HARRISBURG, PA — On Friday, March 27, Gov. Tom Wolf signed four pieces of reactionary legislation to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which has infected more than 2,000 people in Pennsylvania. The bills addresses healthcare, education, elections and unemployment benefits.
House Bill 1232. The main feature of this bill allocates $50 million to go toward "medical equipment and supplies for hospitals, nursing facilities and emergency medical services to meet the urgent needs by patients and staff."
Senate Bill 751. This bill waives the state's requirement that schools be in session for 180 days, ensures that school employees continue receiving pay during the closure and gives the secretary of education authority to waive student-teacher and standardized assessments. The Department of Education has already canceled PSSA testing for the year.
Senate Bill 422. This reschedules Pennsylvania's 2020 primary election for June 2. The bill provides process improvements to Act 77 of 2019, to allow counties to begin processing and tabulating mail ballots beginning at 7 a.m. on election day, rather than after the polls close at 8 p.m. Additionally, the measure allows counties to temporarily consolidate polling places without court approval and eases other rules regarding location and staffing of polling places for the primary to respond to county concerns about a potential shortage of poll workers and appropriate polling place locations.
House Bill 68. This bill facilitates the process of applying for unemployment. It waives the one-week waiting period and job search and work registration requirements, provides automatic relief from benefit charges for employers whose account would otherwise be charged during the disaster emergency, increases timeframes and allows for interest-free payment plans, and provides the secretary with the ability to adopt temporary regulations to ensure compliance with federal law.