The General Assembly Passes a 5 Month Interim Budget

Your Update for 5-28-20

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

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Update from the Pennsylvania Department of Health:

Secretary Levine and the Department of Health will did not hold a press conference today. However, the Pennsylvania Department to Health released an update today (May 28) on COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

The number of cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania has reached 70,042, an increase of 625 cases from yesterday. There were 595 positive serology tests, which are counted as probable cases of COVID-19, and not confirmed cases.

There were 108 new deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total deaths in Pennsylvania to 5,373.

There are 15,158 residential cases and 2,563 employee cases in 600 long-term care facilities in 44 counties, which includes nursing facilities and personal care facilities. There have been 3,501 reported deaths in long term care facilities due to COVID-19. Deaths in nursing and personal care facilities account for ~65% of the total deaths in Pennsylvania.

64% of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 in Pennsylvania have recovered.

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 5,279 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.

Budget for 2020-2021:

Today, the General Assembly passed a 5 month, interim budget, and sent it to the Governor. As well, the General Assembly appropriated $2.6 million in CARES act funding into numerous areas including: nursing homes, testing kits, small business grants, and support for intellectual disability programs and autism intervention services.

Due to the effects of COVID-19, the budget that moved through the General Assembly was 5 month interim budget with no tax increases, and no spending increases.

An Update from DC:


Paycheck Protection Program Changes

The House voted 417-1 to provide companies much more time to spend Paycheck Protection  Program funding—within 24 weeks or until the end of the year, whichever comes first—and still qualify to have their PPP loans forgiven. Businesses would also have up to five years, instead of two years, to repay any money owed on a loan and can use a greater percent of funds on rent and other approved non-payroll expenses.

The Senate is poised to take up the legislation next week.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday the House and Senate should be able to quickly agree on potential changes. But Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio said in a statement that some language in the bill “could create an unintended disincentive to rehiring and create new and serious burdens for PPP borrowers in terms of forgiveness.”

Paycheck Protection Program Funding to Underserved Communities

Separate from the bill passage, the Small Business Administration in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, announced that it is setting aside $10 billion of Round 2 funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to be lent exclusively by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).  CDFIs work to expand economic opportunity in low-income communities by providing access to financial products and services for local residents and businesses. 

These dedicated funds will further ensure that the PPP reaches all communities in need of relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Paycheck Protection Program Oversight

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has started an inquiry into publicly traded companies that received coronavirus stimulus funds from the federal government, scrutinizing whether representations they made in loan applications were consistent with their disclosures to investors in securities filings.

The commission’s enforcement division in recent weeks has sent letters to some companies that received funding from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, asking for information about how the funds were being used and for copies of loan applications.

CDC Guidelines for Office Reopening

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Wednesday detailing how office buildings can reopen following months of social distancing amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. The guidance outlines steps for employers to ensure they “create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients.” Some key points in the guidelines include

1. The CDC advised employers to foremost determine whether their workspaces are ready for occupancy. That includes proper ventilation systems, increasing the flow of outdoor air and ensuring no hazards emerged during the shutdown.

2. Office guidelines should be clearly communicated with staff and contractors that may visit. Management should “actively encourage” staff to report symptoms or potential exposure to the virus.

3. Sick employees should be sent home and “enhanced” cleaning and disinfection should take place following any confirmed cases in the office.

4. Employees should wear a cloth face mask “in all areas of the business.” The guidelines also note to “prohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps.

5. Individuals are recommended to frequently wash hands and wipe down surfaces.

6. Daily health checks, including temperature screenings before employees enter the workplace, should be considered.

7. Staggering shifts and break times “as feasible” is also encouraged. Recommendations include incentivizing employees to minimize public transit, particularly during rush hour.

8. Hazard assessments of the workplace are advised, and employers should identify and mitigate areas where employees may congregate, including meeting rooms, waiting areas, entry and exit routes.

9. Modifying seats or workstations to accommodate social distancing is encouraged, in addition to installing plexiglass or physical barriers where distancing is not an option.

10. Consider using “ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate the virus.

11. Visual cues to encourage distancing such as floor markings showing where to stand or wall stamps guiding foot traffic are advised. Elevator occupancies should be limited.

12. And “high-touch communal items” such as coffee pots or bulk snacks should be replaced with pre-packaged, single-serving options.

Mid-Session Economic Forecast

The White House won’t issue a formal economic forecast showing the extent of the U.S. downturn precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The forecast is traditionally included in a part of the White House budget procession called the “mid-session review,” which is usually issued in July or August. It follows the president’s budget proposal, released in February, and is intended to evaluate whether economic projections in that document are holding up.

One said the administration doesn’t have the data it needs to make the statutory deadline for the forecast, and the other said the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic makes a forecast impossible.

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.

You can review Governor Wolf’s Plan for Pennsylvania here.

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:

Wolf Administration Distributes Testing Supplies to Hospitals, More Than 67,000 Patients Tested Since March

May 28, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf announced today that additional shipments of testing supplies have been sent to hospitals across Pennsylvania this week. Since March 9, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has distributed supplies to more than 60 hospitals, health care facilities, and county and municipal health departments to help test more than 67,000 patients.

Testing supplies include nasopharyngeal swabs and viral transport media tubes depending on what is requested by facilities. The department sent testing supplies to the following types of entities:

  • 42,000 to county and municipal health departments
  • 9,640 to laboratories, testing teams, state agencies and medical practices
  • 8,542 to hospital and health systems
  • 7,070 to long-term care facilities

You can read the full press release here.

Department of Human Services Reminds Pennsylvanians of Assistance Programs, Support Outlets Available to Help Ease COVID-19 Recovery Period

May 28, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that public assistance programs remain available to families throughout the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other services established specifically in response to COVID-19 like the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) programs. Each of these programs can help Pennsylvanians who have lost income or employment meet basic needs until they are able to start work again.

Health Care

Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by both Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP.

You can review the full list of assistant programs here.

DCNR Moves to Open State Park Swimming Beaches, Pools

May 28, 2020

Harrisburg, PA — Today, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced a phased opening of all state park swimming beaches and some pools in keeping with Governor Wolf’s direction to ensure Pennsylvanians have opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor recreation and help maintain positive physical and mental health.

Effective Saturday, June 6, all 58 state park beaches will be open to swimming. State park pools will remain closed through at least Friday, June 12, with most in designated yellow and green counties reopening Saturday, June 13.

Capacity at beaches and pools will be limited to 50 percent of the normal facility capacity, the secretary noted. Mitigation measures will be in place, including restricting visitor parking, controlling facility access, social distancing and the wearing of face masks when not in the water. All CDC guidance remains in effect.

You can read the full press release here

Written by

Ridge Policy Group

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