In this Update:
Wolf Orders Shutdown of Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses; Appeals Process Established
On Thursday evening, Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania. A list of business types that would be affected by this order is available at www.pasenategop.com/covid-19-resources.
I joined Senate leaders in raising concerns about some of the unforeseen problems that could arise from his order and how this measure could impact small businesses. The response from Senate Republican leaders is available here.
As a result of these concerns, the Wolf Administration announced a waiver process for any company that believes they should be considered a life-sustaining-business. Business owners can apply for a waiver at this email address: RAfirstname.lastname@example.org. Business owners can address questions about whether they need to close by emailing email@example.com.
Businesses and non-profits who have suffered economic losses during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak can consider applying for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Additional information is available by contacting SBA’s disaster assistance customer service center by calling 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will continue to work with my colleagues in the General Assembly and the Wolf Administration to find ways to help businesses and employees who have been impacted by coronavirus mitigation measures.
Senate Resolution Allows Members to Vote Remotely
The Senate took an important step this week to continue its operations safely by passing a resolution allowing members to vote remotely. The temporary emergency rules will ensure the Senate can continue voting even when members cannot be physically present due to coronavirus mitigation efforts that are ongoing statewide.
The resolution creates a mechanism for members to file bills electronically and to participate in committee meetings and session through the use of communications technology. The emergency powers are scheduled to expire July 31, 2020 or 10 days following the expiration of the governor’s emergency order, whichever is sooner.
In order to ensure transparency, session was announced well in advance and streamed live for the public at www.PAsenateGOP.com. Video of session is available below:
My District Offices Remain Open
At this time, my offices will remain open to help constituents with any problem related to state government. At times our hours may be limited and we will take necessary precautions with high traffic surfaces being cleaned regularly. However, we do ask that if you are not feeling well for any reason that you please refrain from visiting the office in person as a precaution. We are actively keeping a database of available resources available to assist constituents. I strongly encourage you to like and follow my facebook page to stay up to date on available resources and information. We will do our best to help our constituents in any way we are able. If you have an immediate need, please feel free to reach out to us personally via phone or via my website and we will do our absolute best to help and assist you! If you have an emergency and my office is closed please call me on my cell phone at 570-269-6349.
College & Career Fair Postponed
Due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, my Career and College Fair scheduled for April 30th has been postponed. We hope to reschedule the event for later this year.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended to December 31st
As Pennsylvania continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Department of Revenue has extended the application deadline for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate program until the end of the year.
The Property Tax and Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. As specified by law, rebate distribution will begin on July 1. After June 30, rebates will be distributed as claims are received and processed.
Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online at www.revenue.pa.gov/ or at my district offices. My staff is available to help anyone who needs assistance filing the application. No appointment is necessary but at this time we do advise that you call before you come in.
Know How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19
I urge everyone, especially older adults and people who have underlying chronic medical conditions, to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your families from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control has an excellent website which outlines what everyone should be doing to help protect yourself.
Resources Available to Help Businesses, Employees Affected by Coronavirus Mitigation
A number of resources are available to help businesses and employees who are affected by the governor’s coronavirus mitigation measures.
The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is expected to offer loans that could assist businesses affected by COVID-19. Information will be posted to www.dced.pa.gov/resources as it becomes available.
The Strategic Early Warning Network, administered by the Department of Labor and Industry, offers resources to help small and medium-sized business, including business planning resources and contingency planning, at www.steelvalley.org/coronavirus.
The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry also has a webpage dedicated to helping businesses deal with coronavirus concerns at www.pachamber.org/coronavirus.
Workers Affected by COVID-19 May be Eligible for Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Due to the widespread impact on employment from the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Pennsylvania has made temporary changes to unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor and Industry has made unemployment and worker’s compensation benefits more widely available for those effect by the virus. You may be eligible if:
Other changes include the “waiting week” to receive benefits has been waived, as has requirements that the beneficiary be searching for jobs. These benefits will not go for longer than 26 weeks at this time. You can apply for benefits on the Department’s website here: https://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/covid19.aspx. You can also call the Department at 888-313-7284.
Vote-By-Mail Option Available for Upcoming Primary Election
As Pennsylvania lawmakers work to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, I would like to remind residents that they have the option to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election scheduled on April 28. Also know that conversations have begun in regards to moving the primary election date.
As part of a broad election modernization package that was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in 2019, voters now have the option to request a ballot by mail. Previous law required a voter to request an absentee ballot only if he or she would be physically unable to go to the polls on Election Day.
Voters must complete an application for a mail-in ballot no later than 5 p.m. seven days prior to the election, and completed ballots must be returned no later than 8 p.m. on the day of the election.
Pennsylvanians can learn more about voting by mail and complete an application for a mail-in ballot at www.VotesPA.com/ApplyMailBallot.
Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission Stops Shut-offs
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.state.pa.us/
PennDOT Closes All Driver, Photo License Centers, Extends Expiration Dates and Suspends Construction in Response to COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is implementing the following operational changes in response to mitigation guidance regarding COVID-19.
All Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers in Pennsylvania will be closed for two weeks effective close of business on Monday, March 16.
Additionally, expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations, and safety and emission inspections will be extended:
All PennDOT District and County maintenance offices are closed. Additionally, construction projects have been suspended in all counties until further notice, however PennDOT crews are available to perform critical functions and emergency maintenance as needed.
As a reminder, customers may complete various transactions and access multiple resources via the Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.pa.gov. Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver’s license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; driver license and photo ID duplicates; and driver exam scheduling. There are no additional fees for using online services.
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