In This Update:
Senate Passes Mensch Bill to Help Workers with Disabilities
This week, the Senate unanimously approved my legislation, Senate Bill 890, which would provide better earning potential for workers with disabilities. Currently in Pennsylvania, we have a program called Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities, or MAWD, which allows individuals with disabilities to earn a living while still receiving their much-needed benefits. The issue created by this program’s income limits are that many individuals feel pressured to not advance their careers or pursue better employment for fear of losing their benefits.
Read more about the legislation here:
Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce’s ‘PerkUp’ Project Receives $10,000 Check from Verizon Foundation
Last week, I was happy to join Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-147), Luanne Stauffer, President of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Michele Fillippo, PerkUp Project Coordinator, in presenting the 2020 Verizon Grant to PerkUp. PerkUp is a comprehensive community and economic development plan designed to broadly address the needs of the Upper Perkiomen Valley and is supported by the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber through leadership and goals.
Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Releases Reports on PA Health and Human Services Hotlines and Financial Analysis of PA Game Commission
Yesterday (October 7), the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC), which I chair, released reports on the current Pennsylvania Health and Human Services hotlines and their costs, and a financial analysis of Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) revenues and expenditures.
More information: click here.
Dementia Friends Education Event
I will be hosting an informational session to help individuals learn about what life can be like for people living with dementia and how to help them integrate with the community. This virtual event will be held on October 29 from 10:30am to 11:30am. See the flyer for more information. To register, visit: https://www.senatormensch.com/dementia-friends-session/
PA Treasury Department Savings Program Webinar
I am hosting a webinar on the PA Treasury savings programs on October 15th from 6:00pm to 6:30pm. PA 529 College and Career Savings Program to help families learn about saving for education. Keystone Scholars, a new program which gives babies born or adopted in PA after January 1, 2019 a $100 “get started” account to jump start college savings, plus the PA Savings Pledge, which makes saving fun and rewarding. PA ABLE Savings Program- which is a savings plan for people with disabilities.
Reminder to Continue Regular Mammograms and Cervical Cancer Screenings
It is important to continue to get breast and cervical cancer screenings during this time, as they can be potentially life-saving by detecting cancer early.
The Pennsylvania Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP) is a free breast and cervical cancer early detection program of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
For more information, click here.
Bucks County to Host Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event
Bucks County will be hosting a ‘Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event’ on Saturday, October 17 from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Pre-registration is required for the event.
For more information, click here.
2020 Household Hazardous Waste Events in Montgomery County
Preregistration is now available for the 2020 Household Hazardous Waste events. See the flyer for scheduled events, then click on the Registration Link for the selected date and time. Preregistration is required and COVID-19 guidelines must be followed when attending an event. For more information, click here.
Update on Audit Details Glaring Inconsistencies in Governor’s Business Waiver System
At the request of state lawmakers and business owners throughout the state, the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General is taking a closer look at Governor Wolf’s deeply flawed waiver system that determined which businesses were forced to remain shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the audit is still ongoing, a status update that was released by the Auditor General this week detailed glaring inconsistencies in the way the waiver system was handled.
According to the Auditor General, “The waiver program appeared to be a subjective process built on shifting sands of changing guidance, which led to significant confusion among business owners.”
The update also noted that the waiver system was “remarkably subjective,” and in many cases the approval or denial of applications depended heavily on the individual reviewing the application. Approximately 500 businesses received responses that were later reversed by the Department of Community and Economic Development, including 171 waiver applicants that were initially denied and forced to remain closed longer than necessary before finally receiving approval to reopen.
I will provide further updates on this issue when the audit is completed.
Expanded Indoor and Outdoor Gathering Limits Announced
A federal judge ruled last month that the Wolf Administration’s limits on gatherings were unconstitutional. However, a federal court ruled last week that the limitations should remain in place while the governor pursues an appeal.
While these issues are resolved in court, the Wolf Administration updated its guidance on gatherings this week to allow for greater attendance at events that are held at larger venues. The new gathering limits are based on the occupancy limits of the venue.
The Wolf Administration’s new guidance still requires attendees to wear a mask and practice social distancing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance to help event planners take the proper precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Senate leaders repeated concerns about Governor Wolf’s go-it-alone approach to most aspects of the state’s response to the pandemic and called for greater clarity and local decision-making power for schools and communities who are best positioned to protect their students and neighbors.
Legislation to Crack Down on Child Pornography Earns Senate Approval
Legislation was approved in the Senate this week to strengthen penalties for the heinous crime of child pornography and create a new task force to help prevent children from being victimized in the future. The legislation would boost penalties in all cases of child pornography in which the child is under the age of 10 or prepubescent.
In addition, the bill would create a special Task Force on Child Pornography to review all laws pertaining to child pornography and make recommendations to improve the investigation and prosecution of offenders to ensure the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable for the tremendous damages they cause.
Senate Passes Comprehensive Information Technology Overhaul
Information technology (IT) plays a critical role in the operations of all state agencies, and inadequate IT systems in state government can impact citizens in a variety of ways. The Senate approved legislation this week that would strengthen, secure and consolidate state government IT systems while saving taxpayer dollars.
The legislation would seek to correct issues like the 1950s computer programming language still utilized by the Department of Labor and Industry, the vulnerability of state IT systems to cyberattacks and data breaches, and the lack of a strategic plan for future updates to keep pace with the demands of Pennsylvanians. The bill is estimated to save taxpayers as much as $32 million annually.
Committee Examines Bill to Give Students New Resources to Succeed
As Pennsylvania continues to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19, it has never been more important for students and families to have flexible education options for at-home learning. The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing this week to take a closer look at legislation that would ensure children in Pennsylvania will have access to the educational resources they need to succeed.
The committee heard testimony from education experts and advocates throughout Pennsylvania about a proposal to create Back on Track Education Scholarship Accounts to empower parents by providing funding to offset educational costs for their school-age children in grades K-12. The special accounts would help families pay for educational needs such as tutoring, online classes, curriculum, tuition, counseling, and services for students with special needs.
Key Health Care Bills Move Forward in the Senate
The Senate approved two bills this week to protect access to health care coverage and services in Pennsylvania communities. The bills would ensure employees with disabilities can continue to work without the risk of losing access to health care benefits and allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 emergency declaration to receive certification to continue working.
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