Ongoing COVID-19 Pennsylvania Updates
LAMPA will continue to share COVID-19 updates here as they are received. LAMPa staff is working with partners addressing the needs of all people in the Commonwealth, especially our most vulnerable residents. We hold all of your communities in prayer as we endeavor to respond faithfully to the presence of COVID-19. We all wrestle with the need to have increased presence and yet isolate ourselves when doing so protects our neighbors. Our advocacy for the vulnerable and the integrity of institutions meant to promote the common good takes on increased urgency at this time. We will continue to update our information and we ask for your assistance acting on and sharing alerts and as they are forwarded.
PLEASE TELL US WHAT IS HAPPENING IN YOUR COMMUNITIES! LAMPa and Lutheran Disaster Response are on regular calls with state and federal partners. Your insight can help provide a more informed, coordinated response. In addition, trillions of tax dollars are going to be pouring into our states. Part of our discipleship should include good stewardship of those resources, to ensure they are helping those who need it most. (Send a note to us here to share what is working, what isn’t, what could be done better or what you see coming down the road and we will share with appropriate policymakers.)
Coordinated State Response
The Office of Administration’s Division of Emergency Preparedness and Safety Operations (DEPSO) team has been working closely with state agencies and partners around the state to support the COVID-19 response across Pennsylvania since the beginning of February. DEPSO has provided ongoing support to Department of Health and Pa. Emergency Management Agency through coordination and communications as needed. This office has responsibility for Emergency Support Function #6, which is to provide for mass care, shelter and human services including food distribution.
Currently, the Feeding Task Force is coordinating multiple food distribution programs to ensure appropriate food availability to our children, older Pennsylvanians and families. The Sheltering Task Force is supporting quarantining and sheltering coordination. The Disabilities Integration Task Force is working to ensure that those with access or functional needs are supported during these trying times. LAMPa has been engaging with each of these task forces.
PA 211 is available statewide, and is focused on connecting people who are losing work and struggling to meet their basic needs to resources that may be available to help during the pandemic. Pennsylvanians can dial 211, or text their zip code to 898-211 in order to connect to 211 resource navigators.
Resources for Volunteers & Volunteer Organizations
Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) Volunteer Messaging
Pennsylvania COVID-19 Major Volunteer Hubs
Retired Healthcare Providers Sought to Assist in State COVID Response
As Pennsylvania faces a potential surge of COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, many retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists who wish to aid the state’s response to this public health emergency will be permitted to re-enter their field of practice temporarily.
Retired healthcare personnel who return to practice would not be subject to paying reactivation fees. In most cases, licenses would be active through the end of the year. More details on this announcement are available here.
For State Response Updates:
Where should Pennsylvanians go regarding updates on COVID-19 and information on testing?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is the primary source of up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Visit the Department of Health’s COVID-19 website for information on the virus, testing, and resources for the public and stakeholders: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx.
Where should Pennsylvanians go for updates to DHS programs in response to COVID-19?
Resources specific to the Department of Human Services (DHS) can be found at: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/providers/Providers/Pages/Coronavirus-2020.aspx.
How is DHS addressing food insecurity during this crisis?
DHS is working to ensure access to food does not stop during this time of emergency. We know that this pandemic has caused many people and families to find that they are suddenly food insecure and require assistance. DHS has operationalized its Feeding Task Force. The Feeding Task Force is comprised of public, private, and non-profit partners from across the state, including, among others, LAMPa, the Governor’s Food Security Partnership state agencies, the Salvation Army, Feeding PA and other charitable food organizations, and the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association. This task force is the centralized hub where we identify available resources, determine where needs are, how many meals are needed, how we are getting food to people, and how we are getting volunteers to help charitable food networks across Pennsylvania. This includes ensuring populations like children, older adults, and others with food insecurities are provided with nourishing meals.
DHS also continues to process SNAP applications. Pennsylvanians can apply online at: www.compass.state.pa.us.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture: https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Pages/COVID-19.aspx. If individual food pantries close, individuals can call their regional food bank, all of which are operating. Links are provided that list the regional food bank contact information.
Further, PA 211 is available statewide, and is focused on connecting people who are losing work and struggling to meet their basic needs to resources that may be available to help during the pandemic. Pennsylvanians can dial 211, or text their zip code to 898-211 in order to connect to 211 resource navigators.
Many employees who are unable to work or have reduced hours as a result of COVID-19 are now eligible for Unemployment Compensation. Affected employees can learn more about how to apply for Unemployment Compensation online here.
Claimants no longer have to wait a week to apply, and all work search and work registration requirements have been temporarily waived. Information is also available for individuals who are dealing with job loss related to COVID-19 and have lost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. Information on getting coverage through the state health insurance marketplace is available at www.healthcare.gov.
- Special resources for churches available on the ELCA website. Update and Resources on COVID-19-related Benefits for ELCA Congregations, Synods, Other Ministries and their Employees | Read the documentPDF Download.
Applying for Benefits: If you have lost a job or are experiencing reduced wages, you may be eligible for benefits such as food assistance, health assistance, cash assistance or heating assistance, apply here.
All children in Pennsylvania can receive coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Details about CHIP are available at www.chipcoverspakids.com. Depending on household income, Medicaid may also be an option for adults who need health insurance coverage. More information on Medicaid is available here.
County Assistance Office Operations
On March 16, the decision was made to continue to operate county assistance offices but close them to the public. This is necessary to ensure continuity of program operations so that DHS may continue to process applications and maintain existing cases.
DHS recognizes the frustration and concern that this decision has prompted. However, these job functions are essential and cannot be performed off-site with existing technological capacity. The department continues to monitor this on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis. If additional adjustments become necessary, decisions will be made and communicated, but this work is essential and we cannot abandon the people who need or may need these programs when they need them most.
Pennsylvania Utility Commission
The Pennsylvania Utility Commission (PUC) issued an Emergency Order directing a moratorium on terminations including gas, electric, water, wastewater, and steam heat, in addition to telephone. The Order also requested that utilities restore service to previously terminated customers, where possible and considering safety. Note that this is only for utilities over which they have jurisdiction. The Commission does not regulate cooperatives or municipal authorities, with one exception – Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. However, the PUC has spoken with the Pa Rural Electric Association (electric CO-Ops) and they indicated they have strongly advised their members to follow the same guidelines. The PUC has also heard from the PA Municipal Authority Association (water and wastewater authorities), and they indicated that they have provided guidance on the issue and encouraged their members to consider moratoriums on terminations.
Report Price Gouging
Pennsylvania’s Price Gouging Act prohibits companies and vendors from charging a price for consumer goods greater than 20 percent higher than the price before an emergency declaration. Consumers can report violations of price gouging laws to the Attorney General by email at pricegouging@attorneygeneral.
Consumers can also submit a complaint by reporting the name and price of the product and the name and location of the store or vendor online here.
DHS’ routine annual licensing visits are on hold at this time. DHS’ licensing offices will continue to monitor facilities.