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Coronavirus Telephone Town Hall Scheduled for Friday at 1:45 p.m.

This Friday, March 27 at 1:45 p.m., I will be hosting a live Telephone Town Hall to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and to answer questions about our state and local response to the crisis.

There are a few ways to participate in the Telephone Town Hall. First, you can sign up to participate and begin submitting your questions now at Anyone interested in listening will also be able to live stream the event at Lastly, to sign up and participate from your phone, text SENBLAKE to 833-898-5483.

We are expecting a high volume of participation this Friday and will do our best to get to as many questions as possible during the Town Hall.

$61 Million in State Aid Available to PA Small Businesses

There have been devastating impacts across the spectrum as our Commonwealth and our country deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our small business community has been among the hardest hit by the closure of non-essential businesses and the CDC recommendations to avoid public places and gatherings. That is why the Governor and the General Assembly worked together to make $61 million in low-interest loans available to Pennsylvania small businesses to deal with the effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $61 million will fund working capital loans of up to $100,000 for small businesses that employ fewer than 100 employees through the Small Business First Fund. In addition to a low interest rate, there will be no application fee, and the terms will include no payments and no interest for the first year of the loan. 

Both the state and the federal governments need to ensure that our small business community has adequate and available resources to weather this unprecedented global pandemic. This funding is available to all small businesses – including our neighborhood restaurants and bars.

Small businesses can begin applying for funding later this week at

Gov. Wolf Orders Closure of Non-Life Sustaining Businesses Across PA

Effective earlier this week, Governor Wolf ordered that all non-life sustaining businesses close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Any businesses requesting clarification on whether they are defined as life-sustaining can view the list by clicking here. Businesses can also email the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) customer service resource account at or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and select option 1 to reach DCED staff. For businesses that determine from the list that they are non-life sustaining, but would like to seek a waiver, there is an online waiver application which can be accessed by clicking here.

When a business completes a waiver form, a team of professionals at DCED will review each request and respond based on the guiding principle of balancing public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions. Those requesting a waiver will be notified via email if their operations may re-open. Businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about their application. Additional resources and information will be posted to as they become available.

COVID-19 School Closures Extended Through April 6

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recently announced that all schools in the Commonwealth will remain closed through at least April 6 as a result of the COVID-19 response efforts. The closure order could be extended beyond April 6 if necessary to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19.

PDE noted that when it is determined that students can return to school, administrators, teachers and other staff will be given two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations. Students would return on the third day.

To assist schools during the extended closure, the state’s 29 intermediate units are ready to provide technical assistance to help develop continuity of education plans for all students. Locally, NEIU 19 has developed a Continuity of Education Hub to assist school districts with the prolonged closure.

Additionally, last Thursday PDE cancelled all PSSA testing and Keystone exams for the 2019-20 school year, as well as the Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment (PASA). The U.S. Department of Education approved Pennsylvania’s waiver request the following day, and further waived accountability and reporting requirements for the 2019-20 school year.

The department has been providing ongoing guidance to school communities in the form of FAQs. The guidance information is available at

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended to December 31, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the deadline to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2019 has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020 by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Rebates are available for property taxes or rent paid in 2018 for eligible residents age 65 and older, people 18 and older with disabilities and widows and widowers 50 and older.

The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. Keep in mind, half of your Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase the rebate to $975.

If you did not receive an application or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available online. Additionally, if you would like an application mailed to your house, please contact my office at 570-207-2881.

For more information and eligibility requirements for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, click here.

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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.

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