Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Prioritize PA Small Business Initiative
  • Constitutional Amendments and Emergency Declarations
  • Senate Aging and Youth Committee Hearing
  • Recognizing Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Weeks
  • Huntingdon County COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program (CHIRP) Open
  • COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings
  • Budget Hearings Continue with Discussion on Education
  • Senate Approves Bill to Open Career Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery
  • Senate Continues Bipartisan Review of Election Issues Next Week
  • Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended
  • World Down Syndrome Day is March 21
  • Around the District

Prioritize PA Small Business Initiative

3/15/21 – Helping Small Businesses

I joined my colleagues Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36), Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28) at Lititz Springs Inn & Spa and The Bulls Head Public House to announce the Prioritize PA: Small Businesses initiative. The package of bills includes immediate financial and tax relief for smaller employers and regulatory reforms to reduce burdens on small businesses.

During the news conference, Senator Aument highlighted a five-bill package designed to aid small businesses that are struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package will include no-interest loans to struggling small businesses, a tax credit program modeled after the successful Education Improvement Tax Credit Program, a temporary waiver of fees for various state licensing, the ability to deduct property taxes from the state’s Corporate Net Income or Personal Income Tax liability, and a three-year option to offset earnings from prior years or future years against current year losses and get refunds for prior years (carryback) or cut future tax bills (carryforward).

Also included in the package is Senate Bill 368, sponsored by myself and Senator Bartolotta , which would update state tax laws in order to provide critical assistance to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legislation would allow small businesses to take a net loss against other sources of income; permit small businesses to take Net Operating Losses against future years for up to 20 years; and temporarily allow small businesses to “carry back” losses to previous tax years. These changes would allow small business owners the option to benefit from the same tax strategies as their larger competitors and provide the same immediate relief that is offered at the federal level.

Many small businesses that have been profitable for years are now seeing losses that are entirely due to COVID-19. Small shops and mom-and-pop operations do not have massive amounts of savings; they are holding on by a thread. “We cannot allow these families to lose everything they have worked so hard to build.

In addition to providing small business relief, the package also includes legislation sponsored by Senator Phillips-Hill that provides comprehensive regulatory reform to help small businesses cut through the mountain of red tape created by state government agencies.

Senate Bill 32 would help the state grapple with its excessive regulatory burden by creating an Independent Office of the Repealer to help identify and eliminate outdated or onerous regulations. The measure would also provide greater legislative oversight for proposed economically significant regulations and provide greater transparency and accessibility to the regulatory process in every agency in state government.

Regulations are a self-made problem that are in part the result of choices made by the legislative branch of government. As a result, state agencies develop rules and regulations that place new burdens on small businesses. We must reverse this trend of growing regulations and the negative impact that it has on our economy.

The bills in the Prioritize PA: Small Businesses package stand in stark contrast to Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, which would raise taxes on hundreds of thousands of small businesses and create additional cost burdens through a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. The provisions would be a serious blow to small employers who are already struggling due to Governor Wolf’s business shutdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Constitutional Amendments and Emergency Declarations

Two constitutional amendments will be on the May 18th ballot for your consideration. These amendments are very 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. Below are my thoughts on the past year and the Governor’s decisions. https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2021/03/two-weeks-to-flatten-the-curve-turned-into-52-and-counting-opinion.html

031021_JWard_OneYearLater1

Senate Aging and Youth Committee Hearing

The Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a public hearing regarding the programs and services offered by the Department of Aging. Here are a few questions I had for the Secretary concerning COVID- 19 vaccinations and the PACE program.

3/16/21 – Consideration of Bills

Recognizing Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Weeks

3/16/21 - Cardiac Rehab and Pulmonary Rehab Weeks

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

Huntingdon 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. Huntingdon County has received $511,000 to help protect and preserve the state’s hospitality industry.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • For-profit businesses, not publicly traded, that were in operation prior to February 15, 2020, remain in operation, and do not intend to permanently cease operations within one year of the date of application.
  • Businesses within this Commonwealth having a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) designation within the Accommodation subsector (721) or Food Services and Drinking Places subsector (722) and where accommodations, food or drink is served to or provided for the public, with or without charge. For a complete list visit https://www.naics.com/six-digit-naics/?code=72.
  • Businesses with fewer than 300 full-time equivalent employees.
  • Business/Owner has a maximum tangible net worth of not more than $15 million.
  • COVID-19 has had an adverse economic impact on the business which makes the grant request necessary to support ongoing operations.
  • Business must have experienced a 25% or more reduction in gross receipts during any calendar quarter of 2020.
  • Eligible operating expenses must have incurred between March 1, 2020 and date of application.

Grant Amounts: $5,000 – $50,000

Application Dates:  March 15, 2021 through June 15, 2021 (or until funding is depleted, whichever comes first)

How to Apply:

            Huntingdon County Business & Industry (HCBI)
            https://www.hcbi.com/

Contact:

           Debra Clark, HCBI Executive Director (814-506-8287 or dclark@hcbi.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.

COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings

After weeks of dedicated advocacy from lawmakers, employers and employees, Governor Wolf finally announced that several restrictions on businesses and gatherings would be relaxed effective April 4. Some of the changes include:

  • Increasing indoor dining capacity to 75 percent for restaurants that self-certify compliance with cleaning and mitigation requirements;
  • Allowing bar service and alcohol service without the purchase of food;
  • Removing the curfew on serving alcoholic drinks; and
  • Increasing occupancy for gyms, entertainment facilities and personal services facilities.

In addition, occupancy limits will be increased to 25 percent for indoor venues and 50 percent for outdoor venues, regardless of size.

Although this is positive news for industries impacted by Governor Wolf’s unilateral orders and restrictions, the fact that these restrictions are still in place today speaks to the dangers of allowing one branch of government to control all the power during an extended emergency declaration. Lawmakers approved potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would give the people a stronger voice in emergency response through their elected officials. An explanation of the amendments – and how Governor Wolf is working to sabotage them – is available in this editorial.

Budget Hearings Continue with Discussion on Education

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s series of hearings on Governor Wolf’s budget proposal continued this week with a discussion regarding the future of education in Pennsylvania with the Department of Education and representatives from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Some of the topics of discussion included the importance of returning students to in-person instruction safely, the need for schools to use federal stimulus funding prudently, and redesigning PASSHE to provide a quality education to students at an affordable price.  Key Points

Budget hearings will continue Monday, March 21, with the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole at 10 a.m. and the Department of Community and Economic Development at 2 p.m. The hearings will be streamed live at www.PASenateGOP.com.

Senate Approves Bill to Open Career Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery

Individuals in recovery for substance use disorders could stand a better chance of breaking the cycle of addiction by maintaining meaningful employment under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorders with high-priority occupations.

The pilot program would allow state agencies to work with local workforce development boards, treatment and recovery providers and employers to find job training and employment opportunities for individuals in recovery.

Senate Continues Bipartisan Review of Election Issues Next Week

The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform will continue its comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. The hearing will include testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of State, local election officials and county officials to gather state and local insight on the administration of the election.

The committee held its first meeting on Monday to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states. State residents are encouraged to submit their thoughts and comments through the online form.

Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended

The federal government recently extended all Unemployment Compensation programs, including the additional $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, through September 6. The maximum number of weeks of eligibility for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was also extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks, and the maximum number of weeks of eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is extended from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.

In addition, up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits for an individual (or $20,400 for a couple, if both members received unemployment benefits) will not be considered federal taxable income in 2020, assuming the individual or couple earned less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income for the year.

World Down Syndrome Day is March 21

March 21 is designated as World Down Syndrome Day by numerous states and countries in recognition of the incredible achievements of the individuals living with this condition. Each person with Down syndrome has different talents, abilities and needs – and that makes every person living with this condition special and unique.

More information on World Down Syndrome Day is available here.

Around the District

Eagle Scout Award

 

Congratulations Pierce! The Eagle Scout Award was presented to Pierce Aidan Condo on Saturday, March 13th. Pierce did much of the work in his Eagle project virtually. His project was a retaining wall and updates to outdoor Stations of the Cross at St. Therese Catholic Church in Altoona.

Helping Neighbors in Need

I was honored to help the Fulton County Food Basket in distributing food boxes to many residents in need.  It was an inspiration to see businesses, families and individuals pitching in to help each other. The team had to make several last minutes adjustments due to unforeseen events, but the community came together quickly to make it happen! 

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