Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • My COVID-19 Reporting Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature
  • New Huntingdon County COVID-19 Testing Site Added
  • Reminders for Mail-In and In-Person Voting
  • Senate Passes Package of Bills to Support Veterans, Military Families
  • Additional Funding Approved to Help Schools Meet Health and Safety Needs
  • Senate Votes to Protect Insurance Coverage for Mental Health Issues, Substance Use Disorder
  • Applications for Community Violence Prevention Grants Due November 10
  • Energy Efficiency Grants Available for Farmers, Small Businesses

My COVID-19 Reporting Bill Awaits Governor’s Signature

Last week, lawmakers gave final approval to a bill I authored to improve reporting of COVID-19 deaths to coroners. In many cases, deaths are not being reported to county coroners for investigation as required by state law, leading to discrepancies between the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Department of Health and the number reported by county coroners.

My bill would eliminate this source of confusion and ensure all levels of government are working together to ensure an accurate count. This week, I sent a letter to governor Wolf detailing the need for the bill and encouraging him to sign it. You can learn more about the bill and read the letter here.

New Huntingdon County COVID-19 Testing Site Added

Beginning this week, a new drive-thru and indoor COVID-19 testing clinic will be available in the parking lot of Huntingdon Plaza. The site can accommodate up to 440 patients per day on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost to patients. Test results are expected to be available within 2-7 days.

More information about the announcement is available here.

Reminders for Mail-In and In-Person Voting

With Election Day right around the corner, I think it is important to clarify some areas of confusion and address frequently asked questions relating to mail-in and absentee ballots. Additional information, including this explanation, can be found from the Pennsylvania Department of State at votespa.com.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What if I requested a mail-in or absentee ballot but I didn’t receive a ballot, lost my ballot, or changed my mind and want to vote in-person? 

If you already submitted a mail-in or absentee ballot, you cannot vote at your polling place on election day.

If you did not return your mail-in or absentee ballot and you want to vote in person, you have two options:

  • Bring your ballot and the pre-addressed outer return envelope to your polling place to be voided. After you surrender your ballot and envelope and sign a declaration, you can then vote a regular ballot.
  • If you don’t surrender your ballot and return envelope, you can only vote by provisional ballot at your polling place. Your county board of elections will then verify that you did not vote by mail before counting your provisional ballot.

If you are unable to surrender your ballot because you did not receive your ballot in the mail,  you can vote by provisional ballot at your polling place. Your county board of elections will then verify that you did not vote by mail before counting your provisional ballot.

Senate Passes Package of Bills to Support Veterans, Military Families

Throughout our nation’s history, Pennsylvania’s military veterans and their families have been called on to make extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of a grateful nation. I supported a package of bills last week designed to boost support for veterans and military families and honor their incredible efforts to protect their fellow citizens.

The package includes bills that would permanently establish the Military Family Relief Assistance Program in state law; update the Veterans’ Preference Law to ensure veterans receive proper credit for their skills and experience; create Veterans Courts to provide mentorship and treatment for underlying problems; help more veterans qualify for prescription drug assistance; and ensure the POW/MIA flag is flown on any ground or building owned by the Commonwealth and at all roadside rest stops and welcome centers operated by PennDOT, as well as PA Turnpike service plazas.

All of the bills were sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law in advance of Veterans Day on November 11. 

Additional Funding Approved to Help Schools Meet Health and Safety Needs

Local schools will be able to apply soon for additional grant funding to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants are available as part of the $200 million COVID-19 Disaster Emergency School Health and Safety Grant program created by lawmakers in May as part of Act 30 of 2020.

Eligible uses of the funding include:

  • The purchase of cleaning and sanitizing products.
  • Training and professional development of staff on sanitation and infection prevention.
  • Equipment purchases.
  • Modifying school facilities to support appropriate social distancing of students and staff.
  • Mental health services and supports.
  • Educational technology for distance learning.
  • Other health and safety programs, items or services.

The grant program is expected to open no later than Monday, November 2. Grant applications can be submitted on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Egrants website.

Senate Votes to Protect Insurance Coverage for Mental Health Issues, Substance Use Disorder

Millions of Pennsylvanians struggle with mental health issues and substance use disorder, and many state residents report challenges in receiving the care they need. The Senate approved two bills last week to ensure mental health and substance use disorder receive the same level of insurance coverage as other health issues.

The bills will strengthen enforcement of a federal law that mandates equal access to care and coverage for these health issues. House Bill 1696 and House Bill 1439 would require insurers to annually attest the steps they have taken to comply with this law.

Applications for Community Violence Prevention Grants Due November 10

Local municipalities, counties, colleges and community groups are encouraged to apply for grants to boost community safety and reduce the risk of violence. Applications for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Community Violence Prevention/Reduction Initiative must be completed and returned by November 10.

The program was created by lawmakers two years ago as part of a broad package of reforms to make our schools and communities safer. Eligible uses for the grants include mentoring services and other intervention services for at-risk children and families; promoting communication between school entities and law enforcement; linking the community with local trauma support and behavioral health systems; and other programs designed to reduce community violence.

Energy Efficiency Grants Available for Farmers, Small Businesses

Farmers and other small business owners can apply now for grants to support energy efficiency and pollution prevention projects. Applications for the Small Business Advantage Grant program are available now, and grants will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis through April 12, 2021.

The program covers up to 50 percent of the project costs up to $7,000. Grants are available to small businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees who undertake projects that would save the business 25 percent ($500 minimum) on energy costs annually.

I appreciated the chance to enjoy some coffee, cats and camaraderie during my recent visit to 9 Lives Lounge in downtown Hollidaysburg. This café features cats from the Central PA Humane Society who are looking for a new home. If you would like to learn more, check out their website at www.nineliveslounge.com.

Congratulations to Jack and Martha Watters on their 50th wedding anniversary! Also pictured with me are their two daughters, Melissa and Cheryl.

I had a great visit to Victory Therapeutic Horsemanship in Blair County this week. They offer veterans the opportunity to overcome their service-connected disabilities by harnessing the healing properties of working with horses. Thank you for what you do!

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