Senator Dan Laughlin E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings
  • Budget Hearings Continue with Discussion on Education
  • Senate Approves Bill to Open Career Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery
  • Senate Continues Bipartisan Review of Election Issues Next Week
  • Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended
  • World Down Syndrome Day is March 21

COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings

After weeks of dedicated advocacy from lawmakers, employers and employees, Governor Wolf finally announced that several restrictions on businesses and gatherings would be relaxed effective April 4. Some of the changes include:

  • Increasing indoor dining capacity to 75 percent for restaurants that self-certify compliance with cleaning and mitigation requirements;
  • Allowing bar service and alcohol service without the purchase of food;
  • Removing the curfew on serving alcoholic drinks; and
  • Increasing occupancy for gyms, entertainment facilities and personal services facilities.

In addition, occupancy limits will be increased to 25 percent for indoor venues and 50 percent for outdoor venues, regardless of size.

Although this is positive news for industries impacted by Governor Wolf’s unilateral orders and restrictions, the fact that these restrictions are still in place today speaks to the dangers of allowing one branch of government to control all the power during an extended emergency declaration. Lawmakers approved potential amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would give the people a stronger voice in emergency response through their elected officials. An explanation of the amendments – and how Governor Wolf is working to sabotage them – is available in this editorial.

Budget Hearings Continue with Discussion on Education

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s series of hearings on Governor Wolf’s budget proposal continued this week with a discussion regarding the future of education in Pennsylvania with the Department of Education and representatives from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Some of the topics of discussion included the importance of returning students to in-person instruction safely, the need for schools to use federal stimulus funding prudently, and redesigning PASSHE to provide a quality education to students at an affordable price.  Key Points

Budget hearings will continue Monday, March 21, with the Department of Corrections and Board of Probation and Parole at 10 a.m. and the Department of Community and Economic Development at 2 p.m. The hearings will be streamed live at www.PASenateGOP.com.

Senate Approves Bill to Open Career Opportunities for Individuals in Recovery

Individuals in recovery for substance use disorders could stand a better chance of breaking the cycle of addiction by maintaining meaningful employment under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would create a Recovery to Work pilot program to connect individuals suffering from substance use disorders with high-priority occupations.

The pilot program would allow state agencies to work with local workforce development boards, treatment and recovery providers and employers to find job training and employment opportunities for individuals in recovery.

Senate Continues Bipartisan Review of Election Issues Next Week

The Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform will continue its comprehensive review of the 2020 General Election with a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. The hearing will include testimony from the Pennsylvania Department of State, local election officials and county officials to gather state and local insight on the administration of the election.

The committee held its first meeting on Monday to review best practices of election integrity and security from other states. State residents are encouraged to submit their thoughts and comments through the online form.

Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended

The federal government recently extended all Unemployment Compensation programs, including the additional $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, through September 6. The maximum number of weeks of eligibility for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was also extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks, and the maximum number of weeks of eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is extended from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.

In addition, up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits for an individual (or $20,400 for a couple, if both members received unemployment benefits) will not be considered federal taxable income in 2020, assuming the individual or couple earned less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income for the year.

World Down Syndrome Day is March 21

March 21 is designated as World Down Syndrome Day by numerous states and countries in recognition of the incredible achievements of the individuals living with this condition. Each person with Down syndrome has different talents, abilities and needs – and that makes every person living with this condition special and unique.

More information on World Down Syndrome Day is available here.

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