Gov. Wolf Announces Federal Funding for Testing Uninsured Patients

Your Update for 5-18-20

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Press Conference with Governor Wolf, PEMA Director Randy Padfield and Col. Frank Montgomery of the Pennsylvania National Guard:

At 1:30 p.m. on May 18, Governor Wolf, the Director of Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Randy Padfield, and the Director of Military Support for the Pennsylvania National Guard Col. Frank Montgomery provided an update on efforts to mitigate COVID-19 in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf briefly introduced both Director Padfield, and Col. Frank Montgomery, before allowing them to speak. Afterwards, he was asked a series of questions regarding the reopening process.

The Governor noted that he did not have a timetable for Philadelphia or the rest of the Southeast PA to move into Phase Yellow. He noted that businesses that reopen against state guidelines, will face penalties, along with knowing they could potentially be harming their customers.

>> Read about Gov. Wolf’s announcement on the available federal funding for testing and treating uninsured patients

Director Padfield outlined the number of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth (63,000+), and the continued coordination efforts of PEMA with counties and agencies. He discussed the partnership with Battelle Systems, which enables the commonwealth to decontaminate certain N95 masks. Lastly, he highlighted the lobbying efforts of PEMA on the Federal Government to open up community based testing sites in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. 

The Director of Military Support for the Pennsylvania National Guard Col. Frank Montgomery outlined the efforts made by the National Guard. These efforts included offering assistance and staffing for nursing homes, the testing of roughly 2,000 Pennsylvanians, providing PPE and 550,000 meal kits around the commonwealth and more.

As well, he noted that the National Guard has assisted long term care facilities in the following counties: Beaver, Chester, Delaware, Dauphin, Franklin, Lackawanna, Northampton, Pike and Schuylkill.

You can watch Governor Wolf’s press conferences here.

Press Conference with Secretary Levine:

At 2:15 p.m. on May 18, 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 (+63,056), an increase of 822 cases. COVID-19 is in all of the Commonwealth’s counties. There were 87 new deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total deaths in Pennsylvania to 4,505.

There are 13,626 residential cases and 2,111 employee cases in 561 long-term care facilities in 44 counties, which includes nursing facilities and personal care facilities. There have been 3,086 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 ~76% of ventilators in Pennsylvania Hospitals are still available.  A total of 4,479 COVID-19 cases are in Healthcare workers. There are 2,422 cases in food industry workers in 159 facilities.

As the Department of Health continues to reconcile the death records across the commonwealth, they will begin to post additional demographic information here. County-specific information and a statewide maps 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:


HEROES Act

House Democrats passed their version of another COVID-19 response package, the HEROES Act, on Friday. The legislation is not expected to be considered in the Senate, but negotiations continue to develop a COVID-19 response package. No legislation is expected until June.

Remote Voting

The House voted Friday to let its members serve as proxies in Washington for colleagues who are in self-quarantine or otherwise homebound during the coronavirus pandemic. The change is meant to be temporary. The bill passed 217-189. Members will be permitted for the next 45 days to travel to the Capitol to carry out explicit instructions on votes for up to 10 colleagues. The new changes also allow hybrid hearings and virtual committee bill drafting, with some members in-person and some participating remotely.

Senate Schedule

The Senate returns this week with plans to resume consideration of President Donald Trump’s picks for the judiciary and the Federal Election Commission.

House Schedule

The House is not set to meet this week, but continues to work on COVID-19 response packages. Hoyer said there will be pro forma sessions this week, with a swearing-in tomorrow of two Republicans who won special elections: Tom Tiffany in Wisconsin and Mike Garcia in California.

The House on May 27 will take up the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act extension, which the Senate amended and passed last week.

CARES Act Implementation

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee tomorrow will hear the quarterly CARES Act report to Congress from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Separately, the Congressional Oversight Commission released their first report on the implementation of the CARES Act here.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department on Friday released a new application and step-by-step instructions for how to calculate the portion of Paycheck Protection Program loans that can be forgiven. The 11-page document outlines what documentation is needed.

The Small Business Administration says it has approved $194.8b in loans out of the $320b that Congress authorized in the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program as of Friday.

Separately, The Federal Reserve on Saturday published a spreadsheet of thousands of loans to regional banks in support of the Treasury Department’s Paycheck Protection Program. A breakdown of where the money went by state shows that as of May 6, the most recent date for which loan details were provided, lenders based in Utah and California had received the most, about $2.96 billion each. They were followed by New Jersey at $2.5 billion and Wisconsin at $1.75 billion.

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. 30 counties are currently in Phase Red, however 12 additional counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 22.

  • 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 37 counties currently in Phase Yellow, however 12 additional counties will move to Phase Yellow on May 22.

  • 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.

  • 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: Federal Funding Available for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment for Uninsured Patients

May 18, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf announced today that through the federal stimulus bills providers of COVID-19 testing and treatment services will be able to be reimbursed for providing those services to uninsured patients.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) also reminded Pennsylvanians of the continued availability of health coverage through the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medical Assistance (MA), or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As part of the Family First Coronavirus Relief Act and CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide reimbursement to health care providers generally at Medicare rates for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19 and treating uninsured individuals with a COVID-19 diagnosis. Payments for uninsured individuals will be administered through the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).

HRSA is accepting claims as of May 6 and will accept claims for services dating back to February 4, 2020. Providers should access the HRSA website at https://coviduninsuredclaim.linkhealth.com/ to learn what services are covered, determine who is eligible, submit claims, and find more information.

You can read the full press release here.

Gov. Wolf Stresses Roles of PA Emergency Management Agency, National Guard in Pandemic Response

May 18, 2020

When it comes to a crisis, preparedness is everything, and today Governor Tom Wolf stressed the critical roles the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and PA National Guard play in coordinating the state’s preparedness and response to COVID-19. He was joined at a press conference by PEMA director Randy Padfield and PA National Guard Colonel Frank Montgomery.

Along with the Department of Health (DOH), PEMA has been monitoring the virus since January, establishing the DOH’s operations center at PEMA before the virus was first detected in the United States.

PEMA’s Commonwealth Response Coordination Center (CRCC), typically used only during weather emergencies, stood up full operations just a few weeks later, supplementing planning and coordination efforts with staff from dozens of state and federal agencies, and partners.

PEMA works with emergency management agencies in each of the state’s 67 counties to identify and eliminate potential issues by providing the necessary guidance and support to execute their unique, local emergency plans, including coordinating the community-based testing sites in Montgomery County and more recently in Luzerne County in the northeast with the PA National Guard.

The PA National Guard, present in the CRCC every day, has been working to provide support to mass testing sites and the state’s nursing homes that require more help than can be provided with facility staff. To date, the Guard has assisted 10 nursing facilities in the state, including Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County.

You can read the full press release here.

Wolf Administration to Distribute $255,000 in ‘Farm to Food Banks’ Funding, Redirect Agricultural Surplus to Address Food Insecurity

​May 18, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today announced that Pennsylvania has been awarded $255,373, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to Food Bank Program, which the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will distribute to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to reimburse farmers for costs associated with harvesting, packing, processing, and distributing donated agricultural surplus.

Farm to Food Bank is a product of the 2018 federal Farm Bill – based on legislation introduced by Senator Bob Casey and championed by Congressman Glenn Thompson – and was modeled after the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), which was enacted into law in 2010 and first funded by Governor Tom Wolf in 2015. Pennsylvania’s funds are equitably distributed through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, a Feeding Pennsylvania member, and their 13 subcontractors to procure surplus agricultural products from Pennsylvania farmers and food processors, the department’s $1.5 million Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System serves as a match for the federal Farm to Food Bank Program.

You can read the full press release here.

DCNR Announces Opening of ATV Trails in State Forests

May 18, 2020

Harrisburg, PA — Today, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that opening day statewide for all All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trails in state forests will be Tuesday, May 19.

distancing practices as part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” Dunn said.

The opening date also applies to designated motorcycle trails in Bald Eagle State Forest, including a dual sport trail running through the Seven Mountains region and a trail for off-highway motorcycles on Shade Mountain.

ATV riding is only permitted on designated trails in Pennsylvania state forests. State forest roads, state parks, and state game lands are not open to ATV riding.

The DCNR website has the locations of the 11 ATV trail systems on state forest lands.

You can read the full press release here.

Pennsylvania Launches Program for People who exhaust their Unemployment Compensation Benefits

May 17, 2020

Provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today announced the launch of Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to people who exhaust their regular unemployment compensation (UC).   

PEUC is included in the new federal unemployment compensation benefits provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Pennsylvania has implemented all programs under the new CARES Act and paid out nearly $7.4 billion in total unemployment benefits since mid-March.  

Important information about the extended benefits program follows and has also been emailed or mailed via the United States Postal Service to all individuals who potentially qualify for PEUC.  

Eligibility  

You are eligible for PEUC if you: 

  • Are unemployed between March 29 through December 26, 2020;
  • Have exhausted your regular state or federal benefits with week ending July 6, 2019 or later;
  • Are currently not eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and
  • Are able and available to work and actively seeking work, except for COVID-19-related reasons including illness, quarantine, or “stay at home” orders.       

You can read the full press release here.

Written by

Ridge Policy Group

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