Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • New Law Protects Domestic Violence Victims and Children
  • Preliminary Guidelines Set for Students to Return to School
  • Local District Offices Begin Reopening
  • Reminder: Be Vigilant of Fraudulent Unemployment Checks and Payments
  • Bill Aims to Improve Safety, Convenience in Grocery Stores
  • Guidance Available for Parents With Children Returning to Child Care
  • Mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial Coming to Bedford County
  • 2020 Census is Happening Now
  • UPMC Health Plan Extends No-Cost Telehealth Services

New Law Protects Domestic Violence Victims and Children

A bill that I authored was signed into law recently to allow the Pennsylvania court system to fully address the dangerous and terrifying crime of strangulation. The new law will officially classify strangulation as a crime of violence, allowing the offense to be considered in sentencing for subsequent crimes and in child custody proceedings.

The measure is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. More details about the bill are available here.

Preliminary Guidelines Set for Students to Return to School

The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced new guidelines this week for elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools to reopen in the near future. K-12 schools can begin reopening as early as July, and colleges, trade schools and other post-secondary schools can begin offering classes again as soon as Friday.

Schools will be required to develop health and safety plans that reflect the unique needs of local districts, including steps to protect students and staff at higher risk of severe illness, training for staff and faculty, monitoring students and staff for symptoms, developing policies and hygiene practices to protect against infection, and ensuring proper distancing of desks and seating.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has also offered interim guidance for schools and child care to open safely.

Local District Offices Begin Reopening

As more of our local communities enter the green phase of reopening, my district offices have begun the process of opening up to in-person meetings. My Hollidaysburg office is open now at 1904 North Juniata Street, and my McConnellsburg office at 201 Lincoln Way West (Suite 102) will reopen on Monday.

If you would like to schedule an in-person appointment, please call (814) 695-8386 (Hollidaysburg) or (717) 485-3616 (McConnellsburg).

Reminder: Be Vigilant of Fraudulent Unemployment Checks and Payments

The Department of Labor and Industry recently uncovered thousands of cases of fraud in which scammers were filing for unemployment benefits under another person’s name and having payments deposited into their own accounts.

State residents who receive an erroneous or fraudulent check should immediately write “void” on the front of the check and email a photo of the complete front and back of the check to officeofinvestigations@patreasury.gov. The paper check should be returned to the Pennsylvania Treasury at the address below, or destroyed if the recipient is unable to mail it back:

Pennsylvania Treasury Department
Comptroller’s Office
Room 113, Finance Building
Harrisburg, PA  17120
Attn: Mark Accorsi

If a Pennsylvanian receives a PUA direct deposit payment in error, they should contact their financial institution to request a Refuse Credit of Deposit. If they are unable to complete a Refuse Credit of Deposit, recipients should write a personal check, cashier’s check, certified check or money order payable to the “PA UC Fund” with a brief statement to explain why they are sending the payment to the address below:

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry
651 Boas Street, Room 500
Harrisburg, PA  17121

Bill Aims to Improve Safety, Convenience in Grocery Stores

The General Assembly recently sent a bill to the governor that would allow the use of all cash registers in gas stations for the purchase of wine and beer – repealing a requirement that restricts alcohol sales to a separate register. I recently introduced a bill that would take a similar approach to beer and wine sales in grocery stores in order to limit the amount of time shoppers spend in grocery stores and the amount of contact they have with employees.

The sections of grocery stores that were carved out for beer and wine sales were not made with social distancing in mind. My bill would remove this restriction and allow the sale of wine and beer at any register.

More details about my bill are available here.

Guidance Available for Parents With Children Returning to Child Care

As the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease and more Pennsylvanians prepare to get back to work, new guidance is available for parents with children who will be returning to child care facilities.

All facilities are required to follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control specifically for child care centers. Under the guidance, all staff are required to wear masks, but children and youth are not required to do so. Masks are encouraged, but not required, for older youth in indoor or crowded settings. Additional requirements are also included for health screenings, sanitation, and notification if any staff member or child tests positive for COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is heading back to work and needs help finding child care options, help is available here.

Mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial Coming to Bedford County

A mobile replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC is coming to Bedford County the week of July 21-26. Known as “The Wall That Heals,” the exhibit travels throughout the nation in order to give veterans who have been unable to visit the memorial in Washington a chance to see it closer to home, surrounded by friends and family.

More information about this exhibit is available online at http://www.vvmf.org/twth. Volunteers are needed to help set up and tear down the exhibit, and also to serve as ambassadors for visitors. More information on volunteering is available here.

2020 Census is Happening Now

Beginning on August 11, census takers will begin visiting all households that have not responded to the 2020 Census. If you have not already completed the 2020 Census, it is not too late to complete the questionnaire and ensure local communities receive our fair share of federal funding and are properly represented at all levels of government.

More information about how to complete the 2020 Census online, by phone or by mail is available here. Information is also available online about national, state and county census response rates. Pennsylvania is ahead of the national average, but still approximately 7 percent behind the statewide response rate in 2010.

UPMC Health Plan Extends No-Cost Telehealth Services

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health Plan will extend its no-cost access to telehealth services through September 30. Members will not face deductibles, copayments or cost-sharing of any kind for visits with a health care provider, including primary care physicians, specialists, and both physical and occupational therapy. The extension also applies to behavioral health services.

More information about this announcement is available here.

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