I am writing with an update on issues relating to the pandemic.
To help mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the physical locations of all non-life sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania have been temporarily closed and Governor Tom Wolf has ordered all residents of Bucks County and several other counties to stay at home except for those who work in life-sustaining businesses or to go to the grocery store or pharmacy or other essential needs. When going out, it’s important to practice social distancing and frequently wash hands and thoroughly clean all surfaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Live Virtual Town Hall
I’ll be answering your questions today, Friday, March 27, during a live Facebook Town Hall. Tune in at 4:30 pm today!
On Wednesday, March 25, I participated in the State Senate’s first ever remote voting session via the video conferencing service, Zoom. We unanimously passed four pieces of legislation that Governor Wolf is set to sign into law today. The highlights are as follows:
SB 422 – Election Law
- Moves the primary election date back to June 2, 2020.
- Allows the county to begin pre-canvassing (opening envelopes and scanning ballots but not counting votes) at 7:00 am on Election Day to give counties a better chance to have results by the end of the night.
SB 751 – School Law
- Waives the requirement that students have 180 instructional days.
- Gives the Secretary of Education the power to:
- Increase the number of flexible instructional days that school entities may institute (i.e., those days in which a school district can, for example, use remote learning as opposed to traditional classroom instruction).
- Waive the minimum total number of hours required for career and technical education programs.
- Waive the NIMS assessment and the NOCTI exam for career and technical education students.
- Ensures that employees of any public school do not receive more or less compensation than the employee would otherwise have been entitled to receive from the school entity had the pandemic not occurred.
- Parents or Guardians of students with an IEP will receive notice from the public school ensuring the student receives a free and appropriate public education as required under IDEA.
- The Secretary will apply to the US Department of Education for a waiver of the PSSA/Keystone Exams for the 2019-2020 school year.
- School entities can renegotiate a contract for school bus services to ensure contracted personnel and fixed costs are maintained during closure.
HB 68 – Unemployment Compensation
- Requires each employer to notify an employee, upon separation, of the availability of unemployment compensation (UC) and other information relevant to UC.
- Waives the one-week waiting period required for claims filed during the COVID-19 declaration.
- Requires the Department of Labor and Industry to provide relief from benefit charges for employers whose account would be charged, but for the separation coming as a result of the COVID-19 disaster.
HB 1232 – Taxes and Budget
- Postpones the deadline for state personal income taxes (filing of returns and making of payments) to July 15, 2020.
- Require the Department of Community and Economic Development, during the state of the COVID-19 disaster emergency, to coordinate with governing bodies and local agencies of political subdivisions to extend filing and payment deadlines for local taxes (other than property taxes) to July 15, 2020.
- Allows for the Secretary of the Budget to transfer $50 million from special funds under the Governor’s jurisdiction to a restricted account within the General Fund to buy medical equipment and supplies for, at a minimum, hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency medical services to meet urgent patient and staff needs to address surge demand during the COVID-19 disaster.
Resources for Businesses
If you believe your business is life-sustaining and it is not included on the Governor’s list, you are asked to submit a waiver through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. All decisions will be made with public health and safety in mind.
We ask that before a waiver is requested, the “Frequently Asked Questions” be reviewed to avoid unnecessary submissions.
Small businesses are among the most affected by the closure of non-essential businesses, and in the financial recovery to come, they will need as much support as the state and federal government is able to provide.
Leaders from each of the four caucuses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf have agreed to move $40 million under the Commonwealth Financing Authority to a small business loan program to aid businesses impacted by the Covid-19 emergency. These funds will be combined with $21 million in other available funds for a total of $61 million.
These funds will be used to fund working capital loans of up to $100,000 directly to small businesses (those that employ 100 or fewer persons). Small businesses in Bucks County may apply for the COVID-19 Working Capital Access (CWCA) Program zero percent interest loan through the Bucks County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC).
Employees who have been laid off because their business having to close during this crisis and who have paid into the unemployment compensation system may apply for unemployment compensation here. Legislation passed this week waives the one-week waiting period required for claims filed during the COVID-19 declaration as well as job search requirements during this period.
Resources for Mental Health
This is a stressful time for all of us, but together, we will get through it. If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance, please reach out to any of the available resources here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Mental Health Tools and Resources
Pennsylvania Department of Health - Mental Health Tools and Resources
What Else Can You Do?
Doylestown Health Foundation accepts contributions of funds, supplies, and food.
St. Mary Medical Center has a list of supplies they can accept as contributions during this time.
Governor Tom Wolf announced the creation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Critical Medical Supplies Procurement Portal that will expedite the procurement of critical medical supplies for Pennsylvania’s health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please visit the district newsroom to view additional stories, videos, and photos from across the district and the commonwealth.
You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more regular updates.
My Office is Here to Serve You. How Can We Help?
Legislation: If you are interested in the status of a certain piece of legislation or obtaining copies of bills, my office will be able to provide that information to you.
Forms and Applications: You can reach out to my office for assistance with any number of forms, including birth and death certificates, grant applications, consumer complaint forms, hunting or fishing licenses, notary public applications, and voter registration.
Notary: A certified notary is available in both my Newtown and Doylestown office. Staffers can provide this service at no charge for most official documents and state forms. Please call ahead to make sure our notary is in the office and can accommodate the work you are requesting.
State Agencies: My office can assist in any dealings with state agencies, including the Department of Corrections, Military and Veterans Affairs, PennDOT, Department of Human Services, and State Police.
Licenses and Motor Vehicles: Help is available through my office or the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Driver and Vehicle Services website if you need assistance processing motor vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, or other Department of Transportation forms.
Visiting the Capitol: You can visit the Pennsylvania Capitol website or contact my office about setting up school or other group trips to the Capitol.
Offices of State Senator Steve Santarsiero
2003 Lower State Road
Building 100, Suite 121
Doylestown, PA 18901
3 Terry Drive
Newtown, PA 18940
184 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203010
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3010
|TULLYTOWN SATELLITE OFFICE
500 Main Street
Tullytown, PA 19007
Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM