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Pa. Lawmakers Pass COVID-19 Response Bills

by on March 25, 2020 8:05 PM

Pennsylvania's House and Senate passed several bills on Wednesday aimed at addressing impacts in the Commonwealth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to postponing the state's primary election from April 28 to June 2, lawmakers passed measures to amend the school code to address extended closures, make emergency changes to the state's unemployment compensation law and provide additional funding to health care facilities.

“As Pennsylvania continues to navigate uncharted waters, it is important for state government to continue to protect workers, ensure that our schools have directives, and provide assistance to those on the front lines of this public health epidemic,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said.

The senate was convened remotely for the first time, with 30 senators using video conferencing to participate in the vote

Education

SB 751 waives the 180-day instruction requirement for K-12 schools and grants Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera the authority to waive similar requirements for career and technical schools and pre-K programs. School districts also are required to submit a continuity of education plan for distance learning during the closure.

The bill ensures schools will receive their full state funding and employees will receive compensation and retirement credit for the year.

It also authorizes Rivera to increase the number of flexible instruction days allowed and waive the 12-week student teacher requirement as well as assessment exams for career and technical students. 

Unemployment Compensation

HB 68 eases eligibility and access for unemployment compensation by codifying waivers of the one-week waiting period and job search and registration requirements for the duration of Gov. Tom Wolf's emergency disaster declaration. 

"The bill also provides automatic relief from benefit charges for any employer whose account would otherwise be charged for weeks of unemployment occurring during the duration of a disaster emergency," a Senate Republican news release said.

Medical Funding

HB 1232 provides up to $50 million for hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency medical services to purchase medical supplies and personal protective equipment to address increased demands that COVID-19 cases are likely to cause.

The same bill also authorizes the Department of Community and Economic Development to work with local governments to extend filing and payment deadlines for the local earned income tax to match the new state and federal deadlines of July 15.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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