UPDATE: Lawmakers approved a concurrent resolution last week that requires Governor Wolf to terminate his COVID-19 emergency declaration, clearing the way for businesses to reopen safely statewide. The measure would not affect the state’s ability to receive federal funding or impact the ability of Pennsylvanians to receive unemployment and other federally funded benefits.
To date, the governor has refused to do his Constitutional duty to end the disaster declaration. Senate leaders have petitioned the Commonwealth Court to force the governor to end his emergency declaration. Unfortunately, this means that until the issue is settled in the courts, all of the governor’s current orders remain in effect. However, this could change if the courts rule in favor of ending the declaration. In the meantime, I will continue to share information on the governor’s orders and guidance for informational purposes until the courts weigh in.
In This Update:
Hearing Explores Concerns about Timing of Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Layoffs
As Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, I recently led a hearing along with Senate Transportation Committee Chair Senator Kim Ward regarding the announcement that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would lay off nearly 500 employees as part of its accelerated plan to switch to an all-electronic tolling (AET) system.
The announcement came after repeated assurances that the jobs would be protected through January 2022. The Turnpike Commission made no mention of the plan to lawmakers at a May 12 Senate hearing and ratified a new contract with employees on May 19 before announcing the layoffs on June 2.
Instead of having at least a year and a half to plan a transition to other employment, these hard-working Turnpike employees now have only a few weeks to find work in a job market that remains crippled by Governor Wolf’s excessive business closures and slow re-opening.
Video of the full hearing is available here.
Senate Hearings Planned on Safe Reopening, Law Enforcement Reforms
Several Senate committees are scheduled to address some of the most pressing issues facing Pennsylvania communities this week:
All of the hearings will be streamed live at www.pasenategop.com.
Guidelines Available for COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Grants
I supported a law approved by the Senate earlier this month that directs $2.6 billion in funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for critical needs that have arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the new law, a total of $225 million in grants are available for small businesses impacted by the virus.
Funding will be available through three programs:
Eight More Counties Moving to Green Phase of Reopening
Beginning on June 19, a total of 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties will be in the green phase of reopening. All counties in the state are now in either the green or yellow phase, and the governor’s stay-at-home order has been lifted for all counties.
The counties moving to green on June 19 are: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Monroe, Perry, Pike and Schuylkill. The only counties remaining in the yellow phase past June 19 are: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Susquehanna.
Many businesses in the green phase will operate at a lower capacity with new safety requirements in place, and lower occupancy thresholds are mandated for businesses such as restaurants, bars, personal care services and entertainment venues.
New Guidance Available for Recreational Sports to Resume
Professional, recreational, collegiate, high school and youth sports can now resume statewide under new guidance that was announced last week. The guidance includes screening and monitoring coaches and players for COVID-19 symptoms, bringing individual drinks instead of using water coolers or fixed water fountains, avoiding handshakes and other unnecessary contact, not sharing equipment whenever possible, limiting spectators and developing a plan of action if a coach, athlete or official is diagnosed with the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has also released specific guidance for youth sports organizations, including recommendations to maintain a healthy environment, assess risks and promote practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Information Available for Reopening Museums and Historical Societies
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission recently created a new webpage to share advice for museums, historical societies and preservation organizations that are beginning to reopen after closures related to COVID-19.
The new webpage includes health and safety guidance, funding resources and more.