Senator Phillips-Hill E-Newsletter

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In this update:

  • New statistics detail economic devastation of Governor Wolf’s shutdown orders
  • York County Trail Towns enters second phase
  • Lawmakers call on Wolf to better protect nursing home residents
  • Pennsylvania’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrives
  • Applications available now for fire, EMS grants
  • Winter weather driving tips and information
  • Virtual sessions available to support older Pennsylvanians
  • Holiday office hours
  • Upcoming PennDOT projects

New statistics detail economic devastation of the Governor’s shutdown orders

Pennsylvania had some of the most severe restrictions on businesses in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, including closing many industries that were operating safely in other states. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently issued a report detailing the extent of the damage to each state’s economy.

Some of the highlights of the report include:

  • Pennsylvania had the second-highest percentage of businesses closed during the pandemic. Only Michigan closed a higher percentage of businesses.
  • Nearly one out of every three businesses in PA was forced to close its doors.
  • Despite the large number of business closures, Pennsylvania ranked outside the top 20 in terms of the percentage of businesses that received a loan or grant tied to payroll during the pandemic.

The more severe restrictions did not result in a corresponding boost to public health. The statistics show that Pennsylvania needs to change the way we respond to emergencies to embrace a collaborative approach – not vesting all of the decision-making power in a single individual. According to the governor’s own contact tracing data, only 1.08 percent of cases can be traced back to restaurants, which are completely banned from indoor dining through the rest of the year.

Despite having the second-highest percentage of businesses closed in the nation, Pennsylvania has the eighth highest average number of daily new COVID-19 cases per 100K people, according to the CDC.

The go-it-alone approach is not working.

The General Assembly approved a proposed constitutional amendment earlier this year that would limit the length of future emergency declarations and require legislative approval of the extension of any emergency declaration longer than 21 days. The bill is expected to be a priority for lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session, which begins next month. 

York County Trail Towns enters second phase 

I am very excited to see the York County Trail Towns enter into its second phase. The Trail Towns initiative is meant to tie in the Heritage Rail Trail with five communities along the trail: York, Seven Valleys, Glen Rock, Railroad, and New Freedom. This program will serve as an economic catalyst for these communities by tying in the local businesses and the recreational use of the trail.

According to the York County Economic Alliance, Trail Towns are communities adjacent to public trails that choose to embrace the trail as an opportunity for economic growth and improved quality of life.

Earlier this year, we announced Phase I of the Trail Towns initiative, which kicked off the effort with local business partners, community leaders and key stakeholders.

Last week, the YCEA announced Phase II of Trail Towns.

12/11/20 Trail Towns Phase II

This collaboration will improve this incredible community resource to make more recreational opportunities for families as well as create economic activity for our communities and small businesses along the Trail. 

You can read more about this effort here.

Lawmakers call on Governor to better protect nursing home residents 


Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 mortality rate among nursing home and long-term care residents is among the worst in the nation. Six of the top 10 nursing homes with the most COVID-19 deaths nationally are located in Pennsylvania, according to the New York Times. In addition, representatives of the nursing home industry sued the Commonwealth, saying that the state illegally withheld $150 million in federal funding.

The Department of Health issued guidance in March as part of its pandemic response that mandated that patients who tested positive for COVID-19 be returned to their long-term care facilities regardless of the provider’s ability to care for the patient and meet infection prevention mandates. The Department also is in the process of modifying its overall regulations for the industry – a process that began before the onset of COVID-19.

Lawmakers called on the Wolf Administration this week to work in collaboration with long-term care providers and the General Assembly to ensure any new regulations keep the promise to care for our most vulnerable state residents and avoid repeating the Administration’s mistakes during the pandemic.

Pennsylvania’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccine arrives

I have had several of our neighbors reach out to me seeking information on the COVID-19 vaccine, including when York Countians can expect to see the first FDA-approved vaccines arrive in our community.

This vaccine is not mandatory.  The information I am providing is to share with those who are interested in the vaccine and wish to know more about its impact, where to obtain the vaccine, along with other information.

Earlier this week, the Department of Health released an interim COVID-19 vaccination plan as Pennsylvania received the first batch of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer.

The plan lays out the vaccination allotment, ordering, distribution, storage, and monitoring processes.

The 68-page plan can be found here.

Of local significance, local WellSpan hospitals received batches of 975 doses, respectively, of the vaccine.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is coordinating with our healthcare partners to distribute the vaccine to health care workers and our most vulnerable. I will continue to share updates on the vaccine rollout in future email updates.

You can read more FAQs on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from the Department of Health here. 

Applications available now for fire, EMS grants

Fire companies, EMS organizations and rescue squads can apply now for funding through the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program. The program helps eligible organizations fund facility renovations and/or construction, equipment purchases, debt reduction and training. Funding can also be used to supplement operational expenses due to revenue losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant applications must be submitted to the Office of the State Fire Commissioner by January 25. 

Winter weather driving tips and information

Now that we have had our first snowstorm for this winter, here are some helpful links and tips:

PennDOT offers tips on winter driving as well as a Winter Driving Guide to help all motorists avoid dangers on our roadways.

If you must drive, you can also check weather alerts and traffic conditions by using the 511PA information system. 

Virtual sessions available to support older Pennsylvanians

Social isolation is one of the biggest threats to the physical and mental health of older Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania Council on Aging is offering a series of free virtual sessions to prevent social isolation and help Pennsylvania seniors focus on health issues.

To RSVP for an upcoming Strengthening Older Lives Online seminar, click here. Seniors can also access the information through a self-guided tour.

Holiday office hours

For planning purposes, below are our Senate office hours for the next two weeks.

Monday, December 21: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 22: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 23: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Thursday, December 24 (Christmas Eve): Closed

Friday, December 25 (Christmas Day): Closed

Monday, December 28: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, December 29: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 30: 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 31 (New Year’s Eve): Closed

Friday, January 1 (New Year’s Day): Closed

I hope you and your family have a joyous and merry Christmas and Happy New Year. (I will have updates over the next two weeks, but wanted to provide you with that update)

Our offices are open for in-person visitors.

Upcoming PennDOT projects

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

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