In This Update:
Federal Court Rules Wolf Business Shutdowns, Other Restrictions Unconstitutional
For months, we have stressed the need to strike the proper balance between ensuring the health and safety of Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic and protecting the freedoms we are guaranteed in the Constitution. With Pennsylvania facing the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, it is clear that we are not maintaining that balance.
A federal judge agreed this week, ruling that some of the actions taken by the Wolf Administration during the pandemic were indeed unconstitutional.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV said, “Even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered. The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms — in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble.” Senate leaders are encouraging Governor Wolf to work cooperatively with lawmakers on a COVID-19 mitigation and recovery plan that puts Pennsylvanians first.
The ruling applies to Governor Wolf’s mandated business shutdowns, as well as his restrictions on large gatherings. The Court specifically did not rule on the business restrictions that the Governor has instituted. The Wolf Administration has requested a stay of the ruling and will appeal the decision. I will provide more information as it is available. Click here
A Supreme Court Election Ruling Runs Counter to Ensuring Election Security, Timely Results
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling tramples the U.S. Constitution and jeopardizes election security and timely results. I believe the Court has erred in its ruling and is jeopardizing the accountability and security of our election process in Pennsylvania. We will continue to review the decision, explore our options to ensure trust in the election process and defend the Constitution. More information from Senate Leaders here.
REMINDER: Workshop Event Will Highlight Foundation Funding Opportunities
There is still time for local community organizations and nonprofits to register for a special virtual seminar that I am hosting on September 24 at 10 a.m. to discuss how to make the most of funding opportunities from foundations. The Foundations 101 Virtual Workshop that will cover the basics of foundation funding opportunities and help connect community groups to funding opportunities to support their mission.
Mark your calendars and register now at: https://senatorjudyward.com/senator-judy-wards-funding-workshop/. More information is also available here.
Gaming License Fee Suspension Could Help Struggling Taverns and Restaurants
Many restaurants and taverns have been devastated by the governor’s shutdown orders, and these business owners and employees are barely hanging on to their livelihoods. This week, I proposed a bill along with my colleague Senator Doug Mastriano that would provide a measure of relief to many struggling taverns by suspending Tavern Gaming License renewal fees for one year.
More information about our bill is available here.
Senate Committee Explores Challenges Facing Rural Pharmacies
Many rural pharmacies faced severe financial challenges even before the COVID-19 pandemic due to low reimbursement rates from pharmacy benefit managers and bureaucratic red tape. At my request, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion this week in Duncansville at Value Drug Company to learn more about the challenges facing these businesses to ensure they remain an important part of the health system in rural communities.
Testifiers encouraged lawmakers to consider measures to provide greater pricing transparency of prescription drugs and greater oversight of prescription benefit managers. More information about this workshop discussion is available on my website.
Thank you to Senate Majority Policy Committee Chairman Senator David G. Argall (left) and Value Drug Company President Greg Drew for hosting such an informative and interesting discussion on how we can help our local pharmacies!
Workshop Discussion Focuses on Impact of COVID-19 on Nonprofits, Veterans Groups
Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 business shutdown orders created difficult financial circumstances for many nonprofit groups, including many organizations serving veterans. In many cases, the shutdown order prevented these groups from assisting Pennsylvanians at a time when their needs were greatest.
A workshop discussion hosted by the Senate Majority Policy Committee this week explored how these organizations are navigating the pandemic and what challenges remain to be addressed.
PennDOT Resumes REAL ID Processing
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has resumed issuing REAL IDs at reopened Driver License Centers throughout the state. REAL ID processing was suspended in March when most PennDOT offices closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline to comply with REAL ID requirements was pushed back one year due to the pandemic. REAL ID is optional for drivers, but driver licenses and photo ID cards will no longer be accepted as a valid form of identification for boarding commercial flights or visiting federal buildings beginning on October 1, 2021.
More information about REAL ID is available on PennDOT’s website.
Funding Available for Transportation Improvement Projects
Transportation improvement projects throughout the state could receive a boost from grants through the Multimodal Transportation Fund. The program provides funding for ports and rail freight, increases aviation investments, establishes dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and allows targeted funding for all modes of transportation.
The program is open to municipalities, councils of governments, business/non-profit organizations, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, public airports, airport authorities, and ports and rail entities. Applications for grants will be accepted through November 6.
Committee Hears Testimony on Western PA Economic Recovery
Local and statewide business leaders offered input on how to help western Pennsylvania recover from the COVID-19 pandemic during a workshop discussion with the Senate Majority Policy Committee this week. The discussion highlighted the need for clear communications from state government leaders and more collaboration with local government officials to keep the state’s economy strong while keeping state residents safe and healthy.
Other topics of discussion included improving financial assistance programs, making better use of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources, preventing future business shutdowns, strengthening infrastructure and more.
Grants Available to Train Direct Care Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on patients and employees in long-term care settings. Grants are available through the Department of Labor and Industry to provide new career opportunities for direct care workers and improve the quality of care provided to patients.
The Direct Care Worker Training Grants program helps create and develop training programs that increase the quality of services, offer specialty certifications, and create viable career opportunities for personal care assistants, home health aides and certified nursing assistants. The deadline to apply is October 2.
Feedback Requested on Interstate 81 Improvements
Community residents are invited to provide feedback on potential improvements to Interstate 81 through an online public meeting that runs from September 15-30. Videos and details will be provided to help participants learn more about projects that could be planned over the next several months.
You can learn more and share your thoughts at https://www.i81southcentralpa.com/.
Center City Church in Altoona Plans Additional Food Giveaways
To help members of the community who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Center City Church recently announced that it will extend its City Blessings food giveaways throughout the year. The next giveaway will be held in the parking lot across from the Brownstone on Saturday, September 19, from 10 a.m. until supplies run out. https://centercityaltoona.com/events/
Additional giveaways will be announced on their Facebook page. My thanks goes out to all of the members of the church and the community who continue to offer a helping hand to those in need!