In this update:
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.
Thanking our nurses on the frontlines
The 28th Senatorial District is home to many hardworking nurses and, during this pandemic, we are exceptionally grateful for their service and sacrifices they have made during these unprecedented times.
As we continue to see hopeful trends in the declining number of new cases on a daily basis, we can credit the hardworking medical community for their continued commitment to York Countians, the Commonwealth and our nation to help our country recover as fast as possible.
Holding oversight public hearings and asking the questions you care about
Many aspects of the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 have been questioned and criticized since mitigation measures first began in Pennsylvania in March. The Senate is holding a series of hearings this week to examine many of the questions that have been raised over the past two months, including serious problems with the Unemployment Compensation system, inconsistencies in Governor Wolf’s plans to reopen Pennsylvania, difficulties with state Wine & Spirits store sales, and the unique challenges facing nursing homes during the public health emergency.
Senate committees dig deeper on unemployment compensation problems
The most frequent concerns I’ve heard from community residents over the past two months are problems with the state’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) system. When the Wolf Administration closed thousands of businesses as part of its plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians were forced into the Unemployment Compensation system, which was not at all prepared to handle that kind of volume.
This week, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee and Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which I chair, held a joint public hearing to examine the problems with the UC system that have created significant delays in assistance and extreme frustrations from claimants.
I made a point in my opening remarks to showcase the fact that everyone participating in our hearing was still getting paid – from lawmakers to department officials. The hearing is about the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who watched their weekly or biweekly paycheck vanish through no fault of their own. You can watch my comments below.
During my line of questioning with Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Oleksiak, I asked when the Department of Labor and Industry started to plan for the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of my biggest frustrations is that with the stroke of a pen, the governor can shut down businesses within three hours, but not consider how to handle the influx of newly unemployed Pennsylvanians who will be seeking assistance in their greatest time of need. This has been an ongoing problem with our state’s response to this pandemic – one action without anticipating the next action.
This department had since January to plan. It has received hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its computer system which goes back decades, as noted in the graphic below.
You can watch my Q&A below.
During a second round of questioning, I asked a panel consisting of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, i2M and Philadelphia Legal Assistance why our state’s total number of unemployment compensation claimants is the second-highest in the country, only behind California, while we are the fifth most populated state in the country. Shouldn’t our number of claimants be proportional to our population?
Although representatives of the Department of Labor and Industry testified that they are working to significantly increase staff available to help claimants, approximately 30 percent of people who have applied since the start of the pandemic have still not received a payment. This is unacceptable and must be rectified as soon as possible.
Read more about the hearing here.
Hearing examines concerns surrounding Governor Wolf’s delayed reopening plans
The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee took a closer look at the impact of Governor Wolf’s plan to reopen more Pennsylvania employers during a joint hearing with medical experts, local government officials and members of the Wolf Administration this week.
The hearing included discussion of topics including the reasons why some counties with low case counts remain in the red phase, while counties with higher counts have moved to the yellow phase; why the Wolf Administration’s guidelines are more restrictive than guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC); the time frame for moving more counties from red to yellow, and from yellow to green; testing and tracing capacity; and the Administration’s lack of collaboration with the General Assembly.
I am strongly urging the Wolf Administration to allow more counties to open – with proper safety protocols in place – as soon as possible.
Senate panel studies Liquor Control Board issues during COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has dealt with many serious issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closing of state stores, the impact of the decision on consumers and liquor licensees, and the roll-out of the e-commerce and curbside pick-up programs that are currently in place.
Some of my frustrations with the PLCB:The PLCB saw fit to close all of their retail operations to protect both employees and consumers from COVID-19.
However, at a board meeting last month, the PLCB refused to waive the requirement that there must be a separate cash register for the sale of beer or wine in convenience stores and grocery stores.
This puts customers and employees at risk who are trying to social distance and maintain CDC guidelines.
I am also disheartened that Governor Wolf allows the PLCB to offer curbside pickup when small businesses are not afforded that option. Why should the PLCB have this special privilege that is not offered to our locally owned business, like pet groomers as one example? Make it fair for all and available to all.
While I am not a member of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, you can see the hearing, which was conducted earlier today and streamed on my Facebook Page, in its entirety in the link below.
Challenges facing nursing homes to be explored at Senate hearing
Nursing homes have faced some incredibly challenging circumstances in caring for vulnerable patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As of Tuesday, 2,029 of Pennsylvania’s 3,012 COVID-19 deaths were associated with nursing homes and personal care homes.
On Thursday beginning at 10:30 a.m., the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will take a closer look at these challenges and explore solutions to ensure these facilities can better protect the health and safety of residents.
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