Apr. 10, 2020 / Weekly Roundup

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The Weekly Roundup
#Listrak\DateStampLong#  The latest news from the State Capitol
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Coronavirus Update: Planning a Path Forward

The House returned to session this week (with many members participating remotely from their districts) to discuss a series of proposals to help move our Commonwealth toward recovery.

On Tuesday, we adopted a bill that would create the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force. Encompassing all three branches of government, the task force would be charged with identifying immediate and urgent issues, providing a structure to catalog the Commonwealth’s response to the disaster emergency and creating a recovery plan. The recovery plan is aimed the at restoring essential public services and economic activity to levels equal to or better than their pre-disaster conditions.

The bill is now pending consideration in the Senate. We are working on a variety of other ideas to help our state and our citizens recover from this unprecedented challenge.

For the latest news, please follow me on Facebook for the latest news. You can also find a variety of resources on my website. 

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

Trout Season Now Open Statewide

In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and discourage large gatherings that may have occurred on the traditional opening day, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) this week announced that trout season is now open statewide. Due to the early opening, Mentored Youth Trout Day will be cancelled, but the PFBC will honor all youth fishing licenses purchased in 2020 for the 2021 season.

The PFBC has also issued guidance for anglers on social distancing and best health practices while fishing.

More information is available from the PA Fish and Boat Commission here.
New Dates in PA

With mitigation efforts extended until April 30, the state has extended most expiration dates and deadlines. Here are the major Pennsylvania date changes you should know about.

Mask Use Recommended Outside the Home

Last Friday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf announced he was urging all Pennsylvanians to wear masks when leaving their homes to make necessary trips to places such as the grocery store or pharmacy where social distancing (staying 6 feet apart from other people) is difficult to maintain.

Wolf’s guidance mirrors the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recently recommended people wear masks after studies have shown a significant number of people with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.

The public should not use surgical or N95 masks that are needed by health care personnel. Instead the Department of Health has offered instructions on how to make your own mask here.
An Update on PA Milk and the Dairy Industry

Many have called to express concerns about our dairy farmers having to dump their milk. Sadly, this is a problem not just in our area but across the country. Although they still get paid for milk they have to dump, it is at a lower rate, and that is only making a difficult situation worse for our farmers.

Why is this happening? Demand for milk has dropped significantly due to schools being out and restaurants curtailing their operations. Some retail stores are limiting how much milk shoppers can buy, even though there’s a healthy supply and the Department of Agriculture has recommended against limiting dairy purchases.

State and federal government officials are working together to find ways to help dairy farmers, including urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy up surplus product and provide direct assistance to farmers during these challenging times.

Click here to read more.
Financial Resources Available for Disaster Relief

Unemployment Compensation
More than 1 million Pennsylvanians have been forced to file for unemployment compensation (UC) as a result of efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As a result, it is taking longer to process claims and get questions answered. The Department of Labor and Industry encourages people to seek answers first at the agency’s website. If you can’t find what you need there, it is best to email the agency at uchelp@pa.gov and avoid a long wait on the phone. Keep a copy of the email as a record of your contact.

The federal CARES Act has authorized UC payments for people who are self-employed or working as private contractors. That application process must be handled separately and is still unavailable. I share your frustration and have asked the governor to at least offer a timeline of when this application will become available but have received no further information. I will share any updates on this as soon as they become available on my Facebook page.

You should continue to visit this page, as it is updated regularly by the department.
Assistance for Businesses
We all want our businesses to be able to reopen their doors as soon as it is possible and safe to do so, and many will need financial assistance. Here are a few resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA):
  •   Paycheck Protection Program: Provides loans to small businesses to help them continue to pay employees and cover other business expenses during the COVID-19 crisis. Qualified entities include small businesses and nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees.  More information is available here. 

  •   Economic Injury Disaster Loans/Emergency Economic Injury Grants: Low-interest loans of up to $2 million that can be used toward expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, such as payroll and other operating expenses. More information is available here.  

  •   SBA Express Bridge Loans: Enables small businesses that currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. The funding may be used as a term loan or to bridge the gap while applying for a direct Economic Injury Disaster Loan. More information is available here.  

  •   SBA Debt Relief: Provides a financial reprieve to small businesses by automatically paying the principal, interest and fees of some current loans and microloans. More information is available here.  
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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