            Franklin County Area Development Corporation (FCADC)
            https://fcadc.com/covid-hospitality-industry-recovery-program-grant-chirp/

Contacts:

           FCADC (717-263-8282 or chirpgrant@fcadc.com)

The COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) funding is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through Act 1 of 2021, which allocates $145 million in assistance for counties to establish a grant program for eligible businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cumberland County COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program (CHIRP) Open

Cumberland County has announced the opening of the application period for the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP). CHIRP offers grants to eligible businesses in the hospitality industry to alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cumberland County has received $2.9 million to help protect and preserve the state’s hospitality industry.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • 300 Total employees by FTE or fewer during calendar year 2019
  • The business entity must operate meeting the NAICS designation of 721 (Accommodations) or 722 (Food Services or drinking places).
  • Must be a for-profit business that is not publicly traded with a maximum tangible net worth less than $15M per EIN.
  • Place of business must be physically located in Cumberland County.
  • Must be able to certify that business was in operation as of February 15, 2020.
  • Business must have sustained a minimum annual revenue decline of 25% or quarterly revenue loss of 25% or greater in any quarter when comparing quarterly revenue between 2019 and 2020.
  • If the business started between July 1 – December 31, 2019, quarter 3 or 4 revenue of 2019 must show at least a 25% decline compared to any quarter in 2020.
  • If the business started between January 1 – February 15, 2020; the business must demonstrate at least a 25% revenue decline when comparing the first quarter of 2020 to any other quarter in 2020.
  • Must have a filed 2019 federal tax return in 2019 unless the business initially opened between January 1 – February 15, 2020.
  • Has paid and is current on Federal, State and Local hotel occupancy tax (if applicable).
  • Has and will remain in operation and does not intend to cease operations within one year of application date.
  • Has had an adverse economic impact created by Covid-19 pandemic that requires this award in order to continue operations.
  • Will utilize the grant to pay for Covid-19 related economic impacts not already covered by another Cares Act or Pandemic related funding program.
  • Must be able to certify that business has not and will not receive another CHIRP grant between January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021.
  • Business must be open at the time of Application and check disbursement.

Grant Amounts: Up to $50,000 (depending upon business size)

Application Dates:  Applications will be accepted starting March 15, 2021, at 9:00 AM through June 15, 2021, at 5:00 PM (or earlier if funds have been exhausted).

How to Apply:

            Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC)
            https://cumberlandbusiness.com/ccchirp-guidelines/

Contacts:

           Valerie Copenhaver (717-240-7193 or Valerie@visitcumberlandvalley.com

The COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) funding is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through Act 1 of 2021, which allocates $145 million in assistance for counties to establish a grant program for eligible businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emergency Rental Assistance Applications Available Now

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has established the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) to provide financial assistance to eligible households, directly or indirectly impacted financially by COVID-19. This assistance is available to eligible households struggling to pay rent, rental arrears, utilities, utility arrears, and other related housing expenses.

Eligible Applicants:

  • A tenant who owes back rent or struggling to pay rent that has been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19.
  • A landlord with a tenant who owes back rent or struggling to pay rent that has been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19.
  • Or a household with occupancy of a rental property who has been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19 and is struggling to pay for utilities such as electricity, gas, water/sewage, trash removal, and heating. Telecommunication services such as cell phone, telephone, cable, and internet are not eligible.
  • Household income must be at or below 80% of the area median income level.

To apply for the initial application electronically, go to the COMPASS website at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/compass.web/Public/CMPHome under Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Further information and application assistance can be found at the following:

Blair County:

Blair County Community Action
2301 Beale Avenue
Altoona, PA 16601
814-946-3651
https://www.blaircap.org/dhsemergencyrentalassistanceprogram/

Cumberland County:

Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authority (CCHRA)
114 N. Hanover Street
Carlisle, PA 17013
717-249-0789
E-mail: rentrelief@cchra.com
https://cchra.com/program/individual/Emergency-rental-assistance-program

Franklin County:

South Central Community Action Programs (SCCAP)
533 S Main Street
Chambersburg, PA 17201
717-263-5060
https://www.sccap.org/relief

Fulton County:

Center for Community Action
216 N. 2nd Street
McConnellsburg, PA 17233
800-323-9997 or 717-325-4380
https://www.centerforcommunityaction.org/our-departments/human-services/emergency-rental-assistance/

Huntingdon County:

Center for Community Action
510 Washington Street
Huntingdon, PA 16652
Phone: 800-323-9997 or 814-643-4202
https://www.centerforcommunityaction.org/our-departments/human-services/emergency-rental-assistance/

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funding is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through Act 1 of 2021 and is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS).

Around the District

Congratulations to Janice Freehling who just retired as Chief of Police from Altoona Police Department. Janice was the first female officer hired by the City of Altoona in 1976 assigned to the Patrol Division. After several promotions throughout the years, she was appointed as Chief of Police in 2011. Best wishes for a well-deserved retirement!

 

I joined a few of my House of Representative Colleagues in visiting the local Carpenters Union Local 423 in Duncansville.   

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