COVID-19 News
News and Press Releases Related to COVID-19 are available on this page. ​​​


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2020

Department of Human Services Provides Guidance for Parents with Children Returning to Child Care 

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Human Services (DHS) today released a Frequently Asked Questions guide for families in need of child care and parents with children that will be returning to a child care facility in counties moving to the yellow or green phase of reopening. DHS has previously issued guidance to child care providers in counties that have moved to the yellow phase.

“As parents return to work and child care opens more broadly, there is likely some anxiety about broadening their children’s social circles. We want to be sure that we are providing the most up-to-date information for families who need child care during this health crisis,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We know that essential workers and parents whose offices are reopening still need to have a safe place for their children to go while they are at work, and we are committed to helping parents and reopening child care providers navigate this new normal.”

All child care facilities that reopen must closely follow CDC guidelines for child care centers. Essential workers who need child care can find approved options here for counties still in the red phase. For those counties still in the red phase, all child care facilities operating outside a residence are required to submit a waiver to DHS’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) if they intend to remain open.

Workers who need child care in yellow and green-phase areas can find child care options here: www.findchildcare.pa.gov. Child care facilities in this phase are able to, at their discretion, open without a waiver. Families who need assistance paying for child care can apply for Child Care Works, Pennsylvania’s subsidized child care program at www.compass.state.pa.us or by contacting the Early Learning Resource Centers that serves their community at www.raiseyourstar.org.

All child care staff, regardless if they are in a red, yellow, or green-phase county, are required to wear masks. Children and youth do not need to wear cloth face coverings in child care, youth programs, or camps. Face coverings for children are still recommended by the CDC when feasible, especially for older youth, particularly in indoor or crowded locations. Children will be screened during drop off, which may require having their temperature taken to ensure they are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 before entering the facility. Parents will be notified and advised to seek medical attention should a positive COVID-19 case be confirmed at a child care facility.

Parents who are concerned about the health and safety of their child while in care or whether their child care is following CDC guidelines can contact OCDEL’s Child Care Certification Regional Office in their community to report concerns.

The Wolf Administration is supporting child care providers affected by COVID-19 as they prepare to reopen or expand operations. Recently, a first wave of $51 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was announced to help child care providers as they reopen. A second wave of this funding will be issued later in the summer following completion of a study by OCDEL and Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs examining the effects of COVID-19 on child care providers.

Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Additional resources for citizens and DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, DHS - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 28, 2020

Department of Human Services Reminds Pennsylvanians of Assistance Programs, Support Outlets Available to Help Ease COVID-19 Recovery Period

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today reminded Pennsylvanians that public assistance programs remain available to families throughout the COVID-19 public-health emergency.

Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other services established specifically in response to COVID-19 like the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) programs. Each of these programs can help Pennsylvanians who have lost income or employment meet basic needs until they are able to start work again.

“We know that many people have lost jobs, income, and health insurance as a result of this public health crisis,” Sec. Miller said. “That’s why I want to ensure Pennsylvanians that DHS is here to support them – nobody should go without food, health care, or other services. These safety-net programs exist to help all of us in the best of times, and they are critical in the worst of times. We cannot always plan for an injury or accident, a divorce, or a pandemic, but DHS’s programs exist to help people get through these tough times. These services are available now and they will remain available in the months ahead.”

DHS has taken steps to ensure that Pennsylvanians who need help receive it and worked to make sure that people who qualify for these programs are able to access them. DHS has also worked with partners at the state and federal levels to implement policies that are responsive to the public health crisis. This includes extending certification periods for public assistance programs or suspending the closure of Medicaid cases except in certain circumstances so participation can continue through the public health crisis. 

Health Care

Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by both Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP.

Food Security

SNAP helps people expand purchasing power by providing money each month to spend on groceries, helping households have resources to purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. Children who have enough to eat go on to have higher graduation rates, increased adult earnings, and improved health outcomes in their adult life. Older adults who are enrolled in SNAP are healthier, hospitalized less and are less likely to go to a nursing home. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep people healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.

All SNAP applications are screened for expedited services criteria which can accelerate processing time for those with emergency needs. DHS is also issuing an additional benefit made possible by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to households who are not currently receiving the maximum monthly SNAP benefit. For June, this benefit will be issued beginning June 16 pending approval from the federal government.

Pennsylvania was also approved to offer a temporary Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), which extends benefits to families with children who receive free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and is designed to bridge the gap left by schools closing and help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

P-EBT benefits are issued through EBT cards issued to qualifying families. A family’s benefit would be determined based off the federal reimbursement rate for the daily rate of free school breakfasts and lunches, or approximately $5.70 per child. This benefit would be calculated for the remainder of the school year, leading to an approximate benefit of $370.50 per child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began. P-EBT will allow DHS to provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children. If a family’s economic situation has changed since school closures began, they can still apply for NSLP  and, if determined eligible, receive P-EBT benefits. Families can apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us.

Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family can also find and contact their local food bank or pantry through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to access food resources in their community.

Other Temporary Programs in Response to COVID-19 

DHS also established the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) to help low-income families who lost wages experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying families will be issued a one-time grant equal to two months of TANF benefits to assist them in meeting basic needs. The emergency assistance application is available online at www.compass.state.pa.us, and applications will be accepted through June 12 or until all funds are expended.

LIHEAP provides assistance for home energy bills for both low-income renters and homeowners, helping ensure continuity of utility and other energy services. The LIHEAP Recovery Crisis Program, created in response to the pandemic, provides a crisis benefit up to $800 for households that had their main or secondary energy source completely shut-off or will shut off in the next 60 days, has broken energy equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replace, or is in danger of being without fuel in 15 days or less. LIHEAP Recovery Crisis program will run through August 31, 2020, or until all budgeted funding is expended.

Pennsylvanians can apply online for these programs at any time at www.compass.state.pa.us or, if preferred, paper documentation can be mailed to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or left in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed.

If you have questions about any of these assistance programs or need help applying, help can be reached through DHS’ customer services centers. Clients in Philadelphia with questions or information to report about their case should call the Philadelphia Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226. Clients in all other counties can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930. 

“There is no shame in reaching out for help when you need it,” Sec. Miller said. “The act of submitting an application for SNAP or Medicaid during a time of crisis is an act of advocacy for yourself and your family. DHS is doing everything it can to connect families and individuals who are struggling economically with the programs that will help them through this crisis. No matter what challenges you are facing, you do not have go at this alone. It’s ok to ask for help because we can and will get through this together.”

Secretary Miller also encouraged anyone who is struggling to cope during this time of crisis to reach out for help. Anyone struggling with mental health and in need of referrals to helpful programs can call Pennsylvania’s new Support & Referral Helpline, which is operated 24/7 by skilled caseworkers who can provide emotional support during this difficult period. The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600. Another helpful resource is the United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211, which can connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis. Visit www.pa211.org or text your zip code to 898-211 for information on programs in your community.

For more information on COVD-19 in Pennsylvania, visit the “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov​



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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced today that expiration dates for driver licenses, identification cards, and learner’s permits, will be extended for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Effective May 27, 2020, expiration dates for driver licenses, photo ID cards and learner's permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through June 30, 2020, have been extended until June 30, 2020. These extensions are in addition to those announced on April 30, which extended products with expiration dates up to May 31 to June 30.

A camera card is considered a driver's license, so it is covered by the same terms and conditions extending other driver's license products. Camera cards with expiration dates within this timeframe are also extended through June 30, 2020.

Additionally, limited services are available at some Driver License and Photo License Centers. For a list of open driver license and photo license centers and the services provided, as well as their hours of operation, please visit www.dmv.pa.gov.

Customers may continue to complete various transactions and access multiple resources online at www.dmv.pa.gov. Driver and vehicle online services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and include driver's license, photo ID and vehicle registration renewals; driver-history services; changes of address; driver license and vehicle registration restoration letters; ability to pay driver license or vehicle insurance restoration fee; and driver license and photo ID duplicates. There are no additional fees for using online services.

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More COVID-19 information is available at www.health.pa.gov. For more information, visit www.dmv.pa.gov or www.PennDOT.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Diego Sandino, 717-645-8296 or dsandino@pa.gov

EDITOR’S NOTE: Media are encouraged to honor the following guidelines to protect PennDOT’s Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers customers and employees.

  • Please refrain from entering a driver license center or photo center to photograph, record or interview PennDOT staff or customers. Please use the media contact information above if you should have additional questions or requests.
  • Follow social distancing guidelines, remaining at least six feet away from any other individual.
  • Respect the wishes of PennDOT customers who do not want to be photographed, recorded, or approached outside our locations.
  • Direct all questions to the Media Contact or PennDOT Press Office, as Driver License Center staff will be focused on assisting customers.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2020
Wolf Administration Receives Approval to Launch Online Grocery Purchasing for SNAP Recipients During COVID-19 Crisis 
Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration received approval from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow Pennsylvania to join the pilot program that lets recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, purchase groceries online through participating retailers.
"Many people have been purchasing groceries online to facilitate social distancing, but SNAP recipients were not able to do so due to federal restrictions on SNAP and ecommerce. In most cases, SNAP recipients do not have flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or curbside pick-up, potentially putting health and safety at risk during this health crisis,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are grateful that FNS has approved Pennsylvania to join this pilot program to allow us to expand flexibility to SNAP recipients looking to utilize online grocery purchasing to support social distancing and COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”
Now that approval has been received, DHS is working with its EBT vendor and approved retailers to implement system changes necessary to implement online payment for PA’s SNAP recipients. These system changes have an approximately two-week testing and validation implementation timeline that could not begin without FNS’ approval, so DHS expects to have online grocery purchasing activated for SNAP recipients by the beginning of June.
Once active, only eligible food items normally paid for by SNAP will be able to be purchased online with SNAP benefits; delivery fees, driver tips, and other associated charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits. Due to the expedited timeframe to implement, this initiative does not include the ability to transact Cash Assistance benefits using the EBT card.  Therefore, individuals will need to use another method of payment to cover the non-allowable fees such as a pre-paid debit card. The pilot program currently includes three approved retailers: Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite. Retailers that are interested in participating must contact FNS to review the requirements to be added to the program.
Retailers that do not wish to join the pilot program can still offer delivery or pick-up flexibility options for SNAP recipients by using mobile EBT processing equipment that would allow customers to pay with SNAP when groceries are delivered or picked up. Farmers markets may be able to receive this processing equipment at no cost through a grant opportunity provided by DHS.
“We are in the midst of both a public-health crisis and an economic crisis, but DHS is here to offer financial support to make sure that everyone gets through. I encourage any Pennsylvanian who is now in a difficult financial situation because of this pandemic to apply to see if they are eligible for assistance,” said Secretary Miller. “Help is always available for Pennsylvanians who are having trouble accessing food during this public health crisis, and help will be available in the recovery period to follow.”
DHS is continuing to process applications for SNAP and encourages people and families who need assistance to apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us. All SNAP applications are screened for expedited services criteria which can accelerate processing time for those with emergency needs. Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family can also find and contact their local food bank or pantry through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to access food resources in their community.
Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.
Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov
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Uninsured Pennsylvanians Can Access Free Coronavirus Testing During COVID-19 Crisis, Addressing Task Force Findings
 
Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvanians who don’t have health insurance can be tested for the novel coronavirus free of charge, addressing a concern identified by the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Response Task Force on Health Disparity chaired by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Governor Tom Wolf announced Monday that federal stimulus funding will be used to reimburse providers who test uninsured patients, so those patients can be tested for free.
Access to testing for uninsured Pennsylvanians was a top concern identified by the task force formed by the governor to address inequality, including lesser access to care among minority group
s.
Fet
terman applauded the governor’s announcement, saying it will save lives.
“People who don’t have insurance could be less likely to be tested because they know they’re going to face a bill,” Fetterman said. “Nothing should stand in the way of access to testing for any Pennsylvanian, and this allocation removes any obstacles for both uninsured patients and healthcare providers.”
The task force is assigned with identifying obstacles that cause disparity among marginalized populations and bringing those issues to Wolf’s attention.
Task Force member Steve McFarland, a Philadelphia native and the Eastern Regional Director for Fetterman’s office, said slowing the spread of the virus relies on increased testing in all populat
ions.
“T
he uninsured working poor in our underserved communities need to know that they can walk into a facility and be tested, just the same as someone who has insurance,” he said. “Health is a public matter, and many of our uninsured residents have essential, public-facing jobs that they have to report to every day. They absolutely deserve to have access to the testing that can keep them, their families, and their communities safe while not having to make a false choice between their health and a paycheck.”
The task force is comprised of members identifying as minorities affected by health disparity and includes the Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity and five commissions. They are Latino Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs, Women’s Commission, African American Affairs, and LGBTQ Affairs. The group is collaborating with community members, stakeholders, and legislators to send recommendations to Governor Tom Wolf for addressing issues related to a higher incidence of COVID-19 among minorities.
Recommendations will represent both short-term and long-term goals related to the disparity reported during the COVID-19 pandemic in our vulnerable communities.
In addition to increased testing in minority communities, the task force is emphasizing the need for data collection. Statewide health systems must follow the mandate from Secretary Levine (and later reinforced by Governor Wolf, to report racial demographics for all tests and COVID-related deaths.
The Department of Health’s testing-site locator map can be found here.
For those who do test positive, Pennsylvania’s Federally Qualified Health Centers are providing care for free and/or on a sliding-scale. To find a Pennsylvania Community Health Center, click here.
MEDIA CONTACT:      Christina Kauffman, Lt. Governor’s Office, 717-712-3316
 
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2020
Department of Human Services Reassures Pennsylvanians that Help is Available, Provides Update on Public Assistance Data Trends
Harrisburg, PA – Today, Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller reminded Pennsylvanians of public assistance programs available to help families meet basic needs, such as affording groceries and accessing healthcare. Several new programs launched in recent weeks to help Pennsylvanians overcome the economic strains of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Together, Pennsylvanians have slowed the spread of the coronavirus and flattened the curve. We have made incredible personal sacrifices for the greater good. And while some parts of the commonwealth are beginning to reopen, we must still heed aggressive mitigation strategies so we can keep the virus under control,” DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said. “Pennsylvania will get through this and public assistance is one of the most important ways of making sure that everyone gets through.” 
Last week, the department announced the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program, which launched Monday. DHS is working with utility companies and deliverable fuel vendors to help Pennsylvanians at risk of losing access to electricity, natural gas, or deliverable fuels such as oil. The program has been funded with $34.9 million Pennsylvania received from the federal CARES Act, and it will run through August 31 or until all budgeted funding is expended. Families may be eligible for a benefit of up to $800, and eligibility guidelines will be the same as those used during the 2019-2020 LIHEAP season. 
DHS is also helping families get through this crisis with the new, federally funded Emergency Assistance Program (EAP). EAP provides a one-time cash benefit to families who have experienced a significant income reduction or complete job loss due to COVID-19. Since the program launched May 11, DHS has received more than 7,000 applications and disbursed more than $1.28 million to families in need. DHS has funded the program with existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. EAP is open to families with a child under age 18 or a woman who is currently pregnant. Eligible families will receive a one-time payment equal to two months of TANF benefits for their household size – or about $800 for a family of three.
The Wolf Administration also recently received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to extend additional support to families with children who participate in the National School Lunch Program. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program (P-EBT) is designed to help families feed their children while schools are closed. In total, P-EBT will support the families of about 958,000 Pennsylvania children.
Pennsylvanians can apply for each of these programs at www.compass.state.pa.us
Secretary Miller also encourages Pennsylvanians struggling with food costs to consider applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. Anyone without health coverage can apply for Medical Assistance, or Medicaid, at www.compass.state.pa.us. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is affordable health coverage for children up to age 19, and it is available to every child regardless of family income. Pennsylvanians can apply for CHIP at www.chipcoverspakids.com.
To date, Pennsylvania has not experienced a significant surge in applications for SNAP or Medicaid. However, enrollment is steadily increasing. 
Enrollment for SNAP has increased by about 123,000 people since February, for a total enrollment of about 1.86 million in April -- a 7.1 percent increase.
DHS not currently terminating anyone from Medicaid or CHIP, unless they voluntarily withdraw, pass away or move to another state. Medicaid is available even if a person has other health coverage but needs additional assistance. Enrollment for Medicaid has increased by about 62,000 people since February, for a total enrollment of about 2.89 million in April -- a 2.2 percent increase. CHIP covered about 186,000 Pennsylvania children in March. Today, CHIP enrollment is just over 200,000 children.
Application processing times remain consistent with pre-pandemic rates. DHS is actively monitoring these data trends and is working with the University of Pittsburgh to survey newly unemployed individuals and identify any barriers that exist to applying for benefits.
“Our goal is to make sure that people who could be helped by these services know we are here and what is available,” Secretary Miller said. “These programs exist to help people meet basic needs, such as affording groceries and accessing healthcare. Every single one of us could find ourselves in that position one day, and there should be no guilt or shame in asking for or accepting that help.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 17, 2020  

 

Pennsylvania Launches Program for People who Exhaust their Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits

More than $7.9 billion in total unemployment benefits paid since mid-March  

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today announced the launch of Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)program to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to people who exhaust their regular unemployment compensation (UC).   

PEUC is included in the new federal unemployment compensation benefits provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Pennsylvania has implemented all programs under the new CARES Act and paid out nearly $7.4 billion in total unemployment benefits since mid-March.  

Important information about the extended benefits program follows and has also been emailed or mailed via the United States Postal Service to all individuals who potentially qualify for PEUC.  

Eligibility  

You are eligible for PEUC if you: 

  • Are unemployed between March 29 through December 26, 2020;
  • Have exhausted your regular state or federal benefits with week ending July 6, 2019 or later;
  • Are currently not eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits; and
  • Are able and available to work and actively seeking work, except for COVID-19-related reasons including illness, quarantine, or “stay at home” orders.

  How to Receive PEUC

  • ​If you have an open UC claim but exhausted all of your benefits, the 13 additional weeks will automatically be added to your existing claim. Log in this week to file biweekly claims for prior weeks, back through the week ending April 4 (if applicable).
  • If your benefit year has expired then you must submit an application online.
  • If you don’t have access to computers or the internet, you can have a loved one or friend print the paper application for you to complete and submit via mail. We are also in the process of mailing paper copies of the application to individuals who might need it.
  • Biweekly claims and payments work the same way as for regular UC benefits. 

PEUC Weekly Benefit Amount: 

  • Your PEUC weekly benefit amount is the same as your regular UC weekly benefit rate. 
  • Your weekly benefit rate is based on your reported earnings during the base year (the first four of the last five completed quarters). You must also have over 18 credit weeks (weeks during which you earned $116 or more) in your base year to be eligible for UC. 

Extra $600 on PEUC: 

  • You will receive an additional $600 per week from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Anyone collecting any type of UC, including PEUC, will receive the extra $600 per week in addition to your weekly benefits as calculated.
  • FPUC payments began the week ending April 4, 2020 and will end July 25, 2020. These payments will be backdated for eligible individuals and paid in one lump sum.
  • You will receive the extra $600 FPUC payments the week after your PEUC payments.  

Pennsylvania’s UC Payments  

Since March 15, the department has made 15.7 million payments to claimants totaling nearly $7.9 billion in benefits:

  • $4.8 billion from regular UC
  • $2.85 billion from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program (extra $600 per week)
  • $290 million from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program since, May 7  

​Regular UC claim statistics are available here and the breakdown of that data by industry and county is here. PUA claim statistics are available here.

Visit the commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.  

MEDIA CONTACT: Penny Ickes, dlipress@pa.gov                                                 

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https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-federal-funding-available-for-covid-19-testing-and-treatment-for-uninsured-patients/


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2020

Human Services Launches Emergency Assistance Program to Help Low-Income Families Amidst COVID-19

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced an Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) to help low-income families who lost wages experiencing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Families who qualify will be eligible for a one-time payment to assist them in meeting basic needs and help them secure more stable financial footing in the future.

“The economic disruption caused by this pandemic is affecting families and communities across Pennsylvania in different ways. For many low-income Pennsylvanians, especially those awaiting unemployment compensation, this disruption could be completely destabilizing,” said Secretary Miller. “The Wolf Administration is committed to helping families weather this uncertain period, and the EAP will be another resource to help families avoid reaching even more difficult situations as we recover from this crisis together.”

The program will use existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to provide support to low-income families who qualify. The program will be open to families with a child under the age of 18 or a woman who is currently pregnant. In order to qualify, families must have at least one person in the household who was employed as of March 11, 2020 and experienced an hour or wage reduction of at least 50 percent for two weeks or more or lost employment entirely due to the public health crisis.

Families must meet income limits of 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and have no more than $1,000 in a savings or checking account.

Household Size

Monthly Income Limit

Annual Income Limit

1

$1,595

$19,140

2

$2,155

$25,860

3

$2,715

$32,580

4

$3,275

$39,300

5

$3,835

$46,020

6

$4,395

$52,740

7

$4,955

$59,460

8

$5,515

$66,180

9

$6,075

$72,900

10

$6,635

$79,620

Each Additional Person

$560

$6,720

Qualifying families will be issued a one-time grant equal to two months of TANF benefits. The average monthly TANF grant for a family of three is $403, so a qualifying family of three would receive a one-time grant of $806 through the program. Information on monthly grants by household size and county is available online here. Funds will be issued through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.

The emergency assistance application is available online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Families should be prepared to submit all necessary documentation with their application to expedite processing and avoid having to apply again. Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, May 11 through June 12 or until all funds are expended. 

Secretary Miller also provided an update on the number of public assistance applications received by DHS. Applications are generally down from where they were before County Assistance Offices began to close in Pennsylvania. Applications did begin to increase to pre-closure levels towards the second half of April but are declining again. In previous economic downturns, there has been a delay in people turning to Medicaid and other forms of public assistance.

“As we navigate this pandemic and the period of recovery that will follow, I urge all Pennsylvanians to keep these programs in the back of their minds should they or someone they know need an extra hand,” said Secretary Miller. “Life has changed for all of us in different ways, and you may be a little uneasy about your financial situation. If you are in this situation, you do not have to go through this alone or feel ashamed asking for help.”

Pennsylvanians can apply for Medicaid, the EAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other public assistance programs at any time through DHS’ online COMPASS application at www.compass.state.pa.us. Those who prefer to submit paper applications can mail documents to their local County Assistance Office (CAO) or leave documents in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. CAOs are still closed to the public, but mail and drop boxes are being monitored so applications can be processed.

Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, DHS - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2020
View Online

Gov. Wolf, Sec. of Health Take Actions on Stay-at-Home Orders, Issue Yellow Phase Orders

Governor’s Stay-at-Home Amendment
Health Secretary’s Stay-at-Home Amendment
Governor’s Yellow Phase Order
Health Secretary’s Yellow Phase Order

Harrisburg, PA – With the April 1 statewide stay-at-home orders set to expire tonight at midnight, Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today extended the orders for all counties in red, and signed new orders for the 24 counties moving to yellow at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning, May 8.

The extended stay-at-home order remains the same as the original statewide stay-at-home order announced on April 1, which was set to expire tonight at midnight and is now extended to June 4. The yellow phase order provides guidance for those counties entering the yellow phase of reopening tomorrow.

The yellow phase order applies to these 24 counties: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.

The yellow phase order also addresses the limited reopening of businesses in the yellow phase, detailing those businesses previously deemed non-life-sustaining as being permitted to reopen if they follow the guidance for safety for staff, customers, and facility. The guidance for businesses can be found here.

 FAQs for businesses in each phase can be found here.

CDC guidance on child care that reopens under the yellow phase is here.

Tomorrow, there will be an announcement of additional counties moving to the yellow phase at a to-be-determined date. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Lyndsay Kensinger, ra-gvgovpress@pa.gov

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https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-sec-of-health-take-actions-on-stay-at-home-orders-issue-yellow-phase-orders/


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2020

Wolf Administration Receives Approval to Launch Food Access Program for Students During COVID-19 Crisis

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration received approval from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a plan to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to students who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program. This program, known as Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), will be temporary and is designed to bridge the gap left by schools closing and help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Schools may be closed for the rest of the school year because of COVID-19, but students still need to eat breakfast and lunch. The Wolf Administration is committed to doing everything in its power to make sure that families have the resources they need during this public health crisis, and I am very grateful that the USDA will allow us to offer this support to families” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Going without essential needs like food to get by now can jeopardize children’s health and development in both the short and long-term, and P-EBT will help families make up for the loss of in-school meals and avoid these potential long-term outcomes.”

The approved P-EBT plan will allow for DHS to provide SNAP funds to households with children who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program due to pandemic-related school closures. P-EBT benefits will be issued through EBT cards issued to qualifying families. A family’s benefit will be determined based off the federal reimbursement rate for the daily rate of free school breakfasts and lunches, or approximately $5.70 per child. This benefit will be calculated for the remainder of the school year, leading to an approximate benefit of $370.50 per child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began. Now that the program is approved, benefits will begin to be issued to qualifying families within approximately 15 business days.

“As families adapt to the commonwealth’s school closures and students adjust to learning at home, parents and guardians shouldn’t have to be concerned about accessing nutritious meals for their children,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said. “The Department of Education is proud to be able to partner with DHS to ensure that our students continue to be served during the pandemic-related closures.” 

This state plan request was developed in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), who administers the National School Lunch Program in Pennsylvania. DHS has determined that approximately 680,000 students who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch throughout the school year are eligible for P-EBT based on current participation in SNAP or Medicaid. Additionally, students who otherwise qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches will qualify for P-EBT if approved. All told, P-EBT will allow DHS to provide funds to cover the cost of breakfast and lunch for approximately 958,000 Pennsylvania school-aged children. 

If a family’s economic situation has changed since school closures began, they can still apply for the National School Lunch Program and, if determined eligible, receive P-EBT benefits. Families can apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us.

Help is available for individuals and families who are having trouble accessing food during the public health crisis and the recovery period to follow. DHS is continuing to process applications for SNAP and encourages people and families who need assistance to apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us. All SNAP applications are screened for emergency need, which can accelerate processing time. Any Pennsylvanian who is in a difficult financial situation due to the economic challenges of this pandemic should apply to see if they are eligible for assistance.

Pennsylvanians who need help feeding themselves or their family can also find and contact their local food bank or pantry through Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania to access food resources in their community.

Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2020 

DCNR Announces Plan for Reopening Some State Park, Forest Facilities
 

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced a phased reopening of state park and forest facilities in keeping with Governor Wolf’s direction to ensure that Pennsylvanians have opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor recreation as a way to maintain positive physical and mental health.

“As the weather turns warmer, DCNR anticipates even greater numbers of people will be looking for opportunities to be outdoors – to connect with nature and exercise for good health,” Dunn said. “As staffing allows and with the appropriate protocols in place to ensure safety, we are working to reopen our state parks and forests so that Pennsylvanians can realize all of the benefits associated with being outdoors.”

The schedule for reopening state park and forest facilities is:

  • The three public golf courses in the system at Caledonia and Evansburg state parks and Michaux State Forest are authorized to be open to the public starting on May 1. They are operated by private concessions.
  • At least one restroom in day use areas and in marinas at state parks and forests statewide will be open to the public on May 8. This is consistent with CDC guidance related to park and recreation area operations. Additional cleaning protocols are in place. Users should practice social distancing.
  • All nine marinas in state parks will be open to the public on May 8, or their typical designated opening date. This is in addition to shoreline mooring sites at all state parks.
  • State park and forest facilities including offices, campgrounds, and the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle in the counties in the yellow phase will be open to the public on May 15. Cabins in these areas will not open until June 12, to allow returning staff the ability to thoroughly clean them and prepare them for use. Campgrounds and cabins in all other state parks will remain closed.

With the exception of one restroom in each day use area and marina, all state park and forest facilities outside of the counties in the yellow phase will remain closed until changes are made consistent with Governor Wolf’s guidelines for reopening. The public can still access DCNR trails, lakes, rivers, streams, forests, roads, and parking areas statewide for recreation.

All playgrounds, nature play areas, interpretive centers, amphitheaters, and group camping facilities statewide will remain closed indefinitely. Swimming beaches statewide will be closed until June 6.

All programs, events, and large gatherings at state parks and forests in counties that are designated red are cancelled through June 15. Based on availability, organizers will have the option to reschedule later in the year. No new reservations for these activities are being taken.

In counties designated yellow, any events with more than 25 people will be cancelled. If the event is under 25 people and outdoors it will be allowed to occur, however any indoor events will be cancelled.

Consistent with Governor Wolf’s guidelines for reopening, facilities such as pavilions will only be available for groups under 25 and will be on a first come first serve basis. Picnic tables in state parks will be dispersed to allow room to spread out and avoid crowds. Campsites and cabins should only be used by members living in the same household as part of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

People who live in areas still under stay-at-home orders should not travel long distances for outdoor recreation, and instead should look for opportunities close to home. Pennsylvania has 6,000 local parks and more than 12,000 miles of trails available (check first to make sure they are open, as some local parks are closed).

Visitors can help keep state parks and forest lands safe by following these practices:

  • Avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads
  • Bring a bag and either carry out your trash or dispose of it properly
  • Clean up after pets
  • Avoid activities that put you at greater risk of injury, so you don’t require a trip to the emergency room

To help avoid exposure to COVID-19 and protect others, and still enjoy the outdoors:

  • Don’t hike or recreate in groups – go with those under the same roof, and adhere to social distancing (stay 6 feet apart)
  • Wear a mask
  • Take hand sanitizer with you and use it regularly
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, and nose
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow
  • If you are sick, stay home

Pennsylvania has 121 state parks, and 20 forest districts.

Information about state parks and forests is available on the DCNR website. Updates also are being provided on DCNR’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

MEDIA CONTACT: Terry Brady, 717-877-6315

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 2, 2020  

L&I Reminds Eligible Pennsylvanians to Apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Benefits 

Harrisburg, PA – If you’re self-employed, an independent contractor, gig worker, or someone not normally eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC) and haven’t yet applied for benefits under Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is reminding you to submit your application at www.uc.pa.gov/PUA

L&I’s new PUA website, which launched its application phase April 18, is expected to be fully operational by the end of next week or earlier. Individuals who already applied can soon file their weekly claims for which they should be paid approximately two to three days later if there are no issues to resolve. Eligible Pennsylvanians who already submitted their applications have taken that important first step which puts them in a position to file weekly claims as soon as the system is fully active.  

PUA applicants will soon be able to file for all weeks, including those dating back to the first week of unemployment. If approved, you will receive in one lump sum the backdated payments to January 27, 2020 or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later.) 

Additionally, when you begin receiving PUA payments, you will automatically receive an extra $600 per week through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. FPUC payments are made separately from your regular PUA payments, and should generally be in your account a week after you receive your PUA payment. FPUC benefits are for the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. These payments will also be paid in one lump sum for any backdated weeks. 

Even if you soon return to work as part of Pennsylvania’s yellow phase reopening, you will still be able to claim and receive backpay if your PUA application is approved. Individuals who return to work part time must report their weekly earnings when claiming weekly benefits, and those who return full time may simply stop filing. Claims can be reopened at a later date if your employment situation changes. 

Since March 15, more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular UC and more than 136,000 have filed for PUA.   

Who Should File for PUA 

Eligible individuals who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, including: 

  • Self-employed;
  • Independent contractors;
  • Gig workers;
  • People without sufficient work history to qualify for regular UC; and
  • People who have exhausted regular UC or extended benefits. 

PUA Benefits 

In general, PUA: 

  • Provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits;
  • May not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular UC of $572;
  • May not be less than $195, which is half of the state’s average weekly payment.
  • Payments will be backdated to January 27, 2020 or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later); and
  • Benefits will not be payable for weeks of unemployment ending after December 31, 2020. 

Information Needed to Show Previous Income 

Acceptable documentation of wages earned or paid during calendar year 2019 can include, but is not limited to: 

  • 2019 tax returns;
  • 2019 1099s
  • Paycheck stubs;
  • Bank receipts;
  • Ledgers;
  • Contracts;
  • Invoices; and/or
  • Billing statements. 

Learn More  

Additional COVID-19 information from L&I:

Visit the commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 

MEDIA CONTACT: Penny Ickes, dlipress@pa.gov

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 30, 2020

 

L&I Offers Six Tips to Get Unemployment Compensation Benefits Quicker

Harrisburg, PA – With the historic surge in people seeking unemployment compensation (UC), Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak today offered six tips to help Pennsylvanians more quickly receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

“A little over a month ago, life changed drastically for all of us due to the difficult but necessary mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania,” said Secretary Oleksiak. “I know this has been hard for businesses and workers, many of whom have never had to file for UC benefits before. We have made progress in meeting the historic demand for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania but know more must be done. I share your frustration and want to help you navigate our complex UC system more easily.”

Improving customer service

Since mid-March, nearly 1.7 million Pennsylvanians have filed for regular UC and new federal laws made big changes to increase payments for many people and made other workers eligible for those benefits for the first time.

Over $3.6 billion in benefits has been paid to claimants – nearly $2.7 billion from regular UC and $911 million from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program (extra $600 per week).

Before the pandemic, Pennsylvania had low unemployment with a near record number of people working and the UC office was appropriately staffed for those conditions.

Here are a few of the steps we’ve taken so far to improve customer service: 

  • Nearly 900 L&I staff working on the UC program are teleworking – with 500 of these employees being reassigned from other agencies to help
  • 70 experienced UC retirees have returned to work
  • More than 250 new hires will bolster the system
  • Over 110,000 calls handled by automated virtual phone assistant IBM Watson

Tips to Apply for UC

L&I is receiving extremely high daily call volumes and we know many people are struggling to reach our call centers. Many answers are available on our website. This will allow our staff to focus on people who do not have internet access, require translation services, or have an issue with a claim. 

Before calling the UC Service Center, L&I recommends the following:

  1. Review COVID-19-related FAQs – Answers to many of your UC questions are in the Frequently Asked Questions section of L&I’s website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter
     
  2. Check your claims status online – If you have your Personal Identification Number (PIN), enter it along with your Social Security number to check your claims status online here
     
  3. Know what to do if you haven’t received your debit card – If you haven’t received your U.S. Bank ReliaCard debit card, log into your UC account online and verify your mailing address. Debit cards are valid for three years,  if you already have a debit card from a previous claim, or reopen an existing claim, you will not receive a new debit card. You will continue to use the original debit card. If your card has been lost or stolen, call U.S. Bank at 888-233-5916. Contact the PA Treasury for basic information about the debit card or direct deposit questions at 877-869-1956. 
     
  4. Apply online now – Need to file a new claim and want to know if you’re eligible? Don’t delay by asking us. Submit your claim and let our staff determine your eligibility. 
     
  5. Wait at least three weeks before requesting a new PIN – If it’s been more than three weeks since you filed an initial claim and you haven’t yet received your PIN, you may request a new one here
     
  6. Other ways to reach us – If you have a genuine issue with your claim, there are several ways to contact UC staff. We have received nearly 1.7 million new claims in just six weeks, please know that others need our help too. You can also use:
  • Virtual assistant – Call 877-978-1295 to have our UC virtual assistant powered by Watson answer your frequently asked questions any time, 24/7. Please note that this system does not connect to our UC Customer Service Center staff and only provides virtual assistance
  • .
     
  • L
  • iveChat – Call 888-313-7284 for a secure 6-digit LiveChat code to reach UC staff Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
     
  • l – For claims questions, email uchelp@pa.gov and include your full name as it appears on your claim (including suffix used) and the last four digits of your Social Security number. Get email wait response times here. We respond to emails in the order we receive them, so sending duplicates will not result in a quicker response and will actually cause delays for everyone. 
     
  • General contact form – To make a general comment on UC services, or if you have questions not covered by information on www.uc.pa.gov, use this form
     
  • Pennsylvania Teleclaims (PAT) – This automated self-service system can be used to file biweekly UC claims, access specific benefit payment information, or learn about UC without needing to talk to a person. You can also use PAT to request/change federal withholding tax, get UC-1099G information, and change your PIN. For English, call 888-255-4728. For Spanish, call 877-888-8104.
     
  • TTY Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing – Call 888-334-4046 Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. 
     
  • Videophone service for ASL users – Call 717-704-8474 Wednesdays from Noon to 4:00 PM. Sign language is the ONLY means of communication provided at this number. 
     
  • IF YOU HAVE TRIED OTHER METHODS TO FIND YOUR ANSWER WITHOUT SUCCESS, try the UC Service Call Center phone Call 888-313-7284 Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM to reach UC staff. The best time to try calling the UC service center is Thursdays and Fridays. Be prepared for heavy call volumes, busy signals, and potential delays in getting through.

Visit the commonwealth’s Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

MEDIA CONTACT: Penny Ickes, dlipress@pa.gov

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2020
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Wolf Administration Expands Food Recovery Infrastructure Grants to Help the Charitable Food System

Grants to eliminate food waste will help keep food banks stocked and prevent farm losses

Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration is making immediate changes to the Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant Program to help ensure food banks are adequately supplied to meet the needs of Pennsylvania residents. 

Increased demand on the charitable food system related to COVID-19 has demonstrated an immediate need for resources to support additional cold storage space, and more flexibility and changes to this grant program. The changes also encourage partnerships between nonprofit organizations such as food banks and farms, processors and cooperatives that continue to experience challenges within the food supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

“At a time when our fellow residents are facing hunger and financial hardship, we all have a moral obligation to do what we can to help, and that includes expanding this grant program, quickly delivering grant awards, and helping ensure that food is not being wasted,” Governor Tom Wolf said.

Changes to the grant solicitation process include:

  • Closing the round of grant eligibility on May 8 to review applications and deliver awards as soon as possible;
  • Expanding the list of potential partners beyond retailers and wholesalers to also include farms, processors and cooperatives; and
  • Removing pre-application meeting requirements to expedite applications.

The changes to the program are effective immediately.

This $4 million grant program is an opportunity for the charitable food system to apply for up to $200,000 in grant funding offered through the new Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant Program. This funding is available for Pennsylvania nonprofit organizations for grant assistance for the proper management and operation of food waste reduction pursuant to the Pennsylvania Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act of 1988, Act 101.

Food Recovery Infrastructure Grants will be awarded to nonprofit organizations such as food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens to cover the costs of equipment purchases necessary to prepare, transport and store food acquired from retailers, wholesalers, farms, processors and cooperatives. Examples of eligible equipment include refrigerated or non-refrigerated box trucks, industrial-sized refrigerators, pallet jacks and/or dollies. Installation and shipping costs will also be eligible for support.

To apply, the applicant must describe its current food recovery operation and explain how the food infrastructure equipment will enhance its current program. The organization must also provide a description of the proposed program and provide what food retailers, wholesalers, farms, processors and cooperatives will be partners for the project. Additionally, the organization must provide a description of how the program will be operated by staff and or volunteers. 

“Making these changes will help us get more food to the people who need it and help prevent harvested crops from spoiling or otherwise going to waste,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

The deadline to apply is Friday, May 8. Learn how to apply for the Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant Program.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 27, 2020
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Governor Announces May 1 Statewide Reopening of Limited Outdoor Recreational Activities to Help Pennsylvanians Maintain Positive Physical, Mental Health

Harrisburg, PA – To ensure that Pennsylvanians have opportunities to safely enjoy outdoor recreation as a way to maintain positive physical and mental health, and in keeping with the commonwealth’s stay-at-home orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Governor Tom Wolf today announced that the Wolf Administration is lifting some restrictions on businesses related to certain outdoor activities.

Starting Friday, May 1, golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds may reopen statewide and are required to follow updated life-sustaining business guidance and FAQ issued by the Wolf Administration to include specifics for how these outdoor recreational industries can resume activities while prioritizing public health and safety. Campgrounds in state parks will remain closed through Thursday, May 14.

“Pennsylvanians have remained resilient throughout this COVID-19 crisis, and as we successfully continue to flatten the curve to protect our physical health, it is critical that we also focus on our physical and mental health during these extraordinary times. As the weather warms and daylight lengthens, enjoying time outdoors is an important way to manage stress,” Wolf said. “As we start to take measured, limited steps to reopen our commonwealth, reopening these industries will help to rebuild our economy and strengthen our mental health.”

According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half (45 percent) of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over COVID-19 with the burden likely to continue even as the pandemic’s threat diminishes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance on visiting parks and recreational facilities. These guidelines must be followed statewide by businesses and when engaging in outdoor activity while the state disaster declaration remains in effect. The guidelines will ensure the safety of individuals and families engaging in outdoor activities and adherence will help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

  • Stay close to home: Pennsylvanians are encouraged to enjoy permitted outdoor recreational activities within their community and avoid crowding popular destinations.
     
  • Practice social distancing: Maintain the recommended minimum 6 feet apart from fellow recreationists. Pennsylvanians are also encouraged to wear a mask or protective garment that covers the nose and mouth any time they go outside. If a parking lot at a park is full or there are too many people on the same trail, find an alternate place to recreate. Cross the street to avoid running directly past another runner or wait longer at a golf hole for a fellow golfer to move forward.
  • Minimize risk to others: Individuals should only go out if they feel healthy and have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
     
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs and handrails. 
     
  • Have a plan: Create a safety plan before heading outdoors. Explain to children the need to keep their distance from others, even if they happen to see a friend while outside. Discuss with partners, social distancing while on the golf course. Think through how to avoid other runners when waiting to safely cross a street at the same time.

“Practicing social distancing takes a little planning and patience but it is necessary if we want to continue to flatten the curve while ensuring that Pennsylvanians have opportunities to de-stress and get exercise,” Wolf said. “Finding the balance between enjoying the outdoors and staying safe is only possible when all Pennsylvanians are abiding by the same precautions. It’s critical that all Pennsylvanians adhere to the safety guidelines to allow for these outdoor activities to remain available to the public.”

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.​


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 22, 2020
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Gov. Wolf: Reopening Targeted for May 8 in North-Central, Northwest

Phased Approach Relies on Safety and Science 

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today presented his detailed plan for reopening the commonwealth with a targeted May 8 start. The administration will categorize reopening into three phases: red, yellow, green. Phases will be assigned based on conditions in a county, counties or region.

The administration will first study conditions in the north-central and northwest regions with a target of moving from red to yellow on May 8. Additional monitoring will take place and direction will be provided in the next week.

To decide when to move to a new phase, the administration will use Department of Health metrics and a data tool developed by Carnegie Mellon University. The full plan is available here.

The red phase, which currently applies to the whole state, has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures, and building safety protocols.   

Red

Work and Congregate Setting Restrictions 

Social Restrictions 

  • Life Sustaining Businesses Only 
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place 
  • Schools (for in-person instruction) and Most Child Care Facilities Closed 

 

 

  • Stay-at-Home Orders in Place 
  • Large Gatherings Prohibited 
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only 
  • Only Travel for Life-Sustaining Purposes Encouraged   

 

  • Reiterate and reinforce safety guidance for businesses, workers, individuals, facilities, update if necessary 
  • Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary 

As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place. The purpose of this phase is to begin to power back up the economy while keeping a close eye on the public health data to ensure the spread of disease remains contained to the greatest extent possible. 

Yellow

Work and Congregate Setting Restrictions 

Social Restrictions 

  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible 
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders 
  • Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders 
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place 
  • Schools Remain Closed for In-Person Instruction 

 

 

  • Stay-at-Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation
  • Large Gatherings of More than 25 Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only

 

  • All businesses must follow CDC and DOH guidance for social distancing and cleaning 
  • Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary 

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay-at-home and business closure orders to allow the economy to strategically reopen while continuing to prioritize public health. While this phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary to ensure the spread of disease remains at a minimum.  

Green 

Work and Congregate Setting Restrictions 

Social Restrictions 

  • All Businesses Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines 

 

  • Aggressive Mitigation Orders Lifted
  • All Individuals Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines 

 

  •       Monitor public health indicators, adjust orders and restrictions as necessary  

Just as the administration took a measured, county-by-county approach to the stay-at-home order before expanding statewide, it will do the same to ease restrictions and reopen the state.

The governor first announced the standards for reopening last week and they remain the focal point for the comprehensive plans announced today:

  • The approach will be data driven and reliant upon quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopenings in Pennsylvania. 
  • There will be guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities and providers for assured accountability as we reopen. 
  • Reopening necessitates that adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing are available. 
  • Reopening requires a monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation. 
  • Protections for vulnerable populations must remain steadfast throughout the reopening process, such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons. 
  • Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations should remain in place for the duration of the reopening process. 

The commonwealth is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create a data-driven decision support tool that will enable a balance between maximizing the strengthening of the economy while minimizing public health risks. This tool will help officials better understand the current health and economic status, as well as the inherent risks and benefits to easing restrictions by sector and region. 

There is no single tool or model that can determine easing of restrictions or reopening, but the commonwealth, through partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and other institutions of higher education, and the criteria set by the Department of Health, will make informed decisions based on data and science. 

To determine when a region is ready to reopen and return to work, the state will evaluate the incidence rate of COVID-19 cases per capita, relying upon existing regional health districts used by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. A regional assessment will measure the COVID-19 cases to determine if the target goals of an average of less than 50 cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days is met. The administration will work closely with county and local governments to enable the communities to reopen and transition back to work. 

Throughout this process, the administration will have guidance in place to support best public health practices to avoid these negative impacts. This guidance will reinforce and build on existing business and building safety orders and will adapt to the changing nature of the pandemic, even as we learn from the first communities to reopen.​ 



 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2020
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Gov. Wolf: Emergency SNAP Benefit Distribution to Begin Today, Local Feeding Programs Available

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced that the Department of Human Services (DHS) will begin an emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit issuance today in line with the federal government’s interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Payments include a supplemental increase for both March and April and will continue to be issued for current SNAP households through April 29. DHS is also advising Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance of local supports that can help meet essential needs during the public health crisis.

“This pandemic is creating economic strains for many Pennsylvanians, and we are doing all we can to help the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians who use SNAP to keep food on the table have a little flexibility to make additional grocery purchases and reduce trips to the grocery store,” Gov. Wolf said. “I hope it will help ease circumstances for Pennsylvanians during this difficult economic period.”

DHS received approval from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue emergency payments that will allow DHS to increase a household’s currently monthly payment up to the maximum  benefit amount for each household size. DHS had requested authorization to issue an additional benefit equal to a household’s monthly payment to all SNAP households and was denied.

These emergency payments are for March and April and will be distributed as a one-time issuance distributed on a staggered schedule beginning April 16 and continuing through April 29. This payment is in addition to a household’s normal April benefit issuance that’s made in the first half of the month. These payments will be placed directly onto a recipient’s EBT card. Supplemental payments are in addition to the normal May payment beginning May 1.

DHS has also activated the administration’s Feeding Task Force, which brings together state agencies, charitable food networks, and other local partners to determine where food needs are, how many meals are needed, how food is getting to people, and how supplies and donations can be allocated to meet feeding needs across Pennsylvania. The task force, in partnership with the governor’s office, developed a food access survey to determine areas where individuals or families may have trouble accessing food and to identify areas of high need. If individuals identify in the survey they need food and agree to be contacted, they will receive an email with information on available resources.

The task force has delivered more than 143,616 individual shelf-stable meals to charitable food networks and feeding programs, including home-delivered meal programs for seniors and food pantries around Pennsylvania thus far since it was activated. In total, the task force expects to coordinate delivery of more than 758,000 shelf-stable meals.

Individuals and families in need of assistance should contact their local food bank through Feeding PA or Hunger-Free PA to find a food pantry or other distribution site in their community. The United Way of Pennsylvania and the 211 program can also connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis.

The Feeding Task Force is also partnering with the Salvation Army and Operation BBQ Relief to distribute 180,000 meals a week for four weeks. Operation BBQ Relief harnesses the power of shuttered restaurants, available restaurant workers, and available commercial-sized food product to produce family style meals to support people in need. People in need will be able to go to any of the 44 local Salvation Army Corps Centers on the distribution day to receive the food. People needing assistance should contact their local Salvation Army Corps Center for information on upcoming distributions.

“As we navigate this challenging and scary time, the partnerships that support the Feeding Task Force represent the best of all of us – people helping people,” said DHS Sec. Teresa Miller said. “This is difficult for everyone, and I hope that those who need assistance will reach out to their local food bank or pantry. Help, support, and resources are available, and although we are focused on staying home, no one is truly alone in this.”

DHS is continuing to process applications and benefit renewals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) throughout the public health crisis. Emergency SNAP applications can be expedited and issued in five days. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/compass.web/Public/CMPHome.

Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Lyndsay Kensinger, RA-GVGOVPRESS@pa.gov
Erin James, ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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FOR

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 15, 2020

 

Wolf Administration Announces Loan Deferrals for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin announced the forbearance of loans administered by DCED.

“This pandemic has presented new and unforeseen challenges to Pennsylvania’s businesses, and the Wolf Administration has been committed to supporting our business community to the fullest extent every step of the way,” said Sec. Davin. “This extended deferral will help ease the burden on small businesses and enable them to focus and prioritize their efforts as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth.”

Next week, Governor Tom Wolf and Sec. Davin will request loan deferrals for all borrowers with the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the Commonwealth Financing Authority (excluding PENNWORKS program loans), the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority.

In March, DCED took the emergency executive step of halting April payments, late fees, and accruing interest for these loans. This additional forbearance will apply to May and June payments to include no accrual of interest or fees. Automatic payments will be halted and borrowers paying by check will not be required to submit payment until the scheduled July payment. As a result of the forbearance, the maturity of the loans will be extended for three months.

Resources and information for businesses is regularly posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources. The U.S. Small Business Administration, in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses.

Businesses seeking further guidance and clarification from DCED can contact its customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, Pennsylvanians should follow www.governor.pa.gov and www.doh.pa.gov

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

April 15, 2020           
                       

 

PUC Encourages Awareness of Telephone Discount Lifeline Program to Consumers at Risk of Isolation During Challenging Times

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today encouraged consumers across the state, especially those most vulnerable to social isolation, to understand the resources available through the Lifeline program to help them stay connected to their voice and internet services during these challenging times.

“Lifeline is intended to help make communications more affordable and more accessible for low-income households, helping them stay connected to information about jobs, family, health care, schools, and emergency services,” said PUC Chairman Gladys Brown Dutrieuille. “Because of the recent COVID-19 emergency, more consumers whose incomes have been reduced may now be eligible to qualify for this program.”

The PUC is partnering with the Department of Aging and other state agencies and community organizations to increase awareness of Lifeline.

 

“Older Pennsylvanians risk becoming socially isolated during the COVID-19 outbreak. Staying connected and engaged with family and friends is a great opportunity for them to reduce their likelihood of feeling isolated and dealing with related issues like anxiety and depression,” said Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres. “With many older adults living on fixed incomes, programs like Lifeline can help them access technology, whether it’s a phone or the internet, that would allow them to keep in touch with loved ones.”

Lifeline is a federal government benefit that provides eligible low-income consumers a monthly discount on their phone or internet bill. The benefit can be used for voice (telephone), Broadband Internet Access Service (or BIAS, usually called internet service), or a combined telephone/internet service product from a landline or wireless provider.

The program provides a $7.25 per household, per month discount on landline or wireless voice service and a $9.25 per household, per month discount on your wireless or landline internet service. The discount appears in the form of a reduction on the service provider’s bill. A service provider may also offer you the minimum Lifeline Program with no additional charges. The rules and amounts of support can change over time.

A consumer qualifies for Lifeline if they are at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in specific federal programs, including: Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Veterans’ Pension and Survivor Benefit, Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Consumers or households that apply for Lifeline will be checked to see if they are eligible.  After that, they must certify every year that they are eligible for such support. Currently, in response to the public health emergency associated with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Lifeline program’s recertification and reverification requirements are waived for 60 days. More information on program eligibility, how to apply and recertify is available on the Commission’s website. More information on the federal government’s suspension of their Lifeline requirements is available at the USAC website.

 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

 

Visit the PUC’s website at www.puc.pa.gov for recent news releases and video of select proceedings. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Search for the “Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission” or “PA PUC” on your favorite social media channel for updates on utility issues and other helpful consumer information.

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

April 13, 2020

Pennsylvania Launches COVID-19 Job Hiring Portal

 

 

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvanians looking for work can now find life-sustaining businesses that are hiring through a new online COVID-19 job portal the Department of Labor & Industry is launching today.

“Many life-sustaining businesses across Pennsylvania are hiring and this new portal will help connect them with people looking for a job,” said L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak. “A top priority of L&I is to provide businesses with access to the workforce they need to maintain their life-sustaining operations and help our workers find jobs, especially during this unprecedented and challenging time.”

People seeking employment can visit www.PAcareerlink.pa.gov and select the green “PA COVID-19 Jobs – Hiring Immediately” job portal banner to see active job openings. Selecting the “Apply Now” button for a listed position will redirect individuals to the employer’s website or email where they can apply directly with the employer and speed up the hiring process.

Life-sustaining businesses can feature their job openings on the portal through an easy to use online form. Businesses must meet the criteria of a life-sustaining business and must have more than 10 job openings .

The PA COVID-19 job portal is updated daily so businesses in need are spotlighted and people searching for employment have the latest job information.

The new COVID-19 job portal is part of the PA CareerLink® system, an effective one-stop shop for Pennsylvania job seekers and employers. Local PA CareerLink® business teams are assisting life-sustaining businesses to ensure their specific hiring needs are met.

Although PA CareerLink® offices across the commonwealth are physically closed to adhere to necessary social distancing measures, the majority of staff are teleworking and providing virtual services to both job seekers and employers.

Visit the commonwealth's Responding to COVID-19 guide for the latest guidance and resources for Pennsylvanians or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Penny Ickes, dlipress@pa.gov                                                         ​



 

Utility Providers, Other Companies Provide Assistance Programs

 

The COVID-19 crisis has affected millions of Americans across the country. Most major utility companies are offering special assistance programs to help families who have been impacted by the pandemic. Some of the programs include delayed or partial payments, hardship funds, budget billing and other programs to help customers.

More information about the different kinds of programs and services to help utility customers is available on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s website.

Individuals and families who are struggling to pay bills during this pandemic should reach out to their utility companies, mortgage/rental companies, credit card companies and other lenders to see what programs may be available to help.​