Gov. Wolf renews COVID-19 disaster declaration

This Week in Pennsylvania

(Photo: PA Governor’s Office)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Thursday, Gov. Wolf signed a renewal of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emergency disaster declaration provides for increased support to state agencies involved in the continued response to the virus and recovery for the state during reopening. It has allowed for waivers and extensions to continue to provide for Pennsylvanians and businesses under the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, including the ability to waive the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment compensation and the registration requirement with PA CareerLink for applicants.

“The disaster declaration allows more medical professionals to administer vaccines, ensures families harmed financially by the pandemic have access to healthy food through SNAP benefits and ensures Pennsylvania counties and businesses remain eligible for federal disaster recovery dollars,” Gov. Wolf said.

Even with vaccines ramping up and restrictions lifting soon, Wolf asks Pennsylvanians to remain vigilant and safe.

“COVID-19 vaccinations have increased dramatically in recent weeks and we are making significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Wolf said. “As previously announced, we are lifting all mitigation measures on Memorial Day, but we need just a little more time under this current disaster declaration to ensure that we do not risk valuable resources that will help Pennsylvania recover from the pandemic. We will continue to monitor vaccination rates and adjust mitigation orders accordingly.”

Through the disaster declaration, PEMA has been able to assign the National Guard to provide various types of support for long-term care facilities, including providing direct patient care support, ancillary support, and testing, and at community-based testing sites. It also provides PEMA with the ability to leverage continued federal support such as non-congregate sheltering.

Although Pennsylvanians voted to limit disaster declaration powers, it is not immediately put into effect. Pa. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R – Westmoreland) says they will meet soon to discuss the next steps.

The length of the declaration will be 21 days following the certification of the election. The election will be certified before the 21-day deadline for the expiration of the disaster declaration, and when certified the disaster declaration expiration timeline will begin on May 18.

“Moving forward, the general assembly will operate under the framework established with the recent constitutional changes approved by the voters on Tuesday, and will apply these changes to the governor’s renewal of the emergency declaration as we transition the state out of emergency status without jeopardizing federal dollars and to expedite the vaccine rollout,” Ward said. “As part of this transition, the governor will be handing over specific information to the general assembly that has not been shared previously.  These details are needed by the general assembly to take the necessary next steps to expedite the reopening of our state.”

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