Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • How to get state-related assistance during the coronavirus shutdown
  • Legislators, business leaders, non-profit advocates, county and local elected officials outline why York County can reopen safely, responsibly and intelligently
  • You did it: York County moves into the “yellow” phase – what it means
  • Senate approves bills to support safe, responsible reopening of many employers
  • PA Senate COVID-19 hearings explore impacts on education, transportation and safety
  • After Senate hearing, Department of Health reverses course on nursing home testing
  • New funding provided to long-term care facilities, first responders
  • PennDOT driver licenses and Photo IDs can use existing photos
  • Additional federal funding available for schools
  • Business waiver list released, but Wolf Administration ignores subpoena for more info
  • Appeals window extended for unemployment claimants who were denied benefits
  • New guidance issued for non-urgent dental care
  • Updated guidelines available for veterinary practices

STAY UP-TO-DATE WITH THE LATEST NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS ON MY FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

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.

Legislators, business leaders, non-profit advocates, county and local elected officials outline why York County can reopen safely, responsibly and intelligently

On Tuesday, state legislators from York and Adams Counties, community leaders from local business and area non-profits joined county and local elected officials to outline why the two counties meet the metrics to move to the “yellow” phase of Governor Wolf’s reopening plan.

My message was simple: we meet the criteria and in the interim, we are going to pass legislation to allow for the safe reopening of many businesses in our community.

5/12/20 Senator Phillips-Hill on moving to the "yellow" phase

We also heard from leaders in our community, including York County Commissioner Ron Smith.

5/12/20 York County Commissioner Ron Smith

It is also important to note how hard this pandemic has been on our local non-profits. Angela Brockway of Front Porch Donations had a very powerful message, which you can watch below.

5/12/20 Angela Brockway of Front Porch Donations

We also heard from Hopewell Township Supervisor John O’Neill, who spoke about the importance of safely reopening our economy.

5/12/20 Hopewell Township's John O'Neill

You can watch the entire event, which was held at Gene Latta Ford in Hanover.

5/12/20 Move York and Adams Counties to the "yellow" phase

This event was a follow-up to a letter we sent to Governor Wolf last week outlining the metrics he and the Department of Health established and how York County has met the metrics to safely move into the next phase of the reopening process. You can read that letter here.

You did it: York County moves into the “yellow” phase – what it means

At 2 p.m. today, Governor Wolf announced that York County will enter the “yellow” phase of the reopening plan. As noted in the prior article, we have been advocating for York County to move into this important phase of the reopening process.

This move takes effect on Friday, May 22. The yellow phase of reopening will allow businesses with in-person operations to open under strict health guidelines and building safety orders to reduce the risk of infection. Telework must still continue where feasible. Schools closures and restrictions on congregate care, prison visits and large gatherings of more than 25 people will remain in place. Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities and entertainment venues will remain closed, and restaurants and bars will still be limited to carry-out and delivery only.

Here is the information from Governor Wolf’s website that outlines the different phases (red, yellow, green):

Yellow Phase

Work & Congregate Setting Restrictions

Telework Must Continue Where Feasible

Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders

Child Care Open Complying with Guidance

Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place

Schools Remain Closed for In-Person Instruction

Social Restrictions

Stay at Home Order Lifted for Aggressive Mitigation

Large Gatherings of More Than 25 Prohibited

In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable

Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities and Personal Care Services (such as gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons and other entities that provide massage therapy), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed

Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only

5/15/20 York County moves into "yellow" phase

For more information, please visit here.

Senate approves bills to support safe, responsible reopening of many employers

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline, it is important for businesses to begin reopening safely and responsibly in a way that protects employees and customers. I supported passage of a package of bills this week that would give county leaders a strong say in the process and allow more industries to operate under strict guidance from state and federal health experts.

One of these bills would give county governments the option to develop and implement individual plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under the bill, counties would have the authority to reopen some industries shuttered by the governor if they can do so safely.

Other bills in the package would authorize waivers for a number of businesses to operate under guidelines that have been proposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Industries included in the bills are: vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons, barber shops, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services, manufacturing operations, legal services and real estate sales activities, as well as the sale of prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premise consumption.

The package of bills would bring back 200,000 jobs across the state.

I spoke in support of one of the many measures included in the package, which would allow for the safe reopening of real estate in Pennsylvania. You can watch below.

5/13/20 – Reopening Pennsylvania Safely (HB 2412)

PA Senate COVID-19 hearings explore impacts on education, transportation and safety

This week, Senate committees continued to examine the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 in regards to education and transportation, as well as the ability to protect vulnerable populations while reopening various industries throughout the state.

A hearing of the Senate Education Committee on Monday focused on continuity of education for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the path forward for schools to reopen in the fall. Video and Testimony

On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee explored the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on transportation projects, as well as the cost of the shutdown to taxpayers. Video and Testimony

The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a joint hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony from medical experts and county officials about how to protect older Pennsylvanians and others at the highest risk from COVID-19 as counties begin the process of reopening. Video and Testimony

As a member of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I asked health experts about the likelihood of schools reopening this fall, which you can watch below.

VIDEO: 5/13/20 – Safety of Vulnerable Populations and Ability of Counties to Open Safely, Part 1

During a panel that featured county commissioners from various counties across the state, I asked about the collaboration they have had and information sharing with the Wolf Administration, which you can watch below.

VIDEO: 5/13/20 – Safety of Vulnerable Populations and Ability of Counties to Open Safely, Part 2

The hearings this week come on the heels of a series of four hearings last week that covered topics like Unemployment Compensation problems, efforts to protecting nursing home residents, Wine & Spirts store issues, and the governor’s plan to reopen the state. 

After Senate hearing, Department of Health reverses course on nursing home testing

In response to a Senate hearing last week that uncovered gross inadequacies in the Wolf Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health announced this week that it would ramp up testing of staff and residents of long-term care facilities. To date, more than two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have been residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

While the Department of Health’s new emphasis on protecting residents and staff of these facilities is a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done to ensure they get the resources and supplies they need.  

New funding provided to long-term care facilities, first responders

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been a hotbed of activity for COVID-19, and a Senate hearing last week found that these organizations have not been prioritized by the Wolf Administration for testing and Personal Protective Equipment. I voted this week on a bill that would provide critical financial support to long-term care facilities, as well as first responders who risk exposure to the virus every day.

The bill would dedicate an additional $507 million to nursing homes and other facilities and programs serving seniors. In addition, a new grant program totaling $31 million would be created to provide a one-time funding boost to fire and EMS companies during the pandemic. The money would come from Pennsylvania’s share of funding from the federal CARES Act.

PennDOT driver licenses and Photo IDs can use existing photos 

In order to limit the number of people who must visit PennDOT Photo License Centers, the department recently announced that they will use existing photos on file for customers who renew driver licenses and photo ID cards. All customers who renew their driver’s license or photo ID card online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo of that individual that exists in PennDOT’s system.

Individuals who completed a renewal form prior to May 10 will still receive a camera card in the mail and will need to have an updated photo taken. A list of PennDOT office locations that have been reopened is available at www.dmv.pa.gov. 

Additional federal funding available for schools 

Local education agencies can apply now for a share of $523.8 million in one-time emergency funds from the federal government to help schools respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The funding can be used for food service, professional training, technology purchases, sanitization and cleaning supplies, summer and after-school programs and mental health supports.

More information and applications are available here.

Business waiver list released, but Wolf Administration ignores subpoena for more info

Because Governor Wolf has repeatedly denied requests to release information about the secretive, arbitrary and inconsistent process of granting waivers to businesses that wished to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee issued a subpoena for this information on April 30.

Unfortunately, the Wolf Administration ignored this request, as well as its duty to the people of Pennsylvania to be open and transparent about the process that dictated which businesses could stay open and which businesses were forced to close.

The Department of Community and Economic Development released a list of 6,066 exemptions that were approved, but the list raised even more questions about the criteria used to determine which businesses were allowed to continue operating.

Earlier this week, the Senate asked the state’s Commonwealth Court to force Governor Wolf to release documents associated with mandated business closures related to COVID-19 public health emergency.

Appeals window extended for unemployment claimants who were denied benefits

Unemployment Compensation (UC) applicants who were denied benefits will have more time to appeal the decision if they believe the denial was incorrect. Under normal circumstances, appeals must be filed within 15 calendar days of the mailing date of the determination of eligibility. However, due to delays created by the COVID-19 pandemic, appeals can be filed indefinitely for determinations issued during the pandemic.

More information on filing appeals of a denial of UC benefits is available from the Department of Labor and Industry.

The Senate Labor and Industry Committee and the Senate Communications and Technology Committee held a joint hearing last week to dig deeper into the flaws in the UC system that have left approximately 30 percent of all applicants without a single payment during the entire public health emergency, which began in mid-March. Video and written testimony from the hearing are available online, and a short video with highlights from the hearing is available below.

VIDEO: Unemployment Compensation Issues

New guidance issued for non-urgent dental care

Dental care providers can now resume non-urgent procedures under new guidance from the Department of Health. Providers must comply with CDC guidance, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment, in order to provide care safely.

Dental providers are also advised to screen all patients for symptoms of COVID-19 before they arrive at the practice, and tele-dentistry should continue whenever possible. 

Updated guidelines available for veterinary practices

Veterinary services have continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with precautions in place to avoid spreading the virus. The Department of State recently shared new guidance for veterinary practices to continue to operate safely.

The new protocols are based on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s COVID-19 guidelines, which are available below:

Minimizing COVID-19 Exposure and Social Distancing in Veterinary Practice

Guidelines for Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

COVID -19: What Veterinarians Need to Know

 

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