In This Update:
Stakeholders Voice Support for Prioritize PA: Small Businesses Initiative
Small businesses across Pennsylvania, particularly those in the hospitality industry, have suffered immensely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent mitigation efforts. That is why I have partnered with Senators Ryan Aument (R-36), Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), and Judy Ward (R-30) to launch the “Prioritize Pennsylvania: Small Businesses” initiative. Prioritize PA: Small Businesses is an effort to help our once-vibrant small businesses through the end of this pandemic and make significant reforms to revitalize Pennsylvania’s economy.
Several statewide industry groups have voiced their support for the proposals in the Prioritize Pennsylvania: Small Businesses legislative package, including the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Read the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association’s full letter of support here.
Vaccine Schedule Accelerated Again: All Pennsylvanians Now Eligible
Earlier this week, the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced another acceleration of the timeline of distributing vaccines to Pennsylvanians who wish to receive them. As a result, all Pennsylvanians are now eligible to schedule an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
More information about participating providers, vaccine safety, allocation, eligibility and other resources are available at a special webpage created by the Department of Health.
Committees Explore Education Reforms, COVID-19 Impacts, Infrastructure
Although the Senate will not return to session until next week, several Senate committees studied issues this week that could set the stage for future action in the General Assembly.
The Senate Education Committee held a hearing on Monday to review potential education reforms, including accountability, school choice and charter school reforms. The hearing featured testimony from teachers, students, parents, administrators and other stakeholders in both public and private education.
On Tuesday, the Senate Majority Policy Committee held a public hearing on the economic impact of COVID-19 business closures on the tourism and hospitality industries. The hearing highlighted the consequences of closures and restrictions for bars, restaurants, amusement parks, resorts and many other businesses during the pandemic.
The Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee held two days of hearings in southeastern Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the economic impact of the technology and energy infrastructure industries in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers also toured the Philadelphia Steamfitters Local Union 420.
Committee meetings and hearings scheduled next week are available online.
Reminder: Independent, Third-Party Voters Can Participate in May 18 Election
Pennsylvania’s independent and third-party voters are eligible to vote on proposed amendments to the state Constitution in this spring’s primary election.
Current law does not permit Independent or many third-party voters to cast ballots in most primary elections. However, all registered voters are eligible to weigh in on Constitutional amendments in any election.
Three proposed amendments to the state Constitution will appear on the May 18 ballot, including a measure to prohibit discrimination based on race or ethnicity, and two amendments to limit the length of emergency declarations and require more collaboration between the different branches of government during a disaster. A fourth ballot question will also allow voters to decide whether paid fire and rescue organizations should have additional borrowing power.
More information about these Constitutional amendments is available here.
Election Survey Responses Due by April 30
There is still time for Pennsylvanians to share their experience from last year’s election with the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform. Election surveys for Pennsylvanians who voted by mail or in person will be accepted through April 30.
The committee is expected to use the survey responses and testimony gathered during its series of public hearings to produce a report with recommendations that will be presented to the General Assembly.
Scam Alert: New Fraud Targets PUA Recipients
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants have been targeted by new fraud attempts in recent weeks. Scammers are asking PUA claimants to verify their identity via text messages and web forms, and then using that information to steal benefits and commit other forms of identity theft.
As a reminder, the only way to verify a claimant’s identity is via ID.ME – never via text messages or web forms. Community residents who have been targeted by these or other cases of fraud should report the scam attempt to the Department of Labor and Industry.
Free PHEAA Webinar Offers Financial Aid Advice for Students, Families
Navigating the financial aid process for higher education can be complicated and confusing for many families. The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will host a free Financial Aid 101 webinar on April 21 at 6:30 p.m. to help families learn more about higher education costs, the types of financial aid available and how Pennsylvania families can apply.
You can register to participate in this free webinar here.
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