In This Update:
Stefano Backs Effort to Allow More Capacity at Event Venues
Under restrictions set by Governor Tom Wolf, indoor events such as weddings are limited to just 25 people. I believe this is too severe, and unfairly penalizes restaurants and event catering companies, which employ thousands of Pennsylvanians.
I recently joined State Rep. Matt Dowling and local employers for a news conference announcing Representative Dowling’s legislation increasing event capacity to 50 percent of their indoor seating capacity, while adhering to health protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
This bill would complement four bills I am drafting to help these struggling businesses stay open and keep workers employed. Among other features, the bills would remove the 25 people/25 percent restriction on indoor dining, remove the restriction that patrons must purchase a meal to buy alcoholic beverages for on-premise consumption, and eliminate the prohibition on bar service.
In all instances, social distancing and other safety regulations must be followed. I believe that these commonsense changes, along with Representative Dowling’s proposal, can protect public health, keep these businesses operating, and keep local workers from losing their jobs.
Hearing Explores Economic Impact of PA’s Participation in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
In 2019, Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order mandating Pennsylvania’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a compact between several Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that imposes a carbon tax on electricity production and requires fossil fuel generators to purchase allowances. Creating this new tax could create significant new financial burdens on Pennsylvania consumers and cost the state thousands of family-sustaining jobs.
This week, the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a public hearing to examine the economic and employment impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI. The hearing featured testimony from leaders in the energy industry, business, organized labor, local governments and other stakeholders detailing the impact that a carbon tax could have on Pennsylvania communities. One estimate found that Pennsylvania consumers could pay an additional $2.6 billion in energy costs over the first 11 years of participating in RGGI.
In April, 18 senators signed on to a letter urging Governor Wolf to rescind his Executive Order on RGGI, and legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would prevent the governor from imposing a carbon tax without the approval of the General Assembly.
Committee Examines Issues Facing Fire, EMS Companies
Fire and EMS companies provide critical services to our communities, but unfortunately, they also face significant challenges that have only been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee held a hearing in Pike County this week to explore the most serious issues facing these organizations, both today and in the future.
Much of the discussion focused on progress toward implementing the recommendations of the Senate Resolution 6 Commission, which was formed in 2017 to study and address challenges facing Pennsylvania’s emergency response system. Some of the topics discussed during the hearing included recruitment and retention of first responders, fundraising challenges, mental health resources for personnel and new challenges created by the pandemic.
So far in 2020, the Senate has approved nine bills to support fire and EMS companies, including three bills that have been signed into law.
Additional Unemployment Payments Coming Soon
Pennsylvania will move forward with President Trump’s plan to provide an additional $300 per week in supplemental payments for many state residents who are collecting unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Lost Wages Assistance grant program, payments will be made directly to eligible claimants retroactively from August 1.
The state applied to participate in the program recently, and the application was approved by the federal government this week. The program will require Pennsylvania to set up a new system to distribute the additional payments to claimants. More details on the timing of these payments will be available soon.
New Mental Health Resources Guide Available
Pennsylvanians who are dealing with mental health challenges can find help through a new mental health resources guide. The guide offers information on treatment options, preventing suicide, helping a loved one, coping with grief and major life changes, stress management and more.
Additional sections offer specific advice and resources for service members and veterans, individuals dealing with substance abuse and victims of domestic violence.
Education Loan Repayment Grants Available for Physicians Serving Underserved Areas
Primary care practitioners serving medically underserved populations could be eligible for grants to repay educational loans as part of the Pennsylvania Primary Care Loan Repayment Program. The program provides an incentive for practitioners to serve communities where there is a shortage of health care options for residents.
Applications for the program will be accepted through September 30. More information about the program, including eligibility and application information, is available at the Department of Health’s website.
2021 PA Farm Show Will Be Held Virtually; In-Person Events Cancelled
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced last week that the 2021 Farm Show would not host any in-person events or competitions. Instead, the celebration of our state’s rich agricultural heritage will be held virtually.
The announcement is certainly disappointing for the many young people who look forward to the Farm Show each year. Although 2021 Farm Show plans are still being finalized, I am hopeful that the virtual event will still allow the next generation of farmers to properly showcase and sell the products of their hard work throughout the year.
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