COVID-19 Update, 03/24/2020
- Throughout the day, leadership from both parties in Washington have said they are extremely close to finalizing a bill.
- Democrats were able to ensure that there will be oversight of a $500 billion fund for affected corporations. There would be an inspector general and a five-person congressional panel to oversee the pot of money.
- The House is hoping to pass the bill with unanimous consent so lawmakers do not have to return to D.C.
- Legislative leaders across the country are warning that the fiscal damage from COVID-19 will have long term impacts on their state’s budgets as the projected tax collections are now uncertain.
- Most states have been hyper-focused on legislation related to Covid-19. For example, in the Connecticut state legislature, members were close to creating a public health option for those who cannot afford private insurance, but the bill will likely fail now.
- Trump will finally use the Defense Production Act to order much needed medical equipment. Last week he invoked the DPA, but so far he has resisted actually using it.
- The Defense Production Act which was passed in 1950 in response to production needs during the Korean War gives the government more control during emergencies to oversee industry production. It mandates that contracts must fill federal government orders before their other clients.
- However, there is a shortage of key materials that are needed to run these tests.
- States across the U.S. are now considering expanding mail voting due to COVID-19.
- Nationally, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Ron Wyden have introduced legislation that would require states to offer all voters in the country the option of casting their ballots by mail.
- Voting rights advocates caution that vote by mail could leave out certain voters – specifically voters of color.
- In 2018, more than 430,000 mail-in votes nationwide were rejected because they either did not arrive in time to be counted, the voter didn’t provide the required signature, or the voter’s signature didn’t match the one on record.
- Pennsylvania has mail-in voting. You can apply for a ballot here.
- Senator Bob Casey is pushing for more government intervention in the stimulus package saying “If you have COVID-19, you shouldn’t pay a goddamn dime for treatment.”
- Meanwhile, Senator Toomey is supporting the current package without the protections that Democrats are demanding. Toomey is the author of the section of the bill that would direct aid to businesses with more than 500 employees to help pay their expenses. This fund would be open to nearly all businesses and aid would be publicly disclosed, Toomey said.
- Lawmakers have been in talks with Gov. Wolf’s administration for an emergency relief fund that would be used to help hospitals get ready for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients.
- A similar fund has been established in Washington State for $200 million.
- The proposal calls for the Pennsylvania Department of Health to administer the money.
- The fund would be used to cover such costs as overtime and new hiring to temporary housing for patients and childcare facilities for healthcare workers.
- However, at the moment the fund would only be accessed if federal money is not available. However, many in the state House and representatives from hospitals do not want to wait for federal money.
- Childcare providers are asking the state for $100 million in stimulus aid to help their sector.
- The $100 million they are asking for would help centers pay their payroll and overhead until they are able to reopen their doors.
- Many providers say they will have to close without state help.
Bills and Co-Sponsorship Memos that were introduced in Harrisburg today:
CO3386 O’Mara, Jennifer (D)
- Providing that coronavirus will be presumed to be an occupational disease for employees of life-sustaining businesses and occupations.
CO3387 Cephas, Morgan (D)
- Providing grant money to school districts to provide or expand access to technology and technological equipment for students who do not have the means to purchase such items or who do not have access to the internet at home.
CO3388 Kulik, Anita (D)
- Allowing businesses an extra 45 days to remit their sales taxes to the Department of Revenue.
CO3389 Toohill, Tarah ( R )
- Creating the Small Business Relief Act of 2020.
CO1472 Mastriano, Doug (R)
- Revises restrictions preventing the Pennsylvania Department of Health from publicizing relevant facts and data concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.
HB2371 Sturla, Mike (D)
- Amends Title 53 (Municipalities Generally), in consolidated county assessment, further providing for the assessment of occupations; and making a related repeal.
- Health care workers who work in the city’s jails as social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and technicians are not receiving the overtime pay that other city employees are receiving.
- District 1199c NUHHCE who represents the workers said that because they are contract workers and not city employees they are not receiving the raise. Talks with the administration are ongoing.
- The third marking period for the school year just ended and Superintendent William Hite said during a press conference today that it may be the last one for the year.
- In addition, he announced that the School district is working on getting internet service and Chromebook laptops to students by early April.
- City officials said that the owners of Hahnemann hospital were taking too long to negotiate a deal to reopen the hospital in response to Covid-19.
- City Manager Brian Abernathy said negotiations with Joel Freedman were “Challenging.” He goes on to say that “he [Mr. Freedman] is looking at this as a business transaction rather than providing an imminent and important need to the city and our residents.”
- The city has been working on dedicated hotlines to address Convid-19 to help domestic violence survivors, those facing eviction and more.
- Billy Penn has created a helpful directory of all the hotlines.
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