Budget Week Begins in Harrisburg

Your Update for 5-26-20

*This information is changing quickly, so be sure to check for any updated information.

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Press Conference with Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine:

At 11:30 a.m. on May 26, Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine held a press conference to provide an update on COVID-19 and efforts to mitigate the virus in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf discussed the increased testing capacity of the commonwealth. Pennsylvania currently has 300 locations open for testing, and has increased its contact tracing capacity from 334 on May 14, to 1700 today. The Governor intends on holding an in person press-conferences on Friday, May 29.

Secretary Levine gave an update on the number of cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth (+68,637), an increase of 451 cases. COVID-19 is in all of the Commonwealth’s counties. There were 13 new deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total deaths in Pennsylvania to 5,152. There were 551 positive serology tests, which are counted as probable cases of COVID-19, and not confirmed cases.

There are 14,857 residential cases and 2,505 employee cases in 594 long-term care facilities in 44 counties, which includes nursing facilities and personal care facilities. There have been 3,395 reported deaths in long term care facilities due to COVID-19. Deaths in nursing and personal care facilities account for ~66% of the total deaths in Pennsylvania.

Roughly 61% of individuals who contracted COVID-19 have recovered.

Lastly, Secretary Levine discussed the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). This inflammatory syndrome is occurring in children who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19. The CDC is recommends that parents who observe the symptoms in their children, should contact their doctor. Currently there are 17 reports of MIS-C in Pennsylvania, with 9 cases confirmed, 2 rejected, and 6 currently under investigation.

According to the Hospital Preparedness Dashboard, 45% of hospital beds, 38% of ICU beds, and ~77% of ventilators in Pennsylvania Hospitals are still available. A total of 5,159 COVID-19 cases are in healthcare workers. Another 2558 cases are in food industry workers in 177 facilities.

Budget for 2020-2021:

Today, May 26, began the budget proceedings for the General Assembly. The House started the budget week off by passing 17 budget bills from its Appropriations committee. Afterwards, the bills will be moved to the full House, to potentially be brought up for their final consideration.

Due to the effects of COVID-19, the budget being moving through the General Assembly is a 5 month interim budget. This budget that has no tax increases, and no spending increases.

The Senate will meet at 7:00 p.m. tonight, in order to potentially discuss 16 of the budget bills passed by the House.

An Update from DC:

Payment Protection Program Changes

The House and Senate is working on a deal to make some changes to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program to give recipients more flexibility in using funds. The Paycheck Protection Program was funded under the CARES Act and under a supplemental funding measure.

The House is set to pass a bill on Thursday that would extend the current eight-week period during which businesses must use funds to have loans forgiven to 24 weeks or Dec. 31, whichever comes sooner. The bill would allow businesses to repay loans over five years instead of two, and scrap a rule that no more than 25% of proceeds can be spent on expenses. The chamber also plans to take up a bill to increase transparency in the program.

A similar bill with bipartisan support in the Senate would extend the deadline to apply for a loan to the end of the year from June 30, while doubling the current eight-week period in which businesses must use money to have loans forgiven. “

Senate leaders have asked lawmakers to give unanimous consent to the Senate legislation. Senators aren’t in town this week, but have a pro forma session scheduled for Thursday, when the chamber could pass the bill if there are no objections. Otherwise, the Senate could take up the House-passed legislation next week.

What we think is there is a general consensus, both House and the Senate, that the time frame that was set was too short, unfortunately,” Hoyer told reporters.

House Schedule this Week

In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program changes outlined above, the House may consider legislation that would renew elements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act through Dec. 1, 2023.

Additionally, the House could vote Thursday to override an anticipated veto of H.J. Res. 76, which would overturn the Education Department’s 2019 student loan forgiveness rule using the Congressional Review Act. The rule established new policies for the borrower defense program, through which students who have been defrauded by education institutions can request loan forgiveness from the Education Department. It’s scheduled to take effect July 1.

They will also vote on a number of different pieces of legislation ranging from legislation that would collect data on suicides and attempted suicides within federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and provide a Veteran’s cost of living adjustment.

Continued House Activity During COVID-19

The House plans to refocus their efforts to a number of pieces of legislation that are must-pass, despite the difficulties with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a number of pieces of legislation” that are must-pass and have looming deadlines in the fall, including the National Defense Authorization Act, a surface transportation package, WRDA, and spending bills to keep the government open past Sept. 30, Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he plans to talk to panel chairmen soon on the schedule after this week.


Upcoming COVID-19 Response Package

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says real negotiations on next round of virus relief legislation will start in the third or fourth week of June. Senator Roy Blunt, who is part of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team, told CNN passing another relief bill by July 4th recess was optimistic, but he expects legislation to be approved before August recess.

National Defense Bill

The Senate Subcommittee markups of National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 will begin June 8, according to a Senate Armed Services Committee Statement.

National Testing Plan

Testing targets by state was released Sunday as part of a testing plan outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a report to Congress.

The HHS plan calls for about 12.9 million tests this month. The HHS goals highlight the administration’s approach, which has largely placed the responsibility on the states.

Business Community:

Governor Wolf’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania:

On April 22, Governor Wolf announced his plan to reopen Pennsylvania, focusing on a regional decision making approach. Along with the previous standards the Governor announced last week, he highlighted that the data-driven decision making process will be done in consultation with Carnegie Mellon University.

Their metrics will focus heavily on a regional approach that is built on a population based incidence rate of 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days.

An example: An area with a population of 800,000 people would need to have fewer than 400 new confirmed cases reported in the past 14 days to meet the target.

The first regions that the administration will target are the north-central and the north-west regions of PA, with a goal of moving them from phase red to phase yellow on May 8.

The three color phases determine when regions are ready to begin easing restrictions on businesses, stay-at-home orders, large gatherings, child care and more. The three phases are red, yellow and green, with the entire state currently in the red phase. Movement between phases will be based on the population incidence rate above.

Red Phase:

The red phase singularly purpose is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures. There are currently 18 counties in Phase Red, however 8 more counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 29. Afterwards, the rest of the counties in the commonwealth will move to Phase Yellow on June 5.

  • Life Sustaining Businesses Only
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools (for in-person instruction) and Most Child Care Facilities Closed

Yellow Phase:

The stated purpose of the yellow phase is begin to power back up the economy, while maintaining social distancing while easing restrictions on certain businesses and travel. However, the Department of Health will maintain strict monitoring over public health data to contain COVID-19. Guidance for businesses in Counties in the Yellow Phase. There are currently 49 counties in Phase Yellow, however 8 additional counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 29.

  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
  • Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders
  • Stay-at-Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation
  • Large Gatherings Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only

Green Phase

The green phase should facilitate a return to a “new normal”, by easing most restrictions on stay-at-home orders and business closures. Strict adherence to CDC and Health department guidelines are required, and similar to the yellow phase, monitoring of public health data will continue. There are currently 0 counties in Phase Green, however 17 counties will move to Phase Green on May 29.

  • All Businesses Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
  • Aggressive Mitigation Orders Lifted
  • All Individuals Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines

The standards previously highlighted by Governor Wolf:

  • Our approach will be data driven and reliant upon quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopenings in Pennsylvania.
  • We will put forth guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities for assured accountability as we reopen.
  • Reopening necessitates that adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing are available.
  • Reopening requires a monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to be deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation.
  • Protections for vulnerable populations must remain steadfast throughout the reopening process, such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons.
  • Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations should remain in place for the duration of the reopening process.

Industry Guidance:

Critical Needs Portals:

The application for the COVID-19 Working Capital Access program is closed. The program reportedly received roughly 900 applications requesting roughly $75 million. The program’s original appropriation was $60 million. A link to the DCED page can be found here. The first round of funding was announced on April 20, you can find information on the funded projects here.

With the application closed for the CWCA, please look into the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or the Paycheck Projection Program.

You can find the application for the Paycheck Protection Program here.

You can find the application for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, here.

Press Releases:

Gov. Wolf Thanks Pennsylvanians for Their Part to Slow the Spread of COVID-19, Centre County to Move to Green

May 26, 2020

As part of a COVID-19 briefing, Governor Tom Wolf today thanked Pennsylvanians, including the Pennsylvania National Guard, for the many contributions to the pandemic response. He also announced that Centre County will move to green on Friday.

“I personally want to thank our National Guard members and their families for their work, especially during these trying times,” Gov. Wolf said. “Just like other families across the commonwealth, I know our military families are facing new challenges. Some are overcoming these challenges while coping with one parent being away from home due to a deployment to a COVID-19 site. That’s really showing the strength of these dedicated, courageous Pennsylvanians.”

He also thanked Pennsylvanians for their contributions that helped to move us toward a broader reopening of the state.

You can read the full press release here

One-Stop Voter Registration Information at VotesPA.com

May 26, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – In preparation for Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election on June 2, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar reminds Pennsylvanians they can find comprehensive voting information at votesPA.com.

At votesPA.com, citizens can:

You can read the full press release here.

Written by

Ridge Policy Group

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