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House, Senate Vote to End COVID-19 Emergency Declaration

To start getting Pennsylvania’s economy fully open, the state House and Senate have voted to fully terminate the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration that has resulted in a prolonged shutdown of the state’s businesses and done severe damage to the lives of millions of Pennsylvanians.

House Resolution 836 passed the House in a bipartisan vote of 121-81 just days after the governor extended his emergency declaration by another 90 days.

Although the governor is required by statute to issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster emergency upon passage of our concurrent resolution, the governor is refusing to follow the law. And now it’s headed to court, where I hope it is reviewed and resolved quickly.

With the governor still operating under the status quo – still imposing his red-yellow-green guidance and restrictions across the Commonwealth – business owners, unemployed workers and all Pennsylvanians have been put on hold with more questions than answers about what we do now. While we work to expeditiously get a court ruling on the issue, we are also assessing the various COVID-19-related regulatory changes, executive orders and other actions taken during the last three months to determine whether any legislative changes are necessary to protect people who are struggling financially as a result of the mitigation efforts.

No one wanted to get to this point. The House has tried many, many times to engage and work with Gov. Wolf  to create a path forward through this pandemic, but the governor has refused to work together and continues to act unilaterally, without regard for the General Assembly and the people we represent. You sent me to Harrisburg to make sure your voice is being heard, and I am doing everything I can to make that happen.

I encourage you to keep up with my real-time updates by following me on Facebook and visiting my legislative website for the most current information and resources. As we continue working to restore normalcy to our state, I remain dedicated to keeping you informed about our progress.

Valerie Gaydos

In this edition:
  •   House to Review Police, Public Safety Reforms, Call for Special Session
  •   Providing Relief to Small Businesses 
  •   Recognizing Our State’s EMS Providers
  •   Secretary Levine Testifies Before Health Committee 
  •   Preliminary Guidance Issued to Get Students Back to School
  •   House Calls for Report on 2020 Primary Election 
  •   Updated Guidance Issued for Dental Providers 
  •   House Advances Legislation to Combat Welfare Fraud  
  •   Further COVID-19 Updates 
House to Review Police, Public Safety Reforms, Call for Special Session

Earlier this week, I issued a statement on the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.

In response to concerns raised in communities across the Commonwealth, the House has also asked Gov. Tom Wolf to call a special session to address policing and public safety reforms in the Commonwealth.

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday will also begin its review of legislation designed to help restore trust between police officers and the communities they serve, as we recognize the safety of those officers and all citizens is jeopardized by the erosion of this trust.

House Bill 1841 aims to ensure the best police officer candidates are hired to serve our communities. While current law requires a thorough background investigation of both criminal history and past employment, the law does not require a previous employer to turn over this information, and many don’t out of concern for civil liability. This could leave critical gaps of knowledge, including disciplinary actions against the police officer candidate. To close these gaps, the bill would require an employer to disclose employment information and provide protections from civil liability for sharing information in good faith.

The committee also plans to take up House Bill 1910, which would require police officers and members of the minor judiciary to receive mandatory training to help recognize the early signs of child abuse and be fully aware of reporting requirements and the resources available for effective forensic interviewing of abuse victims. The committee will meet at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 15.
Providing Relief to Small Businesses

Click here to view video.

I’m very proud to report that my legislation to provide small business assistance loans through local, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) passed the House of Representatives this week with unanimous, bipartisan support.

House Bill 2369 would ensure our smallest and most vulnerable businesses have access to assistance during this difficult time. This bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Recognizing Our State’s EMS Providers

Click here to view video.

I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues for their unanimous support of my resolution (House Resolution 796) to recognize and honor the heroic efforts of our state’s emergency medical services (EMS) personnel.

As a former EMT with Valley Ambulance Authority in the 1980s, I know firsthand the dedication and commitment these selfless Pennsylvanians exhibit day in and day out. They don’t do it for recognition, but they deserve our recognition nonetheless.

To all first responders and especially our wonderful EMS providers, thank you!
Secretary Levine Testifies Before Health Committee
Click here to view video.

This week, the House Health Committee, of which I am a member, welcomed back Secretary Rachel Levine and other leaders in our state’s health care field to testify on the subject of Pennsylvania’s response to COVID-19.

One of the most chilling revelations to come out of this meeting was the lack of uniformity in the Department of Health’s reporting procedures, which implies that the Secretary is making decisions based on inconsistent data. This is totally unacceptable; I encourage you to watch the above video to see for yourself.

You can also watch the meeting in full by clicking here.
Preliminary Guidance Issued to Get Students Back to School

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released guidance to allow elementary and secondary schools in the state’s yellow and green phases to resume in-person instruction and activities beginning July 1 under a phased reopening approach that first requires schools to develop health and safety plans based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state Department of Health.

PDE also released guidance that allows postsecondary institutions and adult basic education programs, effective June 5, to begin in-person instruction immediately following the development of a health and safety plan outlining strategies for safe operations.

Full details of the guidance for K-12 and postsecondary schools are available here.
House Calls for Report on 2020 Primary Election

Working to ensure the integrity of the state’s elections, the House has approved legislation that would require the Department of State to issue a report on the 2020 primary election, which occurred on Tuesday, June 2.

House Bill 2502, which would require the report be issued within 60 days, is now on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. 

Last Tuesday’s primary was the first election operated under sweeping election reforms adopted as part of Act 77 of 2019. Those reforms included allowing no-excuse voting by mail for the first time. In light of COVID-19 concerns, approximately 1.8 million Pennsylvania voters applied for and were approved to vote by mail-in and absentee ballot, according to the Department of State. That is 17 times greater than the number of voters who applied for an absentee ballot for the last presidential primary in 2016.

Under the bill, the report would have to include data from each county in the Commonwealth, such as the number of applications for an absentee or mail-in ballot that were approved and received; the number of mail-in and absentee ballots that were voted by electors; the number of qualified electors voting by a provisional ballot; and more.
Updated Guidance Issued for Dental Providers

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released updated guidance for dental health care as part of the Commonwealth’s phased COVID-19 reopening plan.

This guidance allows dental health care providers the ability to safely provide oral health care, including routine cleanings. Dental providers should follow protocols outlined by the CDC for all procedures and ensure they have the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to support their patient volume. Providers should regularly check CDC guidance when providing care as recommendations and guidance could change frequently. They should also screen all patients for COVID-19 symptoms.

The guidance can be found here.

Further COVID-19 Updates

PPE Grant Program for Long-Term Care: The House unanimously approved legislation to better protect staff and residents at the state’s long-term care facilities. House Bill 2509 would create the Long-Term Care Facility Personal Protective Equipment Reimbursement Grant Program to help ensure these facilities can afford the equipment they need. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Loans for Small Business: The House unanimously approved the Job Enhancement Act, which would provide loans for businesses impacted by COVID-19 that may not have had access to other business assistance programs. House Bill 2369 would use federal CARES funding to provide two types of loans: one that targets short-term bridge financing to cover things like payroll, overhead, and other expenses; and another that is a long-term resiliency loan designed to helps business recover from this over the months and years to come. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Nursing Home Testing: The Wolf administration has issued a universal testing order to require all nursing homes to complete initial baseline testing for COVID-19 no later than July 24. The goal is to rapidly detect asymptomatic positive residents, manage their care and prevent further transmission of COVID-19 in these settings. The plan is to expand universal testing to all long-term care facilities. Read more here. The Department of Health also announced restrictions at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be extended at least 28 days after a county’s status turns green. More details about that are available here.

Small Business Grants: An additional $225 million in state grants, funded through the federal CARES Act, will soon be available to support small businesses that were impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis and the governor's business closure order. The funding is being distributed to the state’s 17 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which will then administer the funding in the form of grants through the following programs: Main Street Business Revitalization Program ($100 million); Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program ($100 million); and the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program ($25 million). Eligible businesses will be able to use the grants to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and transition to re-opening, and for technical assistance including training and guidance for business owners as they stabilize and relaunch their businesses. Click here to learn more.

PUA Payment Update: If you have a debit card issued to you by the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (UC) Office, your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits payments have resumed to those cards as of Tuesday, June 9. If you do not currently have a UC-issued debit card, you will be receiving one in the mail very soon. If you received a UC-issued debit card, but discarded it or lost it, you must contact U.S. Bank ReliaCard for a replacement at 888-233-5916. Your PUA benefit payments will switch from direct deposit to the UC-issued debit cards starting on or around June 16 until further notice. These changes are necessary to combat potential scam attempts and all Pennsylvania PUA claimants will receive deposits onto debit cards as their payment method until direct deposit payments resume.

Updated Guidance for Outdoor Recreation: The governor released updated guidance regarding the types of outdoor recreation that businesses may offer during the yellow and green phases of reopening, and how they may do so safely. The new guidance allows outdoor activities like mountain biking, outdoor miniature golf, motorsports venues, go carts, rock climbing, disc golf, paintball, horse riding, tennis, archery or shooting, and other similar facilities that conduct operations outdoors to resume operation in yellow phase counties. Businesses that operate these outdoor recreational activities may resume operations but may not operate indoor spaces for public or visitor use other than restrooms and ticketing and entry locations. Online ticketing and timed or staged entry are strongly encouraged to manage occupancy rates and physical distancing. These businesses must ensure that visitors practice social distancing and do not congregate at entry gates, kiosks, concession stands or similar locations. Read more here.

Preliminary Guidance for Sports: The governor also issued preliminary guidance for high school and recreational sports teams to resume voluntary workouts and other in-person activities in the state’s yellow and green phases. The guidance includes college and professional sports. The preliminary guidance is a starting point for summer sports teams; the guidance for fall, winter and spring sports seasons may be updated. Read more here.  Read more here.
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1009 Beaver Grade Road, Suite 220, Moon Township, PA 15108 | Phone: (412) 262-3780, Fax: (412) 262-3783
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Email: vgaydos@pahousegop.com