In This Edition:
Stefano Touts Bill Providing Relief for Restaurants
Governor Tom Wolf today signed House Bill 327, now Act 21 of 2020, would permit the sale of prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premise consumption during the COVID-19 disaster emergency by those possessing a valid restaurant or hotel liquor license. The measure is intended to provide relief for Restaurant and Hotel licensees that have lost more than 25 percent of their average monthly sales, including alcohol sales, as a result of the emergency.
The beverages must be sold in containers with a secure lid in quantities from 4 oz. to 64 oz. before 11 p.m. An additional seal is required on the straw opening of a lid. Within 60 days, bars and restaurants must use a transaction scan device to verify a consumer’s age if the person appears to be younger than 35 years of age.
I am very pleased that many restaurants that have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 health emergency, will now be able to open outdoor areas to the public. This is in line with my position, and that of my Republican colleagues, that many sectors of the economy can be safely reopened, with employees and members of the public following safety guidelines outlined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Enabling these small businesses to begin reopening safely will help get people back to work, which is crucial moving forward. This is a step in the right direction, and one I strongly support not just as a legislator but as a small-business owner who understands the difficult challenges that others are facing.
The temporary rule expires after the COVID-19 disaster emergency ends and a business reaches 60 percent capacity. Pennsylvania’s open container law applies.
Honoring America’s Heroes on Memorial Day
This Memorial Day, I encourage all community residents to pause and reflect on the service and sacrifice of the heroes who answered freedom’s call and paid the ultimate price so others could live under better conditions. We are forever in their debt.
Governor Wolf Vetoes Bills Designed to Help 200,000 Pennsylvanians Get Back to Work Safely
A package of bills to help more Pennsylvanians get back to work safely and responsibly was vetoed by Governor Wolf this week. Despite the fact that the bills included numerous safety measures to protect the health of workers and customers, more than 200,000 state residents will remain out of work due to the governor’s vetoes.
Senate Bill 327 would have given county governments the option to develop and implement individual plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and allow residents to return to work safely under guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and state Department of Health.
House Bill 2388 would have required the Department of Community and Economic Development to issue waivers to the governor’s business closure order to vehicle dealers, lawn and garden centers, cosmetology salons, barber shops, messenger and agent services, animal grooming services and manufacturing operations.
House Bill 2412 would have required waivers be issued to allow legal services and real estate sales activities to resume. The governor reversed course on the real estate industry just hours after his veto, allowing limited sales to resume.
Although the governor’s actions are a bitter disappointment for many state residents who want to get back to work safely, I will continue the fight to allow Pennsylvania workers to once again start earning a paycheck to provide for their families with the proper safety measures in place.
Legislature, Public Pressure Push Wolf to Allow Real Estate Sales
After vetoing a bipartisan bill that would have allowed real estate sales to resume in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Governor Wolf abruptly reversed course and issued guidance that will allow the real estate industry to conduct limited sales statewide.
Under the new guidance, real estate activities can resume if proper precautions are taken, including minimizing in-person contact, staggering scheduling and limiting time spent in the property for face-to-face conversations. Providing food and conducting in-person group showings would be prohibited.
The new guidance comes as the governor faced the prospect of a potential override of his veto of House Bill 2412, legislation that would have allowed real estate activities to continue with proper safety measures in place. A near-veto-proof majority of lawmakers approved the bill, and leaders on both sides of the aisle encouraged the governor to sign the legislation into law.
New Law Allows Property Tax/Rent Rebates to Arrive Early
Low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities face unique challenges during the COVID-19 public health emergency. I supported a new law passed by the Senate last week that will allow these individuals to receive property tax and rent rebates sooner than the previously scheduled date of July 1.
The state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program provides rebates of up to $650 on property taxes or rent paid in 2019. Supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. Instead of the Department of Revenue paying out a large number of rebates on July 1, the new law ensures rebates will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis beginning this week.
Applicants can check the status of their Property Tax/Rent Rebate here or by calling 1-888-222-9190.
ATV Trails Open Now in State Forests
In order to provide new opportunities for recreation and reduce opening weekend crowding, All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trails in state forests have opened early. ATV riders are reminded that riding is permitted only on designated trails, not state forest roads, state parks or state game lands.
A list of ATV trails in Pennsylvania’s 20 state forest districts is available on the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.
USDA Approves Online Grocery Purchasing for SNAP Recipients During COVID-19 Crisis
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorized Pennsylvania to join a pilot program permitting recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, to purchase groceries online through participating retailers during the COVID-19 crisis.
After the program is active in early June, eligible food items normally paid for by SNAP will be able to be purchased online with Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite. Retailers that are interested in participating must contact USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to review the requirements to be added to the program.
Memorial Day Reminders from PA Fish and Boat Commission
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding state residents to wear a life jacket if they plan to head out on the water over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Boaters and kayakers are also advised by PFBC to practice social distancing.
In addition, May 24 (Sunday) is one of PFBC’s two Fish-for-Free days during which a fishing license is not required. Anglers must still follow all other rules and regulations. More information is available at www.fishandboat.com.
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