In this email edition:
PA Senate Set to Legislate Safe Reopening of PA Economy
The Senate will return to session this week to consider legislation that will provide a safe path for reopening Pennsylvania’s economy.
I have said continuously that I am willing to work with the Governor to ensure that workers are able to get back to their livelihoods while also ensuring that their health will not be compromised from the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, Governor Wolf has NOT been open and transparent about his waiver process. 25,000 employers have submitted waivers so their employees can continue to earn a paycheck in Pennsylvania. Only 4,000 were approved and we’ve seen some companies within the same industry able to stay open while others can’t. This is simply not acceptable.
We need to get Pennsylvanians back to work so they can provide for themselves and their families. No employee should lose their income due to an unfair, hidden decision, made without due process or transparency.
Governor Entering Multi-state Pact to Discuss Reopening Economy
Governor Wolf, without consulting the legislature, announced that Pennsylvania will join a multi-state pact with New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to develop plans on how to end the stay-at-home orders.
The spokeswoman for the State Senate said it best: “Given that the governor is already implementing a one-size-fits-all COVID-19 response for Pennsylvania, we are leery about having New York City and Newark dictate how we safety return to life in places like Huntingdon and Lewistown. We don’t think it was a coincidence that the Republican governors of Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio were not included in this plan despite everyone emphasizing how important a regional approach is.”
This pact totally ignores the state legislature which represents YOU. We must keep our communities safe while also helping workers get back to their jobs. The decision of how to successfully implement plans to re-open our economy should rest with the legislature of Pennsylvania and not with governors from other states.
Governor’s Shutdown Costs the State Billions
With much of Pennsylvania’s economy shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state government is set to lose a significant amount of tax revenue. Projections have estimated that the cost to the state will be nearly $2.7 billion. The director of the Independent Fiscal Office said “Taxpayers should be prepared for a significant reduction in state resources, what we’re seeing, there’s just no precedent for it.”
As long as Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide shutdown order remains in place, the tax revenue Pennsylvania relies on to balance its budget and pay for essential services will fall far short of pre-pandemic estimates.
“This is a 10 to 12% drop in revenue capacity, and accommodating this within our recurring spending commitments is an enormous challenge,” said Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This gives us at least a snapshot of something to look at, but we’ll need to see more in terms of actual results before we can make decisions on recurring budget obligations.”
Benefits Available Soon for Contractors, Self-Employed Workers
The CARES Act temporarily makes benefits available to other individuals who are not normally eligible, such as people who are self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers. However, these individuals cannot apply through the current unemployment system; the federal government requires the state to create a new platform to provide these benefits.
The Department of Labor and Industry expects to have the new system up and running within the next two weeks. Claimants will be able to receive backdated payments to January 27 or the first week that they were unable to work due to the coronavirus, whichever is later. More information about the new program is available on the department’s frequently asked questions page.
Information Available for Claimants Struggling With Unemployment Compensation System
The spike in the number of applicants in the Unemployment Compensation system has created longer response times and a large backlog of cases that sometimes take weeks to resolve. A number of services are available online to help resolve some questions regarding the system.
Claimants who have filed an initial claim in mid-March who have not received a PIN should contact the Department of Labor and Industry as soon as possible. The same guidance applies to individuals who tried to re-open an existing claim in mid-March and are still listed as “inactive” when they try to file a bi-weekly claim.
If you meet one of these criteria or have other questions or problems that are not covered on the department’s website, please feel free to contact me for assistance.
Expanded Unemployment Benefit Payments Begin This Week
The federal CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits of $600 per week to eligible claimants. These payments are in addition to regular benefits provided through the unemployment system. The Department of Labor and Industry reports that these payments should arrive by Wednesday of this week for eligible claimants who received their regular payments for the week ending April 4.
Claimants who have not yet received a payment will receive the extra $600 per week in the days following receipt of their first payment. An additional 13 weeks of benefits will be available to claimants who have been affected by the pandemic.
More information on the state’s efforts to implement the provisions of the CARES Act is available on a new website created by the Department of Labor and Industry.
New Coronavirus Information for Seniors
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has launched an online COVID-19 resource guide to help seniors easily find useful information related to their health, safety and well-being.
The guide is housed on the department’s website under “COVID-19 Resource Guide for Older Adults” and provides older adults, their families and caregivers with information on a variety of subjects, including meals, prescriptions, protective services, pandemic-related scams, and how to stay active and connected.
In addition to the COVID-19 resource guide, the department has offered guidance for aging services to help meet the needs of older Pennsylvanians while maintaining safety. This guidance, along with all of the programs that the Department of Aging provides, can be found here.
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