Senator Robert Tomlinson E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Senate Approves Bills to Support Safe, Responsible Reopening of Many Employers
  • PA Senate COVID-19 Hearings Explore Impacts on Education, Transportation and Safety
  • After Senate Hearing, Department of Health Reverses Course on Nursing Home Testing
  • New Funding Provided to Long-term Care Facilities, First Responders
  • PennDOT Driver Licenses and Photo IDs Can Use Existing Photos
  • Additional Federal Funding Available for Schools
  • Reopening Bucks County in a Safe Manner

Senate Approves Bills to Support Safe, Responsible Reopening of Many Employers

“Today, I voted on multiple pieces of legislation that will allow small businesses to reopen here in the Commonwealth. House Bill 2388 will allow vehicle dealers, salons, barbershops, dog groomers, manufacturing operations, and lawn and garden centers to open back up for business. This legislation passed the Senate with bipartisan support. House Bill 2412 will allow businesses that deal with real estate transactions and legal services to operate here in Pennsylvania. This legislation passed the Senate again with bipartisan support. I call on Governor Wolf to listen to the people of Pennsylvania and sign this legislation into law. This is not a “surrender” however, this legislation is a common sense approach that will allow these small business owners to operate as long as they follow CDC and Department of Health safety guidelines, the same guidelines that are already in place for businesses that are currently open throughout Pennsylvania.

In addition to this critical legislation, I was proud to vote for Senate Bill 327, this will allow County Officials to work on and implement a plan to reopen businesses in their respective County. As pointed out in a letter to Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine by our County Commissioners that state the facts about COVID-19 here in Bucks County, our community spread is down significantly. Dr. David Damsker, who is our Bucks County Director of Health, said “The numbers consistently show improvement, and I feel more and more comfortable with the idea of moving to the next phase of reopening in the near future.” This legislation will empower our local elected officials with the ability to determine how Bucks County will reopen its businesses. Bucks County knows how to reopen its economy better then Harrisburg. I have no doubt that the Bucks County Commissioners have the best interests of all Bucks County residents and business owners in mind. I am confident that they will develop a thoughtful, careful plan that will put Bucks County back to work in a safe and effective manner.

Again as I have said, I am ready to vote on any legislation that will get my constituents back to work in a safe manner, and I am ready to vote in support of any legislation that will provide funding for additional PPE and testing for Pennsylvanians.“

PA Senate COVID-19 Hearings Explore Impacts on Education, Transportation and Safety

This week, Senate committees continued to examine the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 in regards to education and transportation, as well as the ability to protect vulnerable populations while reopening various industries throughout the state.

A hearing of the Senate Education Committee on Monday focused on continuity of education for young people during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the path forward for schools to reopen in the fall. Video and Testimony

On Tuesday, the Senate Transportation Committee explored the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on transportation projects, as well as the cost of the shutdown to taxpayers. Video and Testimony

The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Aging and Youth Committee held a joint hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony from medical experts and county officials about how to protect older Pennsylvanians and others at the highest risk from COVID-19 as counties begin the process of reopening. Video and Testimony

The hearings this week come on the heels of a series of four hearings last week that covered topics like Unemployment Compensation problems, efforts to protecting nursing home residents, Wine & Spirts store issues, and the governor’s plan to reopen the state. 

After Senate Hearing, Department of Health Reverses Course on Nursing Home Testing

In response to a Senate hearing last week that uncovered gross inadequacies in the Wolf Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Health announced this week that it would ramp up testing of staff and residents of long-term care facilities. To date, more than two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in the state have been residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

While the Department of Health’s new emphasis on protecting residents and staff of these facilities is a step in the right direction, more work remains to be done to ensure they get the resources and supplies they need. 

New Funding Provided to Long-term Care Facilities, First Responders

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been a hotbed of activity for COVID-19, and a Senate hearing last week found that these organizations have not been prioritized by the Wolf Administration for testing and Personal Protective Equipment. I voted this week on a bill that would provide critical financial support to long-term care facilities, as well as first responders who risk exposure to the virus every day.

The bill would dedicate an additional $507 million to nursing homes and other facilities and programs serving seniors. In addition, a new grant program totaling $31 million would be created to provide a one-time funding boost to fire and EMS companies during the pandemic. The money would come from Pennsylvania’s share of funding from the federal CARES Act.

PennDOT Driver Licenses and Photo IDs Can Use Existing Photos

In order to limit the number of people who must visit PennDOT Photo License Centers, the department recently announced that they will use existing photos on file for customers who renew driver licenses and photo ID cards. All customers who renew their driver’s license or photo ID card online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo of that individual that exists in PennDOT’s system.

Individuals who completed a renewal form prior to May 10 will still receive a camera card in the mail and will need to have an updated photo taken. A list of PennDOT office locations that have been reopened is available at www.dmv.pa.gov.

Additional Federal Funding Available for Schools

Local education agencies can apply now for a share of $523.8 million in one-time emergency funds from the federal government to help schools respond to the COVID-19 crisis. He funding can be used for food service, professional training, technology purchases, sanitization and cleaning supplies, summer and after-school programs and mental health supports.

More information and applications are available here.

Reopening Bucks County in a Safe Manner

After a Senate hearing last week highlighted inadequacies in COVID-19 testing in long-term care facilities, the Wolf Administration has reversed course and announced today that they will begin widespread testing of residents and employees.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said at a hearing last week that the administration would continue to “think” about testing more patients in long-term care communities. Maryland and West Virginia have already ordered testing for all residents and staff of its long-term care facilities.

During her testimony, Secretary Levine said she would take the idea of expanded testing back to her team. Secretary Levine also said the department has been limited in testing because of a lack of supplies and issues with the federal government.

However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on April 29 that commercial laboratories, which have done more than 2.6 million COVID-19 tests, have excess capacity to meet rising demand.

The Department will now work with commercial laboratories to ensure universal testing for staff and residents within long-term care settings.

We must provide testing for these individuals, both residents and employees as we continue to combat COVID-19. This critical reversal in Department of Health policy will help us direct valuable resources to the areas that need it most.

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