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Authors Posts by Jack Phillips

Jack Phillips

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Mr. Phillips is responsible to assist the association with health policy, which primarily includes member communication and advocacy with the Governor’s office, General Assembly, and state regulatory agencies. Mr. Phillips was most recently at the Pennsylvania Department of State as Director of Legislative Affairs.

Source: Capitolwire, Nov. 3, 2021

Municipal Elections were held yesterday in the Commonwealth. A few special elections were held to fill vacant State House seats.

In the 164th District, representing Delaware County, Democrat Gina Curry, president of the Upper Darby School board, won the race to succeed former Rep. Margo Davidson who resigned in July after being charged with filing false expense reports. Curry had almost 85 percent of the votes counted by this morning, according to unofficial results.

In the 113th District, representing Lackawanna County, Democrat Thom Welby was elected to succeed Sen. Marty Flynn, a Democrat. Welby, who had been Flynn’s chief of staff, got almost 69 percent of the vote.

Other statewide races were judge races for PA Supreme Court, PA Superior Court and PA Commonwealth Court. Republican Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson won election to the state Supreme Court Tuesday, beating Democratic nominee Superior Court Judge Maria McLaughlin.

Democrats will retain their 5–2 majority on the court because the race was a contest to fill the seat being vacated by one of the two Republicans who’d been on the court — Thomas Saylor, who was forced to retire due to hitting the mandatory retirement age for judges of 75.

Republican Megan Sullivan won a race for a seat on Superior Court, and Republicans Drew Crompton and Stacy Wallace won seats on the Commonwealth Court.

In a historic first, Rep. Ed Gainey won his race for Mayor of Pittsburgh. Rep. Gainey will be the first African-American to serve as the Mayor of Pittsburgh. A special election will be held in the future to fill his State House seat.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 26, 2021

York, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead today joined York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler, York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, Representative Carol Hill Evans, and Community Progress Council CEO Robin Rohrbauh to discuss the upcoming end of the federal eviction moratorium and urge Pennsylvanians at risk of eviction or utility shutoffs because of COVID-19 to apply for assistance available through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP).

ERAP can help people who are facing eviction pay past due and upcoming rent or pay utility bills or other costs necessary to help them be safely housed. Pennsylvanians experiencing housing instability or at risk of eviction are strongly urged to begin their ERAP application as soon as possible and not wait until the eviction moratorium ends. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s federal moratorium on evictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will end after July 31, 2021.

“For nearly 18 months, Pennsylvania and the nation have endured the instability, anxiety, and dangers of a global pandemic. The federal moratorium on evictions was a reprieve to keep people safe and housed through the worst of these public health and economic crises, but we must act now and use this historic investment available through ERAP to prevent avoidable evictions and housing insecurity,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “A safe, stable place to call home is foundational to good health and overall well-being, and it is essential as we continue to get our communities back on track and recover from this crisis. If you or your tenants are behind on rent or having trouble paying utility bills, start your ERAP application now and let this program help you stabilize and move forward.”

“Throughout the entirety of the pandemic, our community has faced and met unforeseen challenges with honor and grace. As we continue getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel, we must be cognizant that certain federal protections, such as the CDC’s moratorium on evictions, will be expiring. Fortunately, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides a lifeline for renters, landlords, and utility providers who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge all those eligible and in need of assistance to apply for the program before the July 31st deadline. If anyone has any questions, please reach out to our office.”

“The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is a valuable lifeline to residents of York County who have been impacted financially by COVID,” said Robin Rohrbaugh, President & CEO of Community Progress Council. “This program is an incredible opportunity for tenants to not only get through this pandemic but set themselves up for long-term financial success. The time to apply for this funding is now.”

The Wolf Administration established the ERAP in partnership with the General Assembly through Act 1 of 2021 to distribute $569 million to Pennsylvania households through partnerships with local leaders. An additional $278 million in rental assistance was directly allocated to Pennsylvania’s largest counties by the federal government, making a total of $847 million available to support renters and landlords feeling the strain of this economic insecurity across Pennsylvania. Counties are reporting data on the Act 1 distribution of funds monthly to DHS that are available online here. Counties and localities that received a direct allocation report on this funding to the United States Treasury, which is reporting data here. In total, $133 million has been distributed to more than 30,500 households in Pennsylvania as of June 30, 2021.

Funding for ERAP comes from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and further rental assistance funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act were appropriated in Act 24 of 2021 signed earlier this month by Governor Wolf. These resources will be available to support renters soon.

Households may be eligible for up to 18 months of assistance to cover past-due or future rental and/or utility payments. The amount of a household’s monthly rent or utility bills does not preclude eligibility, but the amount of ERAP assistance provided to a household is determined by program administrators at the county level. Assistance can be provided to a tenant for future rental payments, and for unpaid rental or utility arrears that were accrued on or after March 13, 2020, on a residential rental property. Counties may choose to provide additional assistance to eligible households if funds remain available.

Either tenants or landlords can apply for this assistance, but a tenant does not need a landlord’s permission to apply and use this assistance. This program is an opportunity to help ease circumstances for both parties, so landlords and tenants are strongly encouraged to work cooperatively to secure this stabilizing assistance. ERAP is overseen by DHS at the state level but administered locally by county and municipal partners. Pennsylvanians can learn how to apply in their county of residence online.

To qualify for assistance, a household must be responsible to pay rent on a residential property and meet each of the following criteria:

  • One or more people within the household has qualified for unemployment benefits, had a decrease in income, had increased household costs, or experienced other financial hardship during or due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic; AND
  • One or more individuals in the household can show a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; AND
  • The household has an income at or below 80 percent of area median income, which varies by county. Income limits by county are available on the DHS website. Resources (like bank accounts and cars) are not relevant to ERAP eligibility.

Applicants will need to provide the following information: head of household’s personal information; income information for all household members 18 and older; rental lease and amount owed; landlord’s name and contact information. If applying for utility assistance, applicants must provide utility expenses and utility provider information.

For more information on ERAP, promotional materials, state allocation program data, and to learn how to apply, visit DHS’ website.

NOTE: Video bytes of Acting Secretary Snead are available for use in coverage of ERAP and are available to download here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James

Capitolwire: GOP Leader Urges PA Executive Agencies to Begin Planning to Reinstate Regulations Suspended Because of the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency

The General Assembly, thanks to the power restored to it by Pennsylvania voters, terminated Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 disaster emergency in June, which means many of the actions taken by executive agencies under the auspices of that declaration have come to an end, with others on track to end in the near future.

Hundreds of existing state regulations were waived or suspended by various Commonwealth agencies while the declaration was in effect, and even with the termination, lawmakers worked with the Wolf administration to keep nearly 500 suspended until the fall, specifically Sept. 30.

On Monday, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, sent letters to the Department of Health and the Office of Administration reminding them the Sept. 30 deadline is coming and urging the agencies to be ready to reinstate the suspended regulations, as well as work with the legislature to identify those that could be reformed or permanently repealed.

Within that context, Benninghoff, in his letter to the Health Department, singled out telehealth regulations, stating, “Since your department does have jurisdiction relative to telehealth services provided in Pennsylvania, I want to make it clear nothing in current law prohibits telehealth services from being provided at pre-pandemic levels should the regulatory framework return to normal.”

(Source: Capitolwire, July 27, 2021)


If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.

By Robert Swift, Staff Writer, Capitolwire

HARRISBURG (July 26) – The proposed $26 billion national opioid legal settlement creates a new pot of money that could help shape state budgets for years to come.

Pennsylvania’s share of the settlement announced last week by State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is anticipated at $1 billion provided in payments over a number of years.

A key factor determining Pennsylvania’s share is how many local governments opt to participate in the settlement and drop their own opioid lawsuits.

The settlement with Johnson & Johnson, an opioid manufacturer, and three major opioid distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — is designed to resolve nearly 4,000 lawsuits filed by states and local governments responding to a wave of opioid overdose deaths and addictions across the nation.

The settlement also requires the four firms to take a number of steps to prevent a future opioid crisis.

“This settlement puts in place controls that will go a long way to make sure that this never happens again, and the money that will come to Pennsylvania will help offer and expand life-saving treatment options across our Commonwealth,” said Shapiro.

Earlier this month, Shapiro announced a $4.5 billion multi-state settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma to settle lawsuits. Pennsylvania’s share from this settlement is $225 million.

The opioid settlements come two decades after Pennsylvania and a number of states reached a settlement with the tobacco industry to address the public costs of chronic health issues caused by smoking.

The new state Fiscal Code (House Bill 1348) establishes the Opioid Settlement Restricted Account from which deposited settlement money will be distributed through legislation. This account is under the state treasurer’s office.

Shapiro said a substantial amount of the second settlement money would be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.

The dollar share for each participating state is determined by a formula that includes the number of overdose deaths, number of residents with a substance abuse disorder, quantity of opioids delivered and population.

Pennsylvania reported 5,172 overdose deaths last year as the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Pennsylvania plans to sign the agreement while local governments have up to five months to sign. Pennsylvania will get its maximum share provided full participation by local governments.

The state/local distribution will depend upon an intrastate allocation agreement.

“The Wolf Administration commends the work of the Attorney General in reaching this historic settlement,” said Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger. “We hope that states and localities will opt into the settlement so that Pennsylvania can maximize the benefits and direct new resources into mitigating the continuing damaging effects of the opioid epidemic here in the commonwealth.”

The Republican caucuses that control the General Assembly already have some ideas for targeting the money.

“The caucus leaders of the House and Senate are working with the Attorney General to determine next steps and how to best appropriate the nearly $1 billion in funds allocated to Pennsylvania as part of the opioid settlement…” said Erica Clayton Wright, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland. “Based on that agreement, we will identify ways the funds can be used for state and local governments to put measures in place to help prevent such a crisis from happening again while also offering treatment options to communities currently effected by the crisis.”

The settlement is drawing pushback from some local officials.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner quickly sued Shapiro’s office over the settlement saying the money coming to Philadelphia would be too little to address the costs and the payments too slow.

A Cambria County lawmaker said his county should receive a fair share from the settlement since it’s among the hardest hit by overdoses and pill dumping.

“We know all too well the damage these pills have done – everyone in our areas has been affected in one way or the other,” said Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria. “If we’re stuck dealing with the problem, when the settlement comes, we should be getting the bulk of that money to correct the devastation caused by the influx of these pills to our community.”

Cambria is regularly listed in the top five counties in per capita overdose deaths while a 2018 study found Cambria the most saturated county with shipments of opioid painkiller pills, said Burns.

The story with the state Tobacco Settlement Fund could offer clues to how the Opioid Settlement Fund would work.

The multi-state tobacco settlement was reached in 1998 with a main goal of reducing smoking, especially among youth. The settlement placed no requirements or restrictions on how state spend their annual tobacco payments, according to an analysis by the House Democratic Appropriations Committee.

Three years later, the tobacco fund was created under Act 77 of 2001 after lawmakers debated various spending proposals.

The state budget typically sets percentages for distribution of some $350 million in annual tobacco money to a range of programs.

Since 2001, there have been appropriations for such programs as tobacco use prevention and cessation, aid to hospitals, health research grants and Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities and aid to help biotechnology programs to name a few.

The state budget for Fiscal Year 2017/18 authorized borrowing against $1.5 billion in future tobacco payments to help balance the budget.

In 2018, Shapiro announcement a settlement with tobacco firms to resolve two decades of disputes relating to the original settlement. This provided a cash infusion to the fund.

The new state fiscal code creates some new beneficiaries for tobacco funds, including spinal cord injury research, pediatric cancer research and capital and equipment grants to entities engaging in biotechnology research.

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If you have any questions, please contact Jack Phillips, Director of Government Affairs.