Pennsylvania legislature approves COVID-19 response measures

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HARRISBURG, Pa (WHTM) – Pennsylvania legislature approved several coronavirus response measures, congregating online Wednesday.

“Make no mistake, we are in the midst of a public health emergency which will require the cooperation and patience of every Pennsylvanian,” Aument said in a release. “As such, it was encouraging to see all branches of government work together today in a bipartisan and collaborative fashion to pass this legislative package that will provide critical support to our schools, businesses, families, and communities as we confront this pandemic. To that end, my priority continues to be to ensure that all Pennsylvanians remain healthy, safe, and positioned to experience economic opportunity and upward mobility after this moment of crisis has passed.”

The coronavirus response measures included:

·       Senate Bill 422, which postpones Pennsylvania’s primary election from April 28 to June 2.

·       Senate Bill 751, which updates the state’s School Code to waive a handful of mandates that cannot be fulfilled under current circumstances.

·       House Bill 68, which provides for emergency changes to the state’s Unemployment Compensation law in response to COVID-19.

·       House Bill 1232, which provides additional funding to healthcare facilities to purchase medical supplies and equipment and extends the deadline for certain state and local income tax payments and filings.

Senate Bill 422 would push back the primary election date to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The bill would also give county election officials authority to close, relocate or consolidate polling places due to potential shortage of available volunteers and venues.

Volunteers could also be drawn from anywhere in the county; previous law mandated that volunteers had to be from the same election district.

In addition, the bill would allow county election officials to begin processing absentee ballots earlier to ensure election results can be reported earlier. Counties could also continue to use previously printed ballots with the April 28 Primary date.

Senate Bill 751 would waive the requirement that all public schools must be open at least 180 days per school year. The bill allows the Secretary of Education to waive similar restrictions for career and technical schools and pre-kindergarten instruction.

The bill would also give the Education Secretary authorization to increase the number of flexible instruction days used by a school district and waive other requirements for educator preparation programs and assessment exams for career and technical students.

It also guarantees that teachers will receive the same compensation they would have received if the pandemic had not occurred.

House Bill 68 would ease eligibility requirements and access to unemployment compensation for workers who have been directly impacted by the coronavirus, including waiving the one-week waiting period for all claimants during the governor’s disaster declaration. Job search and registration requirements for claimants would also be waived under the bill.

The bill also provides automatic relief from benefit charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged for weeks of unemployment occurring during the duration of a disaster emergency.

House Bill 1232 would provide up to $50 million of additional funding to healthcare facilities for the sole purpose of buying medical equipment and supplies to address the increased demands that COVID-19 could place on the entire healthcare system.

The new money will help ensure healthcare facilities can better meet the needs of patients and staff.

Additionally, House Bill 1232 extends the deadline for individuals who are required to declare and pay estimated Personal Income Tax as well as delays the filing of informational returns for Pennsylvania S corporations and partnerships, estates, and trusts. 

The legislation also authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development to coordinate with local political subdivisions to extend filing and payment deadlines for the local Earned Income Tax. These deadlines have been extended to July 15.

The bill would also extend temporary regulations related to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis industry until November 2021.

Gavel-to-gavel video of session and all committee meetings today are available at www.PAsenateGOP.com.

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