In This Update:
Senate Passes Interim State Budget and COVID-19 Relief Bills
As Pennsylvanians continue to deal with the damage caused by COVID-19 and Governor Wolf’s response to the crisis, the Senate began to set a course for recovery this week by passing an interim state budget and a $2.6 billion package of COVID-19 relief bills.
The $25.8 billion interim state budget funds all state agencies and departments for at least the next five months while lawmakers get a clearer picture of the state’s financial position. This includes how the state will respond to challenges going forward, how soon businesses reopen, and whether the state will receive any additional support from the federal government in the months ahead.
Although most agencies and departments are funded for five months, several line items are funded for the full year, including debt service and pension obligations, food support programs, and all levels of education from pre-kindergarten through college.
In addition to passing a short-term budget, lawmakers approved COVID-19 relief bills to distribute a portion of Pennsylvania’s federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for critical needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding is included for nursing homes and other long-term living facilities, small businesses, first responders, broadband access, early childhood education, services for individuals with an intellectual disability or autism, school districts, higher education, child care services, mortgage and rent assistance for affected workers, county programs and services, and other needs.
I look forward to sharing more details about this funding in the weeks ahead. You can check out my comments about the budget in the video below.
York County Will Receive $40 Million in Block Grant Funding
As part of the CARES Act funding distributed by lawmakers this week, York County will receive in excess of $40 million to meet the needs of local communities. The specific uses of the grant money will be determined by county leaders based on the needs in local communities instead of being guided by one-size-fits-all mandates from the state. Some of the eligible uses of the money include small business assistance, community assistance, behavioral health and substance abuse disorder services, nonprofit organizations, tourism industry assistance and broadband deployment.
The amount of funding is based on population, meaning that York County’s share is larger than 59 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The funding will play a critical role in helping local families and communities begin the process of recovering financially from this pandemic as quickly as possible.
Grant Accountability Bill Earns Committee Approval
Taxpayers deserve to know that every dollar invested in state grant programs is spent wisely. I introduced a bill in February to create a higher level of accountability for state grants, and I am pleased to report that the legislation earned the approval of the Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee this week. The bill would ensure stricter oversight of all state dollars allocated to state grants and require any surplus money to be returned to taxpayers.
The legislation comes in response to a 2017 audit that revealed a $10 million grant awarded by the state Department of Community and Economic Development resulted in a $2.5 million surplus – none of which was returned to state taxpayers. My legislation would prevent taxpayer dollars from being lost to this kind of waste and mismanagement.
You can learn more about my bill here and view my remarks about the bill in the video below.
Has Your Polling Place Moved for Tuesday’s Election?
Because some polling places may be consolidated or relocated due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, it is important for all voters to double-check where they should go to vote before they head out to cast their ballots in the primary election on Tuesday.
Voters can find their polling place on the Department of State’s website by entering their county, city and street name. The department also offers recommendations and additional information for voters.
A countywide map of polling places in York County is also available here.
New Guidance Available on Outdoor Dining, Pro Sports
Restaurants in the green and yellow phase of reopening could add dine-in services in outdoor seating areas under new restaurant industry guidance issued this week. Restaurants in green-phase counties are permitted to offer dine-in services both indoors and outdoors now, so long as social distancing and sanitation measures are in place. Dining venues in yellow-phase counties can begin offering outdoor dine-in services on June 5.
A new order from the Department of Health also details not only the new dining options available, but also additional guidelines for other businesses in counties in the green phase of reopening, including barber shops, salons, gyms and other services.
In addition, new guidance could allow professional sports to resume in counties in the green or yellow phase of reopening if teams develop a COVID-19 safety plan. Spectators would be prohibited on the interior or exterior of the venue property.
Frequently asked questions about the Wolf Administration’s business guidelines are available here.
PUA System Will Now Send Paper Checks to Claimants
The Department of Labor and Industry recently uncovered cases of attempted fraud in which scammers tried to use the personal information of victims to file for benefits and route payments into their own bank accounts. In response to these cases, claimants in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system will now receive benefits via paper checks delivered through the U.S. Postal Service instead of receiving payments by direct deposit.
Anyone who receives a paper check in the mail who did not file for PUA benefits should return the uncashed check to:
Department of Treasury Comptroller’s Office
More information on combatting unemployment fraud is available here.
Recently Expired Licenses Still Acceptable for Notary Identification
Pennsylvania driver’s licenses are often used as a form of identification for notaries who do not personally know a client. The Department of State recently clarified that any state driver’s license or photo identification that has expired since March 16 still qualifies for notary purposes.
PennDOT recently announced that the expiration date for all driver’s licenses and non-driver photo identification cards that expire between March 16 and June 30 has been extended until June 30.