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Boscola Bulletin

Statewide Reopening of Construction Industry and Limited Outdoor Recreational Activities Beginning May 1

Construction may resume statewide May 1stEarlier this month, I offered an amendment that sought common ground to safely and incrementally reopen the Commonwealth. I focused on industries that had safely and effectively remained open in other states throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. My amendment would have provided certain business waivers for residential construction, commercial construction (for essential businesses & projects that had started before the emergency declaration), realtors and real estate transactions and internet car sales (both with limited in-person interaction), and garden centers.  This amendment was defeated. I would like to thank Governor Wolf for reconsidering his decision and commend him for taking the necessary steps to ensure Pennsylvania has a safe reboot and avoiding an economic recovery disadvantage in a responsible manner, especially for the construction and building industry.

All public and private construction sites can reopen May 1, as long as they adhere to safety precautions meant to protect workers and the public from the spread of the coronavirus, according to guidance Governor Tom Wolf outlined last week. On job sites, construction businesses must keep workers 6 feet apart when possible, provide handwashing stations throughout, regularly clean and disinfect areas that are high risks for spreading infection, limit necessary gatherings to no more than 10 people socially distanced, stagger employees’ shifts, limit tool sharing, prohibit sick workers and unnecessary visitors, and ensure workers arrive separately and wear masks.

Restrictions Lifted on Limited Outdoor Activities

The resiliency that all Pennsylvanian’s have shown through this crisis has been tremendous. We can’t forget to make sure to take care of our physical and mental health through these hard times – and by lightening some restrictions will help immensely.  Allowing Pennsylvanians to have opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor recreation is a perfect way to maintain positive physical and mental health, and in keeping with the commonwealth’s stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Construction may resume statewide May 1stStarting Friday, May 1, golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds may reopen statewide and are required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance and FAQ issued by the Wolf Administration to include specifics for how these outdoor recreational industries can resume activities while prioritizing public health and safety. Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities. These guidelines must be followed statewide by businesses and when engaging in outdoor activity while the state disaster declaration remains in effect. The guidelines will ensure the safety of individuals and families engaging in outdoor activities and adherence will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

  • Stay close to home: Pennsylvanians are encouraged to enjoy permitted outdoor recreational activities within their community and avoid crowding popular destinations.
  • Practice social distancing: Maintain the recommended minimum 6 feet apart from fellow recreationists. Pennsylvanians are also encouraged to wear a mask or protective garment that covers the nose and mouth any time they go outside. If a parking lot at a park is full or there are too many people on the same trail, find an alternate place to recreate. Cross the street to avoid running directly past another runner or wait longer at a golf hole for a fellow golfer to move forward.
  • Minimize risk to others: Individuals should only go out if they feel healthy and have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs and handrails.
  • Have a plan: Create a safety plan before heading outdoors. Explain to children the need to keep their distance from others, even if they happen to see a friend while outside. Discuss with partners, social distancing while on the golf course. Think through how to avoid other runners when waiting to safely cross a street at the same time.

Calling on DCED Secretary to Issue Real Estate Industry Waiver from the COVID-19 Business Closure Order

Senator BoscolaI plan to introduce companion legislation, along with fellow Senators Phillips-Hill, Fontana, Martin and Scavello, to a House Bill that would require the Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue a waiver to the Governor’s COVID-19 Business Closure Order to all real estate related activities that can adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
 
After consulting with real estate companies and agents across Pennsylvania, I feel confident that mitigation efforts and protection for all can be well achieved, as set forth in the industry-driven recommendations:

  1. Realtors must follow the CDC guidelines fully;
  2. Showings only may be conducted after the buyer has viewed the property online and shows a serious interest;
  3. Only the people that are purchasing may attend the showing;
  4. The realtor and home buyers must wear masks and stay six-feet apart;
  5. The realtor will have sanitary wipes available and must wipe down any doors or fixtures touched;
  6. The seller will agree to not be present in the home during the showing;
  7. The documentation to facilitate the sale or lease shall be done by electronic signatures;
  8. A home inspector may inspect the home alone, and use Facetime or other video facilitation to communicate with the buyer, and must bring and use sanitary wipes for anything touched.  Seller must vacate property during the home inspection.
  9. An appraiser can only go into the home alone once it is under contract, and will also have sanitary wipes for any door handles touched.  Seller must vacate property for the appraiser.
  10. Title companies will adhere to CDC guidelines with social distancing and the required use of masks, and may get the buyers signatures.  Sellers can have documents pre-signed and opt to not attend the closing.
  11. Open houses or other public gatherings are not permitted.
  12. Prior to showing a home, a disclosure is electronically signed by realtor, seller and buyer that each of them certify that they are not aware of any personal exposure of themselves to COVID-19.

In Pennsylvania, we have shuttered the real estate business due to the pandemic, however each of our neighboring states, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio, still permit this industry to continue to operate within parameters and practicing safety.  Not only have they continued to do so, but they have done so in a safe and protective way – for sellers, perspective buyers, real estate agents, home inspectors and title companies.  Citizens in the Commonwealth need to be able to find housing.  Real estate licensees are equipped with the skills to complete the process and transactions safely and with minimal further risk to the health of the people of Pennsylvania.  This can be practiced safely and applied safely, just as other businesses which have remained open do as well.

Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania

Our children and COVID-19Last Week, Governor Wolf presented his plan for reopening the commonwealth with a targeted May 8 start. The administration will categorize reopening into three phases: red, yellow, and green. Phases will be assigned based on conditions in a county, counties or region.

The administration will first study conditions in the north-central and northwest regions with a target of moving from red to yellow on May 8. Additional monitoring will take place and direction will be provided in the next week.

To decide when to move to a new phase, the administration will use Department of Health metrics and a data tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University.

The red phase, which currently applies to the whole state, has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures, and building safety protocols.

As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place. The purpose of this phase is to begin to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible.

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay-at-home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health. While this phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary to ensure the spread of disease remains at a minimum.

The governor’s full, detailed plan can be read by clicking here.

PHEAA Extends Rules Relief through Summer 2020 Term

PHEAAStudents and families need to be made aware of action taken by the PHEAA Board of Directors in response to the ongoing pandemic. Last week, the Board extended temporary modifications made to agency-administered Pennsylvania student aid programs through the Summer 2020 term to ensure that students do not experience any disruption or reduction of funding due to operational changes made by postsecondary schools in response to COVID-19. 

Affected Pennsylvania student aid programs include:

  • PA State Grant Program
  • PA Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP)
  • Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program (RTSS)
  • Institutional Assistance Grant (IAG) Program
  • Matching Funds Programs
  • Higher Education of the Disadvantaged (Act 101) Program
  • Higher Education for Blind or Deaf Students Program
  • Pennsylvania Internship Program

COVID-19 continues to create significant stress and uncertainty for students and families throughout Pennsylvania. At the same time, postsecondary schools are struggling to adapt to a new normal that lacks precedent, so we need to ensure that our programs are flexible enough to maintain effectiveness regardless of shifting circumstances that are beyond the student’s control.

An example of relief that could assist thousands of students is the temporary waiver of the PA State Grant Program’s eligibility distinction between traditional in-classroom students, who currently qualify for a $4,123 maximum award, and distance education students, who qualify for a $3,092 maximum award, or 75 percent of a traditional award.  This waiver is holding harmless thousands of initially in-classroom recipients who could have otherwise lost their higher award amount.  

Additionally, the May 1 PA State Grant application deadline has been extended by 2 weeks to May 15 to provide students with more flexibility.  This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in colleges, universities, or a college transfer program at 2-year public or private colleges (except community colleges and designated Pennsylvania Open Admission institutions).

To apply for a PA State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2020-21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access this form online at www.PHEAA.org/FAFSA or www.fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.

In addition to completing the FAFSA, first-time applicants must also submit a completed PA State Grant Form (SGF). First-time applicants who submit the FAFSA online will be automatically redirected to the SGF by following the onscreen prompts on the confirmation page. First-time applicants who have already submitted their FAFSA, but have not completed the SGF, will receive an email directing them to PHEAA’s secure Account Access site for completion. Both applications are free to submit.

Students and parents can click here to learn more about COVID-19's impact on PHEAA administered student aid programs.

Updated Guidance Regarding Ambulatory Surgical Facilities and Hospitals

Resumin Elective Surgeries, Procedures and admissionsYesterday, guidance was released to provide a process for hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities to resume elective surgeries, procedures and admissions.

Using this guidance, these procedures and admissions can move forward as long as doing so won’t jeopardize the safety of patients and staff or hamper a hospital or surgical center’s ability to respond to COVID-19 emergencies.

Pennsylvania has been working with hospital partners to ensure that residents who need treatment unrelated to COVID-19 can get it while making sure we stay prepared.

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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
(610) 250-5627
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