In this email edition:
Senate Approves a Better Process for COVID-19 Mitigation
You have all heard the complaints: why is one employer allowed to remain open but another in the same industry forced to close? Why does the Governor refuse to share the list of open and closed employers with the public? Why is New Philadelphia (with 1,000 people) and Philadelphia (with 1.5 million people) being treated the same by the Secretary of Health? Why does Pennsylvania have the highest unemployment of any state at 16%?
Hundreds of you have asked for my help answering these questions. That is why this week I supported the passage of a pair of bills to provide clarity to the confusing process, and give our local communities a say in decisions that deeply impact their safety and well-being.
These bills, which were approved by the Senate, would create a better process for determining which employers and employees can continue to go to work, provide clarity on strategies to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees, and give county leaders a stronger voice in which health and safety measures should be implemented locally.
Instead of working with Pennsylvania employers and employees to develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania’s economy, Governor Wolf recently joined a select group of other northeastern governors in an agreement to open selected industries on a shared schedule. The plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states power to make decisions that could have dire effects on Pennsylvania residents. During our Senate session, I asked this question: what do bureaucrats in Connecticut or Rhode Island know about the needs of Tamaqua?
We must fix this broken system before many jobs disappear for good. We can do that by allowing local officials to assess what steps should be taken to best fit their community’s needs. While Philadelphia or other highly affected areas may need strict mitigation efforts, more rural areas should not be forced to operate under the same rules.
I hope that the Governor will come to the table and work in a bipartisan manner with the all of us to allow employees around the state to return to their jobs.
New Guidance and Training Available for Personal Care Home and Assisted Living Facilities
Educational support and new guidelines will help Pennsylvania’s more than 1,200 personal care homes and assisted living residences better protect patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Human Services offers guidance to keep residents and staff safe, including measures to address dining and scheduled activities, visitation, health screenings for staff, infection control procedures and more. Full guidance from the department is available here.
The Jewish Healthcare Foundation also offers weekly webinars on timely topics like infection control best practices and proper use of personal protective equipment. More information on these and other educational materials are available at www.tomorrowshealthcare.org.
COVID-19 Crisis Line Available for First Responders, Healthcare Workers
The increased stress caused by COVID-19 affects all Pennsylvanians, but our first responders and healthcare workers face even greater pressures in helping the state respond to this public health emergency. Megellan Health recently opened a free national crisis line for all first responders and healthcare professionals who are serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
The hotline is open 24 hours a day and connects callers directly to licensed mental health clinicians for support. The toll-free number is 1-800-327-7451 (TTY 711).
New Web Portal Features Info on Employment Opportunities During COVID-19 Business Closures
Although many businesses across the state remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, other employers in life-sustaining industries are hiring workers immediately for thousands of critical roles. A new web portal has been created to help connect displaced workers with new employment opportunities in home health care, shipping, distribution, manufacturing and other industries.
People seeking employment immediately can learn more about available job opportunities through PA CareerLink’s new online COVID-19 job portal. Life-sustaining businesses can feature job openings by submitting an online form here.
Department of Health Orders New COVID-19 Mitigation Measures, Including Mask Requirements
The Department of Health has issued a new order that requires all life-sustaining businesses to take new precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including requiring all customers and employees to wear masks beginning at 8 p.m. on Sunday. Businesses are mandated to deny entry to customers without a mask, but exceptions are included for people who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition.
The order also includes guidelines on social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, staggering of work starting and stopping times, limiting building access and occupancy and more. Additional protocols are also included if a business is exposed to an individual who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19. Health Department Order
CHIP Program Modified to Protect Children During COVID-19 Crisis
Several temporary changes to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) during the COVID-19 outbreak will ensure children have access to medical services and can be screened or receive treatment for the virus.
Under the changes, families will not be denied or removed from CHIP coverage for administrative or financial reasons, including being unable to provide proof of income. In addition, families will not be charged a copay for COVID-19 screening, testing or treatment.
Families are still responsible for copays for services not related to COVID-19, as well as premium payments, if applicable. More information is available here.
Information on Federal Economic Impact Checks Available
The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have begun delivering economic impact payments to most Americans as part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19. Although no action is needed from most taxpayers in order to receive the refund, some seniors and low-income individuals who do not file tax returns may need to take action to receive the money.
The IRS recently launched a new Get My Payment tool that allows people to check on the status of these payments and determine whether additional information is needed. More information is also available at www.IRS.gov/coronavirus.
Website visitors are reminded to avoid common scams that criminals use to get access to their personal information. More information on the tactics criminals use to steal personal data is available here.
Additional tools and information on economic impact payments are available here.
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