In This Update:
June 15th Tele-Town Hall: An Important Update for our Communities
Join me on Monday, June 15th at 6:00 pm for a tele-town hall on important issues for our families and communities, including Pennsylvania’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and what’s next for our state.
I look forward to hearing your views and answering your questions. For more information and to register for this event, please click HERE.
Bill Would Require Legislative Approval of Extended Emergency Declarations
During a prolonged period of emergency, cooperation between all branches of government is crucial.
This week, the Senate approved a bill with bipartisan support to limit the length of a state emergency declaration to 30 days unless approved for a longer duration by the General Assembly. The bill would ensure collaboration during emergencies between the Governor and the Legislature and restore the system of checks and balances that our government is founded upon.
The need for the legislation has been highlighted by Governor Wolf’s refusal to work with the General Assembly throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency. The governor has used the disaster declaration for nearly 100 days to suspend state statutes, spend taxpayer dollars without legislative approval, and keep millions of Pennsylvanians from safely earning a living through his business shutdown orders.
The bill also would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to prohibit the denial of equal rights based on race or ethnicity. The change would bring the state Constitution into line with the equal protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
Because Senate Bill 1166 would require an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the bill must be passed by the Senate and House of Representatives in two consecutive legislative sessions and be approved by voters via referendum.
Unacceptable: COVID-19 Testing for Long-Term Care Facilities Not Required to be Completed until July 24
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been one of the hardest-hit populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a Senate hearing in April exposed gross inadequacies in how the Wolf Administration handled these facilities during the public health crisis, the administration pledged to require testing of all long-term care staff and residents.
However, new testing procedures and guidelines from the Department of Health do not require such testing until July 24. With more than 70% of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 deaths occurring in these locations, such a delay is unacceptable.
I supported passage of a new law two weeks ago that dedicated more than $690 million of Pennsylvania’s share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support long-term care facilities. The administration must fix its irresponsible mishandling of our most vulnerable citizens immediately.
The new Department of Health’s requirements will include a baseline test of residents and staff at all facilities and weekly testing at facilities that have a positive test. More information this available in a FAQ.
Future PUA Payments to be Paid by Debit Card
Benefit payments from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program were temporarily switched to paper checks last week in order to identify and reduce numerous instances of fraud. Beginning soon, all payments will be issued via US Bank ReliaCards. The special debit cards will be mailed this week to claimants who do not already have one.
Claimants can still receive a paper check in they specifically request one. These payments include the additional $600 a week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Details are available here about the timing of the change in payment method.
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