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Governor Wolf Unveils Three Phase Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania

Earlier this week, Governor Tom Wolf unveiled his plan to utilize a three-phase matrix to determine when counties and/or regions are ready to begin easing some restrictions on work, congregate settings, and social interactions.

The red phase, which currently applies to the whole state, has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business, school closures, and building safety protocols.

As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place. For example, retail locations will be able to open with forthcoming guidance in place that is substantially similar to the worker safety and building safety order. Otherwise retail will be able to allow for curbside pickup. The purpose of this phase is to begin to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible.

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay at home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health. While this phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary to ensure the spread of disease remains at a minimum.

The administration will use Pennsylvania Department of Health metrics and a data tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University to decide when to move to a new phase. The administration will first study conditions in the north-central and northwest regions of Pennsylvania with a target of moving from red to yellow on May 8.

For more detailed information on the Governor's plan, click here.

Telephone Town Hall Set for Tomorrow at 1:10 p.m.

Tomorrow, Friday, April 24 at 1:10 p.m., I will be hosting another live Telephone Town Hall to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and to answer any questions about our state and local response to the crisis. Last month's discussion was very productive and with the new information available, I thought it would be important to host a second Telephone Town Hall.

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 www.senatorblake.com/townhall. Anyone interested in listening will also be able to live stream the event at https://vekeo.com/senatorblake/. Lastly, to sign up and participate from your phone, text SENBLAKE to 833-898-5483.

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


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Now Available

Self-employed workers, independent contractors and gig workers are now able to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Pennsylvanians who meet PUA eligibility requirements can now apply online. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry expects to begin making payments within two to four weeks after initial claims are submitted.

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.

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).

Anyone collecting PUA benefits is also eligible for the extra $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. This benefit is effective from the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020.

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

Important Updates on Vehicle Sales, Construction and PLCB Stores

Governor Wolf recently announced a number of important updates for certain sectors of our business community as we begin to move toward the reopening of our economy.

First, car dealerships can now complete online sales in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 841, which was signed into law by the Governor earlier this week, allows for, among other things, remote notarization. The legalization of remote notarization along with a recognition that many notaries can continue physical operations will allow certain licensed dealers the latitude to conduct virtual vehicle sales. Dealers should direct customers to shop online at dealer websites and contact the dealer electronically (by phone, email, text message, etc.). All transaction terms Issued 04-20-20 must be discussed and agreed-to between the dealer and customer electronically. No in-person viewing of vehicles is authorized under this guidance. For more information on electronic vehicle sales, click here.

Second, public and private residential and non-residential construction may resume statewide starting Friday, May 1, in accordance with safety guidance that will be issued by the administration.

Lastly, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has started accepting orders by phone for curbside pickup at 176 locations -- including four Lackawanna County locations in Childs, Clarks Summit, Dunmore and Scranton. Each store will take a limited number of orders by phone from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., from Mondays through Saturdays. Payment by credit card will be required by phone. For a complete listing of PLCB locations that are offering curbside pickup, click here. Consumers can also continue to try to place orders online for home delivery.

DCED Announces Loan Deferrals for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

The Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) recently announced the forbearance of loans administered by DCED. Governor Wolf and DCED Secretary Dennis Davin will request loan deferrals for all borrowers with the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the Commonwealth Financing Authority (excluding PENNWORKS program loans), the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority.

In March, DCED took the emergency executive step of halting April payments, late fees, and accruing interest for these loans. This additional forbearance will apply to May and June payments to include no accrual of interest or fees. Automatic payments will be halted and borrowers paying by check will not be required to submit payment until the scheduled July payment. As a result of the forbearance, the maturity of the loans will be extended for three months.

Resources and information for businesses is regularly posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses.

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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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