Apr. 16, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong#  The latest news from the State Capitol
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Working to Protect Public Health and Family-Sustaining Jobs

With nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians unemployed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the House voted this week for legislation that would demand transparency and consistency in how the governor determines which businesses can continue to operate.

Senate Bill 613
While this legislation would not immediately or fully reopen the state’s economy, it would instead allow businesses that can comply with federal mitigation guidelines to resume operations and bring people back to work safely. Small businesses and their employees, self-employed workers, independent contractors and others should be given the opportunity to modify their operations and return to work. This would also allow them to continue providing for their families.

House Bill 1189
We also adopted a bill to help our first responders. House Bill 1189 would establish the Volunteer Emergency Responders Employer Tax Credit program for employers who allow an employee who serves with a volunteer emergency service organization to respond to an emergency call during work hours. The bill also would extend disability benefits for first responders to be covered in the event they contract COVID-19 in the line of duty.

To help better track cases of COVID-19, the bill would require health care facilities to provide specific demographic data about positive tests within three days of a diagnosis. The state Department of Health would then be required to publish publicly accessible reports with case statistics broken down by ZIP code.

Finally, the bill would extend the expiration of driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and parking placards for people with disabilities that are set to expire during the disaster declaration to 60 days after the declaration has ended.

Senate Bill 841
Also this week, the House supported legislation – Senate Bill 841 – that would allow local governments to extend property tax discount periods and/or waive penalties or late fees, protect educational opportunities for low-income students by allowing educational tax credit contributions to be delayed until the end of the business tax year, save school districts money by allowing various contracts to be renegotiated for the period of the school closure, allow for remote notary services and authorize local governments to meet through authorized telecommunications devices for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency declaration.
Unemployment Compensation Update

The state has started to implement portions of the federal CARES Act changes to the unemployment compensation system.

The good news is, claimants started to receive the extra $600 per week in compensation required under the law this week. The bad news is the state Department of Labor and Industry is saying it could be at least another week before the application for self-employed workers and independent contractors to apply for assistance is available. Please know that I share your deep frustrations over this delay and have repeatedly voiced those concerns to the administration.

If you are looking for more information about the CARES Act and its impact on unemployment compensation, click here.

This page has general information on the new benefits available under the act as well as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance frequently asked questions and federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation frequently asked questions.

If you are unable to find answers to your questions about unemployment online, you are encouraged to contact the department by email at uchelp@pa.gov to avoid a long wait on the phone. Keep a copy of the email as a record of your contact.
COVID-19 Employment Opportunities

Have you lost employment due to COVID-19? The PA Department of Labor & Industry in cooperation with PA CareerLink, has launched an online job portal for those seeking employment during these difficult times.  

PA CareerLink also has a separate portal dedicated to local jobs that you can access here.  
IRS Launches New CARES Act Tools

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is offering two new tools to help people ensure they receive their economic impact payments authorized under the federal CARES Act.

One tool is for people who don’t normally file a tax return (please note it is not necessary for people who receive Social Security retirement, disability or survivor benefits, or Railroad Retirement and survivor benefits to complete this form, unless you have qualifying children to claim). The tool for non-filers is available here.  

The second tool is for people who file but need to update direct deposit or mailing address information, or to check your payment status and confirm payment type. That form is available here.
Learn more about economic impact payments here.  
DHS Announces CHIP Extensions

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is making temporary changes to Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to keep families enrolled in CHIP for the duration of the public health emergency and to ease access to medical services for children being screened or receiving treatment for COVID-19. Read more here.  
State Offers Guidance for Real Estate Transactions

The Pennsylvania departments of State and Banking and Securities has issued some limited guidance about allowable activities related to residential real estate transactions that were initiated prior to the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration. Read the guidance memo here. 
Department of Revenue Waives Sales Tax Prepayments

Businesses that collect Pennsylvania sales tax will not have to make Accelerated Sales Tax (AST) prepayments over the next three months. That means businesses that normally have a monthly prepayment requirement will not be charged penalties for missing the prepayment deadline during this three-month period. Read more here.  
Resources for Seniors

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has launched an online COVID-19 resource guide for older adults, their families and caregivers. The guide includes information on meals, prescriptions, protective services, scams, and how to stay active and connected.

Click here for more information.  
District Office Reminder

While my district offices are currently closed to in-person service, my staff and I remain available to serve you by phone. Should you need any assistance, please call my offices at the numbers listed below.

Coopersburg: 610-282-0160
Emmaus: 610-965-5830
Red Hill: 215-679-3152 
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Office Locations
21 N. Main Street, Unit 9, Coopersburg, PA 18036 | Phone: (610) 282-0160
191 Main St., Suite 104, Emmaus, PA 18049 I Phone: (610) 965-5830
56 W. Fourth St., Second Floor, Red Hill, PA 18076 I Phone: (215) 679-3152
5 East Wing, PO Box 202131, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2131 | (717) 783-1673
Email: jsimmons@pahousegop.com
TTY: 855-282-0614