In this email edition:
Shutdown Day- 72
Mr. Black Bear was NOT affected by the shutdown. But Beth, Maggie, Wolfie, and I respected the need for ‘social distancing’ because as you can see – he was on our deck!!
Primary Election- June 2nd!
Pennsylvania’s Primary will take place this Tuesday, June 2nd. Measures have been taken to ensure that voters and poll workers are not exposed to COVID-19. Some polling locations have been moved to areas that are more suited for social distancing and other mitigation measures. Visit the links below for both a list of the polling locations and a map of every polling site in Berks and Schuylkill Counties.
Berks County Polling Locations
Schuylkill County Polling Locations
Schuylkill County to Yellow on Friday and Berks to Follow Next Week
Today (May 29), Schuylkill County is moving from the “red phase” to the “yellow phase” as part of the Governor’s re-opening plan. Berks County will move into the “yellow phase” next Friday (June 5).
While this is just a start, the “yellow phase” will allow more local employers and employees to operate safely within the proper guidelines established by the CDC to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Empty yet Busy Halls
The hallways of the Capitol may be empty—guests and most staff are still not permitted to enter the building— but I’ve been very busy.
Earlier this week, I chaired a “Zoom” meeting of the Majority Policy Committee at Senator Camera Bartolotta‘s request which looked at the safe re-opening of Pennsylvania’s economy. We heard from medical experts and employers about how they have been coping with the Governor’s shut down, as well as their plans for recovery as regions move from the “red phase” to the “yellow phase.”
On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a 5-month interim budget with strong bipartisan support. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the fiscal status of Pennsylvania, but this budget will allow us to fund education without any cuts.
As a reminder, you can watch Senate session and committee meetings on my website at senatorargall.com.
COVID-19 Shutdown Hurt our Economy and Psyche
I participated in a bipartisan teleconference with other state and local elected officials from different regions of our country regarding the different potential strategies for safely reopening our states and communities. Maryland State Sen. Brian Feldman (D), Scottsdale, Arizona Major Jim Lane (R), and Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Linda Gorton (R) and I attended the teleconference. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a lot of fault lines – federal government versus state, Republicans versus Democrats.
These kind of conversations are important so we can learn from other states on what works and what does not. You can read more here at the link provided here.
PA National Guard Assisting at Berks Heim
The Berks County Commissioners announced they are partnering with the PA Department of Health and the CDC to provide a top to bottom assessment and potential recommendations to Berks Heim. The PA National Guard will be assisting the testing of all Berks Heim staff. The testing of residents will also occur with their approval or the approval of the resident’s family member or responsible party.
New Helpline Established for PUA Claimants
The Department of Labor and Industry recently opened a new phone line to help Pennsylvanians who have questions or concerns pertaining to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Claimants can call 855-284-8545 for assistance from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Claimants can also get help via email at UCPUA@pa.gov.
The new helpline is for PUA claimants only. Individual who have questions about the state’s regular Unemployment Compensation program can call 888-313-7284 or email UChelp@pa.gov.
License to Carry Firearms Permits Extended to July 31
Individuals who have a license to carry firearms permit that expired on or after March 19 will now have their permits extended until July 31. The extension will give Pennsylvanians additional time to renew permits since many county courthouses and sheriff’s offices are closed or limiting services during COVID-19.
More information from the Pennsylvania State Police on carrying firearms is available here.
New Guidelines Released for FBI Background Checks
Many individuals who are required to complete a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check as a condition of employment have run into problems due to a lack of available fingerprinting services during the COVID-19 pandemic. I supported a new law the Senate approved in April that extends the time period for workers to complete background checks.
New guidance from the Department of Human Services offers more information about mobile fingerprinting, treatment of new hires, special requirements for child care employees, renewals, recertification and more.
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