Below are some important Harrisburg updates that may be helpful to you.
This week, while there was again no formal Session in either Chamber, there was a lot going on in Harrisburg with budget hearings in the House and a noteworthy Joint Committee Hearing in the Senate.
The House continued their budget hearings, where this week they heard from the Department of Education, the Department of Labor & Industry, and the Department of Human Services.
- Focused on return to school, learning loss, and focus of federal aid funds.
- Labor & Industry
- Frustration with unemployment delays, loss of jobs to due Governor’s shutdown orders, and use of L&I employees to punish small businesses who were trying to stay open.
- Human Services
- DHS again spent over budget last year, almost by $1 billion.
In the Senate, the Education and Health and Human Services Committees held a joint hearing on education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing explored the many ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students, families, and educators. The hearing also included discussion about meeting the needs of students with special needs, challenges associated with virtual learning and hybrid models, the need for consistency in state and federal guidance to school districts, concerns about standardized testing during COVID-19, and much more You can get more information on the hearing here.
With this, in order to help get more Pennsylvania students back in the classroom, the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force announced a new plan this week to provide vaccines to teachers without impacting the ability of seniors and other vulnerable populations to get vaccinated. This announcement came in conjunction with news of an improved distribution formula that accounts for a county’s overall population, population over 65, infection rate, and COVID death rate, the intent of which is to dramatically improve the vaccination rate of Pennsylvanians in Phase 1A, including seniors.
The new vaccination plan would not change who is eligible to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in Phase 1A, including older Pennsylvanians and state residents who are more vulnerable to the virus due to various health conditions. However, teachers would now be eligible to receive the newly authorized, single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine under a separate program, which is expected to help teachers and students return to the classroom as soon as possible.
In order to deliver the vaccine quickly, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Health will partner with the state’s 28 Intermediate Units (IUs) to establish vaccine sites, with the support of the Pennsylvania National Guard. Lawmakers passed legislation authorizing the National Guard to deliver vaccines in February.
If you’re interested, you can sign up to receive my newsletters that contain the most up to date information on statewide and local issues on my website, senatormensch.com. You can also keep an eye on my website for news releases, email me with questions or concerns, or find contact information for my district offices which you can get in touch with if you need anything.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 215-541-2388.
Senator Bob Mensch
24th Senatorial District