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.
If you have a specific inquiry regarding unemployment compensation, you can fill out a form here: SenatorKristin.com/contact-me. Select “Unemployment Compensation” from the drop-down menu. This will expedite your claim with our office.
Information specific to unemployment compensation can be found at SenatorKristin.com/unemployment.
Holding officials accountable over state’s unemployment compensation claims debacle
On Tuesday, the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which I chair, will hold a joint public hearing with the Senate Labor and Industry Committee to hold the Wolf Administration accountable over the lengthy delays in fulfilling unemployment compensation claims.
The number one inquiry my office has received during the pandemic is about frustrations with the delays in this money you are owed. It is unacceptable, which is why I am calling for and conducting this very important and timely public hearing.
I will stream the hearing live on my Facebook Page. It will be held on Tuesday, May 4 at 1 p.m.
I hope you can tune in!
Senate approves bill requiring reporting of COVID-19 cases
This week the Senate approved legislation I strongly supported that would require the state to notify local first responders of COVID-19 cases in their communities.
You can watch my remarks below.
Senate Bill 1110 would require the Department of Health or local health authority to release to 911 centers, police, fire, coroners and EMS personnel an individual’s communicable disease status when the disease is the subject of an emergency disaster proclamation by the Governor. The information must be relayed within 24 hours of the department receiving information of a confirmed case of a communicable disease.
Senate Bill 1110 would help first responders better prioritize and target the use of personal protective equipment so they can protect themselves in situations where they know they will be exposed to COVID-19 on the job.
The bill also requires real-time reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania’s nursing and personal care homes and assisted living facilities.
More than 60 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth have occurred in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal care homes. Pennsylvania has approximately 700 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds and more than 1,200 licensed personal care homes serving approximately 46,500 residents.
Senators call for Auditor General to examine DCED’s COVID-19 response
The Wolf Administration has been widely criticized for its handling of the waiver process for businesses that wished to stay open during the shutdown of businesses not deemed life-sustaining. Questions have also been raised about why the Administration’s list of business closures was more restrictive than federal guidelines.
I recently joined many of my colleagues in calling for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to immediately conduct an audit of the Department of Community and Economic Development to shine a light on these issues and explain why more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians were forced into the Unemployment Compensation system – more than every other state except California.
The text of our letter to the Auditor General is available here.
Seeking U.S. Attorney General Barr’s review of constitutionality of statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts
I led the efforts in the Senate this week to send a bicameral letter to the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure constitutional rights are protected during these unprecedented times.
The subpoena issued to the governor requesting the list of waivers provided to businesses, the Auditor General’s audit mentioned earlier, the public hearing I am holding next week, and the United States Attorney General requests are all about providing you with the transparency and accountability of YOUR state government.
Limited number of outdoor activities reopen today
As I mentioned in my last email update to you, several outdoor activities like golf and camping that have been shuttered by the COVID-19 outbreak are authorized to reopen today (Friday, May 1) with proper safety protocols in place.
Golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds may reopen statewide on Friday and are required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance. More information for outdoor recreational industries is also available in a FAQ issued by the state.
Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14.
Additional information about the reopening of recreational facilities is available here.
With mail-in voting an option in Pennsylvania, I asked about safeguards to protect the integrity of our elections
On Thursday, I participated in a Senate State Government Committee public hearing with elections officials and key stakeholders on voting concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’ve received several calls and emails about ensuring the integrity of our elections particularly now that mail-in voting is an option for Pennsylvania voters. I asked about the safeguards that are in place to ensure a voter cannot vote twice. You can watch my line of questioning below.
You can view all committee materials, including the full hearing, here.
Senate approves emergency COVID-19 measures for child care employees
Many employees who work with children are unable to complete the necessary FBI criminal background checks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I supported a bill this week that would allow them to continue to work safely.
The bill would extend the amount of time employees have to recertify background checks until December 31 and create different criteria for initial applicants to work on a temporary basis. More information about the bill is available here.
Senate passes new safety measures for child care facilities
A pair of bills approved by the Senate this week would improve the safety of all child care facilities in Pennsylvania by strengthening smoke detector requirements. The measures would require smoke detectors in child care facilities on each floor and in the basement with a system that is interconnected so if one alarm is triggered, all of the alarms go off.
The bills were passed in response to a tragic fire at a home day care facility in Erie that claimed the lives of five young children. More information about the measures is available here.
Department of Health sets standards for resumption of elective surgeries, procedures
The Department of Health issued guidelines on Monday to allow hospitals and ambulatory surgery facilities to resume elective surgeries and admissions.
Under the guidelines, those facilities will be allowed to move forward with elective procedures as long as the safety of patients and staff is not placed in jeopardy and they have the resources in place to address potential COVID-19 emergencies.
Updated PennDOT guidance on expiration dates and deadlines
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner’s permits, will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Effective April 30, 2020, expiration dates for driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner’s permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through May 31, 2020, are now extended through June 30, 2020.
Legislation would provide long-term authorization of remote notarizations
Earlier this month, the Senate passed legislation that was signed into law to authorize remote notary services for up to 60 days after the COVID-19 emergency declaration ends. Legislation approved by the Senate this week would allow the notarization process to be completed remotely on a long-term basis.
The bill would bring Pennsylvania in line with other states that have modernized laws pertaining to notarizing documents. More information about the bill is available here.
Additional funding will support seniors during COVID-19 pandemic
The CARES Act approved by Congress will provide an additional $34 million to support programs for older Pennsylvanians, including home-delivered meals, home- and community-based services, long-term care and family caregiver support.
The programs supported by the funding will meet many of the most pressing needs of seniors, including transportation, care management, caregiver training and counseling, and information and referral services. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s website has more information about resources available to older adults.
Supporting the safe reopening of businesses during this pandemic
I am sponsoring legislation that would allow for the safe reopening of real estate and pet groomers.
I consider shelter to be absolutely essential and this governor has not been willing to address major concerns our state is facing with people looking to buy and sell homes.
I’ve also heard from many pet owners and groomers who are concerned about the wellbeing of their pets as they are unable to get routine grooming for over five weeks. This poses a health risk and can lead to higher costs through visits to the veterinarian.
Stay safe – follow these tips
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