Hello! Thank you for subscribing to my E-newsletter. I am honored to serve the 23rd Senate District and look forward to working with you toward building a better future for Pennsylvania!
This E-newsletter serves to keep you updated on what is happening throughout Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties and what I am doing as your state senator in Harrisburg. I hope that you will find this E-newsletter helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
April 8, 2020
Passover and Easter Traditions with Social Distancing: A New Way to Celebrate
Passover and Easter celebrations will be different this year with religious institutions closed to congregations, restaurants closed to customers and neighborhood Easter egg hunts canceled because of COVID-19.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy these holidays and the traditions that typically accompany them. Religious services are being offered via livestream and many area restaurants are offering takeout meals.
All of us are adjusting our old routines and creating new ones to figure out what works during this strange time of COVID-19, and the same goes for celebrating holidays. Whatever it is you and your families decide during this time, the important thing is that you stay healthy and safe, while remembering the advice of the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health.
I wish you and your families a Happy Easter and Passover.
Unemployment Compensation, Business Assistance Highlights of Monday’s Telephone Town Hall
During Monday’s telephone town hall, I was joined by Dr. Rutul Dalal, Medical Director, Infectious Disease; and Chairman, Infection Prevention and Control, UPMC Susquehanna; Jason Fink, President and CEO, Williamsport / Lycoming Chamber of Commerce; and Eric Kratz, Executive Director, PA Senate Labor and Industry Committee.
We answered many questions directly from area residents about their health and safety and the immediate economic impacts of COVID-19 on unemployed and self-employed individuals and small businesses, as well as the resources currently available to them. [Resource Guide for Municipalities, Nonprofits & Community Organizations]
More than 6,400 residents from across Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Union counties tuned-in for all or some part of the discussion. Click here to listen to a full audio recap of the event. I’d like to thank those who participated in the call, and I continue to encourage anyone experiencing issues with unemployment compensation, or any other state agency to reach out to my office. ICYMI: For related stories, visit….
Towanda Daily Review: “Business, unemployment top COVID-19 concerns during Yaw tele-town hall”
Milton Standard-Journal: “Yaw holds telephone town hall”
Williamsport Sun-Gazette: “Officials respond to issues related to COVID-19”
Update from the Appropriations Committee
As could be predicted, General Fund revenue collections for the month of March were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations as of 8 p.m. March 19 to slow the spread of COVID-19. Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close physical locations are now in effect. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has many of its offices closed, so the processing of tax returns and payments is being delayed. These actions are having a tremendous impact on Pennsylvania’s economy, and tax collections will be impaired for the remainder of the fiscal year. Coming out of February, the General Fund surplus was nearly $250 million, but it has quickly shifted to a deficit of $45.6 million for the fiscal year-to-date.
Going forward, it is likely that most, if not all, General Fund revenue sources will endure significant shortfalls.
State Senate Acts on COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Local Governments
We are adapting to a new way of doing businesses. On Tuesday, the state Senate took another important step to aid local governments as they too, have responsibilities, to their taxpayers. These bills will grant them more flexibility as their work continues during this time.
Senate Bill 841 would take a number of steps to ensure local governments can continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would:
To read more, click here.
In the News….
Pennsylvania’s UC system continues to experience an extremely high volume of communications both via phone and online and is encouraging the utilization of its online services when possible. The Dept. of Labor & Industry has reported 1,179,326 unemployment compensation claims filed since 3/15/20.
Small business owners across the 23rd Senate District have a lot of questions with the federal Paycheck Protection Plan. Here’s the most recent FAQ from the U.S. Treasury and Small Business Administration.
Legislators in the House and Senate are working on a measure that would allow PA’s businesses to reopen, nullifying Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to close businesses that aren’t “life sustaining.” The legislation would apply to any type of businesses conforming with a federal list of essential critical infrastructure. It is not certain when the bill will receive a vote. [ Click here to read my April 1 letter to Governor Wolf on business closures ]
Trout season opens early in PA; PFBC says to practice social distancing….. Effective 8AM, Tuesday, April 7th, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, in consultation with the Office of the Governor and other state agencies opened the statewide 2020 trout season. The decision to open trout season immediately is intended to discourage concentrated gatherings of people that may have occurred on the traditional opening day, to minimize intrastate and interstate travel, and to reduce the threat of illegal poaching in waters that have already been stocked.
Milk demand spoils during COVID epidemic…..With restaurants, schools, and other industries closing nationwide due to coronavirus concerns, farmers across the country, including right here in PA, are losing major revenue streams. The Center for Dairy Excellence also noted that protecting employees within the plants is also an issue, with plants not wanting to overwhelm their staff and create situations where COVID-19 can be spread. While retail sales are up significantly, it is not enough to counter the decline in other sales. Stores are also struggling to get caught up on orders since the pandemic started. Unfortunately, the issue right now is that the entire model has been turned on end overnight and those handling the product are working to do the best they can with the overwhelming supply.
Call for End to COVID-Related Discrimination……Governor Wolf’s advisory commissions are calling for the public to remain vigilant against hate after Pennsylvania State Police reported an increasing number of incidents targeting members of the Asian American community due to misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Good news (especially for truckers)…On Monday, PennDOT re-opened more rest areas/welcome centers (bringing the total open to 33) to all motorists, including the indoor restrooms.
Local Businesses Come Together to Meet Medical Supply Needs
I know that the coronavirus pandemic is an overwhelming and stressful time for everyone, so I’m going to highlight some positive things over the next few weeks that are happening within our communities to help those in need.
This week, I was made aware that Thermal Product Solutions, LLC, a Susquehanna Valley-based (New Columbia) global manufacturer of thermal-processing and sterilizing equipment has been working with hospitals to prove the efficacy of their Gruenberg product line for dry heat sterilization on PPE and N95 masks for re-use. The Gruenberg sterilizers utilize convection airflow and dry heat for the process. Heat is absorbed by the item being sterilized for a period of time until it reaches the proper temperature needed to destroy microorganisms and achieve sterilization.
As President and CEO Greg Jennings said, “We are dedicated to finding methods that aid in protecting the health and safety of all those serving on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Thank you to all of the 176 employees of Thermal Product Solutions, LLC, who are aiding in this fight. We are all in this together.
Volunteer Fire Departments Eligible for Federal Loan Programs
Under the federal CARES Act, volunteer fire departments are eligible for two types of federal loans: Emergency Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program Loans.
For volunteer fire departments with IRC 501(c)(3) or IRC 501(c)(4) status, Emergency Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other costs. If approved, EIDLs provide up to $2 million for working capital, have a 2.75% interest rate for non-profits, and can be repaid over 30 years.
Volunteer departments organized as a private non-profit [IRC 501(c)(3), IRC 501(c)(4) and IRC 501(c)(19)] that pay firefighters are also eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. This loan is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses and non-profits to keep their workers on the payroll. Loans are forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
The International Fire Chiefs Association has more information
Department of Agriculture Finds No Evidence COVID-19 is Transmissible through Food
The state Department of Agriculture (PDA) is reassuring Pennsylvanians that there is no evidence that human or animal food or food packaging is associated with transmission of COVID-19. The department re-deployed the state’s food safety inspectors to ensure continued protection of Pennsylvanians and prevent foodborne illness as of April 1.
Grocery stores, food manufacturers, distributors and manufacturing environments were given guidance to protect their workforce and consumers from COVID-19. More information is available here.
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