Sen. Browne Update on COVID-19

Below is a summary of the actions taken at the department level by the state to deal with or in response to COVID-19. Senator Browne hopes it is helpful to you and your residents. An example of information you may wish to get out to your residents:


PennDOT

  • All driver, photo licenses centers are closed.

Expiration dates will be extended for licenses, Photo ID cards, learners permits, vehicle registrations and inspections as well as disabilities parking placards.

If your expiration date falls between March 16, 2020-March 31, 2020, you will be granted an extension until April 30, 2020.

TSA is accepting expired licenses at airport security check point.

  • PA Supreme Court expanded their statewide Judicial Emergency to mandate courts closed to the public for non-essential functions. Order here.
  • CFA met today, 3/18, and transferred $40 Million to the Pa Industrial Development Authority to help small businesses. Scarnati Press Release.
  • Wolf requested a disaster declaration for small businesses and non-profits to obtain loans from SBA. Press Release.
  • Wolf announced first death related to COVID-19 of a Northhampton County adult.
  • There are currently 133 COVID-19 cases confirmed in PA.
  • Senate met today and adopted a temporary rule change Senate Resolution 318.

COVID-19-State’s Mitigation Efforts by Department:

Ag

  • Ag website with up-to-date info.
  • If you are out of work without pay you are eligible to receive food from state and federal government provided food banks/pantrys in PA.
  • Food production and distribution is considered essential.
  • Encouraged to stay open however it is a business-by-business decision.
  • Adjust standard operating procedure to reduce risk. i.e. send sick employees home, limit person to person contact.
  • Farms should have Continuity of Business plans (COB).
  • All Farm Show events and private meetings are cancelled until further notice.

Aging

  • Website with up-to-date Info.
  • Since first case of COVID-19, the of Aging has reached out to Area Agencies on Aging, Senior Centers and Adult Day Centers, to provide guidance, connect with resources and help meet information needs. The department plans to have weekly meetings with them. Further issue guidance to minimize requirement of face-to-face contacts between older adults and support staff.
  • PACE medications: The department is relaxing the policy that a person must use 75% of their medication before seeking a refill. PACE is working to ensure older adults remain in their home and receive their medications when they desire them. He mentioned that all enrollees should be able to receive free home delivery of medications from their pharmacy.
    • PACE is making an allowance to the rule that enrollees use 75% of their supply before refilling will be reimbursed; However, this allowance will not apply for opioids or other controlled substances. Those request will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
    • Enrollees wishing to receive an exception to the refill requirement must have their pharmacy provider contact PACE. Enrollees who have difficulty obtaining their refills can call Cardholder Services at 1-800-225-7223.
  • The department released guidance for Senior Centers, Adult Day Centers and Aging Services that provide home and community-based services (i.e., OPTIONS, Domiciliary Care and Caregiver Support Programs) to help reduce face-to-face interaction and streamline assessments that may be necessary to provide services.
  • The department is also working to provide guidance related to protective services and long term care ombudsman functions as it relates to reducing exposure to both older adults and staff. This temporary guidance provides flexibility to help meet the needs of older adults that use services while ensuring their safety and that of the staff.
  • Senior Centers: They are closed as part of the Governor’s declaration. Each Area Agencies on Aging has implemented contingency plans to address communication about closings and service options available to senior center participants. They are providing nutritional services through means other than congregate meals.
  • Reaching Out: Torres encouraged individuals/family members to reach out to older adults/loved ones who are in isolation (call, facetime, Skype).

Community & Economic Development

Conservation & Natural Resources

  • DCNR website with up-to-date info.
  • State Park buildings are closed (including bathrooms and campgrounds), and all public educational programs are cancelled.
  • The public will still be able to access open areas such as trails, lakes, and roads.

Corrections

  • DOC Website with up-to-date info.
  • All state correctional institutions visits are cancelled.
  • Phone time will be increased for inmates.
  • Increased screening protocols for employees and anyone entering facilities.

Drug & Alcohol Programs

Education

  • PDE Corona Virus Website with the most up-to-date information.
  • Essential staff decision should be made by district.
  • Schools will not be penalized if they do not meet the 180 day requirement due to corona virus.
  • Schools are still providing access to meals to students. Constituents should contact the school for specific direction on how to pick up meals.
  • Federal requirement for Standardized tests has not been waived but the state is working to gain approval for flexibility.
  • PSERS info-Provisions have been drafted to address school employees concerns they wouldn’t fulfill their one full year of service credit.

Gaming Control Board

  • Visit PGCB website for the most current gaming related closures.
  • The Gaming Control Board has suspended gaming operations for all casinos.
  • Currently, no online gaming sites have been effected and remain available for use.

Human Services

County Assistance Offices (CAOs)

  • County assistance offices are closed to the public until April1. Eligibility determinations, application processing EBT payments and benefit insurance will continue. Constituents should use the website to apply for resources and submit paperwork. https://www.compass.state.pa.us/compass.web/Public/CMPHome

Child Care and Other Early Learning Programs

  • March 17, 2020: DHS has implemented a waiver process for child care facilities serving essential services personnel such as health care workers, first responders, direct health care staff and long term are facility staff who must have child care options. Child care operators seeking a waiver from the temporary closure should contact the department at

RA-PWDRACERT@pa.gov . Child Care Certification staff will respond to requests as quickly as possible. Email subject line should read, “Waiver Request – (insert county name)”.

  • March 16, 2020: Under Governor’s announcement r.e. non-essential business, certified child care centers and group child care homes operating outside a residence shall cease operations for a period of 14 days. This also applies to PA Pre-K Counts, Head Start, Preschool Early Intervention, Private Academic Nursery Schools and locally-funded prekindergarten activities.
  • March 15, 2020: The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) issued guidance on subsidized child care program/Child Care Works (CCW) payments to child care providers. Effective March 13-April 30, 2020, all CCW payments to child care providers will be made regardless of program operation or reason for closure. During this time period, child absences will not count toward the annual 40-day limit. Payments will not be made based on children’s attendance in the program but will be made based upon on the provider’s current enrollment.

DHS-Operated Facilities

  • Public access is being restricted to state hospitals, state centers for individuals with disabilities, youth detention centers and youth forestry camps.

SNAP Benefits

  • March 17, 2020: During a briefing with legislators and staff, Secretary Miller stated that SNAP cases will not be terminated for a 3-month period. Additionally, DHS has requested a waiver from the federal government to allow for two-weeks of food assistance to be granted to recipients. This would be a one-time payment. The department has not yet received federal approval for this change.

Operational recommendations for human services providers:

Long-Term Service and Support Providers

Child Welfare Service Providers

Intellectual Disability and Autism Service Providers

 Labor & Industry

  • Webpage on Unemployment Compensation COVID-19 Guidance and Resources
  • Individuals may be eligible for UC if:
  • Their employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
  • Their employer reduces their hours because of COVID-19
  • They have been told not to work because the employer feels they might get or spread COVID-19
  • They have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts.

Liquor Control Board

  • LCB Website with up-to-date info.
  • License safekeeping requirements when not operational for 14 days is suspended indefinitely, as are safekeeping deadlines and penalties.
  • Retail Licensees-may continue to sell beer to go and those with expanded permits may continue to sell wine to go even in the absence of restaurant operations.
  • NO change to quantity limits or how sales are made.
  • Producers must suspend all dine-in service but can sell for off-premises consumption.
  • All Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores will close effective Tuesday, March 17 at 9pm.

PennDOT

  • PennDOT Website with up-to-date info.
  • CONSTRUCTION is being discussed to see if crews can continue work.
  • Rest areas and welcome centers are closed. (Most offices are getting complaints.)
  • National Association of Truck Stop Operators will remain open to public.
  • Online services are still available.
  • All driver, photo licenses centers are closed.
    • Expiration dates will be extended for licenses, Photo ID cards, learners permits, vehicle registrations and inspections as well as disabilities parking placards.
    • If your expiration date falls between March 16, 2020-March 31, 2020, you will be granted an extension until April 30, 2020.
    • TSA is accepting expired licenses at airport security check point.
  • District and County Maintenance offices are closed. Emergency maintenance will be performed as needed.

Treasury

  • Website with up-to-date info.
  • Essential Treasury functions will be maintained.
  • Including On-time processing of Commonwealth Payments.
  • Legislative office is available via email.
  • Bureau of Unclaimed Property is closed and inquires will be delayed until reopening.

Turnpike

  • Turnpike website with up-to-date info.
  • NOT accepting cash or credit cards at booths.
  • Automated Payment Machines on the Mon-Fayette Expressway will still be in place.
  • All tolls with be assessed through E-ZPass or the TOLL BY PLATE program.
  • Customers will receive invoice via mail with instructions to pay.
  • Use extra caution around toll plazas as this will add confusion to some drivers.

Other

  • Wolf Requests Federal Government Allow Special Enrollment Period for Affordable Care Act Coverage in Response to COVID-19
  • Penn State is announcing that they will continue Remote Learning for the rest of the spring semester. In addition to this change, Spring Commencement will be postponed with further details to come.
  • Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) sent a letter to federal, state and local officials affirming their commitment for support and collaboration with health care providers, first responders and Pennsylvania businesses, labor unions and government programs.
  • Department of State provided an update to the legislature on how BPOA is adapting to COVID-19. Boards are still processing applications with staff reviewing them at home. The Medical Board met today, but did not provide any specific updates related to regulatory changes. The State Board of Nursing can issue graduate permits to persons who have already been made eligible to test, received permission to test and have been cancelled.
  • Supreme Court has issued a Statewide Judicial Emergency closing all PA courts to the public.