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Friday, May 22, 2020

Capitol Update by Rep. Martin Causer

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Capitol Update
Friday, May 22, 2020 The latest news from the State Capitol
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Busy Session Week as House Continues to Advance Policies to Reopen PA
Click here to view video.
Recognizing the growing strain on our families, communities and the economy, the House returned to session this week to continue our fight for the future of our state. While the governor has again chosen to veto some of our efforts rather than work with us, as your elected representative, it is important I continue to help advance policies that reflect your voices. I hear from so many of you about the struggles and frustrations you are facing as a result of this pandemic and prolonged mitigation efforts. We recognize the harm being done, and we are fighting for you.

House Attempts to Override Governor’s Veto of Plans to Reopen PA Safely

A day after Gov. Tom Wolf opted to veto three measures we championed to help provide more options to reopen the state, the House attempted an override vote on one of the bills.

House Bill 2388 would have allowed several types of businesses to reopen. Unfortunately, the vote that could have allowed people to get back to work and support themselves and their families failed to garner the two-thirds majority required. The vote was 115-87, 21 votes shy of the 136 votes required under the Constitution to override a veto.

Ironically, another bill the governor vetoed (House Bill 2412) would have helped reopen real estate services in the Commonwealth. Shortly after he announced the vetoes, the governor released new guidance to allow real estate to resume statewide anyway.

This is not the first time the governor has acted in response to actions of the House. The same occurred with the construction industry, online vehicle sales, reopening plans and more. We are helping to drive the agenda toward reopening and will continue to do so.

The third veto was to Senate Bill 327, which would have (among other things) given county officials the ability to develop their own emergency mitigation plans for business.

Long-Term Care Data Release Illustrates Need for Senior Protection Act

This week, we sent a bill to the Senate to help stop the tragic COVID-19 death rate occurring at the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences.

The Senior Protection Act (House Bill 2510) is a bipartisan initiative that aims to use regional health system collaboratives to better manage personnel, protocols, testing and expenditures to protect our vulnerable senior citizens who live in these facilities. The legislation was developed with the help of medical experts at UPMC with the goal of saving lives and giving families whose loved ones reside in these facilities peace of mind.

The urgent need for this legislation is well illustrated by the administration’s long-awaited release of data specific to each of the state’s long-term care facilities, available here. More than 3,000 of the state’s COVID-19 deaths – nearly 70% of the state’s fatalities – have occurred among these residents. This is unacceptable.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Early Distribution of Property Tax/Rent Rebate Funds Underway for Seniors, People with Disabilities

Legislation advanced by the House Republican Caucus that will allow qualified recipients of Property Tax/Rent Rebate assistance to start receiving their funds sooner has been signed into law by the governor.

Distribution of the rebates is now underway for those who have already filed for the rebate through the Department of Revenue; typically, distribution does not begin until July 1. People who qualify but have not yet applied for their rebates have until Dec. 31 to do so.

The program, which is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery, provides property tax or rent assistance to seniors age 65 and over, widows or widowers age 55, and over and people with disabilities age 18 and over who meet program income guidelines.
For more information or to apply for the 2019 program year, click here. My offices in Bradford (814-362-4400), Coudersport (814-274-9769) and Kane (814-837-0880) are available to assist with your application at no charge.

Unemployment Claims Exceed 2 Million, Extended Benefits Available

Well over 2.1 million Pennsylvanians – approximately one-third of the state’s entire workforce – have now filed for unemployment benefits, either through traditional unemployment or the special unemployment program for self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers.

While lawmakers work to help get our citizens back to work safely, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry this week launched the state’s Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to people who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation. The extended benefits were authorized in the federal CARES Act.

The department reports it has paid out nearly $7.4 billion in total unemployment benefits since mid-March.

A person is eligible for the extended benefits if they are unemployed between March 29 through Dec. 26, 2020; have exhausted regular state or federal benefits with the week ending July 6, 2019, or later; are currently not eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and are able and available to work and actively seeking work, except for COVID-19-related reasons including illness, quarantine or “stay-at-home” orders.

Important information about the extended benefits program has been emailed or mailed via the United States Postal Service to all individuals who potentially qualify for PEUC. For more information about this program, click here.

For complete information and the latest updates about unemployment, click here. 

Attention Farmers!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin accepting direct payment applications from agriculture producers who have suffered losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, May 26. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide up to $16 billion nationwide.

According to the USDA, dairy producers' total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter.

Program details and eligibility information is available here.

What’s New?

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced the statewide reopening of all All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trails in state forests. The opening date also applies to designated motorcycle trails in Bald Eagle State Forest, including a dual sport trail running through the Seven Mountains region and a trail for off-highway motorcycles on Shade Mountain. ATV riding is only permitted on designated trails in Pennsylvania state forests. State forest roads, state parks and state game lands are not open to ATV riding. The DCNR website has the locations of the 11 ATV trail systems on state forest lands. All ATVs in Pennsylvania (except ATVs used solely for business or agricultural purposes) need to be registered and titled. Due to COVID-19, all ATV registrations scheduled to expire through Sunday, May 31, have been extended until Tuesday, June 30. For guidelines to about riding safely during the pandemic, click here.  DCNR also announced additional openings of state park and forest facilities, mainly in counites advancing to the governor’s “yellow phase” of reopening. For details about the status of park and forest facilities, click here.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is reminding residents of assistance programs that may be available to them as they deal with COVID-19 and its impacts. Among the initiatives are the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program to help with residents at risk of losing access to electricity, natural gas or deliverable fuels; the Emergency Assistance Program to provide a one-time cash benefit to families who have experienced a significant income reduction or complete job loss; and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program to help feed children while schools are closed. To learn more, click here.

DHS also issued guidance this week for people needing Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) criminal history background checks as a condition of employment while counties are operating under stay-at-home orders and differing points of the reopening plan. Under Act 18 of 2020, individuals who are required to obtain an FBI background check are given additional time to meet this requirement if they are unable to complete their fingerprinting scan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, people are still strongly encouraged to get fingerprinted and obtain their FBI Criminal History Clearance as soon as they are able. Information about IdentoGO locations available to do fingerprinting, as well as other important information about this guidance, is available here. 


Anonymous said...

"the vote that could have allowed people to get back to work and support themselves and their families"

why in the hell is this even up for a "vote" read the constitution and the bill of rights. Politicians need to be put in check.

Overtaxed said...

I meet the age requirement; I am about 90% blind, and suffer mental and physical damage from a stroke.
But, I have too much honor to take money stolen from others, so a politician can look to receive his "double-plus-good".
I will not be APPLYING FOR YOUR PROFFERED, STOLEN MAMMON, even though we stand in danger of losing our home.

Anonymous said...

Most people remember your billboard when you were running for office said you were gonna fix the high property taxes.Mine have gone up every year since.So you were just saying that till you got elected.Now we never hear you say anything when seniors like me are taxed out of our homes of 40+years

Anonymous said...

So what the heck there is so many people around here from RED zones let’s talk about thatI guess we are going to get the Chinese virus up here even more. There should be something in place to keep them the hell out of here we don’t want them here. Bring this up for once

Anonymous said...

Loser! You didn't fight hard enough! Open up this state and stop this unconstitutional repression of men women and children. I don't trust you now at all. What make you any different from Wolf? You need to go too!

Anonymous said...

Hurry up and open to Hell with what happens to us. GOP Greed Over People.

Anonymous said...

Marty... The deaths in these nursing homes was public information for months. Is your office open next Monday to the public ?

Anonymous said...

I have seen a steady flow of New York state vehicles ever since this epidemic has started.

Anonymous said...

You will also see a steady stream of vacationers from South East Pennsylvania starting next weekend. That is what should concern people. This should put a lot of people out of their comfort zone and burst a few bubbles. Good luck, stay healthy and wear your mask.