As Erie Begins Recovery, State Work on COVID-19 Continues

A Column by Senator Dan Laughlin
49th Senatorial District

Welcome to the new reality. The past few weeks have been extremely challenging for all of us as we have adjusted to the COVID-19 virus. Hopefully, the worst is now past us as Erie County was included with 23 other Pennsylvania counties permitted to relax some COVID-19 restrictions on May 8.

As we make new adjustments to our lives, it’s only appropriate that we express our deepest thanks and respect for the men and women who are in the frontline in the war against this virus. Our medical professionals, first responders and the staff at life-essential services, such as grocery stores, truly deserve our gratitude and respect during this time of crisis.

Like many local residents, my job has been changed by the coronavirus outbreak. Most Senators are now virtually participating in Sessions and committee meetings instead of traveling to Harrisburg.  As such, we held Session remotely throughout April, focusing primarily on measures addressing the pandemic.

These measures delayed tax deadlines and the Primary Election date, provided more flexibility for local governments during this crisis, allowed for electronic notarization of documents while Pennsylvania is under the current disaster declaration, and provided state compensation for first responders and National Guard members on active duty who are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Overall, the main Legislative focus in April and now in May is reopening Pennsylvania — to get our state economy back on track and get Pennsylvanians safely back on the jobs.

The tsunami of layoffs created by the statewide closure order completely overwhelmed the unemployment compensation system. My District Office was flooded with calls from anxious and irate people who simply couldn’t get through to the unemployment office to get their questions answered.

Seeing a consistent trend in the questions raised by these people, I decided the best way to provide some assistance was to put a special page on my website dedicated to unemployment issues.  The new page,, provides contact information and helpful links for people who have questions about how to file claims and about other steps in the process. It details eligibility requirements, addresses issues of interest to small business owners and includes a section dedicated to answering the questions about the unemployment compensation process posed by callers to my office.

On the other side of the issue, I have also worked to lift the business closure, both by supporting legislation in the Senate and by writing the Governor to advocate for the reopening of marinas, golf courses and car dealerships. As such, I definitely applauded the May 1 reopening of marinas and golf courses and I am optimistic that car dealerships will soon follow.

Hopefully, the worst is now behind us and we can work together to rebuild our lives and our communities. I remain committed to serving as the Erie region’s advocate as the state moves forward in the post-COVID-19 world.

In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website,, and my Facebook page,, to keep up to date with state government news – including the battle against COVID-19 — and learn more about state services and agencies.

Contact:         Matt Azeles       

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