In This Update:
13 More Counties Moving to Yellow Phase of Reopening
On May 15, an additional 13 Pennsylvania counties will move to the yellow phase of reopening, including Bedford and Cambria. These counties will join the other 24 counties that moved to the yellow phase today.
All of the counties moving to the yellow phase are: Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.
Additional information for employers in these counties is available at the links below.
Senate Education Committee Virtual Hearing on Continuity of Education to PA Students During COVID-19
The Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) will hold a remote public hearing at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 11, in Harrisburg to discuss ways to ensure continuity of education for students in K-12 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those scheduled to testify are Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and representatives of the PA School Boards Association, the PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the PA State Education Association and the PA Association of Intermediate Units
Guidance Available for Businesses in Yellow Phase Counties Reopening Today
As businesses in 24 counties begin the process of reopening today, new guidelines are available to ensure safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses should clean and disinfect high-contact areas, make plans in case the business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, practice social distancing, and identify employees who have been exposed to the virus and ensure they are sent home.
Other guidance includes requiring all employees to wear masks, limiting non-essential visitors, and avoiding large groups from entering, leaving or congregating together at the same time. Businesses that have questions about these guidelines are encouraged to contact the Department of Health at 1-877-724-3258.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control also has updated guidance for child care centers to protect children, staff and families from COVID-19.
Counties moving to the yellow phase today are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.
I am strongly urging Governor Wolf and the Department of Health to allow businesses in more counties to operate under these safety guidelines as soon as possible.
Healthcare Facilities, First Responders and More Could Qualify for Free N95 Decontamination
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of a new decontamination system that allows N95 masks to be cleaned and safely reused. The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System is capable of decontaminating tens of thousands of N95 masks each day.
The program is available to hospitals, urgent care centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, cancer centers, pharmacies, dialysis centers, assisted living facilities, clinical laboratories, emergency medical services (EMS), and private practice/outpatient facilities. The service is free for eligible organizations; the only cost is shipping to and from the site.
State agencies and other organizations are distributing information about the new service to eligible organizations now. More details are available here.
Farms, Farm Markets Eligible for Free SNAP Processing Equipment
Farmers and farmers markets who would like to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits from customers can now receive the technology needed for the program at no cost thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To receive the equipment, vendors must be an authorized SNAP retailer. Those needing authorization can apply through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Authorized vendors can contact Conduent, Pennsylvania’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) provider, at (888) 736-6328 to request the free wireless EBT processing equipment. The federal grant also covers set-up costs and one year of SNAP transaction fees.
Funding Will Support Aging and Disability Resource Centers
A statewide network that provides information and referral services to older adults and individuals with disabilities will receive additional funding to support operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant funding will support a variety of different services, including care transition services, food order and delivery, assistive technology and more.
The PA Link to Aging and Disability Resources is available to individuals, family members, caregivers and providers through a helpline at 1-800-753-8827.
Temporary Food Assistance Program Offers Support for Students
Families of students who receive free or reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program are eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic under a temporary new program.
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program provides SNAP funds to households through EBT cards issued to qualifying families. P-EBT will provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch (or approximately $5.70 per-child, per-day) for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children. The benefit will be calculated for the remainder of the school year, or about $370.50 per-child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began.
Families can apply online for the benefits at www.compass.state.pa.us.