March 27 COVID-19 update: Latest links and resources

Dear Friends,

It has been 21 days — three weeks — since the first positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Pennsylvania, and the number of positive cases of COVID-19 is still climbing here in Montgomery County, very likely as a result of increased testing.

The experts say they expected this. They warn against getting discouraged. What we are doing — sheltering in place here in Montgomery County — is working, they assure. We need only look at the alarming surge of COVID-19 cases in Manhattan to remind us of the crucial importance of social distancing. Please keep up the good work.

News in the midst of a pandemic is constantly evolving — you can get whiplash just trying to keep up. But I have tried to include federal, state and municipal notices in this email that you might have missed or about which you may need more detail.

While my physical office is still closed, my staff and I are working around the clock to keep you updated and in the loop. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at (215) 572-5210 or RepMcCarter@pahouse.net for more information about any of the items below or questions or concerns about your specific circumstances.

Here are some links and information I hope you find helpful:

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12 a.m., March 27, that there are 531 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 2,218 in 50 counties. The department also reported six new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 22. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital.
  • As the state continues to seek relief to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19, today Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine revised their “Stay at Home” orders to include nine additional counties (the list already included Montgomery County) – Berks, Butler, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Pike, Wayne, Westmoreland and York – bringing the state total to 19 counties under a stay-at-home order. Check out what a “Stay at Home” order means.
  • Here is a roundup of state services and resources, as well as a link to sign up for PA alerts.
  • Gov. Wolf signed four bills today to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania by bolstering the health care system, benefiting workers and schools, and rescheduling the 2020 primary election for June 2.
  • Gov. Wolf this week sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking that USDA waive eligibility requirements for the Emergency Food Assistance Program; reconsider Pennsylvania’s request for temporary waivers to allow more food to be distributed at school feeding sites and food banks; and to be flexible and change its interpretation of recent changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
  • This week, Gov. Wolf announced that new funding is available to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19 through a new program under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s Small Business First Fund, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program.
  • The Wolf Administration this week reminded Pennsylvanians of food assistance resources available and what actions it is taking to ensure access to food does not stop in spite of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
  • The Department of Banking and Securities collaborated with state agencies to develop resources available for Pennsylvanians financially impacted by COVID-19. That includes information on unemployment and workers’ compensation, short term and emergency loans, looking out for financial scams, and advice on various payments owed.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Education announced this week that all schools in the commonwealth will remain closed through at least April 6 as a result of the COVID-19 response efforts. The closure order could be extended beyond April 6 if necessary to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19. When it’s determined that students can return to school, administrators, teachers and other staff will be given two days to prepare classrooms, set up cafeterias, schedule transportation and arrange other business operations. Students would return on the third day.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Health last week announced that in light of the COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania, the department is taking steps to assist those who require medical marijuana by making temporary changes to the Medical Marijuana Program.
  • The Department of Human Services today announced a new tool available on the department’s website designed to help essential workers connect with child-care providers that have been granted a waiver by the department’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning to continue serving the families of essential personnel during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman and Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller this week highlighted health insurance options Pennsylvanians have through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration is reminding residents that Special Enrollment Periods through the ACA are available to consumers who experience various life changes, including the loss of employer-sponsored health care coverage. CHIP and Medicaid are available to families and individuals that meet eligibility requirements. 
  • The Department of Revenue recently announced the deadline for taxpayers to file their 2019 Pennsylvania personal income tax returns is extended to July 15, 2020. This means taxpayers will have an additional 90 days to file from the original deadline of April 15. The Internal Revenue Service also extended the federal filing deadline to July 15, 2020.
  • In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the deadline for older adults and Pennsylvania residents with disabilities to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2019 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2020, the Department of Revenue recently announced.
  • This week the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced that the Department of Homeland Security has postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from October 1, 2020, to October 1, 2021, in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration.
  • Montgomery County officials in partnership with local donors announced this week the launch of the MontcoPA COVID-19 Response Fund to support local relief efforts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Financial contributions will exclusively assist community safety net organizations critically impacted by the current public health crisis.
  • The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is working on re-opening their e-commerce site sometime next week. You’ll be able to purchase wine and spirits online for direct delivery to your home. I will be sure to let you know more as I hear it.
  • For the safety of public works employees and our community at large, please bag your trash. Uncontained trash will no longer be accepted at the curb. Also, please check with your township or borough for new procedures on bulk pickups.
  • As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to tighten its grip on the nation, I am increasingly worried about food insecurity gripping our community as well. My office has reached out to local food cupboards with whom we work frequently to inquire about their donation and distribution hours and procedures. Please reach out if your food stores are running low. Likewise, please think of those less fortunate than yourselves and donate food and/or gift cards to a local food cupboard if your kitchen remains well stocked.

In closing, I will once again echo the wise words of our Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine: Stay safe. Stay calm. Stay home. And I will add, stay strong. We are all in this together.

Sincerely,
cid:image001.png@01CDE517.54497080

Steve McCarter
Pennsylvania State Representative

Serving Cheltenham Township, Springfield Township and Jenkintown Borough