In This Update:
Telephone Town Hall
I will be fielding questions about COVID-19 and the state’s response to the pandemic during a special telephone town hall on Friday, April 17 at 9:50 a.m.
I be joined by a panel of experts in medicine, business and unemployment benefits to answer questions from local residents. Participants are encouraged to ask questions or simply remain on the line to listen to the conversation.
Community residents can sign up to participate at www.senatorjudyward.com/tele-town-hall. A live audio stream will also be available on the webpage.
Senate Approves a Better Process for COVID-19 Mitigation
A number of steps taken by Governor Wolf to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have created a great deal of confusion and have clearly been ill-considered and damaging to the Commonwealth. I supported passage of a pair of bills this week that would provide clarity to a confusing process, and give local communities a say in decisions that deeply impact their safety and wellbeing.
The bills approved by the Senate would create a better process for determining which businesses can continue to remain open, provide clarity on mitigation strategies necessary to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees, and give county leaders a stronger voice in which mitigation measures should be implemented locally.
Senate Bill 613 would require the governor to create clear guidelines for businesses to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that are able to operate safely under the new guidelines would be permitted to re-open so long as they comply with mitigation strategies.
The bill would require COVID-19 mitigation plans to be developed by the Wolf Administration based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia follow CISA guidelines.
To restore local control, Senate Bill 327 would give county governments the option to develop and implement their own plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, following CISA guidelines. Under the bill, businesses already identified as essential could continue to operate. However, counties would also be given the authority to develop plans to allow other industries to operate if it is safe to do so.
Instead of working with Pennsylvania business owners and lawmakers to develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania’s economy, Governor Wolf recently joined other northeastern governors in an agreement to open selected industries on a shared schedule. The plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states more power over Pennsylvania businesses than state lawmakers and local elected leaders.
We must fix this broken system before many of these jobs disappear for good. We can do that by allowing local officials to assess their community and ensure the proper protections are in place.
New Guidance and Training Available for Personal Care Home and Assisted Living Facilities
Educational support and new guidelines will help Pennsylvania’s more than 1,200 personal care homes and assisted living residences better protect patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Human Services offers guidance to keep residents and staff safe, including measures to address dining and scheduled activities, visitation, health screenings for staff, infection control procedures and more. Full guidance from the department is available here.
The Jewish Healthcare Foundation also offers weekly webinars on timely topics like infection control best practices and proper use of personal protective equipment. More information on these and other educational materials are available at www.tomorrowshealthcare.org.
COVID-19 Crisis Line Available for First Responders, Healthcare Workers
The increased stress caused by COVID-19 affects all Pennsylvanians, but our first responders and healthcare workers face even greater pressures in helping the state respond to this public health emergency. Megellan Health recently opened a free national crisis line for all first responders and healthcare professionals who are serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
The hotline is open 24 hours a day and connects callers directly to licensed mental health clinicians for support. The toll-free number is 1-800-327-7451 (TTY 711).
New Web Portal Features Info on Employment Opportunities During COVID-19 Business Closures
Although many businesses across the state remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, other employers in life-sustaining industries are hiring workers immediately for thousands of critical roles. A new web portal has been created to help connect displaced workers with new employment opportunities in home health care, shipping, distribution, manufacturing and other industries.
People seeking employment immediately can learn more about available job opportunities through PA CareerLink’s new online COVID-19 job portal. Life-sustaining businesses can feature job openings by submitting an online form here.
COVID-19 Resource Guide for Senior Citizens Now Online
An online COVID-19 resource guide to help older adults find useful information related to their health, safety and well-being is now available.
The guide is available on the state Department of Aging’s website under “COVID-19 Resource Guide for Older Adults” and provides older adults, their families and caregivers with information on a variety of subjects, including meals, prescriptions, protective services, scams, and how to stay active and connected.
Accelerated Sales Tax Prepayments Waived for Three Months
Businesses will not need to make accelerated Sales Tax prepayments over the next three months. Instead, businesses will only need to remit the sales tax they collected in the prior month.
More information on this requirement is available here.
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