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Regional Recovery Task Force Established for Lackawanna County

Across our region and around the globe, we are facing an unprecedented public health and economic crisis – the depth and complexities of which we’ve never seen and we’ve never known. COVID-19 has changed the way we live, the way we work and the way we communicate. It does not, however, diminish our resolve to come together to see our communities and our residents through this global pandemic.

Earlier this week, we announced the formation of a Regional Recovery Task Force (RRTF) to ensure we are ready for the eventual reopening of our economy and that we are positioned to aggressively pursue and obtain any additional state or federal funding that should be invested in our communities and our people. This bipartisan Task Force will be a unified and collective voice on behalf of Lackawanna County residents and businesses.

The Task Force will meet frequently and routinely, and we will be planning and setting forth near- and long-term goals. The health and safety of Lackawanna County residents will, however, remain our top priority. We will continue to monitor the guidelines and policy directives set forth by Governor Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Regional Recovery Task Force includes myself; State Representative Kyle Mullins, 112th District; State Representative Marty Flynn, 113th District; State Representative Bridget Kosierowski, 114th District; State Representative Karen Boback, 117th District; State Representative Mike Carroll, 118th District; Lackawanna County Commissioners Jerry Notarianni, Debi Domenick and Chris Chermak; Paige Cognetti, Mayor of Scranton; and Bob Durkin, President, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce. The Task Force will actively engage a number of other business leaders in our financial services and health care industries as well as public safety and community and economic development professionals.

The Regional Recovery Task Force will focus the attention of experts and stakeholders via six separate work groups to address critical and interrelated sectors of our economy. These work groups include: Public Health, Workforce, Business Assistance/Finance, Education, Strategic Planning and Marketing.

We look forward to working together on behalf of all residents of Lackawanna County to ensure that our region, our businesses and our residents are prepared to act when directives and guidelines for reopening are issued.

It will be a long road to recovery, but together, we will lead our communities and our people back to a place of health and prosperity.

PUA System Now Fully Operational and Accepting Weekly Certifications

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) system now has full functionality and those eligible can begin to submit weekly certifications. The PUA system will backdate your weekly claim to when you first became unemployed, as reported by you when you entered your last day of work in your initial PUA claim.  You can refer to the  PUA System Guide, or utilize two helpful screenshot guides to help you through the process: PUA Weekly Certification Filing Guide and Part-time Job – PUA Weekly Certification Filing Guide.
Please remember that you need to file your PUA certifications WEEKLY to get paid. An unemployment week is Sunday through Saturday, so the first day you can file your weekly claim is on Sunday. You don’t have to file on Sunday – you can file your weekly claim any day Sunday through Friday. After the first payment, you will receive weekly PUA payments typically within three business days after filing your weekly certification.

PUA will provide up to 39 weeks of benefits and may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment ($572) or less than half of the state’s average weekly benefit ($195). Payments will be backdated to January 27, 2020 or the first week an individual was unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later).

Individuals eligible for benefits under PUA include those that are self-employed; independent contractors; gig workers; clergy and those working for religious organizations; and those without sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment benefits.

For information on the information and documentation needed to apply for PUA benefits, click here.

Attention Students: Deadline to Apply for PA State Grant is May 15

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is reminding students and families that the deadline to apply for the Pennsylvania State Grant Program is next Friday, May 15. Students planning on attending college in the 2020-21 Academic Year anytime during the fall, winter or spring terms are eligible to apply.

The PA State Grant Program is a financial assistance program administered by PHEAA that provides funding to eligible Pennsylvanians and helps them afford the costs of higher education at the undergraduate level. To apply for the PA State Grant Program, students and families must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for the State Grant Program and most other forms of student aid, including Federal Pell Grants and low-cost federal student loans. The FAFSA can be completed online at

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, it is critically important that our students and their families apply any and all financial assistance that they may be eligible to receive. PHEAA notes that in Pennsylvania alone, applications for student aid have dropped by 31,000, or nearly 9%, compared to the same time last year.

As a member of the PHEAA Board of Directors, I understand the importance of their student financial aid services that serve millions of students and thousands of schools and I encourage all of our students and families to apply for the PA State Grant program.

Voter Registration, Mail-In Voting Deadlines Upcoming for June 2 Primary

There are two very important deadlines fast approaching for the June 2 Primary Election. First, if you would like to register to vote, the deadline to be able to cast a ballot is Monday, May 18.  Second, if you would like to vote by mail-in or absentee ballot in the June 2 Primary Election, the deadline to apply is Tuesday, May 26.  Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Lackawanna County is encouraging all residents to apply for a mail-in ballot for the June 2 Primary Election. A mail-in ballot is the safest way to ensure your voice is heard and your vote is counted on June 2.

If you need to register to vote or would like to apply for a mail-in ballot, you can complete the applications online at If you are unable to apply online and would like a paper application mailed to your house, please contact my office at 570-207-2881.

Gov. Wolf Order Protects Pennsylvanians From Evictions, Foreclosures

Earlier this week, Governor Tom Wolf signed an executive order that protects Pennsylvanians from foreclosures or evictions through July 10. The action builds on a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order which closed court eviction proceedings until May 11 and ensures no renter or homeowner will be removed from their home for 60 more days.

During the Stay at Home Order, it is critically important to public health that families are not displaced and without a place to live. This order delaying evictions and foreclosures will ensure that people can remain home and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Governor noted that in almost all circumstances, renters and homeowners are required to continue making monthly payments. If you are a Pennsylvanian struggling to make your monthly payments, you should contact your landlord or mortgage servicer immediately.

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For updates on this and other legislative initiatives, stay in touch with me through my website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Offices to Serve You


District Office
Oppenheim Building
409 Lackawanna Ave., Ste. 210
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 207-2881
Fax: (570) 207-2897
Toll free: 1-877-346-5721
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Harrisburg Office
Room 17 East Wing
The State Capitol
Senate Box 203022
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3022
Phone: (717) 787-6481
Fax: (717) 783-5198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Sen. Blake discusses Poverty Listening Tour stop in Scranton