Rep. Barb Gleim (R-199) released the following House GOP news in her newsletter, The Barb Wire, last week:
Cumberland is in the yellow phase of opening today. Welcome back to all of the businesses who have COVID plans and have made the decision to open safely. My offices are open to walk-in visitors, but request appointments when possible. We continue to be staffed and answering numerous emails, phone calls and processing what constituent work the governor’s shutdown order allows us to complete. Our volume has increased four-fold in this crisis. Here is just a sampling of what my staff and I do everyday from the time we begin work:
-- Unemployment claims, ranging from people who still have not gotten a PIN since they applied back in March, or people who started to receive payments but then it was suddenly stopped.
-- Lots of people who cannot back date their claims, their original claim date was not correct and folks whose claims are suddenly going inactive, no longer allowing them to file for the current week and therefore not able to receive any compensation.
-- People are calling in confused about PennDOT extensions and when service centers might be reopened
-- Stimulus Checks. While these are federal compensation, we have been receiving quite a few calls from people who have not gotten their stimulus check yet. My staff has done a lot of work trying the online lookup for IRS and informing people of most recent updates on the status of stimulus checks
-- Calls from businesses who are not sure what they can do under the new yellow order.
-- Sending and faxing documents for people who would normally go to the public library.
In addition, I have been physically attending every House voting session in person and committee meetings. This week, I participated in the House Human Service and House Labor and Industry committee meetings. I also participated in a webinar on the upcoming state budget, the Carlisle Community Update, a Downtown Carlisle Business meeting, an Economic Growth Caucus Meeting, Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Army War College and state Department of Health “Zoom” meetings.
For a comprehensive and up-to-date list and links of COVID-19 information and resources, visit: RepGleim.com/coronavirus.
PennDOT reopens some area service centers
PennDOT reopened the following customer service centers in our area Saturday:
-- Carlisle Driver and Photo License Center, 950 Walnut Bottom Road, Carlisle
-- Summerdale Driver and Photo License Center, 429 N. Enola Road, Enola
Hours of operation at the above locations will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Special senior-only hours will take place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.
All drivers license centers will be offering limited services, including:
-- Commercial Driver License (CDL) transactions, including renewals, replacements, Medical Examiner’s Certificates (MECs), date of proof transactions, Hazardous Material
-- Recertifications, and related transactions. Initial issuance transactions, including out-of-state transfers, permit testing, ID card issuance, and related transactions.
-- Photo license services.
-- Driver license restoration services that cannot be completed online or via mail Medical-related testing.
House continues to advance policies to reopen PA
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.
Following is a quick rundown of this week’s session:
-- To help our struggling restaurants, bars and clubs, we passed bills that would authorize these business owners to allow outdoor seating (House Bill 2506) and indoor seating (House Bill 2513) to resume in areas of the state in the yellow or green phases of mitigation. Certain safety guidelines would have to be met. These bills go to the Senate for consideration. In related news, House Bill 327, which would allow the sale of cocktails to go, has been signed by the governor and is now law.
-- We passed House Resolution 867 to set up a special committee of the House to examine various aspects of the state’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and make recommendations regarding issues of importance and long-term recovery. A final report of the committee’s activities, findings and recommendations would be due by Nov. 19.
-- To further aid in assessment of the COVID-19 disaster response, House Bill 2505 would require the administration to retain relevant records for 10 years after the end of the emergency order. The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.
-- Additionally, House Bill 2517 would require a waiver to allow residential cleaning services to resume operations during the COVID-19 emergency, provided the follow social distancing and other health and safety guidelines. This bill also goes to the Senate.
House attempts to override governor’s veto
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 the following types of businesses to reopen: vehicle dealerships, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons and barber shops, messenger services, animal grooming services and manufacturing operations.
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 governments the option to develop and implement individual plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and allow residents to safely return to work. Any plan would have had to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Health safety guidelines to protect workers and customers. It would also have created a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force.
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 percent of the state’s fatalities – have occurred among these residents. This is unacceptable.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Property tax/rent rebate funds
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, visit: https://www.revenue.pa.gov/GeneralTaxInformation/PropertyTaxRentRebateProgram/Pages/default.aspx. My office is available to assist with your application at no charge.
Unemployment claims exceed 2 million
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 complete information and the latest updates about unemployment, visit: https://www.dli.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
-- 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 about riding safely during the pandemic, visit: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx. DCNR also announced additional openings of state park and forest facilities, mainly in counties advancing to the governor’s “yellow phase” of reopening. For details about the status of park and forest facilities, visit: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/FacilitiesMap/Pages/default.aspx.
-- 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, visit: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
-- 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.