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Boscola Bulletin

Protections from Foreclosures and Evictions Extended Through August 31

COVID-19 Crisis Grants for fire company & emergency medical servicesProtection for homeowners and renters from eviction or foreclosure has been extended until Aug. 31 if they have not received assistance from a new program administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) or are not already receiving relief through one of several federal foreclosure moratorium programs or judicial orders. Lenders and property owners that receive funds through the PHFA program agree not pursue foreclosure or eviction actions as a condition of participation in the program.

Governor Wolf signed legislation in May providing $150 million for rental assistance and $25 million for mortgage assistance through PHFA with CARES Act funds. PHFA began accepting applications July 6.
Eligibility information and applications for renters and homeowners is available on the PHFA website.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Housing Finance Agency, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have each extended eviction and foreclosure protections for housing under their authority to Aug. 31.

In almost all circumstances, renters and homeowners are required to continue making monthly payments if they can. Pennsylvanians struggling to make monthly payments should contact their landlord or mortgage servicer immediately. The governor’s executive order does not apply to proceedings regarding property damage or illegal activity.

$10 Million Allocated for Pennsylvania Fresh Food Initiative through CARES

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) is a statewide public-private financing program that invests in new or expanding grocery stores and other healthy food retail outlets in communities throughout Pennsylvania. The FFFI provides one-time grants to eligible food retailers in order to increase access to healthy, affordable grocery food options and to improve economic opportunities for underserved communities in urban, rural and suburban areas across the state. The state is introducing a new and complementary program to the PA FFFI for retailers that have been impacted by COVID-19. The goal of the FFFI COVID-19 Relief Fund is to provide grant support to food retailing businesses impacted by COVID-19 to ensure that amidst the pandemic, communities can maintain healthy food access. In recognition of the disproportionate impacts of both COVID-19 and food apartheid on communities made up of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and especially Black and African American communities, prioritization will be given to those businesses that are owned by and serve low-income BIPOC communities.

Program Objectives:

  • provide grant support to food retailing businesses impacted by COVID-19 to ensure that amidst the pandemic, low-income and underserved communities are able to maintain healthy food access;
  • contribute to better health outcomes by improving access to fresh foods and, to the extent practicable, Pennsylvania grown and produced agricultural products (eligible products include fresh fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy products, and meat products grown or processed in Pennsylvania);
  • stimulate investments in lower-income communities and in food retailing businesses that are owned by people who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and that serve lower-income BIPOC communities;
  • remove financing obstacles and operating barriers for grocery stores and other healthy food retail in lower-income communities;
  • strengthen the local food system and increase market opportunities for Pennsylvania farmers;
  • support the creation and preservation of jobs; and
  • create and retain a qualified workforce.

Eligibility:

  • Primary business (> or equal to 50% of revenue) is in the sale of staple and perishable food to consumers or direct to retail settings
  • Operate and provide service in Pennsylvania
  • Serve customers that live in a low-to-moderate (LMI) income area, by locating in an LMI census tract, or demonstrating that a significant number of customers reside in LMI areas
  • Operated prior to March 2020 and remain in operation (temporary closures due to COVID-19 acceptable)
  • In areas where food access has been negatively impacted due to COVID-19, start-up costs or seed money to start a new farmers market, including pop-up and mobile markets, and start-up costs for farms to begin direct to consumer retail sales between March 2020 and November 2020 because of COVID-19 supply disruptions are eligible. To be eligible, projects must demonstrate that food access is being limited due to COVID-19 or that the direct to consumer retail expansion is necessary due to lost or disrupted markets because of COVID-19. Proposals should demonstrate how the project addresses public health disparities that are worsened by COVID-19 by providing access to fresh food in underserved areas.
  • Provide access to affordable, high quality fresh produce, meat and dairy products and other healthy grocery items for low-to-moderate income shoppers
  • Accept or demonstrate plans to accept SNAP and WIC to the maximum extent possible (or have connection to retailers that will accept them)

How to Apply & Timeline

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (department) will accept applications until August 14, 2020. If you have any questions about the application process or need an application sent to you via mail, please call Michael Roth at 717-787-6257 or email michroth@pa.gov.

The department will review the application, schedule a phone call with the applicant, and conduct additional research to determine whether the project meets the program’s eligibility.

To apply for funding, the applicant must submit the on-line Electronic Single Application for Assistance located at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. In addition to the Electronic Single Application for Assistance, the applicant should provide the following items when applying for the grant. All items should be attached electronically to the ESA submission. Awarded grants are reimbursement grants, so applicants are responsible to spend all funds prior to submitting for reimbursement.

Unemployment Compensation Benefits: EXTENDED

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) announced last week that people who exhaust their regular unemployment compensation (UC) and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may now qualify for 13 additional weeks of payments through the state’s Unemployment Compensation Extended Benefits program.

Extended Benefits (EB) are additional UC benefits payable to qualified workers whenever the state’s unemployment rate reaches a certain level determined by law. The last time the EB program was triggered in Pennsylvania was 2009.

The current EB period began May 3, 2020, but benefits are not payable until an individual has exhausted PEUC benefits. EB payments will begin with the week ending July 4, 2020 and are payable only for weeks of unemployment during an EB period.

Important information about the EB program follows and will be sent by mail to all individuals who potentially qualify for the additional benefits.

Eligibility
 
You may be eligible for EB if:

  • You are totally or partially unemployed;
  • You have exhausted your regular state benefits on your most recent UC claim, or your most recent UC benefit year has ended; and
  • You have received the maximum amount of PEUC that you were eligible to receive.

Additional eligibility information is available here.

How to Receive EB

  • If you collect the maximum amount of PEUC that you are eligible to receive, an EB Notice of Financial Determination will be mailed to you.
  • You must complete your weekly EB online certification in order to claim EB for weeks that you are totally or partially unemployed.
  • Each EB online certification corresponds to one specific week, as indicated on the web form. Individuals who opt to use paper claim forms should only use the form that is specifically dated for the week of unemployment you are claiming.
  • If you do not receive your Financial Determination within two weeks after you receive your final PEUC payment, call the UC Service Center at 1-888-313-7284.

EB Weekly Benefit Amount

  • EB weekly benefit payments are the same as regular UC.
  • The total amount of EB that you may receive is 50 percent of the amount of regular UC you were financially eligible to receive on your most recent claim. Example:
    • If you were financially eligible for 26 weeks of regular UC, you may receive up to 13 weeks of EB.
  • There is an additional wage test for EB eligibility, so not all individuals will financially qualify.
  • EB may only be paid for weeks ending during an EB period.
  • If you are entitled to Trade Readjustment Allowances, you may receive fewer weeks of EB.

EB is currently fully federally-funded through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Public Law (Pub. L.) 116-127, specifically Division D, the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 (EUISAA).

Policy Hearing - July 22

The Joint Senate & House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a Policy Hearing co-chaired by Senators Katie Muth, Lindsey Williams, and Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler on Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. The meeting will be held virtually and will focus on how we can best address worker protections as many individuals are risking exposure to COVID-19 by entering back into the workplace. To view the hearing live, please visit www.SenatorBoscola.com/policy.

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

www.senatorboscola.com

BETHLEHEM OFFICE
One East Broad Street
Suite 120
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 868-8667
Fax: (610) 861-2184
Toll-free: 1-877-535-1818
EASTON OFFICE
1701 Washington Blvd.
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 250-5627
(610) 250-5629
Fax: (610) 250-1889
HARRISBURG OFFICE
458 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203018
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3018
(717) 787-4236
Fax: (717) 783-1257
Senate of PA:
1-800-364-158 (TTY)