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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Thank You to All Frontline Workers :: April 16, 2020

Thank You to All Frontline Workers

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Now Accepting Applications

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Pennsylvania’s self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and others not eligible for regular unemployment compensation (UC) can begin filing claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. PUA is included in the new federal expansion to unemployment benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Pennsylvanians who meet PUA eligibility requirements can apply online at www.uc.pa.gov or by clicking here. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) anticipates a high volume of applications as the program opens which may temporarily slow the system. The department is continuing to add improvements to make it easier to use. L&I expects to begin making payments within two to four weeks after they submit their initial claim. They also continue to update the PUA landing page with system issues and additional directions for the PUA website. You can view those updates by clicking here.

Who Should File for PUA

Eligible individuals who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 include:

  • Self-employed;
  • Independent contractors;
  • Gig workers;
  • Clergy and those working for religious organizations; and
  • People without sufficient work history to qualify for regular UC.

PUA Benefits

In general, PUA:

  • Provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits;
  • May not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular UC of $572;
  • May not be less than half of the state’s average weekly benefit amount of $195.
  • Payments will be backdated to January 27, 2020 or the first week you were unable to work due to COVID-19 (whichever of the two dates is later); and
  • Benefits will not be payable for weeks of unemployment after December 31, 2020.

Information Needed for COVID-19-related Employment Disruptions

Acceptable documentation to verify COVID-19 reasons for being unable to work can include, but is not limited to:

  • Documentation from medical professionals regarding diagnosis or isolation instructions for you or a person in your home;
  • Notices or emails from school or childcare providers;
  • Notices or emails from county or state government regarding closure of businesses or stay at home orders;
  • Notices or emails from entities for which you were contracting stating that your services are not needed due to COVID-19 related shutdowns; and/or
  • Documentation from a prospective employer that includes start date, hours, and pay of a job offer that was cancelled or delayed.

Information Needed for Proof of Employment or Self-Employment

Acceptable documentation can include, but is not limited to:

  • Copies of recent paycheck stubs;
  • Bank receipts showing deposits;
  • 1099s;
  • Billing notices provided to your customers;
  • Recent advertisements for your business or services;
  • Statements from recent customers;
  • Current business licenses, ledgers, contracts, invoices; and/or
  • Building leases.

Information Needed to Show Previous Income

Acceptable documentation of wages can include, but is not limited to:

  • Tax returns;
  • Paycheck stubs;
  • Bank receipts;
  • Ledgers;
  • Contracts;
  • Invoices; and/or
  • Billing statements.

Additional $600 Per Week

Anyone collecting PUA benefits is also eligible for the extra $600 per week from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program:

  • Effective from the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020;
  • Payments will be backdated and paid in a lump sum; and
  • You don’t need to do anything to receive the extra $600 – it will be paid automatically.

The new PUA system is web-based and operates differently than the state’s regular UC mainframe system.  This means PUA applicants will receive login information to file their continued claims and do NOT need a Personal Identification Number (PIN). After opening their initial PUA claim and filing for any retroactive weeks, individuals will file continuing claims on a weekly basis with a one-week grace period if they miss filing for any week.

A new PUA phone line will soon be available for individuals without internet access or for those who require a translator. In the meantime, please direct questions to UCPUA@pa.gov. This email address is for PUA questions only.

Additional COVID-19 information from L&I:

Stay at Home Order Extended while Online Notary, Limited Construction & Expanded Liquor Sales Enabled

Yesterday, Gov. Wolf extended the statewide stay-at-home order from April 30 to May 8. He also announced three actions including online sales of vehicles, which will be enabled by the signing of Senate Bill 841 (SB 841), restart of construction projects statewide starting Friday, May 8, and curbside pickup of wine and spirits at select Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board locations.

These limited steps forward will be closely observed in the coming days and weeks to ensure that they do not result in a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, in which case the governor will use his authority under the emergency disaster declaration to resume restrictions to protect public health and safety.  

SB 841, which passed the Senate unanimously on April 7 and was signed yesterday by the governor, approves qualified Pennsylvania notaries public to perform remote online notarizations, which will allow auto dealerships to conduct limited car sales and leasing operations through online sales, as a notary is required to complete the transaction. Auto dealerships may continue to remain open for certain activities, such as repairs to passenger and commercial vehicles and sales of auto parts, but in-person car sales or leases are still considered non-life sustaining and remain prohibited at this time.

Public and private residential and non-residential construction may resume statewide starting Friday, May 8, in accordance with safety guidance that will be issued by the administration. Construction projects already deemed life-sustaining may continue while adhering to social distancing, personnel limits and other guidance as announced by the administration.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB) yesterday began accepting orders by phone for curbside pickup at 176 locations. Phone orders can be placed between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., or until reaching a store’s maximum order capacity each day. Curbside pickups will be scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. within a few days of order placement. Callers will be guided through each store’s unique inventory. There is a limit of six bottles per order, and credit cards are the only accepted form of payment. At pickup, customers will be required to present identification before the order is delivered.

LocatThe PLCB website lists the stores offering curbside pickup. PLCB anticipates expanding the service at more locations in the future. The PLCB website is also increasing order capacity.

Curbside sales at Fine Wine and Good Spirits Shoppes will serve as a guide to determine whether certain other non-life-sustaining businesses may be able to resume limited operations through curbside pickup, which is currently only permitted for life-sustaining businesses that offer food and pharmaceuticals.

The Administration will monitor the implementation of curbside pickup including the safety of the supply chain to determine if broader curbside pickup can be done safely and effectively to provide goods and services, while still limiting the amount of person to person contact not just at retail locations but throughout the supply chain.

Masks Required for Employees, Customers at Life-Essential Businesses

Governor Wolf announced last week that Dr. Rachel Levine, under her authority as Secretary of the Department of Health to take any disease control measure appropriate to protect the public from the spread of infectious disease, signed an order directing protections for critical workers who are employed at businesses that are authorized to maintain in-person operations during the COVID-19 disaster emergency.

The order establishes protocols to help employees maintain a social distance during work:

  • Provide masks for employees to wear during their time at the business, and make it a mandatory requirement while at the work site, except to the extent an employee is using break time to eat or drink, in accordance with the guidance from the Department of Health and the CDC. Employers may approve masks obtained or made by employees in accordance with this guidance;
  • Stagger work start and stop times for employees when practical to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the premises at the same time;
  • Provide sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, including limiting the number of employees in common areas and setting up seating to have employees facing forward and not across from each other;
  • Conduct meetings and training virtually. If a meeting must be held in person, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible, not to exceed 10 employees at one time and maintain a social distance of 6 feet.
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform all measures listed effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees;
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet;
  • Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business; and
  • Ensure that all employees who do not speak English as their first language are aware of procedures by communicating the procedures, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language.

Upon discovery of an exposure to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, businesses are also ordered to implement temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of work and send any employee home who has an elevated temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with the health care providers and state and local health departments. Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who are on home isolation.
Upon an exposure, businesses are also ordered to do the following:

  • Close off and ventilate areas visited by that individual;
  • Wait a minimum of 24 hours, or as long as practical, before beginning cleaning and disinfection;
  • Clean and disinfect all spaces, especially commonly used rooms and shared electronic equipment;
  • Identify and notify employees who were in close contact with that individual (within about 6 feet for about 10 minutes); and
  • Ensure that the business has a sufficient number of employees to perform these protocols effectively and immediately.

In addition to the social distancing, mitigation and cleaning protocols, businesses that serve the public within a building or defined area are ordered to implement the following, based on the size of the building and number of employees:

  • Require all customers to wear masks while on premises, and deny entry to individuals not wearing masks, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case the business must provide alternative methods of pick-up or delivery of goods, except individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children the age of 2 years) may enter the premises without having to provide medical documentation;
  • Conduct business with the public by appointment only and, to the extent that this is not feasible, limit occupancy to no greater than 50 percent of the number stated on their certificate of occupancy as necessary to reduce crowding in the business and at check-out and counter lines in order to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, and place signage throughout each site to mandate social distancing for both customers and employees;
  • Alter hours of business so that the business has sufficient time to clean or to restock or both;
  • Install shields or other barriers at registers and check-out areas to physically separate cashiers and customers or take other measures to ensure social distancing of customers from check-out personnel, or close lines to maintain a social distance between of 6 feet between lines;
  • Encourage use of online ordering by providing delivery or outside pick-up;
  • Designate a specific time for high-risk and elderly persons to use the business at least once every week if there is a continuing in-person customer-facing component;
  • In businesses with multiple check-out lines, only use every other register, or fewer. After every hour, rotate customers and employees to the previously closed registers. Clean the previously open registers and the surrounding area, including credit card machines, following each rotation;
  • Schedule handwashing breaks for employees at least every hour; and
  • Where carts and handbaskets are available, assign an employee to wipe down carts and handbaskets before they become available to a new customer.

Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions.

The governor has directed the following state agencies and local officials to enforce orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic to the full extent of the law:

  • Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Labor and Industry
  • Pennsylvania State Police
  • Local officials, using their resources to enforce closure orders within their jurisdictions

This order follows another order by Dr. Levine providing direction for maintaining and cleaning buildings for businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations under her and Governor Wolf’s life-sustaining business orders announced March 19.

Governor Wolf also recommends that Pennsylvanians wear a mask any time they leave their homes for life-sustaining reasons.

You can read the entire order by clicking here.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published a listing of places in the region where homemade masks can be purchased. The article can be viewed by clicking here. Also anyone interested in making their own cloth or homemade mask can get directions on how to do so at www.health.pa.gov or by clicking here. The CDC also offers information on how to wear, and how to make, homemade cloth masks as well as how to clean them. That information is available by clicking here. Additionally, the PA Department of Health says the best way to clean your masks is by using hot water and regular detergent, and then drying them on the hottest setting on your dryer.

Economic Impact Payments

IRSThe U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service recently launched a new web tool allowing quick registration for Economic Impact Payments for those who don’t normally file a tax return. The web tool can be accessed by clicking here.

The non-filer tool, developed in partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, provides a free and easy option designed for people who don't have a return filing obligation, including those with too little income to file. The feature is available only on www.IRS.gov, and users should look for Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here to take them directly to the tool.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that Economic Impact Payments will be distributed automatically to most people. Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive the payments automatically. Automatic payments will also go in the near future to those people receiving Social Security retirement, survivors, disability (SDDI), or survivor benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.

For those who don't normally file a tax return, the process is simple and only takes a few minutes to complete. First, visit www.IRS.gov  and look for "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here." Then provide basic information including Social Security number, name, address, and dependents. The IRS will use this information to confirm eligibility and calculate and send an Economic Impact Payment. Using the tool to get your payment will not result in any taxes being owed. Entering bank or financial account information will allow the IRS to deposit your payment directly in your account. Otherwise, your payment will be mailed to you. "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info" is secure, and the information entered will be safe. The tool is based on Free File Fillable Forms, part of the Free File Alliance's offerings of free products on www.IRS.gov.

This new tool is designed for people who did not file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and who don't receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits. Others who should consider the Non-Filers tool as an option, include:

  • Lower income: Among those who could use Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info tool are those who haven't filed a 2018 or 2019 return because they are under the normal income limits for filing a tax return. This may include single filers who made under $12,200 and married couples making less than $24,400 in 2019.

  • Veterans beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients: The IRS continues to explore ways to see if Economic Impact Payments can be made automatically to SSI recipients and those who receive veterans disability compensation, pension or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and who did not file a tax return for the 2018 or 2019 tax years. People in these groups can either use Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info option now or wait as the IRS continues to review automatic payment options to simplify delivery for these groups.

  • Social Security, SSDI and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries with qualifying dependents: These groups will automatically receive $1,200 Economic Impact Payments. People in this group who have qualifying children under age 17 may use Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info to claim the $500 payment per child.

  • Students and others: If someone else claimed you on their tax return, you will not be eligible for the Economic Impact Payment or using the Non-Filer tool.

The IRS will post additional updates at www.irs.gov/coronavirus. For more information on Economic Impact Payments, please click here.

Emergency SNAP Benefit Distribution

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services began emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit issuance on April 16 in line with the federal government’s interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Payments include a supplemental increase for both March and April and will continue to be issued for current SNAP households through April 29. DHS is also advising Pennsylvanians in need of food assistance of local supports that can help meet essential needs during the public health crisis.

DHS received approval from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue emergency payments that will allow DHS to increase a household’s current monthly payment up to the maximum benefit amount for each household size. DHS had requested authorization to issue an additional benefit equal to a household’s monthly payment to all SNAP households and was denied.

These emergency payments are for March and April and will be distributed as a one-time issuance distributed on a staggered schedule beginning April 16 and continuing through April 29. This payment is in addition to a household’s normal April benefit issuance that’s made in the first half of the month. These payments will be placed directly onto a recipient’s EBT card. Supplemental payments are in addition to the normal May payment beginning May 1.

DHS has also activated the administration’s Feeding Task Force, which brings together state agencies, charitable food networks, and other local partners to determine where food needs are, how many meals are needed, how food is getting to people, and how supplies and donations can be allocated to meet feeding needs across Pennsylvania. The task force, in partnership with the governor’s office, developed a food access survey to determine areas where individuals or families may have trouble accessing food and to identify areas of high need. If individuals identify in the survey they need food and agree to be contacted, they will receive an email with information on available resources.

The task force has delivered more than 143,616 individual shelf-stable meals to charitable food networks and feeding programs, including home-delivered meal programs for seniors and food pantries around Pennsylvania thus far since it was activated. In total, the task force expects to coordinate delivery of more than 758,000 shelf-stable meals.

Individuals and families in need of assistance should contact their local food bank through Feeding PA or Hunger-Free PA to find a food pantry or other distribution site in their community. The United Way of Pennsylvania and the 211 Program can also connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis.

The Feeding Task Force is also partnering with the Salvation Army and Operation BBQ Relief to distribute 180,000 meals a week for four weeks. Operation BBQ Relief harnesses the power of shuttered restaurants, available restaurant workers, and available commercial-sized food product to produce family style meals to support people in need. People in need will be able to go to any of the 44 local Salvation Army Corps Centers on the distribution day to receive the food. People needing assistance should contact their local Salvation Army Corps Center for information on upcoming distributions.

DHS is continuing to process applications and benefit renewals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) throughout the public health crisis. Emergency SNAP applications can be expedited and issued in five days. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online at www.compass.state.pa.us.

CHIP to Maintain Enrollment for Families During COVID-19 Crisis

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is making temporary changes to Pennsylvania’s Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to keep families enrolled in CHIP for the duration of the public health emergency and to ease access to medical services for children being screened or receiving treatment for COVID-19.

The following changes are in effect for CHIP until the end of the public health emergency:

  • Families will not be denied or disenrolled from coverage for administrative or financial reasons. An example of an administrative reason is not being able to provide proof of income.
  • Families will not pay a copay for services that are for COVID-19 screening, testing or treatment.
  • Families who cannot provide paperwork to verify information on an application or renewal, can provide self-attestation of information by signing the application or renewal.
  • Families will be given more time to pay premiums, if needed.

Families still must provide verification of information presented on an application, and are still responsible for copays for services not related to COVID-19. Testing and treatment services related to COVID-19 are covered. Families are also still responsible to pay premiums if applicable.

If a family is unable to pay premiums because of a decrease or loss of income, the family must contact their managed care organization immediately and can request the MCO to perform a “reassessment” because of an income change at any time.

Details on how to apply for CHIP can be found by clicking here. The Wolf Administration has previously announced the continued availability of CHIP and Medicaid to families and individuals that meet eligibility requirements, as well as temporary flexibility of requirements for providers of Medicaid and CHIP to ensure availability and access to health care.

Child Care Providers for Life-Sustaining Employees

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has put together a listing of child care providers who are approved to operate during the COVID-19 public health emergency. If you work in a life-sustaining position, these providers may be able to help you and your family if you need child care. The listing can be accessed by clicking here. Simply enter your zip code to view the providers near you that remain open.

UPDATE: Mail-in Ballots

Vote By MailI want to remind everyone that Act 77 created the opportunity for voters to request mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania beginning with the 2020 Primary Election. Unlike the current absentee ballot application, mail-in ballots can be requested by any voter with no excuse required. In light of the ongoing pandemic, I have been encouraging voters to apply for a mail-in ballot for the June 2 Primary Election online at www.votespa.com

Last week, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced that the Allegheny County Division of Elections will be mailing all registered voters in Allegheny County who have not yet applied for either a traditional absentee ballot or a new mail-in ballot, a mail-in ballot application. The mailing will include the mail-in ballot application and a postage-paid, addressed envelope to return that application to the Elections office.

Voters are also encouraged to apply online for the ballot which also offers an opportunity to receive email updates on the status of the application and ballot throughout the election season.

As a reminder, the current absentee ballot process remains in place, where voters can request an absentee ballot if they are sick, disabled, or going to be out of their municipality on Election Day.  However, anyone can request a new mail-in ballot.  Additionally, voters can also request an annual mail-in ballot. If a voter indicates on the mail-in ballot application that they would like to be added to the annual mail-in ballot request list, they will receive an application to renew their request for a mail-in ballot each year. Once the application is approved, the voter will automatically receive ballots for the remainder of the year, and they do not need to submit an application for each election.

Track Your BallotVoters can submit an online application or download an application to mail at www.votespa.com and can track the status of their application by clicking here.

The deadline to apply for mail-in ballots is May 26. Applications must be received by the Allegheny County Elections Division by 5 p.m.  The deadline to return completed mail-in ballots is 8 p.m. on Election night, June. 2.

I also want to remind everyone that the deadline to register to vote, or make changes to a voter registration is May 18. Anyone wishing to register or make changes can do so at www.votespa.com.
As I wrote about in last week’s edition of my News & Views, I am drafting legislation that would make Pennsylvania a mail-in ballot only state staring with this November’s General Election. You can read more about my proposal by clicking here.

Did You Know…

Did you know that as of April 16, more than 326,000 mail-in ballot requests have been processed by the PA Department of State?

Loan Deferrals for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

Loan DeferralsPennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin has announced the forbearance of loans administered by DCED. The governor and Secretary Davin will request loan deferrals for all borrowers with the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, the Commonwealth Financing Authority (excluding PENNWORKS program loans), the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority.

In March, DCED took the emergency executive step of halting April payments, late fees, and accruing interest for these loans. This additional forbearance will apply to May and June payments to include no accrual of interest or fees. Automatic payments will be halted and borrowers paying by check will not be required to submit payment until the scheduled July payment. As a result of the forbearance, the maturity of the loans will be extended for three months.

Resources and information for businesses is regularly posted to http://dced.pa.gov/resources. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in addition to local funding partners, may also be a source of assistance for affected businesses.

Businesses seeking further guidance and clarification from DCED can contact its customer service resource account at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.

Business-to-Business Directory

DCED has created a Business-to-Business Interchange Directory to connect organizations and businesses directly to manufacturers producing COVID-19-related products and supplies. The directory can be accessed by clicking here.

Company and product information provided in the directory were gathered in good faith as a means of connecting Pennsylvania businesses and organizations that are seeking various PPE and other related items to combat the COVID-19 crisis. The information made available is from those entities who voluntarily contacted the commonwealth through the Manufacturing Call to Action Portal or the Pennsylvania Critical Medical Supplies Procurement Portal.  

Currently in the directory are manufacturers of N95 masks, fabric and other masks, and surgical masks. Additional supplies and materials will be added to the directory as DCED identifies potential manufacturers. Businesses that would like to be added to the directory or those with questions should contact RA-DCEDPAMCTAP@pa.gov.

Employment Opportunities

COVID-19 Employment OpportunitiesPA CareerLink, a partnership of the Departments of Labor & Industry and Human Services, has put together a listing of employers around Pennsylvania that are in need of hiring individuals for critical roles. Regardless of whether you’ve lost your job due to a COVID-19 related business closure and would like to work or simply are looking for employment, I encourage you to visit CareerLink’s COVID-19 Employment Opportunities site which can be viewed by clicking here.

The site lists what companies are hiring, the types of positions open, business locations and provides links to apply for positions online. Employers that have openings and are interested in promoting through CareerLink can also access the site to complete an Employer Intake Form so their openings can be listed.

Waiver for Prepayments of Sales Tax

It was announced last week that businesses that collect Pennsylvania sales tax will not have to make Accelerated Sales Tax (AST) prepayments over the next three months. That means businesses that normally have a monthly prepayment requirement will not be charged penalties for missing the prepayment deadline during this three-month period.

Under normal circumstances, certain business taxpayers are required to make monthly sales tax prepayments to the commonwealth if their actual tax liability is more than $25,000 during the third quarter of the preceding year. The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is waiving the prepayment requirement in April, May and June of 2020 to help business owners with cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under this new scenario, the department is asking businesses to simply remit the sales tax that they collected during the prior month. The due dates to remit sales tax are April 20, May 20 and June 22, which follows the standard due dates for monthly filers who have no prepayment requirement.
Visit the Department of Revenue’s page on Accelerated Sales Tax Prepayments for more information on prepayments by clicking here. All businesses are encouraged to remit online using e-TIDES, the department’s online tax system for businesses. Find the REV-819 on the department’s website for a schedule of return and prepayment due dates.

In addition to the waiver of Accelerated Sales Tax prepayments, the Department of Revenue also has:

With the department’s call centers closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, taxpayers seeking assistance are encouraged to use the department’s Online Customer Service Center, available at revenue-pa.custhelp.com. You can use this resource to electronically submit a question to a department representative. The department representative will be able to respond through a secure, electronic process that is similar to receiving an email. Additionally, the Online Customer Service Center includes thousands of answers to common tax-related questions.

Taxpayers and tax professionals are encouraged to visit the Department of Revenue’s COVID-19 information page at www.revenue.pa.gov for additional guidance and updates on department operations.

Veterans Benefits Continue to be Available

The Pennsylvania Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) wants to assure veterans that state and federal benefits processing are still on-going. The DMVA and the Federal VA both continue to work remotely to provide veterans’ information, enroll for benefits, and serve other veterans’ needs throughout this difficult pandemic emergency.

The DMVA administers an array of programs and services to meet the needs of veterans. They include:

  • Veterans Temporary Assistance/Military Family Relief Assistance programs: These programs provide financial assistance to service members, veterans and families who experience unforeseen financial challenges. For questions email: Ra-vta@pa.gov

  • Records Request Program: Provides assistance in requesting military service records to include DD Form 214, DD Form 215, NGB Form 22, NGB Form 23, and other service-related documents. For questions email: Ra-req@pa.gov.

  • Amputee, Paralyzed and Blind Veterans Pension programs: These programs provide a monthly pension to eligible veterans who incurred a service-connected disability. For questions about the Amputee and Paralyzed Veterans Pension email: Ra-pvp@pa.gov. For questions about the Blind Veterans Pension email: Ra-bvp@pa.gov.

  • Educational Gratuity Program: The Educational Gratuity Program provides financial assistance to children of honorably discharged veterans who have service-connected disabilities and served during a period of war or armed conflict or children of veterans who die or died in service during a period of war or armed conflict. For questions email: Ra-eg@pa.gov.

  • Disabled Veteran Real Estate Tax Exemption Program: Provides real estate tax exemption for any honorably discharged veteran who is 100 percent disabled, a resident of the commonwealth and has a financial need. For questions email: Ra-retx@pa.gov.

Applications for these programs are traditionally initiated with the county director for veterans affairs (CDVA) staff. In Allegheny County, Veterans’ Services can be contacted by phone at 412-621-4357 or email at veterans@alleghenycounty.us. Veterans may also contact DMVA’s Office of Veterans Affairs directly at 800-547-2838.

Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can connect with DMVA to request information related to the valuable state benefits, programs and services offered by also signing up on the Veteran’s Registry at www.register.dmva.pa.gov.

Resources for Seniors

aarpAARP Pennsylvania is providing information and resources about COVID-19 to help older Pennsylvanians and their families protect themselves from the virus and prevent it from spreading to others. Anyone with a spouse, sibling, parent, or loved one in a nursing home may be worried about their safety and well-being because of the coronavirus pandemic. AARP has consulted with leading nursing home experts to provide information with some key questions families can be asking nursing homes. Please click here to view the list of questions families can and should ask nursing homes where their loved ones reside.

If you are concerned about the safety and well-being of someone in an nursing home, you can contact the Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 717-783-8975. AARP has also provided additional resources at www.aarp.org/coronavirus.

United Way Resources

United Way of PennsylvaniaThe United Way of Pennsylvania has launched a public hub of compiled information on housing, food, child care, federal stimulus and more that is accessible to all Pennsylvanians. Public resources can be viewed at https://www.uwp.org/pacovid/ and information and resources for non-profit organizations are available by clicking here.

PA 211 continues to be a resource for Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 pandemic. For up-to-date verified information about COVID-19, individuals can text PACOVID to 898-211 to opt into weekly texts about fraud prevention tips, federal stimulus payments and other resources.

Anyone needing to have a live, two-way conversation with a 211 community resource navigator can continue to access help by texting their zip code to 898-211, or by visiting www.uwp.org/211gethelp for a guided search, or by simply dialing 211.

Community Caring

Thank You FrontlinersDuring these difficult days, while we practice social distancing in an effort to slow and ultimately stop the spread of COVID-19, there are many individuals in our neighborhoods across the country who continue to work on the front lines, providing life essential services. Health care professionals, first responders, police, firefighters, grocery and pharmacy workers among others continue to work in a dangerous environment. I want to thank these workers for all they are doing and encourage everyone to express your gratitude from a safe distance, when encountering these individuals.

As we have seen over the last several weeks, even those who are not on the front lines, are making contributions for the betterment of us all. We have heard and seen stories of people sewing needed masks, making monetary donations, donating blood, checking on elderly residents, delivering food. Businesses and other organizations are stepping up to donate supplies and money to help those in need.

It is important during this time we hear of the positive contributions so many of our citizens continue to make.  I would like to highlight these efforts in this space. I encourage everyone out there to share stories of these selfless and heroic acts that are taking place in our neighborhoods. Please email me at fontana@pasenate.com so I can share these stories with everyone.

This week I’d like to highlight:

PPG Foundation last week announced a $1.5 million contribution to organizations supporting immediate community relief efforts and emerging recovery needs amid the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. This money is being directed to food banks, the Red Cross, and organizations serving those most at risks.

Shop’n Save stores donated $10,000 last week from 80 stores to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and is giving a 10 percent discount on all of its gift cards to food banks, food pantries and food kitchens.

Favorite Recipes?

Do you have a favorite recipe? A favorite dish you like to prepare?

As we continue to adhere to the current stay-at-home order issued by the governor, many are eating more meals at home than usual, and many are trying to stretch food out as long as possible to reduce trips to the grocery store and reduce costs. As such, maybe you are looking to try something new?

I encourage anyone who would like to share a favorite recipe with others to please do so by emailing fontana@pasenate.com and we’ll share through this forum. This week, I’d like to present a recipe from one of my staff members, Riley.

Dalogna Coffee – 2tbs instant coffee, 2tbs water, 2tbs sugar

  1. Add all ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Whisk or use a hand mixer until mixture is light brown and fluffy in texture (about 5 mins)
  3. Pour over ice and add your milk of choice and enjoy

Fontana Fact

Earth DayTomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the first recognition of Earth Day in the United States. Millions of Americans, including students from thousands of colleges and universities, participated in rallies, marches and educational programs across the country to raise public awareness of the world’s environmental problems. Earth Day was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to provide unity to the grassroots environmental movement and increase ecological awareness.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By appointment