In this update:
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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.
Letter to Governor Wolf requesting York County be moved into the “yellow” phase for reopening
Earlier today, Senators Regan, Mastriano, Arnold and Representatives Gillespie, Keefer, Jones, Saylor, Klunk, Grove and I sent a letter to Governor Wolf outlining the reasons York County should be moved into the “yellow” phase of the reopening.
Last night – without any warning or notice – Governor Wolf extended the stay-at-home order for counties in the “red” phase, including York, to June 4.
I will continue to find solutions to this very troubling situation. I will continue to ask the questions that are needed during these unprecedented times, as you will see below.
You can read our letter we sent to the governor here.
Week in Review: Senate hearings expose serious flaws in governor’s COVID-19 response
Senate committees are not only responsible for reviewing legislation, but also providing a critical layer of oversight of state agencies. That oversight has never been more important than during the COVID-19 pandemic as more questions arise about how the Wolf Administration has handled this crisis.
This week, Senate committees held a series of four hearings regarding different aspects of the crisis, including the slow roll-out of the reopening plan, the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who are still unable to access Unemployment Compensation payments, serious questions about how state-owned liquor stores have operated during the pandemic and the unique challenges faced by nursing homes.
Some of the major revelations from the hearings include:
Here was my opening statement where I made sure to let everyone know that the people participating in the hearing are still collecting a paycheck and that the hearing is about the 1.7 million people without a job, paycheck and many without unemployment compensation. You can watch below.
Finally, I asked why our state’s total number of claimants is the second highest in the country (behind California), when our population ranks us as the fifth largest state.
I wanted to know why the Department of Health felt it was appropriate to establish a new tattle portal for Pennsylvanians to play tattle-tale on other Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic, while our nursing homes account for 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths. I think the department’s focus should be on protecting the most vulnerable, not creating new portals to tattle on one another.
I also asked individuals representing nursing homes about a state contract that was awarded to a consultant that was supposedly brought on to assist in the state’s COVID-19 response. Watch below.
Video and testimony from all of the hearings is available here.
Three additional hearings have been scheduled for next week, including:
Committee members and testifiers will participate remotely, and all hearings will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com.
PUA applicants can file now for benefits
Contractors, gig workers, self-employed individuals and other Pennsylvanians who applied for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program can file now for weekly benefits.
The program provides benefits ranging from $195 to $572 for up to 39 weeks to qualifying individuals who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Payments will be backdated to January 27 or the first week the individual was unable to work due to COVID-19.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, claims and weekly certifications can be filed online at pua.benefits.uc.pa.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx. Weekly certifications must be filed to continue receiving payments.
More information on filing an initial claim and weekly certifications is available here.
Healthcare facilities, first responders and more could qualify for free N95 decontamination
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of a new decontamination system that allows N95 masks to be cleaned and safely reused. The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System is capable of decontaminating tens of thousands of N95 masks each day.
The program is available to hospitals, urgent care centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, cancer centers, pharmacies, dialysis centers, assisted living facilities, clinical laboratories, emergency medical services (EMS), and private practice/outpatient facilities. The service is free for eligible organizations; the only cost is shipping to and from the site.
State agencies and other organizations are distributing information about the new service to eligible organizations now. More details are available here.
Farms, farm markets eligible for free SNAP processing equipment
Farmers and farmers markets who would like to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from customers can now receive the technology needed for the program at no cost thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To receive the equipment, vendors must be an authorized SNAP retailer. Those needing authorization can apply through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Authorized vendors can contact Conduent, Pennsylvania’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) provider, at (888) 736-6328 to request the free wireless EBT processing equipment. The federal grant also covers set-up costs and one year of SNAP transaction fees.
Funding will support aging and disability resource centers
A statewide network that provides information and referral services to older adults and individuals with disabilities will receive additional funding to support operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant funding will support a variety of different services, including care transition services, food order and delivery, assistive technology and more.
The PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources is available to individuals, family members, caregivers and providers through a helpline at 1-800-753-8827.
Temporary food assistance program offers support for students
Families of students who receive free or reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program are eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic under a temporary new program.
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program provides SNAP funds to households through EBT cards issued to qualifying families. P-EBT will provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch (or approximately $5.70 per-child, per-day) for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children. The benefit will be calculated for the remainder of the school year, or about $370.50 per-child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began.
Families can apply online for the benefits at www.compass.state.pa.us
Stay safe – follow these tips
The Senate of Pennsylvania reconvenes for voting on Monday, May 11 at 2 p.m. You can watch session live and review our agenda at SenatorKristin.com/session.
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