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Labor Report

$600/week FPUC Payments Ending Soon for Displaced Workers

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has received more than 2.2 million new Unemployment Compensation (UC) claims and more than 1.1 million new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 25, 2020, any individuals who continue to receive UC or PUA benefits will no longer receive an additional $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

Congress established the FPUC program in March as part of the CARES Act. Under the federal legislation, any UC or PUA recipients would be eligible to receive $600 per week in addition to their UC or PUA benefits for the period from March 29, 2020, through July 25, 2020. FPUC benefits are separate from UC or PUA benefits and are the same amount ($600 per week) regardless of the level of UC or PUA benefits for which a displaced worker is eligible.

Individuals who remain unemployed and have eligibility weeks remaining on their UC or PUA claims will continue to receive those benefits beyond July 25. But they will no longer receive the $600 extra per week.
As potentially millions of unemployed workers lose FPUC benefits, they may be eligible for relief through other state programs, including those administered by the Department of Human Services, such as Medicaid health insurance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for their children, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In addition, DHS has been approved to administer benefits created specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Emergency Assistance Program (EAP) and the LIHEAP Recovery Crisis Program (an extension and enhancement of the annual LIHEAP program that is scheduled to continue through August 31, 2020).

Pennsylvanians who have experienced a change in income or job loss, regardless of its relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, can apply for benefits online at any time at Those who prefer to apply in a paper format may contact their local County Assistance Office (CAO).

As PA Reopens, Governor Emphasizes Facemask Mandate to Reduce Risk of Infection

The rate of new COVID-19 cases is spiking over most of the country. In 46 states, the seven-day moving average has increased from two weeks ago.

In Pennsylvania, where the testing rate has been steadily increasing, the average rate of new cases has risen from about 500 per day to more than 700 in the past two weeks. That represents a growth of more than 40%, which is far less than the nationwide growth of about 60% and far less than the growth encountered in other highly populated states such as Florida (126%), Texas (72%), and California (65%).

Roughly one in every 150 Americans has been infected with the virus.

As of 12:00 a.m. on July 10, there were 1,009 new positive cases of COVID-19 reported in Pennsylvania for the prior 24-hour period, bringing the statewide total to 93,876. About 175 of the newly reported cases did not occur within the prior 24 hours and were the result of an influx of private lab results received by the Department of Health.

There were 180 new cases in Allegheny County and 182 new cases in Philadelphia. All 67 counties in the Commonwealth have cases of COVID-19.

There were 32 new COVID-related deaths in the Commonwealth, raising the total number of deaths to 6,880 since the start of the pandemic.

Despite these increases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the United States is not encountering a second wave of the virus, which on a national scale has continued to proliferate since the start of the pandemic.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” Fauci said this week during a social media livestream, as reported by CNN. “I would say, this would not be considered a wave. It was a surge, or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline … that really never got down to where we wanted to go.”

With businesses and public facilities reopening throughout Pennsylvania in accordance with the Wolf administration’s green phase protocols, the governor has reminded the Commonwealth’s residents and visitors that wearing facemasks in public places is vital and required to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“The recent uptick in cases in southwest Pennsylvania has been traced to people not wearing masks in public places such as bars and restaurants,” Governor Wolf said in a published statement. “Research tells us that masks, while not perfect, make a difference in the spread of COVID-19 and are a simple and effective way to help protect ourselves and others.”

The governor pointed to several recent studies, including one study conducted by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor, who found that not wearing a facemask dramatically increases an individual’s chances of COVID-19 infection. Similarly, a comprehensive multinational study funded by the World Health Organization found that mask-wearing and social distancing could result in a large reduction in the risk of infection.

A study published by the Royal Society of London concluded in part, “The (risk reduction) effect occurs even when it is assumed that facemasks are only 50% effective at capturing exhaled virus inoculum with an equal or lower efficiency on inhalation.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an executive order on July 1 mandating mask-wearing in public. That directive remains in effect.

Small Business Assistance Now Available; Apply by July 14 for First Round of Grants

Senator Tartaglione hosted a Virtual Town Hall on July 2 to share information about the Small Business Assistance grant programs being offered by the Commonwealth to help eligible businesses to recover from pandemic-related closures and revenue shortfalls.

The application period for the first round of grants will close at 11:59 p.m. on July 14. The schedule for future rounds is yet to be announced.

Small businesses may be eligible for grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the pre-pandemic revenue of the individual business. The Pennsylvania General Assembly provided $225 million in funding for the grant programs as part of the PA CARES legislation that was introduced in the Senate and adopted by the House in May.

“Unemployment in the Commonwealth is at an historic high, so it is critical that we help small businesses rebuild after the devastating effects of the pandemic,” Senator Tartaglione said. “Pennsylvania workers need jobs that offer fair, family-sustaining wages. We need small businesses to provide those jobs.”

The funding is being distributed through the Main Street Business Revitalization Program ($100 million), the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program ($100 million), and the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program ($25 million). To qualify, businesses must have less than $1 million in annual revenue and 25 or fewer full-time employees (for eligibility calculation, each part-time employee is counted as one-half of a full-time employee). Other eligibility requirements also apply.

Seventeen Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) have been certified by the Commonwealth to administer the application process. Each CDFI is designated for a specific county or region of the state, with some CDFIs overlapping. All successful applications will draw from the same pool of funds regardless of the specific CDFI chosen by the business for application processing.

New Stimulus Package Stalled Over Proposed Cost, Liability Protections for Businesses

With COVID-19 cases spiking across the U.S. and millions of American families feeling the effects of unemployment and loss of income, Congressional negotiations on a new federal relief package for individuals, businesses, hospitals, schools, and state and local governments may be stalled.

The total cost of the package is one point of contention. News outlets including CNN report that Senate Republicans are considering a plan valued at about $1.3 trillion, which is far short of the $3 trillion package adopted by the Democratic-led House in May.

In addition, Senate Republicans – at the urging of business groups – continue to push for liability protection for employers, reducing the ability for employees and patrons who contract the virus to recover damages in court.

“If there’s any red line, it’s on litigation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said via his website in May. “The litigation epidemic has already begun.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has accused McConnell of refusing to engage in bipartisan talks in recent weeks and creating “needless uncertainty and pain for millions of families who are still reeling from the public health and economic crises,” CNN reported.

This week, McConnell reportedly said that the package “won’t be $3 trillion” and that the next round of Senate negotiations would be “more contentious than the last one,” referring to the CARES Act adopted by Congress in March.

According to Forbes, the president earlier this month said that he supports a second round of stimulus payments sent directly to Americans and he supports “larger (payments) than the Democrats,” adding that the relief package “has to be done properly.”

The legislation adopted by the House in May provides for a second $1,200 stimulus payment to most American adults. The legislation also provides an extension to pandemic-related unemployment benefits, but Senate Republicans have argued that extended benefits would stifle the rehiring of workers.