Gov. Wolf Addresses the issue of Phase Red Counties Re-Opening

Your Update for 5-11-20

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

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Press Conference with Governor Wolf:

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

Governor Wolf addressed the issues surrounding several counties attempting to re-open themselves, while still being categorized in Phase Red. The Governor expressed his disagreement with these attempted openings, and outlined the potential consequences for counties and businesses if these efforts continue. You can read the consequences he discussed below, as well you can read the Governor’s press release on this issue here.

  • Counties will not be eligible for federal stimulus discretionary funds the state receives and intends to provide to counties with populations of fewer than 500,000.
  • Businesses in counties that do not abide by the law will no longer be eligible for business liability insurance and the protections it provides. The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance released details of this earlier today.
  • Restaurants that reopen for dine-in service in counties that have not been authorized to reopen will be at risk of losing their liquor license.
  • County residents receiving unemployment compensation will be able to continue to receive benefits even if their employer reopens. Employees may choose not to return out of concern for personal safety and safety of co-workers.

You can watch any press conference with Governor Wolf here.

Press Conference with Secretary Levine:

At 2:00 p.m. on May 11, Secretary Levine held a press conference to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation, additional guidance and to answer questions.

Secretary Levine gave an update on the number of cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth (+57,154), an increase of 543 cases. COVID-19 is in all of the Commonwealth’s counties. There were 24 new deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total deaths in Pennsylvania to 3,731.

There are 11,801 residential cases and 1,655 employee cases in 540 long-term care facilities in 44 counties, which includes nursing facilities and personal care facilities. There have been 2,552 reported deaths in long term care facilities due to COVID-19. Deaths in nursing or personal care facilities account for ~68% of the total deaths in Pennsylvania.

According to the Hospital Preparedness Dashboard, 45% of hospital beds, 38% of ICU beds, and ~75% of ventilators in Pennsylvania Hospitals are still available. A total of 3,790 COVID-19 cases are in Healthcare workers.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. You can view the data on infections by COVID-19 in Pennsylvania here.

You can watch the daily press conference here.

An Update from DC:

Fourth COVID-19 Response Package

The House is working to complete a draft of its next coronavirus spending package, including more than $750 billion in assistance to state and local governments and direct payments to Americans, according to lawmakers and aides. The bill is not a product of negotiations with Republicans, who don’t expect deliberations to begin until late May or early June, and it is not clear when the House would vote on the measure. Leader Hoyer said that the vote could take place by the end of this week or early next week.

 After backing almost $3 trillion to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans now have begun raising alarms about the deficit and characterizing a new relief package as an if, not when, proposition. Trump is also tapping the brakes on the idea of swift action on any new aid package, saying he’s in “no rush” for a new stimulus even after Friday’s Labor Department report showing an unprecedented 20 million jobs were lost in April.

Trump identified a payroll tax cut as a must, but even Senate Republicans aren’t embracing that idea. Leader McConnell indicated last week that liability protection for businesses, not a payroll tax cut, would be the most likely “red line” for his caucus. Mnuchin said Sunday that the White House agrees that liability needs to be addressed, but continued to push for a payroll tax cut.

Senate Schedule

The Senate is back in session today with plans to continue considering President Donald Trump’s nominations, with a possible vote this week on legislation to reinstate some expired surveillance programs. The House could return with a vote on another Covid-19 response bill, but no schedule or legislation has been released.

House Schedule

House leaders promised a 72-hour notice before a vote would occur to allow for travel to Washington. Whenever they do come in, they will likely vote on the COVID response package and on changing rules to let members cast proxy votes for absent colleagues as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

State Testing Funding

The Trump administration plans to distribute $11 billion to states for coronavirus testing, according to senior administration officials.  The $11 billion is part of the CARES Act stimulus package. It will be distributed under by a formula that reflects the burden of Covid-19 as well as population-based estimates, the officials said. The administration plans to release details about the distribution in the next day or two.

PPP Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration says it has processed $188 billion in loans out of the $320 billion that Congress authorized in the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program. SBA said it has approved almost 2.6 million applications from 5,428 lenders.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the government will consider how to change the small-business lending program to help restaurants and others participate. Restaurants, hair salons and other small businesses have said they can’t retain or rehire workers because they must remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means they can’t meet the 75 percent threshold for the share of the Paycheck Protection Program loan that must go to workers for it to be forgiven.

EDA COVID-19 Response

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is now accepting applications for our $1.5 billion CARES Act Recovery Assistance funding opportunities. Here is the link to the press release. Here is the link to the FAQ. You can also visit eda.gov/coronavirus, the webpage with information on eligible entities and assistance that is available for communities and regions to respond to and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Real Estate Industry Guidance

On April 28, Secretary Kathy Boockvar of the Pennsylvania Department of State issued a revised guidance for Real Estate Professionals, Appraisers, Notaries, Titles Companies and Home Inspectors.

The guidance includes instructions and limitations on in-person authorized activities, virtual/telework appraisals, and compliance with orders from the Department of Health. According to the guidance:

“Failure to strictly adhere to the requirements of this guidance may result in disciplinary actions up to and including suspension of licensure.”

Construction Industry Guidance

On April 23, Governor Wolf announced that beginning on May 1, 2020, all businesses in the construction industry are permitted to maintain in-person operations. This announcement was issued in the Construction Industry Guidance

Businesses that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may email the Department of Labor and Industry at RA-LIBOIS-BUILDINGS@pa.gov.

Critical Medical Supplies Donations Portal:

On April 23, Governor Wolf & the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency announced the launch of the PA Critical Donation Portal.

The portal is designed for individuals, corporations or community organizations to inform the commonwealth of critical medical supplies available for donation. Donations will be distributed to hospitals, medical facilities and emergency management services.

Additional Critical Needs Portals:

Accelerated Sales Tax (AST) Prepayments:

Governor Wolf announced on April 14 that businesses that collect PA sales tax will not have to make Accelerated Sales Tax (AST) prepayments over the next three months.

Please visit the Department of Revenue’s page on Accelerated Sales Tax Prepayments for more information on prepayments.

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 to Pennsylvania: We Must Stay the Course, We Must Follow the Law

May 11, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf today reminded Pennsylvanians that the state’s actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 are working and that we must stay the course and follow the law or there will be negative consequences.

The governor outlined the following consequences to counties that do not abide by the law to remain closed:

  • Counties will not be eligible for federal stimulus discretionary funds the state receives and intends to provide to counties with populations of fewer than 500,000.
  • Businesses in counties that do not abide by the law will no longer be eligible for business liability insurance and the protections it provides. The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance released details of this earlier today.
  • Restaurants that reopen for dine-in service in counties that have not been authorized to reopen will be at risk of losing their liquor license.
  • County residents receiving unemployment compensation will be able to continue to receive benefits even if their employer reopens. Employees may choose not to return out of concern for personal safety and safety of co-workers.

Read the full press release here.

Insurance Department Warns of Risks, Increased Liability with Non-Compliance of Business Closure Orders

May 11, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today reminded businesses of the importance of complying with Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s orders – for counties in both the red and yellow phases.

In addition to the critical public health objectives, Commissioner Altman warned non-compliant businesses defying the governor and secretary’s business closure orders that many insurance policies contain provisions that exclude coverage for businesses or individuals engaging in illegal acts or conduct. These exclusions may apply to property coverage, liability coverage, advertising injury coverage, and a host of other essential coverages.

Find more information on Gov. Wolf’s latest orders here.

You can read the full press release here.

Written by

Ridge Policy Group

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