Senator Phillips-Hill E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • Governor Wolf “recommends” high school sports pause until January 2021
  • Removing outdated regulations could spur additional resources to connect neighbors to high-speed internet
  • New mental health resources available for Fire, EMS personnel
  • Workshop discussion explores challenges facing rural hospitals
  • New guide available for PUA claimants
  • Info available on Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness
  • Rail freight grants now available
  • Upcoming PennDOT projects

Governor Wolf “recommends” high school sports pause until January 2021

Late Thursday afternoon, Governor Wolf ended his news conference by saying that he and Secretary Rivera of the Department of Education are “recommending” that all pre-K – 12 athletics be on hold until January 2021. After making the comment, he walked away from the podium without fielding any questions from the media present.

8/6/20 - Fall Sports

Today, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association released the following statement regarding the governor’s announcement:

I have heard from parents, student athletes, coaches and local school district officials expressing their dismay and frustration with yet another last-minute shift in position. Representative Seth Grove filed two Right-to-Know requests with the Department of Health and the Department of Education requesting the data and models used to reach this latest recommendation.

Similar to reopening in-person instruction this fall: These decisions should be left up to the local school districts to determine the best course of action for their students, teachers, administrators, parents and community.

Removing outdated regulations could spur additional resources to connect neighbors to high-speed internet 

An outdated regulation that requires every home to be connected to telephone service is holding back telephone companies (telcos) from connecting more homes to high-speed Internet.

I spoke with Dennis Owens of ABC 27 about this issue and about my bill to close our digital divide by allowing telcos to deploy high-speed Internet.

You can watch my interview here.

New mental health resources available for Fire, EMS personnel 

Fire and EMS personnel often face distressing situations as part of the job, and their resources have been stretched further than ever before due to the added costs and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new law that the Senate passed last month makes new mental health resources available to first responders to ensure these critical members of our communities can cope with the stress related to their life-saving work.

Act 69 of 2020 ensures new resources will be available to first responders, including a new critical incident stress management program, peer-to-peer support, a toll-free helpline exclusively for first responders, and trauma and suicide awareness training.

In addition, four new courses are now available through the State Fire Commissioner’s online training portal. The courses cover topics such as coping with a bad call, supporting fellow first responders and managing job responsibilities during a pandemic.

Workshop discussion explores challenges facing rural hospitals 

Rural health systems were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them were forced to take drastic steps like laying off employees and cancelling elective procedures and health screenings in order to make ends meet. This week, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion with health experts and county officials to learn more about the new challenges facing rural hospitals.

Some of the topics of conversation included:

  • The role that rural hospitals play in supporting local economies.
  • Financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19.
  • The cost of personal protective equipment and difficulties in maintaining an adequate supply.
  • Impacts on patient care if local hospitals are forced to close.
  • Patient care challenges resulting from rapidly changing state guidance for health care facilities.
  • The need for clear communications from state agencies.
  • How increased broadband capabilities could improve patient care.

You can watch my discussion during the public workshop below.

8/3/20 – Challenges Facing PA’s Rural Hospitals

You can review all information from this workshop, including video of the event, here.

New guide available for PUA claimants 

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides weekly benefits to contractors, gig workers, self-employed individuals and other Pennsylvanians who do not normally qualify for the state’s Unemployment Compensation system. To help claimants better navigate the system, the Department of Labor and Industry recently created a new guide listing all PUA error codes and what they mean.

Information was also added to the PUA website about when claimants can expect payments based on when they file their claim. Benefit weeks start on Sundays, so that is the first opportunity to file weekly claims. In general, payments are made 2-4 days after filing unless there is an eligibility issue.

Info available on Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently created a Frequently Asked Questions page on its website to provide information to small business owners who have received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The FAQ helps borrowers understand what they need to do to ensure the loans are forgiven.

Loans can be forgiven for borrowers who meet certain criteria, including if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. At least 60 percent of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll.

The program reopened on July 6 and will continue accepting applications until August 8.

Rail freight grants now available

Pennsylvania has one of the strongest railroad systems in the nation, and this network has kept goods moving efficiently throughout the pandemic. Grants are available now to ensure that network is maintained.

Applications for the Rail Freight Assistance Program are open now through August 29. 

Upcoming PennDOT projects 

PennDOT shared with me the upcoming maintenance project list for next week. You can view that below.

PennDOT will again be conducting work at the Mt. Rose Interchange this weekend. Details can be found here.

PennDOT will also be replacing a span along Route 616 in North Codorus Township. Route 616 west of Seven Valleys will be closed for up to 64 days. The project is set to begin next Thursday (August 13).

Details can be found here

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