Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Around the 24th District
  • New Mental Health Resources Available for Fire, EMS Personnel
  • Workshop Discussion Explores Challenges Facing Rural Hospitals
  • New Guide Available for PUA Claimants
  • Info Available on Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness
  • Rail Freight Grants Available Now

Around the 24th District

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On my latest edition of ‘Zooming Around the 24th District,’ I talked with Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder of the PA Breast Cancer Coalition.

PA Breast Cancer Coalition

I was happy to attend Elwood Seasholtz’s 100th birthday celebration on Sunday and present him with a Senate citation. His daughters, Roseann and Donna, planned this celebration. Woody has lived in Montgomery County for most of his life and is a WWII veteran, Corporal Army Air Force 1944-1945.

Over the weekend, I attended an Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony for a local Eagle Scout. Tyler Currier, of Harleysville, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 178 in Kulpsville, PA.

Tyler recently completed his Eagle Scout Project by designing, procuring, and building a large foot bridge, over a swale, leading to sports fields. The project will benefit the Lower Salford Township Parks and Recreation program, which is located in Lower Salford Township, Montgomery County. From the beginning date of planning, through the completion, a total number of 138 hours were spent by 22 scouts, adult scouters, family, and friends, with Tyler personally having 37 hours of planning and supervising the project.

The Eagle project was completed and approved on August 19, 2019. Tyler subsequently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout on December 16, 2019 from the General Nash District of Cradle of Liberty Council representing greater Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties, and the National Offices of Boy Scouts of America.

On July 30, I attended a ceremony held by Towamencin Township to announce the improvement project for Forty Foot Road.

Towamencin Township was awarded $1.8 million through two separate PennDOT Multimodel Transportation grants. These grants will be used to widen a section of Forty Foot Road. This will eliminate a pinch point, which is the source of significant traffic concerns from the motoring public, businesses, and residents in the area, by providing roadway widening for a second westbound through travel lane.

This project will provide a full 5-lane section of roadway throughout Forty Foot Road, from Hatfield Township (Forty Foot Road and Welsh Road) to the Sumneytown Pike and Forty Foot Road intersection in Towamencin Township (1.7 miles) which will facilitate improved traffic flow in this area. This, in turn, will contribute to the re-vitalization of the existing Towamencin Village Shopping Center.

New Mental Health Resources Available for Fire, EMS Personnel

Fire and EMS personnel often face distressing situations as part of the job, and their resources have been stretched further than ever before due to the added costs and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new law that the Senate passed last month makes new mental health resources available to first responders to ensure these critical members of our communities can cope with the stress related to their life-saving work.

Act 69 of 2020 ensures new resources will be available to first responders, including a new critical incident stress management program, peer-to-peer support, a toll-free helpline exclusively for first responders, and trauma and suicide awareness training.

In addition, four new courses are now available through the State Fire Commissioner’s online training portal. The courses cover topics such as coping with a bad call, supporting fellow first responders and managing job responsibilities during a pandemic.

Workshop Discussion Explores Challenges Facing Rural Hospitals

Rural health systems were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of them were forced to take drastic steps like laying off employees and cancelling elective procedures and health screenings in order to make ends meet. This week, the Senate Majority Policy Committee hosted a workshop discussion with health experts and county officials to learn more about the new challenges facing rural hospitals.

Some of the topics of conversation included:

  • The role that rural hospitals play in supporting local economies.
  • Financial difficulties brought on by COVID-19.
  • The cost of personal protective equipment and difficulties in maintaining an adequate supply.
  • Impacts on patient care if local hospitals are forced to close.
  • Patient care challenges resulting from rapidly changing state guidance for health care facilities.
  • The need for clear communications from state agencies.
  • How increased broadband capabilities could improve patient care.

8/3/20 – Challenges Facing PA’s Rural Hospitals

New Guide Available for PUA Claimants

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides weekly benefits to contractors, gig workers, self-employed individuals and other Pennsylvanians who do not normally qualify for the state’s Unemployment Compensation system. To help claimants better navigate the system, the Department of Labor and Industry recently created a new guide listing all PUA error codes and what they mean.

Information was also added to the PUA website about when claimants can expect payments based on when they file their claim. Benefit weeks start on Sundays, so that is the first opportunity to file weekly claims. In general, payments are made 2-4 days after filing unless there is an eligibility issue.

Info Available on Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently created a Frequently Asked Questions page on its website to provide information to small business owners who have received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The FAQ helps borrowers understand what they need to do to ensure the loans are forgiven.

Loans can be forgiven for borrowers who meet certain criteria, including if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. At least 60 percent of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll.

The program reopened on July 6 and will continue accepting applications until August 8.

Rail Freight Grants Available Now

Pennsylvania has one of the strongest railroad systems in the nation, and this network has kept goods moving efficiently throughout the pandemic. Grants are available now to ensure that network is maintained.

Applications for the Rail Freight Assistance Program are open now through August 29.

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