Ending COVID Declaration Threatens Needed Health, Social, Business, and Unemployment Rules & Waivers
HARRISBURG (JUN 19 2020)– The Pennsylvania departments of state and labor raised a caution flag that the premature termination of the governor's disaster declaration could disrupt unemployment benefits, health services, and other services facilitated with waivers, expansions, and special rules available only because of the existence of the emergency.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar outlined today the benefits to Pennsylvanians of the governor’s disaster declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Department of State has worked closely with the governor over the past few months to ensure that our constituents – including professional licensees, students and trainees – are able to continue providing the services that Pennsylvanians need during this unprecedented time,” Secretary Boockvar told The Boro* in an emailed message. “We have made great strides in Pennsylvania to ensure that these critical services can continue. Ending the disaster declaration would set us back as a commonwealth in our response to this pandemic and cause unnecessary hardship for many who are on the front lines of this crisis.”
According to Boockvar, an end to the disaster declaration would mean an immediate end to services like expanded telemedicine, licensed professionals in Pennsylvania would need to immediately renew their licenses or take licensing exams at facilities that are just starting to reopen, challenges and delays to conducting and completing critical business that requires notarization, such as car and home sales, because remote notarization would end immediately.
Since March, the Department of State has issued nearly 60 waivers and additional guidance for licensed professionals and facilities throughout the commonwealth. With an end to the disaster declaration, these waivers would immediately end.
More than 800 retired health care professionals who came back into service to respond to the COVID-19 emergency would lose their reactivated licenses significantly sooner than contemplated.
More than 1,500 out-of-state health care professionals who came to Pennsylvania’s aid in the midst of the pandemic would immediately lose their temporary licenses
More than 1,000 Graduate Medical Trainees would be negatively affected by the end of the disaster declaration because of an inability to take licensing exams.
Any license renewal extensions granted during the disaster declaration would immediately end. Approximately 100,000 licensed professionals, including many types of nurses, would be required to renew their licenses immediately.
During the COVID-19 emergency, the Department of State requested – and the Governor granted – waivers that allow in-person instruction for continuing education and classroom education to be moved online. If the disaster declaration were to end, professionals and students would immediately need to return to in-person instruction in order to fulfill licensing and education requirements. Many of these facilities are in the early stages of reopening, but many do not have plans in place for reopening at this time.
“Pennsylvania cannot afford to go backward by ending the governor’s disaster declaration too early,” said Boockvar. “We must continue to support our licensed professionals and continue the services that Pennsylvanians need in order to move the commonwealth forward in a successful response to this pandemic.”
Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak similarly highlighted the importance of the disaster declaration to help Pennsylvanians who are out of work get the unemployment compensation benefits they deserve and reduce costs for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent press call, he said that prematurely ending the disaster declaration will increase the burden on workers and the employers who depend on them.
“Many Pennsylvanians are out of work because of the pandemic and the governor’s disaster declaration is helping them to more quickly and easily get unemployment benefits,” said Secretary Oleksiak. “These benefits are a lifeline to many families at a time of great need in their lives. The disaster declaration is also helping to lower costs for employers across the state who don’t have to pay for COVID-related claims by their employees.”
The disaster declaration enabled L&I to waive the one-week waiting period and job search and work registration requirements for claimants and provide many contributory and reimbursable employers with automatic relief from benefit charges. Those advantages will be lost when the disaster declaration ends.
Without the disaster declaration the following would occur:
Costs would increase for employers that contribute to the unemployment fund with the end of automatic relief from charges for COVID-19 related claims. Many employers will pay the full cost of their employee’s UC benefits.
Costs would increase for employers who did not pay the solvency fee for 2020 with the end of the opportunity for more time to pay their COVID-19 related charges or the option to pay without interest until January 1, 2020.
Workers would not receive any benefits for the first week they are out of work because a waiver in Act 9 ends. L&I would also lose the federal funding for the waiting week.
The temporary suspension of work search and work regulation requirements would end.
Since March 15, Pennsylvanians have received more than $16.7 billion in UC benefits, including:
$8.4 billion from regular UC
$7 billion from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program (extra $600 per week)
$1.2 billion from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program
$96 million in extended benefits through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
UC Claim Statistics
Since March 15, more than 2.7 million total claims have been filed for unemployment compensation benefits:
2.1 million for regular UC
628,000 for PUA