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Boscola Bulletin

Governor Extends Stay at Home Order

As COVID-19 cases continue to grow and the state continues to seek relief to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19, Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine extended their “Stay at Home” orders yesterday through April 30. Northampton & Lehigh Counties are among the 26 counties under a stay-at-home-order with Carbon, Cumberland, Dauphin and Schuylkill counties, added to the list yesterday. All Pennsylvania schools will remain closed until further notice. Non-life-
sustaining business closures remain in effect. 

Under “Stay at Home” order, ndividuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following allowable individual activities and allowable essential travel: 

  • Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home 

  • Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves, for their family or household members, or as part of volunteer efforts, or to deliver those services or supplies to others to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences 

  • Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing 

  • To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business 

  • To care for a family member or pet in another household 

  • Any travel related to the provision of or access to the above-mentioned individual activities or life-sustaining business activities 

  • Travel to care for elderly, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons 

  • Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services 

  • Travel to return to a place of residence from an outside jurisdiction 

  • Travel required by law enforcement or court order 

  • Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside the commonwealth 

  • Anyone performing life-sustaining travel does not need paperwork to prove the reason for travel. 

The following operations are exempt: 

  • Life-sustaining business activities 

  • Health care or medical services providers 

  • Access to life-sustaining services for low-income residents, including food banks 

  • Access to child care services for employees of life-sustaining businesses that remain open as follows: child care facilities operating under the Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning waiver process; group and family child care operating in a residence; and part-day school age programs operating under an exemption from the March 19, 2020 business closure Orders 

  • News media 

  • Law enforcement, emergency medical services personnel, firefighters 

  • The federal government 

  • Religious institutions 

Individuals experiencing homelessness are not subject to this order but are strongly urged to find shelter and government agencies are urged to take steps needed to provide shelter for those individuals. 

International students, foster youth, and any other students who would otherwise experience displacement or homelessness as a result of campus closures are exempt and may remain in campus housing. 

The Department of Education will be providing updated guidance and resources on the continuity of education for students to schools in the coming days. 

At this time, law enforcement will be focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order and informing the public of social distancing practices rather than enforcement. To report a noncompliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number or the nearest Pennsylvania State Police station. Please do not call 911 or the Department of Community and Economic Development to file reports. Law enforcement officers should refer to Business Closure Order Enforcement Guidance available online

Federal CARES Act

Last week, the United States Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This $2 trillion bill includes the following provisions:

  • A $150 billion State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund with an estimated $4.9 billion for Pennsylvania;

  • $260 billion to expand unemployment benefits, including an additional $600 per week for the next four months, providing an additional 13 weeks of federally funded benefits, and expanding eligibility to include workers in the gig economy and the self-employed;

  • Direct cash payments to Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, beginning to phase out at an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for joint filers;

  • More than $375 billion in small business aid, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses so they can keep employees on their payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants;

  • Approximately $100 billion for hospitals, health care workers, and health research, including expanding funding for the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) desperately needed by our health care workers, including ventilators, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, etc.; and

  • More than $100 billion in Emergency Appropriations, including:
    • $30.75 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund;
    • $25 billion for transit agencies;
    • $2 billion for HUD Emergency Solution Grants to states for housing;
    • $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to help with child care for first responders and health care workers;
    • $900 million to help low-income families pay their heating and cooling bills;
    • $850 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to obtain the personal protective equipment and other medical items they may need during this public health emergency; and
    • $750 million in CDC State, Local, and Tribal Grants Minimum Awards to help agencies cope with the public health emergency.

New Pennsylvania Primary Date – June 2

Act 12 delays the state’s primary election date from April 28 to June 2, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania now joins at least 10 other states that have moved their primary to June 2.

The act also made a number of other election-related changes including allowing polling places to be consolidated without court approval and located in places that serve alcoholic beverages provided that voting does not take place in the same room where those beverages are served.  Another accomplishment of Act 12 is that it allows county election officials to begin processing mail-in and absentee ballots at 7 a.m. on Election Day instead of the current 8 p.m requirement as long as the results are not published or officially recorded.  Many feel this additional time is necessary since the expectation is that many voters will choose to vote by mail during this election cycle.

Reminder on Mail-In Ballots

I want to remind everyone that several changes were made to the Election Code in Pennsylvania with the passage of Act 77 last year, including the introduction of no excuse mail-in voting.  In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as we try to limit personal interactions to reduce the spread of infection, I wanted to again highlight this important change to voting that will enable voters to participate in the election process without needing to go to the polls if they choose not to.

Vote By MailAct 77 created mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania beginning with the 2020 Primary Election. Unlike the current absentee ballot application, mail-in ballots can be requested by any voter with no excuse required.

The current absentee ballot process remains in place, where voters can request an absentee ballot if they are sick, disabled, or going to be out of their municipality on Election Day.  However, anyone can request a new mail-in ballot.  Additionally, voters can also request an annual mail-in ballot. If a voter indicates on the mail-in ballot application that they would like to be added to the annual mail-in ballot request list, they will receive an application to renew their request for a mail-in ballot each year. Once the application is approved, the voter will automatically receive ballots for the remainder of the year, and they do not need to submit an application for each election.

Applications can be downloaded at www.votespa.com. Voters can also submit an online application on the site.

The deadline to apply for mail-in ballots is 5 p.m. on the Tuesday before Election Day and the deadline to return completed ballots is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Changes for Pennsylvania’s K-12 Schools and Teachers

Pennsylvania schools were shut down in mid-March by Governor Wolf to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus.  Because of this unprecedented move, legislation needed to be passed to assist schools.  Act 13 accomplishes many things:

  • Eliminates the 180-day instructional requirement on all K-12 public and private schools for the 2019-20 school year;

  • Permits the state Education Secretary to increase the number of allowable flexible instruction days and waive the timeline regarding those days; 

  • Student teacher 12-week requirement is waived;

  • Ensures that school districts make a “good faith effort” to develop a plan to offer continuing education during the closure of schools.  These plans will be developed locally by each district with guidance from PDE; 

  • School employees who are responsible for cleaning during the pandemic will receive appropriate cleaning materials and protective gear;

  • Requires school entities to provide written notice to parents/guardians who have an IEP of the plans to ensure students receive free and appropriate education;

  • PDE to apply for federal waivers to cancel standardized testing for this school year;

  • School bus contracts are addressed to ensure that once the current crisis ends, school buses will be ready to provide services.

Also under Act 13, school entities closed as a result of the pandemic would not receive less subsidy payments, reimbursements, allocations, tuition or other payment from PDE they would otherwise be entitled to under this legislation. Lastly, Act 13 includes reforms to the state’s evaluation system for educators.  It places emphasis on classroom observation and reduces the impact of certain performance measures, such as standardized testing.  

UC Update

Important Information Unemployment Compensation - Status of Claims

The following information has been provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry regarding Unemployment Compensation (UC):

  • The Governor has temporarily suspended the waiting-week requirement in Section 401(e) of the UC Law.   With this suspension, a claimant can immediately file for benefits, and the first week of unemployment will be a compensable week. The suspension of this section will also be in effect for the length of the emergency declaration.

  • The provisions of the emergency declaration allow the Governor to immediately suspend the work registration and work search requirements in Unemployment Compensation Law and adopted Regulations and the Governor has temporarily suspended these requirements for the length of the emergency declaration.

The Pennsylvania UC Law allows for employers to be relieved of charges for compensation once there has been a federal disaster declaration under the Stafford Act and the individuals would have been eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Therefore, an employer may be relieved from charges for compensation paid to an individual with respect to any week of unemployment occurring due to COVID-19.

Legislation that passed the General Assembly in a remote session last week requires that employers provide notification of the availability of UC to employees at the time of separation. The notification shall include information on the availability of benefits and assistance with filing a claim.

The Department has also created a resource page for employees and employers impacted by COVID-19 which can be accessed by clicking here

Expansion of Family & Medical Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law by the president on March 18. The legislation provided for the expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is a federal program administered by the US Department of Labor.

Information on this expansion and to determine eligibility is available by clicking here.

Small Business & Non-Profit Injury Disaster Loans

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has low-interest loans available for small businesses and eligible non-profits in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.

Small Business LoanSBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.
The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75 percent.

SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

Businesses may obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or by e-mailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov/disaster. Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Completed applications should be returned to the local DLOC or mailed to:

U.S. Small Business Administration
Processing and Disbursement Center
14925 Kingsport Road
Fort Worth, TX 76155

The deadline to return economic injury disaster loan applications is Dec. 21, 2020.

 

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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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Easton, PA 18042
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Harrisburg, PA 17120-3018
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Senate of PA:
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