In this update:
How to get state-related assistance during the coronavirus shutdown
I really appreciate everyone’s patience during this time. While our offices are still not able to accept in-person office visits or take in-person meetings, my staff and I are still handling constituent-related issues during this time.
Here are the various ways you can contact me:
District Office – 717-741-4648 (leave a voicemail)
Capitol Office – 717-787-7085 (leave a voicemail)
Email – SenatorKristin@pasen.gov
Contact Form – SenatorKristin.com/contact-me.
Resource guides for employers, employees, and other individuals affected by COVID-19 are also posted at SenatorKristin.com.
Please note: You and your concerns are very important to me! Our office continues to receive a high volume of inquiries. Please only contact our office one way as this will ensure we handle your matter and can assist others in a timely manner. Again, I really appreciate everyone’s patience during this time.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania passes 25,000; York County has 371 cases
The Department of Health released their latest data this morning that show York County has 371 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Pennsylvania currently has 25,345 confirmed cases.
More information from the Department of Health can be found here. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date information.
Below are a few charts that I think you may find to be of interest.
Are you interested in hearing how our local health system is adapting to this pandemic? Listen to my recent podcast here. I’ve also had discussions with Kevin Schreiber, YCEA President & CEO, and earlier today, I sat down with our county’s top prosecutor – District Attorney Dave Sunday. You can read more on that later in this email update.
Governor Wolf working with northeastern governors on plan to reopen economy; ignoring Pennsylvania employees and employers
On Monday, Governor Wolf announced he will be working on a multi-state council with the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
I am very troubled by this move as he has not shown a willingness to work with Pennsylvania employees or employers hampered by this pandemic. The waiver review process for businesses that wished to remain open was deeply flawed, and our unemployment compensation system is a mess (more on that later in this email). Now is not the time for photo ops with governors from other states.
Last week, the White House and U.S. Department of Labor announced they are working with states to provide additional resources to get state unemployment compensation systems more resources. Only Ohio, Arizona and Oklahoma have taken up the administration on this offer.
Only after my office brought it to the attention of the state Department of Labor and Industry did Pennsylvania finally agree to work with the federal government to obtain these resources to help process the record number of unemployment compensation claims.
I would also want to know why Governor Wolf is not working with our neighbor to the south in Maryland, or Ohio or West Virginia – essentially our state’s entire southern and western bordering states are not being consulted, even while we hold more in common with them than we share with Rhode Island or Connecticut. The Senate is heading back to session to work on providing parity with our border states when it comes to reopening businesses that can adhere to social distancing guidelines.
From the family who was in the middle of a kitchen remodel and is now left without any way to cook a meal because construction is shut down, to the small mom-and-pop store that typically sees one or two customers every hour and could ensure CDC guidelines are followed – we want to find a way to get our economy open again while ensuring public health. These are not mutually exclusive goals.
Senate to reconvene at 11 a.m. tomorrow
The Senate of Pennsylvania will reconvene tomorrow (Wednesday, April 15) at 11 a.m.
We will be taking up additional COVID-19 related legislation.
Session and all committee meetings will be streamed live on my website at SenatorKristin.com/session.
A full, gavel-to-gavel video will be available after the conclusion of each day’s legislative action. You can also watch session live on my Facebook Page.
District Attorney Dave Sunday ensures public is protected during pandemic
My latest podcast episode of “Kristin’s Corner” features York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, who outlined the latest updates on how his office is serving the public, how victims are protected and how he and his team are ensuring public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our conversation covers issues including efforts the District Attorney’s office is taking to ensure victims are protected, a plan proposed by Governor Wolf to release certain state inmates without giving District Attorneys veto power over the release, challenges with the governor’s mandatory business closure impacting a county vendor that tracks county inmates who are paroled via GPS, among other issues impacting the criminal justice system in York County.
Last week, Governor Wolf announced a plan to release certain inmates from state prisons back into the general population during the pandemic. The plan allows for input, but not veto power from our District Attorneys. These prosecutors are often in touch with victims and their families to ensure the safety of our community.
I am very concerned that the District Attorney does not have veto power over the release of these inmates.
All of my podcasts, as well as instructions on how to subscribe to the podcast can be found at SenatorKristin.com/podcast. The program runs approximately 54 minutes.
You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here.
Information available for claimants struggling with unemployment compensation system
The spike in the number of applicants in the Unemployment Compensation system has created longer response times and a large backlog of cases that sometimes take weeks to resolve. A number of services are available online to help resolve some questions regarding the system.
Claimants who have filed an initial claim in mid-March who have not received a PIN should contact the Department of Labor and Industry as soon as possible. The same guidance applies to individuals who tried to re-open an existing claim in mid-March and are still listed as “inactive” when they try to file a bi-weekly claim.
If you meet one of these criteria or have other questions or problems that are not covered on the department’s website, please feel free to contact me for assistance.
Expanded unemployment benefit payments begin this week
The federal CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits of $600 per week to eligible claimants. These payments are in addition to regular benefits provided through the unemployment system. The Department of Labor and Industry reports that these payments should arrive by Wednesday of this week for eligible claimants who received their regular payments for the week ending April 4.
Claimants who have not yet received a payment will receive the extra $600 per week in the days following receipt of their first payment. An additional 13 weeks of benefits will be available to claimants who have been affected by the pandemic.
More information on the state’s efforts to implement the provisions of the CARES Act is available on a new website created by the Department of Labor and Industry.
Benefits available soon for contractors, self-employed workers
The CARES Act temporarily makes benefits available to other individuals who are not normally eligible, such as people who are self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers. However, these individuals cannot apply through the current unemployment system; the federal government requires the state to create a new platform to provide these benefits.
The Department of Labor and Industry expects to have the new system up and running within the next two weeks. Claimants will be able to receive backdated payments to January 27 or the first week that they were unable to work due to the coronavirus, whichever is later. More information about the new program is available on the department’s frequently asked questions page.
Utility providers, other companies provide assistance programs
The COVID-19 crisis has affected millions of Americans across the country. Most major utility companies are offering special assistance programs to help families who have been impacted by the pandemic. Some of the programs include delayed or partial payments, hardship funds, budget billing and other programs to help customers.
More information about the different kinds of programs and services to help utility customers is available on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s website.
Individuals and families who are struggling to pay bills during this pandemic should reach out to their utility companies, mortgage/rental companies, credit card companies and other lenders to see what programs may be available to help.
Stay safe – follow these tips
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