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3/27/2020
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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampShort# The latest news from the State Capitol
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Your Help is Appreciated!


Charles X Blocks is a small men’s store in our area. Sewing and tailoring is nothing new; they do it on a daily basis.

The company is making face masks to assist in the spread of the coronavirus. They have delivered more than 150 dozen to health care workers for their protection. I appreciate your efforts! Great job!
 
 
 
Coronavirus Update

If you’ve been following my social media, the local news media and daily briefings from the Wolf administration, you know the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread. For the latest case statistics, visit the Department of Health website here.

As state and federal health officials continue to remind us, it is important to stay calm and stay home if possible. It is also important to stay informed, so I’d like to provide a quick rundown of all the latest news you can use about mitigation orders, relief efforts, delays and cancellations, and more.
 
 
 
Important Information for Businesses

Businesses deemed to be “non-life-sustaining” by the Wolf administration are to remain closed until further notice. To review the administration’s guidelines about which businesses may continue to operate and which must close, click here.

To help businesses impacted by the spread of coronavirus and subsequent mitigation efforts, there are two loan programs available so far that may be of interest to you:

  •   The COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program provides loans of up to $100,000 for working capital with a 0% interest rate. Funds are limited and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified businesses employing 100 or fewer full-time employees. For more information, click here.

  •   The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. Businesses may obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired), or by emailin
disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can also be downloaded at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance. 
 
 
Unemployment Help

With so many businesses closing due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, many people find themselves unemployed and in need of help. This short tutorial offers some guidance on how to go about filing for unemployment. See below for more information on legislative actions related to the availability of unemployment compensation.
 
 
Session Update: Primary Election Moved; School Changes Approved

The House met in session this week to consider legislation necessary to address some of the impacts of the spread of coronavirus in the Commonwealth. As a result of a change made to the House rules last week, more than half of the members opted to participate virtually from their homes or district offices as I did.

We voted to delay the primary election until Tuesday, June 2.
This would give counties more time to prepare contingency plans for election day. One of the major challenges has been an inability to train poll workers, as well as concerns voiced by those poll workers, many of whom are senior citizens who tend to be more vulnerable to coronavirus. All of these changes are due to the coronavirus emergency and apply ONLY to the upcoming primary.

In addition to moving the date of the election, Senate Bill 422 would allow counties to consolidate polling places, as long as they provide notice of the changes (which won’t require court approval) at least 20 days before the election; provide public notification of all polling locations at least 15 days prior to the election; and locate polling places in buildings where malt or brewed beverages and liquors are served, as long as voting does not occur in a room where those beverages are dispensed nor requires voters to go through those rooms.

This will be the first election in which Pennsylvania voters have the opportunity to vote by mail-in ballot without an excuse (absentee ballots were permitted only for people who were unable to make it to their polling place on election day for very specific reasons).
 Voters interested in voting by mail for the June 2 primary should click here to learn more.            

We approved several changes to address ongoing school closures. The governor announced earlier this week schools would remain closed through AT LEAST April 6, with students tentatively scheduled to return to classes April 9.

First and foremost, the Senate Bill 751 would ensure school districts are making a “good faith effort” to develop a plan to offer continuing education during the closure of schools, with the plans to be developed locally by each district with guidance from the state Department of Education and technical assistance from the districts’ intermediate units. The plans would need to be submitted to the department and published on the school districts’ websites.

Regarding special education, the legislation would ask that notice be given to the parents of all special education students for a plan to ensure the students are receiving “free and appropriate public education.”

The bill would eliminate the 180-day instruction requirement on all public and non-public schools. It would allow the secretary of Education to increase the number of allowable flexible instruction days and waive the timeline regarding those days. Additionally, the bill would ensure there will be no loss of school subsidies, including for charter schools, and no staff member of any public school would see any less or more compensation than would have been received without the school closures.

We voted to ensure workers have access to the unemployment compensation (UC) they need.
House Bill 68 would enact several emergency measures, which would expire Jan. 1, 2021. Most notably, the bill would waive the waiting week requirement and job search/registration requirements for all UC claimants for the duration of the disaster emergency.

For employers, the bill would provide relief from charges for contributory employers who pay UC taxes and reimbursable employers (nonprofits and public employers) who elected to pay a solvency fee to the UC Trust Fund.

The measure also would offer more lenient repayment terms for reimbursable employers who did not pay the solvency fee by increasing the timeline for repayment from the current 30 days to 120 days. It would be up to the Department of Labor and Industry to make additional adjustments based on hardship requests from employers. No interest on late payments would accrue or be charged until Jan. 1, 2021.

We also authorized the transfer of up to $50 million to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services to meet patient and staff needs to respond to COVID-19.
House Bill 1232 would also provide temporary authorization to the Department of Revenue to extend the local filing for tax liabilities through July 15, 2020, and to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to extend the filing and payment deadlines for

local Earned Income Tax to coincide with the extension granted for federal and state income taxes.
 
 
 
Other Notable News Regarding COVID-19

Schools
In light of school closures, the Department of Education has canceled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year. This includes the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). For more information of interest to schools, students and families, click here. 

Taxes
The state (read more here) and federal (read more here) income tax filing deadlines have been changed to from April 15 to July 15. Taxpayers are still encouraged to file sooner rather than later, especially if they are expecting a refund. Online filings are able to be processed more quickly.

The deadline for seniors and people with disabilities to apply for the 2019 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended to Dec. 31. Click here for more information.

Transportation
The federal enforcement deadline for REAL ID has been extended by the Trump administration. This extension means you will continue to be able to board a domestic flight or enter a secure federal building with a standard driver's license beyond Oct. 1. A new deadline has not yet been set.

After initially closing all of its rest areas, including for parking, PennDOT has now reopened the majority of its facilities in response to feedback from truckers, lawmakers and others.  For a list of open locations, click here. 

On the Pennsylvania Turnpike, cash and credit cards are no longer being accepted on the mainline ticket system. All tolls are being assessed electronically via E-ZPass or the PA Turnpike TOLL BY PLATE program as vehicles travel at posted speed limits through tolling points. Service plazas along the turnpike are offering limited services. Click here for details.

All driver license and photo centers are currently closed. You are encouraged to visit the driver and vehicle services website 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process a variety of transactions.

Recreation
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has adjusted its trout season schedule and will host just one statewide mentored youth fishing day on April 11 and a statewide opening day on April 18. Also, to reduce unnecessary travel and social contact amid health concerns, anglers and boaters may display their fishing license, launch permit or boat registration digitally on a phone or other mobile device as proof of possession. Click here for more information.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has closed all facilities at state parks and forests through at least April 30. This includes visitor centers; restrooms; campgrounds, cabins and other overnight accommodations; and public programs and events

Health
While much attention is being paid to the physical illness that can be caused by coronavirus, the Department of Health is also reminding people to take care of their emotional health. Residents are encouraged to practice self-care, read only news from reliable sources, take breaks from the news and focus on things you can control, like having good hygiene. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, contact the state’s crisis hotline by texting PA to 741-741.

In order to support the ability of nurses, physician assistants and others to treat patients during the current public health emergency, the Department of State has suspended a number of license requirements. Click here for details.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has announced that the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program will offer refill extensions for older adults. PACE will now reimburse refills even if the program participants haven’t used 75% of their supply, which was a prior requirement for refills to be reimbursed under the program. Read more here.

To ensure access to medications, the Department of State is allowing out-of-state pharmacies to ship goods into Pennsylvania under some circumstances, and temporary licensure will be granted to pharmacies in other states so they can provide goods and services to Pennsylvanians for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Also, pharmacists will be permitted to provide remote supervision by telephone or computer to pharmacy technicians and interns, ensuring these employees can continue to dispense medications without a pharmacist physically on the premises. Read more here. 
 
 
District Office Reminder

In the interest of protecting public health, my offices in Tamaqua and Hamburg are temporarily closed to walk-in service. However, we remain ready to assist via phone, email and internet.

We made this decision based on recommendations offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to help prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. We encourage you to reach out for assistance with any state-related issues by contacting us online at www.RepKnowles.com or by calling 570-668-1240.

To stay informed, please follow me on social media  and visit the Coronavirus Information page on my website for links to important resources, including the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is available here.


 
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Office Locations
202 East Broad Street, Tamaqua, PA 18252 | Phone: 570-668-1240
61 North Third Street, Hamburg, PA 19526-1501 | Phone: 610-562-3411
314C Main Capitol, PO Box 202124, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2124 | Phone: 717-787-9029
Email: jknowles@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614