In this Update:
Senate Approves COVID-19 Response Measures
The Senate and House of Representatives convened remotely to pass four bills to keep Pennsylvania moving forward during the COVID-19 coronavirus public health emergency. The measures now go to the Governor for enactment into law.
House Bill 68 amends the Unemployment Compensation Law to ease eligibility requirements and access to unemployment compensation for workers impacted by the coronavirus, including waiving the one-week waiting period for all claimants during the governor’s disaster declaration. Job search and registration requirements for claimants will be waived. The measure provides automatic relief from benefit charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged for weeks of unemployment occurring during the duration of a disaster emergency.
Senate Bill 422 makes several changes to the Pennsylvania Election Code to move the primary election date from April 28 to June 2 and give counties the authority to close, relocate or consolidate polling places due to the potential shortage of available volunteers and venues.
Senate Bill 751 makes several changes to the Public School Code to waive the 180-day requirement for public schools and similar restrictions for career and technical schools and pre-kindergarten instruction. It allows for an increase in flexible instruction days and guarantees that teachers receive the same compensation they would have received if the pandemic had not occurred.
House Bill 1232 amends the Fiscal Code to provide up to $50 million in additional funding to healthcare facilities for the purchase of medical equipment and supplies to address the demands that COVID-19 could place on the state’s healthcare system. It extends the deadline to declare and pay estimated Personal Income Tax and authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development to coordinate with local political subdivisions to extend filing and payment deadlines for the local Earned Income Tax. These deadlines have been extended to July 15, 2020. In addition, it extends the temporary regulations related to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis industry until November 2021.
A full, gavel-to-gavel video recording of session is available for viewing here.
Applications Now Being Accepted for New Small Business Low-Interest Loan Program
Small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency can apply now for low-interest state loans.
The COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program will feature a low interest rate, no application fees, and payments and interest waived during the first year of the loan. Loans of up to $100,000 will be available for small businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees to use as working capital.
The program will be administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, which said it intends for the turnaround time for loan approval to be a matter of days. Additional information on the program is available at https://dced.pa.gov/cwca.
Business owners who are interested in applying should contact their local Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO). A list of CEDOs is available at https://dced.pa.gov/cedo/.
Several organizations are offering free webinars to help small businesses through this time. Below are some current webinars that I am aware of. The SBDC has several webinars – be sure to check their calendar for additional events.
Navigating COVID-19: Resources and Relief for Small Businesses
2020 Coronavirus and Small Business Next Steps and Best Practices Webinar
Businesses seeking Guidance
Below is an update of industries that are now listed as “Life-Sustaining Business” per the Governor’s guidance on 3/24/2020:
For the full list of businesses deemed to be “non-life-sustaining” by the Wolf administration see this link: https://www.scribd.com/document/452553026/UPDATED-2-30pm-March-24-2020-Industry-Operation-Guidance
With so many businesses closing due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, many people find themselves unemployed and in need of help. To file online here is the link https://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided for the expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is a federal program administered by the US Department of Labor.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published its first round of implementation guidance pursuant to the FFCRA yesterday.
The following was provided to us as guidance by the USDOL and has been posted on our website. The information can be found at: https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/Pages/FFCRA.aspx
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Please read the below fact sheets to determine if you are eligible.
USDA Rural Development
USDA Rural Development has taken several actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.
Opportunities for immediately relief include; rural housing service, rural utilities service, rural business-cooperative service, and extension of application deadlines.
Three Counties Added to Governor’s Stay-at-Home Order
On Monday, Governor Wolf issued a “stay-at-home” order for residents of seven Pennsylvania counties: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, Montgomery and Philadelphia. The order was expanded later in the week to include Erie, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
County residents affected by the order are still permitted to leave the house for a limited number of activities, such as getting groceries, going to medical appointments, and other tasks essential to maintain health and safety.
More information about the stay-at-home order is available here.
Retired Healthcare Providers Can Assist in COVID-19 Response
As Pennsylvania faces a potential surge of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, many retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists who wish to aid the state’s response to this public health emergency will be permitted to re-enter their field of practice temporarily. Retired healthcare personnel who return to practice would not be subject to paying reactivation fees. In most cases, licenses would be active through the end of the year.
More details on this announcement are available here.
PENN STATE Extension
Penn State Extension Offices are still operating in all 67 Counties. Find more information here: https://extension.psu.edu/
Facilities Closed at State Parks and Forests
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has announced that all facilities at state parks and forests will be closed until April 30. This includes all offices, visitor centers, restrooms, campgrounds, cabins and other accommodations. Trails, lakes, roads and parking will remain open.
More information about state park and forest facility closures is available here.
Consumers Can Report Price Gouging Tips Online
Pennsylvania’s Price Gouging Act prohibits companies and vendors from charging a price for consumer goods greater than 20 percent higher than the price before an emergency declaration. Consumers can report violations of price gouging laws to the Attorney General by email at email@example.com.
Consumers can also submit a complaint by reporting the name and price of the product and the name and location of the store or vendor online here.
Additional Rest Stops Reopened By PennDOT
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced plans to reopen indoor facilities at 23 of its 30 rest stops across the state. Additional maintenance and cleaning will be in place to help limit the risk of spreading COVID-19.
A complete list of rest stops that will reopen is available here.