In this Issue:
Department of Labor and Industry Offers Info on New Paid Family and Medical Leave Requirements
As part of a new federal law to respond to the coronavirus, certain employers will be required to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for absences related to COVID-19. Wages paid under the new law will be reimbursed to business owners on a dollar-for-dollar basis through business tax credits.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has created a webpage to help employers and employees better understand the new requirements. Fact sheets for employers and employees, answers to frequently asked questions and other helpful links are available here.
The state Senate also approved a package of bills this week to move the state forward during the current public health emergency, including measures to provide emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation law, provide additional funding for medical supplies and equipment, postpone the state’s primary election, and update the School Code to waive certain mandates. More information on those measures is available here.
Reminder: Resources Available for Employees Impacted by COVID-19 Mitigation
Efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus have created a major disruption in the lives of many Pennsylvania workers. Many employees who are unable to work or have reduced hours as a result of COVID-19 are now eligible for Unemployment Compensation. Affected employees can learn more about how to apply for Unemployment Compensation online here.
Claimants no longer have to wait a week to apply, and all work search and work registration requirements have been temporarily waived.
Information is also available for individuals who are dealing with job loss related to COVID-19 and have lost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Information on getting coverage through the state health insurance marketplace is available at www.healthcare.gov.
All children in Pennsylvania can receive coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Details about CHIP are available at www.chipcoverspakids.com. Depending on household income, Medicaid may also be an option for adults who need health insurance coverage. More information on Medicaid is available here.
Applications Now Being Accepted for New Small Business Low-Interest Loan Program
Small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency can apply now for low-interest state loans.
The COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program will feature a low interest rate, no application fees, and payments and interest waived during the first year of the loan. Loans of up to $100,000 will be available for small businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees to use as working capital.
The program will be administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, which said it intends for the turnaround time for loan approval to be a matter of days. Additional information on the program is available at https://dced.pa.gov/cwca.
Business owners who are interested in applying should contact their local Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO).
The Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation (PMEDC) is the CEDO for Monroe County and all Monroe applications must be submitted through them. Contact PMEDC for more information at 570-839-1992.
The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is the CEDO for Northampton County and all Northampton applications must be submitted through them.
Please contact LVEDC for more information at (610) 266-6775.
The Science Behind COVID-19
As the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 virus, I wanted to share a video to help people better understand the virus, how it infects the body, and strategies toward treatment. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong explains the science behind the coronavirus and will help you better understand the virus itself. He covers many topics including, understanding the virus, how it infects, explaining the symptoms, how to combat the spread, and how long this pandemic may last. As we all have a little more time on our hands these days, it is well worth 30 minutes of your time and I hope you will watch. The video is available here.
Food Services Available for Families Affected by Public Health Emergency
Efforts are in place to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to food as the state steps up its COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Pennsylvanians can contact local food banks or pantries through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, and the Department of Human Services is continuing to process applications and benefit renewals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at www.compass.state.pa.us.
The Department of Agriculture has provided resources for Pennsylvanians to access emergency food assistance during COVID-19 mitigation, including locations of food banks and food pantries that are assisting individuals and families during this time. Both departments are calling on healthy individuals to volunteer with a local food bank or other community agencies.
The emergency Feeding Taskforce, a panel of state agencies, charitable food networks, food retailers and others, is working to match available resources with communities in need. Businesses with resources to help feed and shelter Pennsylvanians are encouraged to fill out this survey. Anyone in need of food should complete this survey so the task force can direct resources where they are needed.
PA’s REAL ID Enforcement Date Delayed Until October 2021
The deadline for Pennsylvania to comply with the federal government’s REAL ID identification standards has been extended by one year to October 1, 2021.
The federal REAL ID law imposes tougher identification standards on state-issued driver licenses and photo identification cards. The new standards were originally designed to take effect on October 1 of this year, but the COVID-19 public health emergency cut into the amount of time Pennsylvanians had to purchase an optional REAL ID license.
PennDOT’s driver and photo license centers have been closed since March 16.
Pennsylvanians are not required to purchase a REAL ID, but beginning on October 1, 2021, normal state driver licenses and ID cards will no longer be considered a valid form of identification for the purposes of boarding a commercial flight or visiting a secure federal building, such as a federal courthouse.
More information about REAL ID is available here.
New Web Portal Will Help Medical Supplies Get to Healthcare Providers
To ensure healthcare providers can safely treat patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, lawmakers approved a bill this week that provides up to $50 million toward the purchase of critical medical supplies and equipment. A new web portal will provide a convenient and efficient way for manufacturers, distributors and other suppliers to get these supplies into the hands of healthcare facilities and workers quickly.
A complete list of medical equipment needed – including surgical masks, respirators, ventilators and other hospital supplies – is available on the web portal here, as well as procurement forms for interested businesses. Links will also be available for businesses that wish to donate goods and services for distribution, as well as organizations that have additional capacity to manufacture and supply goods that are critical to healthcare providers.
Trout Fishing Opening Day Set for April 18, Social Distancing Encouraged
Although many large events and activities have been postponed or canceled throughout the country, local anglers can still look forward to the beginning of trout season on April 18. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is operating under modified procedures to ensure all Pennsylvanians can enjoy one of the state’s favorite pastimes.
The statewide opening day for trout fishing will be April 18; there will not be an earlier regional opening day this year. Trout stocking will still be completed by PFBC on an accelerated schedule. In order to safeguard public health, no volunteers will be permitted to help stock trout this year.
Anglers are encouraged to keep a distance of at least 6 feet between themselves and other people, avoid large crowds and carpooling, and clean all equipment thoroughly. More information is available here.
Want to Help Patients in Need? Consider Donating Blood
The first few weeks of COVID-19 mitigation measures led to the cancelation of many scheduled blood drives at schools and workplaces throughout the country. As a result, the American Red Cross is now experiencing a critical shortage of blood and platelets for patients in need.
Community residents who are able to donate blood can find the closest scheduled event here. Please check back frequently and search 7-15 days out for newly scheduled blood drives.
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