In This Update:
Lawmakers Review Plans to Reopen Schools Safely
As schools throughout the state continue to refine plans to meet the educational needs of students this fall, the Senate and House Education committees held a joint hearing this week with Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine to get an update on efforts to safely reopen schools during COVID-19.
The hearing included discussion of several important topics, including questions about reopening guidance, legal liability issues, local control, mask mandates for students and recommendations on responding to COVID-19 cases.
Earlier this year, lawmakers dedicated $207 million from Pennsylvania’s share of federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding to help schools cover increased costs from COVID-19.
Video and testimony from the hearing are available here.
Hearing Highlights Debate Over Fall School Sports
Governor Wolf’s last-second recommendation that school sports be delayed until 2021 sparked an intense debate about whether these activities can be performed safely during COVID-19. The Pennsylvania Athletic Oversight Committee held a hearing this week with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and other stakeholders, including school and sports representatives, to discuss how school sports can take place safely.
PIAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Lombardi said that he believes school sports can resume this fall with proper safeguards in place to protect the health of student-athletes. He also said that a meeting with the Wolf Administration last week presented no specific medical or research reason that would suggest that participation in interscholastic sports inherently increases the risk of COVID-19.
Full video and additional details from the hearing are available here.
I was proud to join parents, coaches, superintendents, student-athletes and lawmakers from communities throughout the state for a rally at the state Capitol Building this week in support of letting our young people play this fall.
Deadline to Apply for LIHEAP Recovery Crisis Grants is August 31
Pennsylvanians who are struggling to pay utility bills during the COVID-19 pandemic can still apply for assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis program. The program offers payments directly to utility companies or fuel providers for renters and homeowners who have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
The program is scheduled to end on August 31. Applications are available online or by contacting your local County Assistance Office.
Be Aware of COVID-19 Scams
The Department of Banking and Securities recently raised concerns about new scams related to COVID-19. Some of the scams involve charitable donations, fraudulent health claims, apps, advance loan fees, foreclosure bailouts and other financial fraud targeting Pennsylvania consumers. More information is available to ensure Pennsylvanians do not fall victim to any of these scams.
State residents can ask questions or file complaints about COVID-19 scams by calling 1-800-722-2657. The department previously offered tips to avoid coronavirus scams in March.
Education Loan Repayment Grants Available for Physicians Serving Underserved Areas
Primary care practitioners serving medically underserved populations could be eligible for grants to repay educational loans as part of the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. The program provides an incentive for practitioners to serve communities where there is a shortage of health care options for residents.
Applications for the program will be accepted through September 30. More information about the program, including eligibility and application information, is available at the Department of Health’s website.
State Grants Support Local Water System Improvements
Several grants were awarded this week by the Commonwealth Financing Authority to support water system upgrades in local communities. The grants include: