In this update:
Small businesses have been hampered by 2nd most stringent economic shut down, we have a plan to Prioritize Pennsylvania’s Small Businesses
Many smaller employers have been devastated by Governor Wolf’s business closures and ongoing restrictions over the past year – and many more could be impacted by the proposed tax hikes in the governor’s budget. As business owners struggled through the past year, their employees were also forced to get by with smaller paychecks or were thrust into an Unemployment Compensation system that was unable to handle the increased volume.
In order to help these small businesses and their employees recover and thrive in the years ahead, I recently joined with my colleagues to introduce the Prioritize PA: Small Businesses initiative. The package of bills includes immediate financial assistance, tax reforms and regulatory relief to reduce burdens on small employers.
My colleagues and I hosted a news conference this week to focus on how these bills could create a stronger environment for job growth in the future.
Learn more here.
Not quite there – some of the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions relaxed
After weeks of dedicated advocacy from lawmakers, employers and employees, Governor Wolf finally announced that several restrictions on businesses and gatherings would be relaxed effective April 4. Some of the changes include:
In addition, occupancy limits will be increased to 25 percent for indoor venues and 50 percent for outdoor venues, regardless of size.
The fact that these restrictions are still in place today speaks to the dangers of allowing one branch of government to control all the power during an extended emergency declaration.
Lawmakers approved potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would give the people a stronger voice in emergency response through their duly elected officials. The question will appear on the ballot on May 18, 2021.
Senate approves bill to open career opportunities for individuals in recovery
Individuals in recovery for substance use disorders could stand a better chance of breaking the cycle of addiction by maintaining meaningful employment under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorders with high-priority occupations.
The pilot program would allow state agencies to work with local workforce development boards, treatment and recovery providers and employers to find job training and employment opportunities for individuals in recovery.
Senate and House hearings examine election-related issues
The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform will continue its comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with a hearing on Tuesday, March 23 at 10 a.m. The hearing will include testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of State, local election officials and county officials to gather state and local insight on the administration of the election.
The committee held its first meeting on Monday to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states. Should you have comments or thoughts on our state’s elections process, please take a few minutes to fill out this form.
In addition to the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform, the House State Government Committee, chaired by Representative Seth Grove, held a public hearing this week on the mail-in and absentee voting processes. You can watch the hearing in its entirety here.
On Thursday, March 25, the House State Government Committee will hold another public hearing and focus on county election day operations and satellite offices.
Tax Day moves to May 17 at federal and state levels
The Department of Revenue announced that they will move the deadline to file Personal Income Tax returns from April 15 to May 17. You can read their announcement here.
Unemployment Compensation programs extended
The federal government recently extended all Unemployment Compensation programs, including the additional $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, through September 6. The maximum number of weeks of eligibility for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was also extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks, and the maximum number of weeks of eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is extended from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.
In addition, up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits for an individual (or $20,400 for a couple, if both members received unemployment benefits) will not be considered federal taxable income in 2020, assuming the individual or couple earned less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income for the year.
Education takes center stage at Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee reconvened their public hearings on the governor’s budget proposal. The hearings featured the Department of Education and the State System of Higher Education.
The latter oversees the 14 state-owned universities, including Shippensburg and Millersville Universities.
During the hearing with the Department of Education, I asked Acting Secretary Ortega about what is being done to protect students and their data from cyberattacks. Schools are currently the leading target of ransomware attacks. I also stressed the need to convey to school districts that ONE-TIME federal funds for COVID-19 relief should NOT be used for recurring costs, which could create future budget shortfalls and strain on taxpayers.
You can watch our exchange below.
During the afternoon hearing with Chancellor Greenstein of the State System of Higher Education, I asked about a recent ransomware attack at one of the universities and what best practices are being implemented to protect students and staff information. Millersville University was recently the target of a cyberattack.
You can watch our exchange below.
We continue our public hearings on the governor’s budget proposal on Monday (March 21).
Update on the Mt. Rose Interchange debacle
Earlier this week, I spoke with the York Dispatch about my plans to seek specific answers to major concerns raised by our community about the over-budget, delayed, recurring nightmare that is the Mt. Rose Interchange project.
You can read the article here, which includes what I plan to ask PennDOT Secretary Grammian at our Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing next month. Our original hearing was planned for March 9 but was delayed due to a scheduling conflict at the department.
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21
March 21 is designated as World Down Syndrome Day by numerous states and countries in recognition of the incredible achievements of the individuals living with this condition. Each person with Down syndrome has different talents, abilities and needs – and that makes every person living with this condition special and unique. That is why this past Wednesday, I joined Senator Scott Martin to wear colorful socks, which signifies the extra chromosome that individuals with Down Syndrome typically carry.
More information on World Down Syndrome Day is available here.
Reminder to take my surveys on bridge tolling, governor’s budget proposal – I’ll share the results with you next week
Next week, I will share the results of the two surveys I am conducting to seek your input and input from our neighbors on two critical issues: the governor’s budget proposal and a plan to toll various bridges across the state.
If you have not done so, please take a minute to share your opinion with me.
Survey on the governor’s budget can be found here.
Survey on the plan to toll bridges can be found here.
As always, you can provide feedback on any state-related matter. These surveys are a great way to get input on pressing issues in YOUR state government. I greatly appreciate your feedback.
YCEA’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program grant application process open
Over the last several weeks, I joined the team and volunteers of the York County Economic Alliance to share information with businesses in the hospitality industry about federal funds the state appropriated to assist the most adversely impacted industry in our Commonwealth – our restaurants, bars and other businesses in the hospitality industry.
We were out and about last weekend in Shrewsbury. Here I am pictured with John Klinedinst, David Gonzalez and County Commissioner Doug Hoke in front of the Village Coffee and Cream.
The COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) opened their application process this past Monday (March 15). The deadline to apply is March 31 at 5 p.m. This program is NOT first come, first served.
You can find more information about the CHIRP program here.
Upcoming PennDOT projects
PennDOT shared with me their list of upcoming scheduled maintenance projects, which you can view below.
The Senate of Pennsylvania reconvenes for voting on Tuesday, March 23 at 1 p.m. You can watch session live and review our agenda at SenatorKristin.com/session.
The reason we are not in session on Monday is because the Senate Appropriations Committee will also hold two public hearings on Monday. You can view our agenda below. As always, you can watch the hearings live on my Facebook Page.
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