In this update:
New funding supports families, small businesses, nursing homes, first responders and more
Last week, the General Assembly approved a bipartisan package of bills to deliver funding to families and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including small businesses, nursing homes, first responders and affected employees. The funding comes from a portion of Pennsylvania’s share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Approximately two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have been residents of nursing homes and other long-term living facilities. More than $690 million in the package is dedicated to increased testing, infection control, personal protective equipment and other measures to support residents and staff.
An additional $225 million is directed to help small business recover from the damages caused by the pandemic and the governor’s shutdown orders. A portion of new funding directed to counties can be used for small business assistance as well.
The CARES package also provides important assistance to low- and middle–income families by investing $175 million through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to provide rent and mortgage assistance. The program would provide monthly mortgage assistance, up to $1,000, and rent assistance, up to $750, to those who lost their job or experienced a 30 percent or more loss in pay as a result of the coronavirus.
In addition, a new $50 million COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program would be created to provide grants to all companies that received funding through the Fire Company Grant Program and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program in January. Companies that received a grant will automatically receive the additional money, while companies that did not receive a grant will need to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Senate leaders offered more information on these and other programs funded by the CARES Act at a news conference last week.
Reminder: Polling places may have changed for Tuesday’s Election
As I noted in my last update: Pennsylvanians who are headed to the polls tomorrow should take a moment to make sure their polling place hasn’t been changed or relocated.
A number of locations have been moved or consolidated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Voters can find their polling place on the Department of State’s website by entering their county, city and street name, or by contacting their county board or bureau of elections.
More counties moving to “green” phase of reopening; York County not included
The first 18 counties in the state moved to the green phase of reopening on Friday, and 16 more will join them on June 5. The “green” phase of reopening allows all businesses to conduct in-person operations as long as the businesses follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Counties that already entered the “green” phase last Friday are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
Counties moving to the “green: phase on June 5 are: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
All other counties that are not already in the “yellow” phase will move to that phase on June 5.
As you know, I sent a letter to the governor outlining York Counties metrics using the same data-driven decisions the Wolf Administration claims to be following.
Unfortunately, the arbitrary process to choose which counties may enter into the “green” phase continues to frustrate many local businesses and neighbors seeking employment during this very difficult time. Here is a clip from a recent news conference that outlines how this process has been flawed and secretive, not to mention without the consent or advice of the General Assembly.
We can protect lives and livelihoods as they are not mutually exclusive goals.
Supporting the safe reopening of gyms and fitness centers
Over the weekend, I joined my colleagues Senators Doug Mastriano and Judy Ward, along with Representative Rob Kauffman at Alpha Fitness in Chambersburg to outline legislation I am sponsoring that would allow for the safe reopening of our local gyms and fitness centers.
You can watch my remarks below.
I have heard from several local gym owners and members of local gyms asking when they will be allowed to safely reopen and exercise. With the governor not providing any indication of a timeline (or metric), I have introduced legislation in the Senate to allow for fitness centers to safely reopen by adhering to Centers for Disease Control Guidelines.
You can read more about my legislation here.
Fighting to safely, responsibly and intelligently reopen our state’s economy
Wolf vetoes bill to protect small businesses, election integrity
While Governor Wolf was signing bills the Senate passed to create an interim budget and distribute additional federal money to vital community needs, he vetoed a bill that would have prevented state government from retaliating against small businesses who reopened with new safety measures before the governor felt it was safe to do so.
The bill would have protected small businesses from being cited or having their license revoked solely from violating the governor’s arbitrary, inconsistent shutdown orders.
The legislation also would have required the Department of State to submit a comprehensive report about the 2020 primary election, including a critical review of the new mail-in ballot system that was implemented this year.
Although the veto of this commonsense plan is extremely frustrating and disappointing, I will continue to fight to ensure more businesses can open safely under the guidance of state and national health experts as soon as possible.
New guidance available for liquor licensees
As more counties move to the green phase of reopening, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently provided new guidance for businesses with a liquor license in these areas. The guidance includes information on indoor seating, outdoor seating and social distancing, as well as information for breweries, distilleries and wineries.