COVID-19 Update, 03/17/2020

COVID-19 Update, 03/17/2020

Federal

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In today’s press conference the Trump administrations outlined the following updates:

  • Trump administration will seek to send cash payments directly to Americans this may be instead of a payroll tax cut the administration had been considering before. Trump has also asked Congress to infuse $850 billion in additional stimulus to help the US economy. 
  • Mr. Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, made the announcement that American’s can defer their tax payments interest-free and penalty-free for 90 days. People can defer up to a $1 million and corporations can defer up to $10 million in payments
  •  In addition, Mr. Trump announced an expansion in Medicare patients’ access to telehealth options and that the government will not be enforcing HIPAA penalties. 

Today, the Senate is expected to take up the House’s coronavirus emergency bill that passed Monday by unanimous consent.

  • The senate will also unveil a comprehensive proposal as early as Tuesday for the third coronavirus package that will provide “an immediate infusion of at least $750 billion” to respond to the crisis, including more money for hospitals, expanded unemployment insurance, more funds for small business, help with child care, and food assistance for seniors, among other issues. Some Republicans warned that the House bill as it is written will not pass the Senate because of the paid sick leave provisions. 

State 

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Drive through testing sites open  in Pennsylvania 

  • The University of Pennsylvania will open Philadelphia’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing site on Monday, with others to follow as kits become available. Sites will be opened on a limited basis, providing COVID-19 tests in West Philadelphia and in Radnor, Delaware County. The drive-through site in West Philly will only be available to those who have been referred by a physician. Main Line Health opened drive-through testing centers in Newtown Square and Radnor for patients who have been referred for a test by a Main Line doctor. 
  • Jefferson Health has also opened up mobile testing sites in Abington and is in the process of opening up sites in Center City, Northeast Philadelphia and New Jersey. 

Confusion over Gov. Wolf’s executive authority 

  • During Monday’s press release on coronavirus actions, the Governor’s office said that public services still open will include “police, fire, emergency medical services, sanitation, and essential services for vulnerable populations.” There has been some confusion over what qualifies as essential vs. nonessential employees. Some employees on Monday were told they were non-essential but then were deemed essential later in the day. This includes county assistance workers, child and senior care facility inspectors, and employees who process unemployment benefits. 
  • There have been reports that these offices are not equipped to handle social distancing and lack other essential products. 

Special election update

  •  Today there are three special elections taking place (Bucks-18th, Westmoreland-58th, Butler County-8th). At the time of this reporting, results have not come in yet. However, turnout is expected to be lower than expected. At the last minute, the Bucks County Board of Elections filed an injunction that was rejected by the courts. 

Pennsylvania may delay its Presidential Primary 

  • Pennsylvania may delay its Presidential primary that is scheduled to take place on April 28th to sometime in May officials said. Lisa Deeley, who chairs  Philadelphia’s city commissioners believes it is the right thing to do as she has already had already canceled poll worker training sessions through March 22, and Deeley cited those cancellations and new restrictions announced Monday.

Pennsylvania’s state-owned wine liquor stores to close today. 

  • Today, PA will be shutting down its 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores. 

Harrisburg

Cosponsorship memos and bills introduced this week that may be of interest: 

CO3356:  Malcolm Kenyatta

Provides a 60-day grace period for the repayment of student loans to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

CO3347 Ed Neilson 

Provides unemployment compensation for those who have been ordered into quarantine or isolation.

CO3355 Thomas Murt 

Provides tax credits for employers that participate in qualified apprenticeship training programs in Pennsylvania.

CO1452 Andrew Dinniman 

Cancels the state PSSA and Keystone exams for this school year and requires PDE to ask for a waiver of testing requirements.

HB2362 Dave Delloso 

Amends the Disease Prevention and Control Law, providing for the effect on employment.

CO1461 Lawrence Farnese

Fills holes in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing emergency paid sick leave and family medical leave for all employees not covered by the federal bill.

The State legislature decided yesterday that members can vote from home only on bills that address the coronavirus. The House Democrats are pushing for legislation that will give assistants to healthcare workers and changes to school attendance rules. The changes are in effect until Gov. Wolf ends the coronavirus disaster declaration. The state senate is already able to cast a vote for official legislative duties off-site. At this time, the Senate has not announced yet if they will be in Harrisburg on Wed after canceling two days thus far. 

City

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Since declaring a state of emergency, the city is stressing that individuals who have been laid off from Coronavirus-19 related shutdowns or have been quarantined can qualify for unemployment benefits or workers’ compensation. Important changes  include:  

  • PA has suspended the waiting week where previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment 
  • Claimants do not have to prove that they have been looking for a job or have applied to a job to maintain their benefits. 

More information can be found here. 

Sick Leave: As a reminder, in Philadelphia, all businesses with more than 10 employees must offer paid sick leave. If you have any questions regarding this, please reach out to us at Bellevue Strategies and we can help you. 

The following operations in the Philadelphia city government have been closed. 

Jury and non-jury, criminal and civil, as well as preliminary hearings, are suspended and will be rescheduled. Jurors do not need to report for jury duty, and all civil, pretrial conferences, case management conferences, diversion programs, discovery lists, and trials are canceled or postponed. The same is true for criminal trials. In addition, sheriff sales evictions have been suspended. 

Municipal courts in Philadelphia will not execute any evictions for the next two weeks. 

Shelter hearings, juvenile detention, and restraining orders are considered essential and will continue in Philadelphia. 

The City announced that the Philadelphia Parking Authority will temporarily not enforce metered parking or timed parking. PPA has suspended collecting revenue, as well.

Reading Terminal announced that it will stay open during the coronavirus outbreak. The market is stopping delivery charges and order minimums for anyone that is in a 16-mile radius. 

Helpful Links 

Microsoft is offering six months of Office 365 tools for free for business, municipalities, K-12 and other entities, to assist with remote work. They will also offer free help with setup. 

Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits to small businesses impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

Good News for the Day

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If you have suddenly found yourself confined to your home during the COVID-19 shutdowns, Google has launched an ingenious new service that allows art lovers to get their culture fix from the comfort of their own home.
Google Arts and Culture has partnered with more than 2,500 museums and galleries around the world in order to offer virtual tours and online displays of their collections to internet surfers. (Via The Good News Network)
The spots you can visit from your couch include the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Riksmuseum in the Netherlands, and even the Uffizi Gallery of Florence (which our Research Analyst, Kristina, highly recommends).
And, while the news that covers the spread of COVID-19 is largely negative, here are 10 positives updates from around the world.
From all of us here at Bellevue, stay safe and stay healthy!

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