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Boscola Bulletin

Good morning,

I know it may feel like you have been inundated with information the past few days however I am trying to make sure all the available information that may affect some of you is readily available to you in a timely manner.

Currently, my District Offices are fully functioning – feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.  We are all trying our best to practice social distancing so I ask you contact my offices either via phone (610-868-8667) or email.  Thank you in advance!

Update on Department of Human Services

As of yesterday, The Department of Human Services (DHS) is closing all county assistance offices (CAOs) statewide to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17 in coordination with Governor Wolf’s mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19. In-person business will resume no sooner than Wednesday, April 1. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to use DHS’ online applications and resources to apply for benefits or submit paperwork as necessary.

While the CAOs are closed to the public, eligibility determinations, application processing, and benefit issuance will continue for Pennsylvanians in ALL counties. Applications for benefits and renewals can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. For Medicaid, contact the Pennsylvania Consumer Service Center at 1-866-550-4355 to apply over the phone. Pennsylvanians can also complete semi-annual renewals and check their benefit status through the myCOMPASS PA mobile app. Clients who prefer to submit paper documentation can mail documents to their local CAO or leave documents in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available.

EBT payments are still scheduled to occur during the closure and activated EBT cards can still be used as usual at ATMs and in stores at point-of-sale machines if the client has a balance. Balance and transaction inquiries, as well as EBT card replacement, can be requested from DHS’s EBT contractor, Conduent, at 888-328-7366.

Managed Care Organizations (MCO) providing Medicaid coverage will be available to address claims and coverage issues with clients, and Medicaid Access cards can still be used at participating medical facilities to obtain care. 

Some of the information that was passed along to me yesterday afternoon from a very productive conference call with DHS Secretary, Theresa Miller, is as follows:

Benefits-Continuation

  • Medical Assistance will not be terminated for failing to comply with recertification process during the crisis- benefits will continue
  • SNAP will be extended for 3 months-DHS has applied to federal government for some additional flexibility surrounding the hours worked rule to ensure folks are able to access two weeks’ worth of food
  • TANF Employment and Training Programs-individuals will not be terminated from the program if they are unable to participate--DHS is encouraging providers to offer remote activities.  Secretary Miller noted that some community colleges are offering activities online

Childcare Facilities/Payments to Childcare Facilities

  • Childcare facilities closed statewide on 3/16/2020 by the Governor-there was an exception for family childcare homes and small group childcare. 
  • Childcare centers that are serving essential personnel like healthcare and first responders that must go to work during the crisis-DHS has established a waiver process
  • Childcare facilities interested in applying for a waiver should email RA-PWDRACERT@pa.gov
  • DHS received 700 waiver requests overnight
  • ChildCare Works (subsidized childcare payments) will continue through April regardless of whether families attend-centers will get paid

Telehealth

  • Telehealth is available for mental health services-guidance has been provided to providers

Early Intervention Services

  • Early Intervention services are considered essential function- guidance has been provided to providers
  • Physical Therapy can use telehealth which includes phone consultation

State-Facilities under OCYF and OMHAS

  • Restricted access for visitors but virtual visitation is being offered
  • The health of the staff at these facilities is being monitored in order to protect the population

LIHEAP

LIHEAPLIHEAP Crisis, which assists households who are without or are in danger of being without heat, will still be available to clients via phone. Clients should call the Crisis Hotline at 1-866-452-6152, which will be operating to serve individuals in crisis situations during the office closure.

Income Requirements

Here are the LIHEAP income requirements for 2019-2020:

Household Size Income Limit
1 $18,735
2 $25,365
3 $31,995
4 $38,625
5 $45,255
6 $51,885
7 $58,515
8 $65,145
9 $71,775
10 $78,405

Crisis Grants
Households experiencing a heating crisis may be eligible for additional benefits through the LIHEAP crisis program. Emergency situations include:

    • Broken heating equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replaced
    • Lack of fuel
    • The main heating source or second heating source (a source that is used to operate the main heating source or used if the main heating source is not working) has been completely shut-off
    • The danger of being without fuel (less than a 15 day supply)
    • The danger of having utility service terminated (you've received a notice that service will be shut off within the next 60 days)

Contact Us
For more information about LIHEAP, please contact your county assistance office, or call the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095, Monday through Friday. Individuals with hearing impairments may call 711.

Emergency Food Assistance

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding issued guidance for accessing emergency food assistance for Pennsylvanians at risk of hunger due to measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“During this time of major precautions to reduce risks of spreading COVID-19, those out of work, those who rely on college meal plans, school meals to feed their children, and those who are isolated may not know where to turn for food,” Secretary Redding said. “No Pennsylvanian should go hungry, even in these extraordinary times.”

Redding offered these specific instructions for those seeking emergency food assistance.

Who is eligible to get food from a food bank or food pantry?

If you are out of work without pay, you are eligible to receive food sourced from the state and federal government from a food bank or food pantry in Pennsylvania. This includes service workers who are unable to get shifts or hourly wage employees of non-essential businesses that have voluntarily closed due to COVID-19 mitigation. You will be asked to verbally complete a Self-Declaration of Need form, as signatures have been temporarily waived due to COVID-19. (Forms are also available in Spanish and Russian.) You will be asked to provide your household size and weekly income level as of the day you apply. Complete income guidelines can be found at agriculture.pa.gov.

Will food banks be open?

Food banks are open and delivering food to many agencies, including pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens. Please call or visit the website of your regional food bank to be directed to agencies in your community.  Many food banks are also doing special drive-through distributions. Please call for more information.

Where can I find a food bank or food pantry near me?

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast PennsylvaniaContact the following Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania member food banks to find out about food assistance services being offered in your county.

Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania (serving Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Wayne counties)

From the Department of Agriculture

COVID-19 GUIDANCE: Essential Businesses for a Safe Food Supply

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognizes the critical role production agriculture, agribusinesses, food processors and manufacturers, retailers, and the entire distribution and support network from farm to table play in assuring a safe, reliable food supply. 

The PA Department of Agriculture has developed the following guidelines for essential businesses to help ensure a safe and accessible food supply during the COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Examples of essential businesses for a safe food supply include farms, greenhouses and vegetable plants, orchards, pest management services, feed mills and ag supply businesses, agricultural equipment sales and service, animal feed and supply distribution network, transportation system from farm to retail, food and meat processors and manufacturers, veterinary services and supplies, pet food manufacturers and distributors, distribution and transportation system from processors and manufacturers to retailers, retailers to include grocery stores and farmers markets, grocery delivery services, and laboratories and inspectors that ensure food safety.

We encourage food production and distribution facilities to continue operations but the decision for essential businesses to stay open or voluntarily close during the COVID-19 mitigation phase is a business-by-business decision. All essential businesses that choose to remain open should review and adjust standard operating procedures to minimize risk, take measures to protect their employees, send home sick employees, and minimize or eliminate congregate settings or groups of more than 10 people whenever possible. The PA Department of Agriculture has developed the following voluntary guidance and recommendations for various businesses throughout the food supply chain.

 

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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
EASTON OFFICE
1701 Washington Blvd.
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 250-5627
(610) 250-5629
Fax: (610) 250-1889
HARRISBURG OFFICE
458 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203018
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3018
(717) 787-4236
Fax: (717) 783-1257
Senate of PA:
1-800-364-158 (TTY)