Apr. 09, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampShort# The latest news from the State Capitol
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Thanks For Your Support and Dedication


We live in a special area made up of special people and special businesses. I want to thank everyone who has stepped up to help our community during this challenging time.

Kepner Scott Shoe Company from Orwigsburg, retooled its production to help manufacture fabric masks for the local community. The company is producing approximately 1,500 masks a week. Seamstresses can sew one mask in about five to seven minutes.

Their mask prototype was created using guidelines provided by local hospitals. Kepner Scott Shoe Company is sourcing local individuals who are in need of fabric masks.

In addition, highly-sought-after face shields are being 3D printed at the Cross trainer Mixed Reality studios inside the GoogleWorks Factory in Reading. Its mission is to get as much personal protective equipment to those who need it.

They're looking for companies or people with 3D printers to contact them to learn how they can help. Anyone with a 3D printer who is willing to participate is asked to email aschade@albright.edu.

Thank you to Kutztown University President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson for his support in providing 3D printers to the Berks PPE Network.
 
 
 
Coronavirus Update: Planning a Path Forward

The House returned to session this week (with many members participating remotely from their districts) to discuss a series of proposals to help move our Commonwealth toward recovery.

While we all must continue to do our part to prevent the spread of coronavirus – and we extend our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones and our prayers for healing to those afflicted with the virus – each day brings us a little closer to getting through the pandemic and returning to more normal activities.

On Tuesday, we adopted a bill that would create the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force. Encompassing all three branches of government, the task force would be charged with identifying immediate and urgent issues, providing a structure to catalog the Commonwealth’s response to the disaster emergency and creating a recovery plan. The recovery plan would be aimed at how state and local officials could expeditiously resume mission-critical functions, including the restoration of housing, transportation, education and other public services, and economic activity to levels equal to or better than their pre-disaster conditions.

Senate Bill 327 would also establish a debt reduction review process directing all state agencies responsible for any level of borrowing to examine existing debts and determine if refinancing with current interest rates would be in the best interest of taxpayers. The Commonwealth is facing a significant loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with interest rates dropping, this may be an opportunity to save some much-needed money for critical programs and services.

The bill is now pending consideration in the Senate. We are working on a variety of other ideas to help our state and our citizens recover from this unprecedented challenge. Please continue to read these email updates and follow me on Facebook for the latest news. You can also find a variety of resources on my website. Also, if you received this email because it was forwarded to you, please visit my click here to subscribe to receive regular updates.

While my offices are currently closed to walk-in visitors, we remain available by phone at 570-668-1240 or internet.
 
   
 
 
What’s New?

Last Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf announced he was urging all Pennsylvanians to wear masks when leaving their homes to make necessary trips to places such as the grocery store or pharmacy where social distancing (staying 6 feet apart from other people) is difficult to maintain. Wolf’s guidance mirrors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recently recommended people wear masks after studies have shown a significant number of people with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

The public should not use surgical or N95 masks that are needed by health care personnel. Instead the Department of Health has offered instructions on how to make your own mask here.

Also this week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), in consultation with the governor and secretary of Health, opened the state’s trout fishing season early, on Tuesday, April 7. Anglers are urged to stay close to home to fish, practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others (unless they are members of your household) and fish in areas where there aren’t a lot of other people. Read the full announcement and guidance from PFBC here.
 
 
 
COVID-19 Recap

Since the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the Commonwealth last month, I’ve been working to share important information to help keep you updated on impacts across the state and in our community. Given the vast amounts of information you’ve been receiving from my office, in the media and online, I wanted to take a moment to recap some key information and dates to remember.

Unemployment Compensation
More than 1 million Pennsylvanians have been forced to file for unemployment compensation (UC) as a result of efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As a result, it is taking longer to process claims and get questions answered. The Department of Labor and Industry encourages people to seek answers first at the agency’s website. If you can’t find what you need there, it is best to email the agency at uchelp@pa.gov and avoid a long wait on the phone. Keep a copy of the email as a record of your contact.

The federal CARES Act has authorized UC payments for people who are self-employed or working as private contractors. That application process must be handled separately and is still unavailable. I share your frustration and have asked the governor to at least offer a timeline of when this application will become available but have received no further information. I will share any updates on this as soon as they become available on my Facebook pageYou should continue to visit this page, as it is updated regularly by the department.
 
Assistance for Businesses
While we remain concerned for the health of our citizens, we are also aware of the devastating impact that business closures have had on business owners and employees. We all want our businesses to be able to reopen their doors as soon as it is possible and safe to do so, and many will need financial assistance. Here are a few resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA):
  
  •   Paycheck Protection Program: Provides loans to small businesses to help them continue to pay employees and cover other business expenses during the COVID-19 crisis. All loans have a 1% fixed interest rate, require no collateral or guarantor (meaning owners don’t need to put anything down to back the loan) and will be due in two years with no prepayment penalties or fees. Loan payments will also be deferred for six months; during that time, interest will accrue. Qualified entities include small businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees. More information is available here. 

  •   Economic Injury Disaster Loans/Emergency Economic Injury Grants: Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are low-interest loans of up to $2 million to be used toward expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, such as payroll and other operating expenses. Eligible businesses must have 500 or fewer employees. The grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private nonprofits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an EIDL. The advance does not need to be repaid and may be used to keep employees on payroll, pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments. More information is available here.  

  •   SBA Express Bridge Loans: Enables small businesses that currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. The funding may be used as a term loan or to bridge the gap while applying for a direct Economic Injury Disaster Loan. More information is available here.  

  •   SBA Debt Relief: Provides a financial reprieve to small businesses by automatically paying the principal, interest and fees of some current loans and microloans. More information is available here.  

Tax Deadlines Moved
The deadline for filing and paying both state and federal incomes taxes has been extended 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. Also, the deadline for seniors and people with disabilities to apply for the 2019 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program has been extended to Dec. 31.

Primary Election Moved to June 2
Originally scheduled for April 28, our primary election will now be held on Tuesday, June 2. You now have until May 18 to register to vote and until May 26 to sign up to vote by absentee or mail-in ballot. Click here for more information.

PennDOT Extends Expiration Dates
All PennDOT driver license centers, including their main center in Harrisburg, are closed. In light of this, PennDOT has extended expiration dates for various licenses and other documents. The following items that were scheduled to expire between March 16 and April 30 are now extended to May 31: Driver licenses, photo ID cards, learner's permits, commercial driver licenses, vehicle registrations, safety inspections, emissions inspections, and persons with disabilities parking placards. Some of these items can still be processed online at www.dmv.pa.gov.

Additionally, the federal government has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline by one year to Oct. 1, 2021.
 
 
 
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

For many young people in society school is a safe place. During this time of quarantine, reports of child abuse and neglect have plummeted. I would like to think that’s positive. But it’s most likely because our most vulnerable young people aren’t in their safe place and surrounded by mandated reporters. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Remember if you see abuse or neglect, say something. ChildLine remains open: 1-800-932-0313.
                                      
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202 East Broad Street, Tamaqua, PA 18252 | Phone: 570-668-1240
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314C Main Capitol, PO Box 202124, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2124 | Phone: 717-787-9029
Email: jknowles@pahousegop.com
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