In This Update:
New Funding Supports Families, Small Businesses, Nursing Homes, First Responders and More
Last week, the General Assembly approved a bipartisan package of bills to deliver funding to families and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including small businesses, nursing homes, first responders and affected employees. The funding comes from a portion of Pennsylvania’s share of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Approximately two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have been residents of nursing homes and other long-term living facilities. More than $690 million in the package is dedicated to increased testing, infection control, personal protective equipment and other measures to support residents and staff.
An additional $225 million is directed to help small business recover from the damages caused by the pandemic and the governor’s shutdown orders. A portion of new funding directed to counties can be used for small business assistance as well.
The CARES package also provides important assistance to low- and middle–income families by investing $175 million through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to provide rent and mortgage assistance. The program would provide monthly mortgage assistance, up to $1,000, and rent assistance, up to $750, to those who lost their job or experienced a 30 percent or more loss in pay as a result of the coronavirus.
In addition, a new $50 million COVID-19 Crisis Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program would be created to provide grants to all companies that received funding through the Fire Company Grant Program and Emergency Medical Services Grant Program in January. Companies that received a grant will automatically receive the additional money, while companies that did not receive a grant will need to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Senate leaders offered more information on these and other programs funded by the CARES Act at a news conference last week.
More Counties Moving to Green Phase of Reopening
The first 18 counties in the state moved to the green phase of reopening on Friday, and 16 more will join them on June 5. The green phase of reopening allows all businesses to conduct in-person operations as long as the businesses follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Counties that already entered the green phase last Friday are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.
Counties moving to the green phase on June 5 are: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
All other counties that are not already in the yellow phase will move to that phase on June 5.
Wolf Vetoes Bill to Protect Small Businesses, Election Integrity
While Governor Wolf was signing bills the Senate passed to create an interim budget and distribute additional federal money to vital community needs, he vetoed a bill that would have prevented state government from retaliating against small businesses who reopened with new safety measures before the governor felt it was safe to do so.
The bill would have protected small businesses from being cited or having their license revoked solely from violating the governor’s arbitrary, inconsistent shutdown orders.
The legislation also would have required the Department of State to submit a comprehensive report about the 2020 primary election, including a critical review of the new mail-in ballot system that was implemented this year.
Although the veto of this commonsense plan is extremely frustrating and disappointing, I will continue to fight to ensure more businesses can open safely under the guidance of state and national health experts as soon as possible.
New Guidance Available for Liquor Licensees
As more counties move to the green phase of reopening, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board recently provided new guidance for businesses with a liquor license in these areas. The guidance includes information on indoor seating, outdoor seating and social distancing, as well as information for breweries, distilleries and wineries.
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