In this issue:
In Times of Crisis, Republicans and Democrats Must Work Together
Have you seen these comments? While it may sound like “fake news”, it’s real:
California Governor Gavin Newsome (D) was among the first to praise President Trump’s leadership.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has also been very complimentary of President Trump, saying that he has been “fully engaged in trying to help New York,” and “very creative and energetic.’ Cuomo added that “We’re fighting the same war…we’re in the same trench.”
Perhaps more stunning were the words of Rep. Ilan Omar, one of the president’s harshest critics. Responding to President Trump’s recent announcement of executive actions, she tweeted, “Politics aside, this is incredible and the right response in this critical time.”
In this time of crisis, we must rally together as Americans first – not as Republicans, Democrats or Independents. Former Lt. Gov Mark Singel (Democrat) and Charlie Gerow (Republican) both wrote Op-Eds calling for national unity, which I would highly recommend you all read. They both put aside their partisan differences because they recognize that reaching across party lines and working together is imperative as we all continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pennsylvania Primary Moved to June 2
In order to ensure everyone’s safety for the upcoming Pennsylvania Primary, the General Assembly voted to move the primary to June 2nd. Every Pennsylvanian should have the opportunity to participate in our election process if they so wish. This measure will help all residents feel more comfortable in the voting booth, as well as ensuring that our volunteers who work at the polls are not putting themselves in harm’s way.
School Closures Extended Through at Least April 6; Students Could Return April 9
The Department of Education (PDE) has announced that all schools in the Commonwealth will remain closed through April 6. Under this timeline, students could return to school on April 9. PDE will keep a close eye on the spread of COVID-19 and could decide to extend this closure further if they believe opening schools could put students and their families at risk for exposure.
More details on the announcement are available here.
PDE is also canceling standardized testing for students in career and technical education (CTE) programs for the 2019-20 school year. More details on the cancelations are available here.
Legislation to Address the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Senate convened remotely on Wednesday to pass several bills to keep Pennsylvania moving forward during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The coronavirus response measures include:
For the first time in history, the PA Senate voted online during a legislative session rather than travelling to Harrisburg. I cast my votes while sitting in my Mahanoy City office. You can read more about it here: https://www.penncapital-star.com/government-politics/in-new-normal-pa-house-and-senate-lawmakers-vote-remotely-to-send-covid-19-relief-bills-to-wolfs-desk/
Low-Interest Loan Program to Help Small Businesses
On March 19, the Governor—without the approval of the State House and Senate—decided that non-life sustaining businesses across Pennsylvania needed to close their physical locations. State Police officers have begun the enforcement of this order and those businesses found to be in violation could receive fines or lose their business licenses.
Though we should all be concerned about the spread of COVID -19, we must also remember that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. In an effort to help provide some relief to our small business that have closed, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) is offering loans to small businesses of 100 or less employees.
If you are interested in applying for a loan and are a Schuylkill County-based small business, please email Frank Zukas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a Berks County-based small business, please email Ed Swoyer at email@example.com.
Additional loans to businesses affected by the ongoing epidemic are also available through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. These loans help businesses that are unable to meet their financial obligations during an emergency situation. Loan amounts are calculated based on the actual economic injury and a company’s financial needs.
For more information on these loans, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Application Deadline Extended to End of Year
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program’s (PTRR) deadline has been extended from its original date (June 30) to the end of the year. This move was made to ensure that Pennsylvanians in need are not required to travel or visit any government offices while COVID-19 mitigation efforts are in effect.
This program is very impactful to residents across the state. I thank the Department of Revenue for pushing the deadline back to give Pennsylvanians as much time as they need to apply.
Applicants may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online at www.revenue.pa.gov/ by calling, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.
State Tax Filing Deadline Extended to July 15
The deadline to file Pennsylvania personal income tax returns with the Department of Revenue for 2019 has been extended by 90 days to July 15.
The new deadline mirrors a similar decision made by the IRS, which extended the federal tax-filing deadline by 90 days earlier this week. You can read more about it here.
Taxpayers are encouraged to file returns electronically to enable the Department of Revenue to process returns while state offices are closed. Tax returns can be filed for free online through the PAdirectfile system.
Free tax forms and instructions are also available at www.revenue.pa.gov.
PA Supreme Court dismisses challenge to Gov. Wolf’s shutdown order
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged Gov. Tom Wolf’s authority to shutter businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining,” paving the way for enforcement to begin Monday.
Without comment, a majority of justices on the state’s high court denied petitions by a gun shop, a gun purchaser, and a law firm to have Wolf’s shutdown order thrown out. The lawsuit claimed Wolf’s edict violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms and other constitutional rights.
You can read more about this here.
Helping with Donations of Personal Protective Equipment
Congressman Dan Meuser and I facilitated a significant donation of personal protective equipment to the St. Luke’s Miners Campus to assist healthcare workers as they treat patients exposed to COVID-19. The Rich Family of Companies and Olympus Power came together to donate a total of 370 masks, 181 protective suits, and 3,310 pair of gloves to the hospital.
You can read more about it here.
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