Plan for Pennsylvania
Plan for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is facing a new set of realities every day as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We all have work we need to do to build a new commonwealth. Governor Wolf has outlined a plan that will keep Pennsylvanians alive and repair the damage this virus has caused across Pennsylvania.
Top COVID-19 Resources
Before we can build a better commonwealth, we need to protect our friends and neighbors.
Relief for Pennsylvanians
The Wolf Administration has taken broad and far-reaching actions to help meet the short- and long-term needs of individual Pennsylvanians in the face of this unprecedented pandemic.
Ensuring Pennsylvanians from all walks of life have access to the resources they need has been, and will continue to be, a top priority for the governor.
- Worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that individuals seeking assistance from food banks and those critically in need of food no longer need to complete cumbersome paperwork and income verification to prove they are eligible for or in need of food.
- Extended Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) certification periods for households that were scheduled to expire between March and May 2020 for six months to prevent SNAP case closures.
- Began to issue emergency allotments to all SNAP households for March and April 2020, increasing the current monthly allotment for households across the board.
- Lifted burdensome requirements for the State Food Purchase Program to allow county governments, regional food banks, and emergency food providers flexibility in determining eligibility.
- Partnered with United Way PA 211 to make available a comprehensive list of COVID-19 specific food resources.
- Launched a partnership with Operation BBQ Relief and the Salvation Army to deliver more than 700,000 meals to all corners of the commonwealth.
- Boosted food bank supplies by directing $2.6 million to charitable food programs through the Neighborhood Assistance Program.
- Procured 750,000 shelf stable meals through the Defense Logistics Agency, which are being made available to food banks and senior home delivered meal programs.
- Worked to ensure that free school meal programs are transitioned into take-home or community distribution programs so the food and nutrition needs of students across the state continue to be met.
- Repurposed Department of Transportation (PennDOT) staff to provide additional workforce capacity for food banks across the state that are struggling to attract volunteers.
Student Loan Debt
Federal student loan borrowers are automatically being placed in an administrative forbearance which temporarily stops monthly payments from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Payments can still be made if borrowers choose.
This is in addition to action the federal government took to temporarily set the interest rate to 0% on defaulted and non-defaulted Direct Loans, defaulted and non-defaulted FFEL Program loans, and Federal Perkins Loans.
For loans serviced by American Education Services (AES), a disaster forbearance may be available, upon request, to postpone payments if your home/work has been impacted by COVID-19.
Individuals Who Have Been Furloughed, Laid Off, or Have Reduced Hours
In addition to regular state Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits, which provide roughly half of an individual’s full-time weekly income up to $572 per week, the federal CARES Act expanded UC benefits through several new programs:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) expands benefits to gig-economy workers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals who are otherwise ineligible for UC.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (FPUC) provides an additional $600 per week, on top of regular UC benefits, to all UC recipients.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) provides an additional 13 weeks of UC benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular 26 weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks of coverage.
Individuals Who Are Uninsured or Underinsured
- Announced all major health insurers providing comprehensive medical coverage in the commonwealth will cover medically appropriate COVID-19 diagnostic testing and associated treatment for consumers and have committed to waive any cost-sharing for the testing.
- Made telehealth the preferred delivery method for medically necessary health care services for physical health, behavioral health, and substance use disorder services and explained that telephone only services may be used where video technology is not available. Additionally, all services delivered via telehealth in the Medical Assistance program are being reimbursed at the same level as in-person services.
- Established a 24/7 mental health crisis line that received more than 1,300 calls in the first 10 days.
In addition, many auto and homeowners insurers are giving money back to drivers who are spending less time on the road and placing moratoriums on canceling policies, knowing some members are challenged to pay premiums in this difficult time.
Students and Families
In this time of unprecedented school closures, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has:
- Worked with Intermediate Units throughout the commonwealth to develop and implement continuity of education plans to ensure seniors graduate, students can be promoted to the next grade, and all students continue to have access to remote learning through the remainder of the academic year.
- Partnered with the statewide leads for the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) to offer communities with limited internet access use of free instructional programming that is being broadcast by all of Pennsylvania’s PBS affiliates.
Additionally, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning has worked with local communities to identify and stand up child care facilities for children of health care workers and first responders to ensure they can continue to respond to the COVID-19 disaster while knowing their children are being cared for.
Relief for Businesses
Pennsylvania’s businesses are in an unprecedented position, many shuttered across the state to protect against the spread of the deadly coronavirus, others changing their entire business plans to help meet the many needs of people across the state.
Many businesses have had to furlough or lay off employees, and others that have relied on in-person transactions have had to move to remote platforms overnight. While the needs are varied among the business community, the severity of the impact of the coronavirus on the overall economy is, and will remain, unforeseen for some time.
The Wolf Administration has worked diligently with federal, state, and local government partners, the business community, and other critical external partners to ensure businesses can avail themselves of all the tools that are available to offer a modicum of relief in the face of this crisis.
In October, Governor Wolf announced an additional $96 million for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, and has repeatedly called on the federal government to provide more assistance for Pennsylvania’s businesses.
Liquor Control Board
Governor Wolf is working with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to waive standard liquor licensing fees starting January 2021. More than 16,000 Pennsylvania restaurants and bars, clubs, catering clubs and hotels would see $20 million in relief.
Department of Revenue
The Department of Revenue (DOR) has extended tax filing deadlines to assist with short-term liquidity for businesses.
DOR has also worked to reduce or suspend enforcement actions including: liens filed will be reduced, bank attachment actions will not be taken, license inspections, revocations, and citations will be limited, and tax clearance requirements will be the more lenient debt collector standards.
In addition, DOR is providing flexible terms for new payment plans allowing up to $12,000 for up to a year.
Department of Community and Economic Development
The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) made more than $60 million available for small businesses through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program.
Although the funds were depleted in four days and the department received more than 900 applications, the administration is looking at ways to recapitalize the program given the need as a bridge to federal stimulus funds.
DCED has also allowed for three-month loan payment deferrals for loans administered by the department.
Banks and Mortgage Servicers
In alignment with federal CARES Act, Pennsylvania banks and mortgage servicers are implementing 60-day foreclosure moratoriums and 180-day forbearances on all federally backed loans. In addition, there is now a 120-day moratorium on evictions from properties with federally backed loans.
The PA State Treasury, the PA Department of Banking and Securities, and the PA Housing and Finance Agency have come together to develop a series of relief recommendations and are working collaboratively with banks and other creditors to push for broad flexibilities and relief actions to assist businesses and consumers across the state.
Federal CARES Act
With the passage of the federal CARES Act, businesses of all shapes and sizes will be able to access billions of dollars in federal resources to assist with everything from payroll support, more favorable loan terms, and fully refundable tax credits for businesses that are trying to keep workers employed while keeping their doors shut to the public.
Relief for Health Care Systems and Providers
The Wolf Administration has undertaken every possible effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus and ensure our health care system, and the providers that make up its fabric, can withstand the ramp-up, surge, and aftermath of this deadly pandemic.
While hospitals and health systems have been promised significant financial aid from the federal government, many are facing financial strain now and need relief before those dollars become fully available. The Wolf Administration has taken steps to provide that immediate relief.
Pennsylvania Hospital Emergency Loan Program
The Wolf Administration established the Pennsylvania Hospital Emergency Loan Program to provide up to $450 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority in critical working capital bridge funding at a very low interest rate to Pennsylvania’s hospitals.
Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for Providers and Suppliers
The Wolf Administration has been working to spread the word about the federal government’s expansion of the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program for Providers and Suppliers, which provides necessary funds when there is a disruption in claims submission or processing.
The expansion of this program extends to a broader group of Medicare Part A providers and Part B suppliers. The federal government announced that they have approved over $51 billion for providers across the country in the first week of the expansion program.
Equipment, Supplies, and Coordination
- Created several opportunities to connect PPE-producing/distributing businesses to hospitals, medical facilities and other businesses.
- Worked closely with the General Assembly to transfer $50 million in state funds to purchase medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing homes, and emergency workers to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow for payments for direct-support providers to assist people with disabilities in hospital settings where they may need support beyond that provided by hospital staff.
- Signed an Executive Order that allows the state to commandeer personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies should it become necessary as the coronavirus pandemic worsens to ensure that all health care providers have access to PPE and critical supplies and that if supplies need to be redistributed to meet the needs of communities hardest hit by the virus, it can be done efficiently and as quickly as possible.
- Supplied over 1.8 million N95 masks, 136,000 gowns, 912,000 procedure masks, 730,000 gloves, 990 googles, and 147,000 face shields to health care workers.
- Waived requirements to allow for retired medical professionals to quickly reactivate their licenses in order to bolster the capacity of the health care workforce.
- Worked with medical schools across the commonwealth to allow Graduate Medical Trainees (GMTs) to obtain their GMT licenses upon graduation.
- Working to limit the scope of potential liability for health care providers resulting from the care of patients during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Extended license renewal deadlines, and waived additional administrative requirements for new and temporary healthcare licensees, so that practitioners do not have to worry about their license status during the emergency.
- Contracted with ECRI, an independent, nonprofit health services research organization, to enlist experts in the field of infection control to help protect those in the state’s long-term care facilities.
- Businesses across the commonwealth have pivoted from current business models to manufacture or produce personal protective equipment (PPE), gowns, masks, and other critical supplies meant to assist individuals and communities in responding to COVID-19.
- Collaborating with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to support personal care homes and assisted living residences to provide information about infectious disease management protocols and resident care requirements.
- Partnering with university health systems to staff a phone line designed to answer specific COVID-19 related questions for these facilities and to provide real time support.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the goals of the commonwealth are to mitigate the spread of disease in order to save as many lives as possible, ensure our health systems and providers are not overwhelmed by a surge of patients, and limit potential economic fallout. Though the impact of this crisis continues to unfold, our public health response plans must be coupled with, and run parallel to, a flexible economic recovery plan.
The Administration has sought input from external experts in public health, workforce, and economic development across the state to devise a data-driven, comprehensive response and reopening plan. The feedback from those conversations can be grouped in four categories:
- Worker and consumer protection: How will Pennsylvania open for business in a way that protects public health and makes employees and consumers feel safe?
- Protecting vulnerable populations: Vulnerable and minority populations are very clearly disproportionately affected by the virus from a political, social, economic, and public health perspective. How can we ensure protection for minorities, seniors, low-income families, individuals with disabilities, children, and individuals in congregate care settings or experiencing housing insecurity?
- Mobilizing Pennsylvania’s unique economy: How can businesses and industries be supported in reacclimating and adapting operations to fit the current critical needs of the commonwealth, and how can we capitalize on PA’s unique economy, particularly around manufacturing, innovation, and health care to fill some of the gaps from the federal government in terms of testing and supplies?
- Future of education: How do we ensure students of all ages and backgrounds can safely receive a high-quality, equitable education in a world with COVID-19 and beyond across the continuum from early childhood to K-12 to postsecondary?
Consolidated Metric Dashboard
The commonwealth has developed a consolidated metric dashboard that will support the state’s efforts to monitor performance across priorities by streamlining the collection, grouping, and assessment of metric data making it easier to evaluate performance and ascertain trends. The dashboard tool enables real-time tracking of performance to instantly highlight problem areas and can assist the state in making informed decisions that align with long-term goals.
The detailed metrics do not encompass the public health and economic recovery strategy in its entirety but are intended to estimate progress against the identified priorities as we prepare for a future that is still largely unknown. They are, for all intents and purposes, a reflection of the needs, challenges, and successes that we know today and will continue to evolve as the pandemic does as well.
Centralized Command Center
Establishing a central command center to act as the integrating body will be crucial. The command center will track and monitor progress, and will provide:
- Speed: Provide a central hub to coordinate between different efforts to increase response efficacy and increase agility when responding to major, fast-changing situations.
- Coordination: Share developments between various state and local entities responding to the crisis.
- Objectivity: Provide a centralized data collection and analysis capability for descriptive analytics and more advanced projections to collect and analyze information from a range of public and private organizations.
- Long-term perspective: Provide a “30,000 foot” perspective by developing and integrating cross-functional teams to balance short- and long-term priorities throughout the crisis to ensure that planning activities for the weeks and months after the crisis are conducted even in the midst of the outbreak.
- Flexibility: Integrate diverse, changing workstreams to guide decisions across as the crisis evolves to allow organizations to adapt their structures and operating models to the nature of the crisis.
- Capability alignment: Coordinate and adjust activities around capabilities, not just formal responsibilities and roles to ensure that organizations with robust capabilities and strong leadership are fully utilized.
The commonwealth will facilitate organized convenings to further refine and implement the near and long-term actions identified in this plan. Convenings will include private sector business leaders; public and private educational institutions and relevant individuals/businesses; and relevant public sector and community organizations.
Among the four categories of feedback received (worker and consumer protection, protecting vulnerable populations, mobilizing Pennsylvania’s unique economy, and the future of education), there were four clear priorities that overlapped each of these focus areas and warrant highlighting as overall priorities for the commonwealth’s recovery plan:
- Technical and financial assistance for small businesses to increase access to eCommerce and alternative shopping.
- Identify private partnerships or leverage in-state educational institutions to provide technical assistance.
- Create regional e-commerce hubs with existing local partners or expand on existing and development efforts.
- Research opportunity to leverage state technology expertise to create or expand virtual platforms or support existing local e-commerce infrastructure.
- Broadband access expansion to promote teleworking, telehealth, eCommerce, government services, and remote learning.
- Develop a broadband task force with representation from the private and public sectors.
- Identify partnerships or identify funding options (e.g., subsidy) to help businesses expand broadband.
- Develop and publish template resources for tracking telework activities, monitor productivity, and payrolls.
- Incentivize business investment in broadband.
- Offer incentives to property developers and/or managers to improve broadband access for residents.
- Implement fundamental changes to the health system to increase access, improve quality of care, prioritize whole person care, address social determinants of health and reduce costs.
- Expand testing for COVID-19 to include testing at the DOH’s State Laboratory and partner with community resources like retail pharmacies and FQHCs.
- Address challenge of drive-up and curbside testing.
- The role of the Wolf Administration and state agencies in serving as a convening body to bring together key stakeholders and resources.
- Identify the set of stakeholder groups required to implement priority areas.
- Engage stakeholder groups and help to facilitate dialogue and collaboration as required to operationalize identified recommendations.
Short-Term and Ongoing Actions:
Ensure workers have access to safety equipment and cleaning materials, with regular sanitization of workspaces.
- Refine and publish detailed guidelines on workplace safety & sanitation.
- Develop mechanism for employees to anonymously submit complaints regarding sanitary and safety practices.
Testing, tracing, and supported isolation available to all workers who are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
- Develop testing guidelines or identify best practices for employers and employees.
- Provide guidelines and best practices.
- Develop contact tracing protocol guidelines.
- Develop contact tracing reporting protocol for testing providers.
Communication about public health, workplace safety, and worker protection are clear, consistent, and equitable.
- Translate employer and employee guidelines into common languages following CLAS standards.
- Create informational posters and signage outlining workplace safety guidance.
- Require all employers to share and post information within workplace common areas.
- Inform unions, community organizations, and counties of guidelines to request dissemination of information.
Commonwealth agencies to collaborate with the business community to produce guidance to modify their operations to protect workers and consumers.
- Develop guidelines by sector detailing capacity, technology options for limiting contact, and reserved hours.
Limit exposure of older adults to COVID-19 and other highly contagious diseases through expansion of access to alternative community living arrangements and increasing supportive services
- Encourage development and utilization of alternative community living arrangements or residential settings.
- Research options for partnerships to expand safe shopping options.
Promote safety and support for our health care, social service, and direct care workers
- Create incentives to produce PPE and provide COVID-19 testing to expand access and better protect both workers and individuals receiving long-term services and supports.
Prioritize mental wellness and implement trauma-informed practices through public services and programs
- Ensure that services and supports for behavioral health needs, both mental health and substance use treatments, are made available to help members of our workforce who witnessed traumatic events, lost loved ones, endured illness or economic losses, or were otherwise impacted by the health crisis in ways that have lasting effects on their emotional well-being.
Engage in an anti-stigma effort designed to reduce the stigma of government services and highlight availability of assistance
- Create focus and advisory groups comprised of the people the commonwealth serves, especially those from vulnerable populations, so they can lead the effort of communicating from and to their own communities.
Prioritize health equity to address the disproportionality of disease burden on underserved communities and promote equitable access.
- Develop new incentives through Medicaid to expand access, physically and financially, to community-based COVID-19 diagnostic testing for families, particularly those living in multi-unit dwellings.
- Draft legislative amendments to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to protect older adults. Draft legislation creates flexibility in the Caregiver Support Program to be more responsive to caregiving needs.
- Align with and support recommendations from the Governor’s COVID-19 Health Disparities Task Force and the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team.
Implement fundamental changes to Pennsylvania’s health care system to increase access, improve quality of care, prioritize whole person care, address social determinants of health and reduce health care costs.
- Increase access to telemedicine as a safe way for older adults and other vulnerable populations to maintain social distancing, reducing exposure and eliminating transportation challenges, and ensure individuals have access to critical behavioral health services to support them throughout this crisis and beyond.
Implement widespread community development, revitalization and housing service efforts to minimize economic and community disparities and support safe and sustainable neighborhoods
- Strategically identify housing resources for individuals experiencing homelessness exiting non-congregate care settings, including hospitals, hotels and other shelter locations as a result of social distancing in COVID-19 response.
Regain economic competitiveness and maintain Pennsylvania’s diverse economy
- Decide whether to recapitalize the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program and establish a grant program for smallest businesses.
- Provide access to capital to finance retooling workplaces.
- Develop a pass-through mechanism through utility companies.
- Decide whether to draft legislation on reduction of various taxes and fees including hospitality, hotel, alcohol.
- Provide a Sales Tax Holiday.
Capitalize on our strengths & tap into existing resources and training opportunities
- Fund state innovation strategy to attract talent to PA. Utilize our land grant university system and cooperative extension system to train citizens.
- Develop regular communications and data exchanges with economic development partners using Engage! in times of an emergency as a program that can respond in real time
Retool and empower industry to take advantage of supply chain shifts
- Explore creation of reshoring incentives to bring back critical supply chains.
- Establish partnerships to leverage PA’s manufacturers and industry to meet gaps in retooling sites to manufacture necessary items.
- Consider creation of a manufacturing tax credit for manufacturers who convert or retrofit their facilities or operations in order to produce COVID-19 related supplies.
Institutionalize industry partnerships and regional convening of partners
- Facilitate pairing industry with education and other resources to expand industry partnerships to meet the recovery needs of industry and support long-term planning. Devise a method in which businesses, industry representatives and regional business assistance providers can provide feedback in real time to help shape policies for recovery.
Support all education providers in creating healthy and safe environments for students, educators, and staff. (Safe Operations)
- Develop state-level health and safety guidance for all educational providers and caregivers on cleaning, infection response and other operations.
- Develop framework of policies that use public health data to inform when to reopen schools, transition to remote learning, virtual support.
- Develop resources for education accessible to those with low literacy / limited English proficiency.
Ensure that all learners have access to and are engaged in quality education through coherent, responsive instruction delivered seamlessly in and out of school settings
- Expand resources and technical assistance for continuity of education programming, strategies for meeting students’ academic needs and support remote learning and development at home.
- Develop resources to support learners including career / technical education, adult basic education. Prepare for flexible education delivery in 2020-21.
Ensure that all learners, particularly vulnerable and historically underserved students, have access to and can engage in quality education experiences through resources and supports
- Expand equitable learning platforms and access.
- Require or encourage schools to develop continuity of education plans and crisis plans.
- Provide resources to implement new systems to address needs exposed by the pandemic, specialized instructional resources for students with disabilities, and remote learning. Expand support systems for at-risk student population.
Ensure that the social and emotional needs of students and school communities are addressed when reopening schools. (Support Services and Student Wellness)
- Build resources to assist schools with increased mental health needs.
- Strengthen communication networks over the summer and during school closure.
- Increase number of mental health practitioners in schools. Ensure school based social workers and mental health professionals are providing services.
Long-Term and Aspirational Actions:
Establish the Pennsylvania Workers’ Bill of Rights
- Draft legislation to protect workers who are at a higher risk to COVID-19 or who are caring for persons at a higher risk to COVID-19 to ensure job, income, and housing protection.
Workers, particularly essential workers, have access to affordable and available, high-quality childcare
- Draft legislation enabling childcare providers to continue to operate.
- Secure and distribute PPE.
- Draft legislation to ensure essential workers have access to subsidized childcare.
- Evaluate childcare funding models, regulations, and quality.
- Develop a “how-to” guide for opening and operating childcare facility.
Workers, particularly essential workers, have access to safe, affordable, and available transportation options
- Establish a work group to determine best practices and potential scheduling refinements.
- Refine routes, schedule, and number of transit vehicles to match changes in demand based on reopening.
Address gaps in food supply chain and capitalize on buying local opportunities
- Support “buy local” campaigns, including developing local networks to encourage local production and buying, and a restaurant stimulus program.
- Capitalize on tourism opportunities where possible. Establish food processing reimbursement fund through Department of Agriculture to invest in worker safety.
- Fund a state match for double up SNAP bucks.
Rebuild infrastructure by engaging youth, recent graduates and recently unemployed
- Develop real-time dashboards to monitor unemployment.
- Expand re-employment programs focusing on those closed or laid off as a result of COVID-19.
- Maximize access to upskilling programs. Incentivize hiring of recent graduates and growth of public health workforce.
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It has become clear in recent months that the pandemic has collided with an uprising of significant civil unrest due to systemic racism and increasing police brutality against Black men and women throughout the country. What has emerged as a result of protests is a third rail related to recovery – the need to prioritize political and social recovery.
Our efforts to respond to the pandemic must be expanded to include measures that the administration, the legislature, and local communities can take to address the social upheaval that is happening throughout the nation and in Pennsylvania.
Our economic recovery and public health efforts must encompass a focus on minority populations that are very clearly disproportionately affected by the virus from a political, social, economic, and public health perspective. As this action plan is a living document, it is our intention to incorporate specific recommendations and metrics that help to address and hold us accountable to doing more for these communities.
While one day the pandemic may come to an end, what is clear is that systemic barriers for communities of color will remain in place if we do not start to take action to address racial equity in everything we do. We look forward to that charge.