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Boscola Bulletin

Closures

All Pennsylvanians have an important role to play in stopping the spread of the Coronavirus – stay calm, stay home, stay safe.  Help save the lives of those who are more susceptible to this virus – help flatten the curve.

This morning, Governor Wolf, again, strongly urged non-essential businesses across the Commonwealth to do their part by temporarily closing as part of the mitigation strategies to help slow the transmission of this virus in our communities.  Community mitigation is an especially important form of nonpharmaceutical intervention to implement – especially before a drug or vaccine becomes readily available.

Being well aware that each community is unique, (and appropriate mitigation strategies will vary based on the level of community transmission, characteristics of the community and their populations, and the local capacity to implement strategies), the Commonwealth is trying to assist communities in identifying ways to ensure the safety and social well-being of groups that may be especially impacted by mitigation strategies, including individuals at increased risk for severe illness – that is why the closure of non-essential businesses was the next step, after closing schools, that Governor Wolf and Secretary Levin announced yesterday.

Below, I have included some of the guidelines laid out by Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine yesterday at the announced mitigation efforts put into effect in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Statewide Mitigation Efforts that began at 12:01 a.m. this morning include:

  • All restaurants and bars close their dine-in facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to do so but eating and drinking inside restaurants and bars is temporarily prohibited.
  • A no-visitor policy for correctional facilities and nursing homes has been implemented and will be evaluated for other facilities.
  • Freedom of travel will remain, but all Pennsylvanians are asked to refrain from non-essential travel.
  • All child care centers licensed by the commonwealth close as of Tuesday, March 17 and will be re-evaluated at the conclusion of the 14-day statewide closures.
  • Adult day care centers, adult training facilities, Provocations facilities, LIFE centers and Senior Community Centers close beginning Tuesday, March 17 and will be re-evaluated at the conclusion of the 14-day statewide closures.
  • Essential State, County, and Municipal services will be open: police, fire, emergency medical services, sanitation, and essential services for vulnerable populations.
  • Supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations will remain open. The administration issued guidance for non-essential businesses, such as gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls during county-specific mitigation periods to protect employees, customers, and suppliers and limit the spread of the virus through personal contact and surfaces. Additional statewide business guidance is forthcoming.
  • Governor Tom Wolf announced on March 13 that all K-12 Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced on March 13 that all K-12 Pennsylvania schools will be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16.
  • The Wolf Administration strongly encourages the suspension of large gatherings, events, conferences of more than 10 people, and per White House guidelines, ask that individuals and groups cancel any gatherings planned over the next eight weeks.
  • The Wolf Administration encourages religious leaders to exercise discretion in order to mitigate the spread of illness.
  • Restricted visitors in state centers to ensure health and safety for individuals with an intellectual disability.
  • Restricted visitors in assisted living and personal care homes to minimize exposure to our seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Commonwealth Employees

  • The Office of Administration will provide a message to all commonwealth employees regarding telework.
  • Individuals will be instructed to work from home if feasible.
  • The commonwealth is authorizing a 10 workday paid absence for individuals who don’t have telework capabilities.
  • Commonwealth facilities that provide essential services will remain open.
  • County-administered facilities will follow the same procedures as those of the state.

State Agency Closures (for a period of 2 weeks, effective Monday, March 16, 2020)

  • All PennDOT rest areas and welcome centers statewide will be closed to the public.
  • All PennDOT drivers and photo licensing centers (expiration dates have been extended and construction has been suspended).
  • Pennsylvania Turnpike has alerted motorists that cash and credit cards will no longer be accepted on the Turnpike’s main ticket system – all tolls will be assessed electronically through EZPass or the PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE program.
  • Pennsylvania liquor stores will close indefinitely at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Online liquor sales at www.FineWineAndGoodSpirits.com will end at 5 p.m. Monday. Beer and wine will still be sold where available in grocery stores.
  • Pennsylvania State parks will remain open, but all buildings and restrooms will be inaccessible, and all educational programs are canceled.

Getting Tested for COVID-19

Are you a patient and think you may need testing? Are you a provider who has a patient that you think should be tested for COVID-19? The Pennsylvania Department of Health has updated guidelines for COVID-19 testing.

Getting Tested for COVID-19

Price Gouging

Price gouging as a result of the Coronavirus is not only wrong but it is illegal. Please report any exorbitant price increases to the office of the Attorney General at pricegouging@attorneygeneral.gov. Attorney General Shapiro will investigate and order the businesses to cease and desist.

PUCUtilities

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has stopped utility shut-offs including: electricity, gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and steam utility terminations. For more information please visit their website at: http://www.puc.pa.gov/about_puc/press_releases.aspx?ShowPR=4326

Small Business Information

Businesses have a vast network of services that they can contact to discuss the impact of the Coronavirus on their daily operations and the future of their business. Staff at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), as well as local partner networks, are available to help businesses through this challenging time.

The Department of Community & Economic Development issued a statement yesterday: “The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program will make funds available to impacted businesses. As part of the process to access those funds, the Governor, DCED and PEMA are currently working with local partners and the Small Business Administration to identify businesses economically affected by COVID-19."

To assess the need, DCED is in need of a completed Estimated Disaster Economic Injury Worksheet from affected Businesses. For a copy of this form, please contact business.dced@pa.gov as soon as possible.

This worksheet will be used as part of a submission package to Pennsylvania’s Governor for approval. Once the overall package is approved by the Governor, a request for assistance will be sent to the United States Small Business Administration. Once the United States Small Business Administration has approved the Governor’s request, the PA Business One-Stop Shop Office will contact you and make you aware of the necessary application steps for financial assistance.

Small Business Development Center – Lehigh UniversityIn addition to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Small Business Development Center – Lehigh University, is available to assist businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.  Businesses in Lehigh, Northampton, Bucks, and Montgomery counties can contact the SBDC before March 18, 2020 by calling 610-758-3980 to leave a voicemail or send an email to insbdc@lehigh.edu

Facebook on Tuesday announced a $100 million program to help small businesses as governments throughout the country urge gyms and restaurants to close their doors to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook said the grants will be available for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. That would be an average of $3,333 per business. It could help businesses experiencing a sharp drop in traffic, but it’s a fraction of Facebook’s typical revenue.

Facebook will begin taking applications in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive more information when it becomes available.

Beware of COVID-19 Financial Scams

Consumers should be on alert for increased fraud during major events such as the outbreak of COVID-19. Consumers should be vigilant about protecting their finances and should not share financial or other sensitive information with anyone contacting you unsolicited. Consumers and businesses cannot afford to take every financial opportunity or transaction at face value.

Frequent characteristics of scams include:

  • Sense of urgency and limited time offers. Scammers will attempt to prompt you into immediate action and catch you off guard. No government agency will call you asking for payment or take punitive action against you if you don’t act quickly.

  • Payment with wire transfer or gift cards. Once information is provided, the money is essentially gone and you cannot get it back.

  • Secrecy and the need to not tell anyone. Never make a decision without consulting a credible and trustworthy source.   
     
  • Low or minimal risks with guaranteed high returns. Be cautious of any offer that guarantees a high rate of return with little or no risk or does not disclose risk.

  • Unsolicited offers, including social media avenues. A new post on your Facebook wall, a tweet mentioning you, a direct message, an email, a text, a phone call, or any other unsolicited communication regarding an investment “opportunity” related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pennsylvanians can protect themselves by actively exercising caution. If you have received an unsolicited phone call, when in doubt, hang up. Never provide credit card or other financial or personal information as part of an unsolicited phone call and think twice if you’re being pressured to act now.

Pennsylvanians should know the red flags of potential fraud and scams:

  • Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? If you weren’t expecting a phone call or didn’t initiate the contact, it should be a red flag.

  • Have they promised you something? If they’re offering you something that seems too good to be true, it’s a red flag.

  • Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you for money or account information? If you didn’t initiate the conversation, don’t provide it.

Anyone can contact Department of Banking and Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-722-2657 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, contact local law enforcement.

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

www.senatorboscola.com

BETHLEHEM OFFICE
One East Broad Street
Suite 120
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 868-8667
Fax: (610) 861-2184
Toll-free: 1-877-535-1818
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