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.
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 September 30, 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.
In addition, for the American Education Services and commercial loan portfolio operated by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), PHEAA is notifying borrowers that forbearance through September 30, 2020 is offered upon borrower request.
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:
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.