In This Edition:
A Week of Senate Hearings on Wolf Administration’s Response to COVID-19
Many aspects of the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19 have been questioned and criticized since mitigation measures first began in Pennsylvania in March. The Senate is holding a series of hearings this week to examine many of the questions that have been raised over the past two months, including serious problems with the Unemployment Compensation system, inconsistencies in Governor Wolf’s plans to reopen Pennsylvania, difficulties with state Wine & Spirits store sales, and the unique challenges facing nursing homes during the public health emergency.
Senate Committees Dig Deeper on Unemployment Compensation Problems
The most frequent concerns I’ve heard from community residents over the past two months are problems with the state’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) system. When the Wolf Administration closed thousands of businesses as part of its plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians were forced into the Unemployment Compensation system, which was not at all prepared to handle that kind of volume.
This week, the Senate Labor and Industry Committee and Senate Communications and Technology Committee held a joint hearing to examine the problems with the UC system that have created significant delays in assistance and extreme frustrations from claimants.
Although representatives of the Department of Labor and Industry testified that they are working to significantly increase staff available to help claimants, approximately 30 percent of people who have applied since the start of the pandemic have still not received a payment. This is unacceptable and must be rectified as soon as possible. Hearing Video, Agenda & Written Testimony
Senator DiSanto Calls on Governor to Remove Labor & Industry Secretary over Unemployment Failures
Tuesday, I called on Governor Wolf to remove the Secretary of Labor & Industry, who runs our state’s Unemployment Compensation system. His management of the Department leading up to and during this response to the COVID-19 pandemic can only be described as a failure. Two and a half years ago the Department was given an additional $115 on top of the hundreds of millions that were previously supposed to go to system and service upgrades.
Like so many times before, Pennsylvanians have been disserved by a government bureaucracy that rewards political favoritism over competence and merit. See my letter to the governor at: https://redesign.senatordisanto.com/…/05/wolf-oleksiak-050520.pdf
Hearing Examines Concerns Surrounding Governor Wolf’s Delayed Reopening Plans
The Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee took a closer look at the impact of Governor Wolf’s plan to reopen more Pennsylvania employers during a joint hearing with medical experts, local government officials and members of the Wolf Administration this week.
The hearing included discussion of topics including the reasons why some counties with low case counts remain in the red phase, while counties with higher counts have moved to the yellow phase; why the Wolf Administration’s guidelines are more restrictive than guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; the time frame for moving more counties from red to yellow, and from yellow to green; testing and tracing capacity; and the Administration’s lack of collaboration with the General Assembly.
I am strongly urging the Wolf Administration to allow more counties to open – with proper safety protocols in place – as soon as possible. Hearing Video, Agenda & Written Testimony.
Senate Panel Studies Liquor Control Board Issues During COVID-19
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has dealt with many serious issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closing of state stores, the impact of the decision on consumers and liquor licensees, and the roll-out of the e-commerce and curbside pick-up programs that are currently in place.
On Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m., the Senate Law and Justice Committee examines all of these issues and other concerns pertaining to PLCB. Hearing Video, & Agenda.
Challenges Facing Nursing Homes to be Explored at Senate Hearing
Nursing homes have faced some incredibly challenging circumstances in caring for vulnerable patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency. As of Tuesday, 2,029 of Pennsylvania’s 3,012 COVID-19 deaths were associated with nursing homes and personal care homes.
On Thursday beginning at 10:30 a.m., the Senate Aging and Youth Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will take a closer look at these challenges and explore solutions to ensure these facilities can better protect the health and safety of residents. Hearing Live Stream & Agenda