Schwank to Introduce Legislation to Repeal Fireworks Act

Harrisburg, June 29, 2020 State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th District) will soon introduce legislation to repeal the Fireworks Act of 2017. The legislation is inspired by municipalities and police and fire departments across the Commonwealth who are unable to mitigate resident complaints about fireworks that are lit day and night – causing property damage, emotional distress to children and pets, serious injuries and sleepless nights.

“I’ve heard from many constituents who are unhappy with the increase in booms, bangs and ear-splitting explosions throughout the year,” Schwank said. “This law is broken, and it needs to be repealed. Too many of our residents are getting hurt and even killed.”

Across the country, a special study estimated 7,300 fireworks-related injuries were treated by emergency room departments during a 1-month period from June 21, 2019, to July 21, 2019. Children under 15 accounted for about 36 percent of the estimated injuries.

In 2019, Schwank introduced legislation to grant municipalities the authority to regulate and limit the use of fireworks in their cities, boroughs and townships. The bill, SB 827, was never moved from the Senate’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the problem has become so significant across the commonwealth simply modifying the original legislation is not sufficient.

The legislation to repeal the Fireworks Act of 2017 is yet to be introduced as Schwank is currently seeking additional support for the bill from other members of the Pennsylvania Senate.

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Schwank District Office Reopening Monday, June 29

Reading, June 26, 2020 −  Starting Monday, June 29, State Senator Judy Schwank’s district office at 210 George Street will reopen to the public. While following Senate COVID-19 policies and precautions, Schwank and staff will once again be available to help constituents with birth certificate applications, property tax and rent rebate applications and more.

“Since the Governor issued his pandemic closure orders in mid-March, my staff and I have been providing services to our constituents remotely via telephone and e-mail,” Schwank said. “Now that Berks County has moved to the Green Reopening phase, I am pleased that we will be able to resume modified in-person services to residents of the 11th Senate District.”

Visitors are asked to wear a mask and the office will be limited to three visitors at a time.

Appointments are highly encouraged and can be scheduled by calling 610-929-2151 or e-mailing senatorschwank@pasenate.com

Office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

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Occupational Reform Bill on Way to Governor’s Desk

Harrisburg, June 25, 2020 − The Pennsylvania Senate approved a bill introduced by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district) and Sen. John DiSanto (R-15th district) that enacts a series of reforms designed to remove several barriers to licensure for Pennsylvanians with criminal convictions.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

SB 637 designates a licensing board or licensing commission go through a two-stage review when considering whether an individual’s criminal conviction disqualifies him or her from licensure, Schwank said.

Before, men and women who had already served their sentences were finding themselves automatically disqualified when applying for occupational licenses.

Part of the review designated by SB 637 includes asking the applicant if the crime was directly related to the occupation her or she is pursuing. If the answer is no the review moves to further questioning to determine whether issuing the license would create a substantial risk to patients or clients or risk of re-offense.

“Finding a job is one of the most important factors in a person’s successful re-entry to their community, to their lives and to their families,” Schwank said. “The way our system worked with automatic disqualifications; the original punishment often carried well beyond the intended sentence. That is not right. This legislation will help them to make that first big step toward employment and the rest of their lives.” 

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State Senate Hearing Focuses on COVID-19’s Impact on the Food Supply Chain

Harrisburg – June 18, 2020 – At the request of state Senators Judy Schwank (D- Berks) and Maria Collett (D- Bucks/Montgomery), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a virtual public hearing today on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania’s food supply chain.

Lawmakers discussed ways the legislature can assist struggling businesses through this difficult time and how to prevent future food chain issues.

“Agriculture is integral to Pennsylvania economics and society,” said Schwank, Democratic chair of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. “The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected our farmers, businesses, and consumers across the state. We need to make sure that in the event of another emergency, our supply chain is better prepared to handle disruptions.”

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic triggered a statewide shutdown order, closing all nonessential businesses across the state. This led to an exponential increase in the number of people staying home who were buying more food from grocery stores. Many stocked up in case they needed to self-quarantine for two weeks because they or someone in their house were exposed to COVID-19.

On the other side of the supply chain, suppliers were harmed through a significant drop off in business with restaurants, schools and large-scale institutions.

The Reading Eagle reported that farmers were forced to dump milk, throw out fresh eggs, and let produce rot because the food supply chain had shifted so rapidly. They claim there was simply nowhere for the food to go.

“A number of businesses in my district, from meat producers to commercial equipment suppliers to linen services — have shared stories about the far reaching ripple effects of disruptions in the food chain — and that is one of the main reasons I fought for this hearing today,” Collett said. “Protecting our frontline workers and our most vulnerable communities is of the utmost importance as we continue to fight this pandemic, but we also need to make sure that we take this time to craft solutions to address the many other issues that this virus has caused.”

Benjamin Davies, accompanied by his wife Karah, of Wild Fox Farms spoke to their experience of continuing the legacy of their family farm in Pennsylvania, “Taking what we have observed during the Covid-19 Pandemic and doubling down on what worked is the only way forward. Focusing on building thriving local supply chains and building regional self-reliance will create resilience in the long term.”

Meat-packaging plants were also temporarily shut down in Pennsylvania and across the country due to the spread of COVID-19 among workers, causing further disruptions in the food supply chain. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that despite known outbreaks among workers at meat-packaging plants, Pennsylvania did not release specific data on workers who contracted COVID-19 at the plants. The Inquirer also reports that Latino workers, who primarily make up the workforce of these plants, had a higher exposure to COVID-19.

“We are supportive of efforts to direct personal protective gear to workers employed in food processing plants, such as House Bill 2435, that would create a grant program that assist these businesses for the purchase of PPE,” Darrin Youker, Director of State Government Affairs at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said.

Youker also said that the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau also supports the ‘Very Small Meat Processing Grants’, which allowed additional meat processing plants to open or expand. He said that the additional processing capacity in Pennsylvania will further secure the supply chain for Pennsylvania farmers, and ultimately benefit consumers.

The stay-at-home order resulted in many people losing their jobs and struggling with unexpected losses in income and financial security. The order also closed all schools, so children receiving subsidized meals lost access to consistent healthy meals. Food banks and schools across the state had to rapidly adjust their food distribution methods and respond to an explosive increase in need.

The PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said that projections by Feeding America show percentage of Pennsylvanians experiencing hunger will rise from 10.9% in 2018 to 15.9% in 2020. He said that there are projections that child hunger in Pennsylvania will increase from 15.1% in 2018 to 23.8% in 2020.

The state Department of Agriculture consequently released more information and resources for those struggling with hunger.

“As counties move into stages of reopening, the department remains dedicated to providing guidance, resources, and support to the agriculture community. One area that remains a critical focus is workforce,” Redding said. He also said that the Wolf Administration will continue to provide grants for PPE those within the food supply chain.

“It is incredibly important that as we continue to put people back to work so they can support themselves and their families,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D- Lehigh/Northampton), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “We need to make sure workers are safe and supported as they face challenges of entering the ‘new normal’ of the post-COVID world.”

The following testified at today’s hearing:

  • Russell C. Redding, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
  • Caryn Long Earl, Director, Bureau of Food Distribution, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture  
  • Sheri Morris, Assistant Director of Food Distribution and Laboratory Services, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture 
  • Steve Tracey, Professor, Executive Director of the Center for Supply Chain Research, Penn State University, Smeal College of Business
  • Dr. Patrick Drohan, Professor of Pedology and Creator of the Pennsylvania Agriculture Resilience Network, Penn State University
  • Brad Clemens, Senior Vice President, Clemens Food Group 
  • Darrin Youker, Director, State Government Affairs, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
  • Ben and Karah Davies, Wild Fox Farm, Barto, Pennsylvania 

Senators Lindsey Williams (D- Allegheny), Pam Iovino (D- Allegehney/Washington), Maria Collett (D- Bucks/Montgomery) Shariff Street (D-Philadelphia), Katie Muth (D- Berks/Montgomery/Chester) John Blake (D- Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe), and Tim Kearney (D- Chester/Delaware) also attended this hearing.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee has already hosted a number of hearings related to COVID-19, including the impact on nursing and veterans homes, the disproportionate effect on the African American Community, pandemic-related funding for childcare centers, and assuring that protective equipment and other support is accessible for all frontline workers.

A full recording of this hearing, and links to all previous hearings, is available at senatorboscola.com/policy.

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PA Senate Democrats Announce $225 Million for Small Business Assistance Grants Statewide

HARRISBURG – June 8, 2020 – Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus announced the direction of $225 million in federal CARES Act funding to aid small businesses across the commonwealth.  This funding was authorized by the recently enacted COVID-19 Emergency Supplement to the General Appropriation Act of 2019 and was a centerpiece of the caucus’ PA CARES Plan.

The aid will be distributed as follows: $100 million is set to go to the Main Street Business Revitalization Program, $100 million to the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program, and $25 million for loan payment deferment and loss reserves for loans impacted by COVID-19. The aid will be directed by the Department of Community and Economic Development to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which are intimately familiar with the needs of the most vulnerable small businesses in our communities.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for engaging leadership in the General Assembly to inform the process of moving federal aid out to those who have been most harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the leadership of the Senate Democratic caucus who worked with our members to formulate a strategic plan for the deployment of nearly $4 billion in federal assistance,” said state Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna). “The Main Street Business Revitalization program is a reflection of that cooperation and leadership and it will meet Pennsylvania’s small business owners where they are, on Main Street, after nearly three months of lost or no sales. It will enable small business owners throughout the commonwealth to meet their insurance payments, rents, health insurance premiums, local taxes and other expenses that they otherwise could not meet due to lost sales. Finally, I want to thank the 17 CDFIs throughout the state as well as DCED for their professionalism, agility, urgency and dedication to getting this federal funding to the small businesses who need it most as quickly as possible.”

Eligible businesses will apply through one of the CDFI Network partners and will have to have been operating on or before February 15, 2020, and must have paid taxes to state and federal governments. Qualifying main street and historically disadvantaged small businesses must have 25 or fewer employees and experienced losses as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 19 stay-at-home order. Organizations seeking grants from the historically disadvantaged small businesses program must also be 51 percent owned and managed by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

“The announcement of the Main Street and Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Programs will provide welcomed relief for mom and pop businesses in neighborhoods across the commonwealth,” said State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “Since this pandemic began, we have heard the needs of the auto body shops, the barbershops, the beauticians, the pizza shop owners, the soul food establishments and other businesses in our communities. The needs of these businesses that were unable to get much needed help from other state and federal programs were a priority in our Senate Democratic Caucus’ April 29 PA CARES Program announcement. For months, my office has worked with a network of trusted community organizations that have a proven track record of working with our small CDFIs to find a solution to assist our neighborhood businesses. I believe these programs are that solution. There is still more work to be done, but these programs are a win for Pennsylvania and its small businesses.”

Businesses will be eligible for up to $50,000 in grants. Grants can be used to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and in the transition period to reopening, technical assistance and training, debt payment relief for CDFI borrowers and loan loss reserves.

“Our small businesses all across the state made sacrifices so that we could flatten the curve of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Now as we begin to recover, our businesses will need and deserve assistance to reopen their doors, rehire their staff and serve our communities again. We thank them for their patience through this difficult time, and are ready to offer the programs, loans and assistance they need.”

Businesses will be required to submit proposals for review documenting sales losses, projected revenues, the duration of closure as a result of COVID-19, and relief receipts for other federal, state and local government aid. Eligible businesses will apply directly through a local CDFI.

“One of the goals of the pandemic-recovery stimulus plan that I offered in March, was to jump-start business operations and speed the economic recovery by making resources readily available to get more men and women back to work quicker,” Brewster said.  “Using federal CARE dollars to bolster business and smooth the back-to-work transition is critically important. The caucus CARES initiative includes one piece of the plan and will be especially useful to small businesses as they cover expenses and manage start-up costs.  Plus, it will usher in help for small businesses who may not have been able to access other state or federal business assistance programs.” 

Distributed funds will be monitored by DCED to track the total number of grants awarded under these programs including county, the number of jobs saved by the grants, the total amount of loan payment and deferment, administrative costs and more.

“Thank you to Governor Wolf and his administration for recognizing the need for our Main Street Business Revitalization Program and incorporating that proposal into the Commonwealth’s plan to support our small businesses, which represent nearly half of the private sector workforce in Pennsylvania – 2.5 million jobs,” said Senator Iovino (D-Allegheny/Washington). “Small businesses are the job creators in our communities, the revenue generators for our Commonwealth, and the cornerstone of vibrant main streets. As small business owners are struggling to hang on, this $225 million grant package is exactly the kind of lifeline that these economic drivers need to support our recovery.”

For more about the caucus’ comprehensive, people-focused COVID-19 recovery plan, visit pasenate.com/pacares.

 

Joint Policy Hearing Focuses on Pandemic Funding for Childcare Centers

Harrisburg – May 27, 2020 – At the request of state Senators Judy Schwank (D – Berks) and Lindsey Williams (D – Allegheny), the Senate and House Democratic Policy Committees today held a virtual public hearing to discuss critical funding for childcare centers, pre-K, and Head Start programs; and their hard-working employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has exposed the true struggle of working families to access quality childcare at all levels,” Schwank said. “As we ask these essential workers to put themselves on the frontlines of fighting this virus, they should have the peace of mind that their children have the highest quality of care and academic resources.”

Williams added, “Pre-pandemic, one of the most important issues we as a Commonwealth faced was access to quality, affordable childcare. Asking parents to return to work now without providing them quality childcare for their children is unthinkable. We need to pay providers the wages they deserve for keeping our children safe and educating them during such crucial development periods. A fair and just economic recovery for our workforce must include investing in childcare.”

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Phila.) said, “Investing in childcare centers is investing in the next generation, our children. As a working mom with two young kids I know just how important it is to have great childcare right in the neighborhood, providing safe, reliable care. Childcare centers are places of learning, growing and nurturing for our children, and we need to do everything we can to support them so that when working parents are at work, their doors are open!”

Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery) added, “Balancing childcare and a job is one of the very real challenges that parents face in normal times.  Considering the topsy-turvy world of COVID-19 and the economic necessity of getting people back to work, we must do everything we can to stabilize and support childcare centers so that our children and caregivers have a safe, healthy place to work and play.”

According to the Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA campaigns, Pennsylvania could see the permanent closures of nearly one-third of its childcare centers due to this extended economic shut down.

Pennsylvania has received $106 million in funding to support childcare providers through the federal CARES Act, with $51 million already being allocated and in the process of being distributed to eligible certified childcare providers through regional Early Learning Resource Centers.

However, Schwank, Williams, Fiedler and Daley plan to introduce legislation to further assist childcare centers with administrative expenses, including payroll, and compensate for the loss of tuition payments from families. They also want to extend Pre-K and Head Start programs into the summer to mitigate early childhood learning losses for students.

“We need to make every effort to support our essential workers, and also to support those who will be returning to work as our counties enter the Yellow and Green phases of reopening across Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D – Lehigh/Northampton), chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. “I am very happy that we are able to host these virtual hearings to obtain ideas on the best ways to help our workers during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee, thanked Representatives Fiedler and Daley for “requesting this important hearing. Childcare centers serve a vital role in our economy that must not be overlooked, and they deserve our support to ensure safety for all.”

Testifiers at the policy committee hearing included numerous experts and advocates who spoke on what is needed in the childcare sector during this pandemic, and the best ways that the legislature can assist workers and their families.

“Childcare is a critical infrastructure to the economic well-being of Pennsylvania and her citizens now,” said Tracey Campanini, deputy secretary of the state’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning. “High-quality childcare is critical to Pennsylvania’s future.  As important as the discussion is to reopen childcare, I would just remind you there were funding needs of this industry that existed prior to COVID-19.”

Oriana Hood, owner of Pembroke Pee Wee Daycare & Little People Daycare School of Lehigh Valley, told the lawmakers that childcare centers face great uncertainty and daunting financial challenges as Pennsylvania struggles to regain some level of “normalcy.”

“We need help recouping monies lost; we need help to open and remain functional until everyone feels comfortable coming back, she said. “I pray that the businesses I have worked so hard to make a success can remain intact. But for all of this to happen we need funds to operate.

Joining Campanini and Hood, the following testified:

  • Jen DeBell, executive director, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children;
  • Donna Cooper, executive director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth;
  • Cara Ciminillo, executive director, Trying Together;
  • Damaris Alvarado-Rodriguez, executive director, Children’s Playhouse Early Learning Center;
  • Laura Heckart, director, Albright Early Learning Center;
  • Laura Crispin, Professor of Economics, Saint Joseph’s University;
  • Kate Reber, parent; and
  • Beckey Flaherty, executive director, Shady Lane School

In addition to Boscola, Schwank and Williams, the following senators participated: Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny), Maria Collett (D-Bucks/Montgomery), John Blake (D-Lackawanna) and Shariff Street (D-Phila.) Joining Sturla, Fiedler and Daley were the following House Legislators: Sara Innamorato (D-Allegheny), Ed Gainey (D-Allegheny), Joe Webster (D-Montgomery) and Dan Miller (D-Allegheny).

A full recording of the hearing will be available at senatorboscola.com/policy.

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Schwank Proposal Exempting CARES Act Payments from Disqualifying Pennsylvanians from State Assistance Programs Approved by Senate Finance Committee

Harrisburg, May 11, 2020  Legislation proposed by state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district) that would ensure Pennsylvanians who receive federal stimulus payments don’t lose state related benefits because of an increase in income received unanimous support from the Senate Finance Committee.

“While I applaud Congress for approving these cash payments, I worry for individuals, particularly seniors, who could lose benefits they rely on because their income will be recertified as too high to be eligible,” Schwank said. “These one-time payments should not be the tipping scale between receiving or losing a benefit.” 

Income verified benefits include: the property tax/rent rebate program, PACE/PACENET, childcare subsidies, medical assistance and CHIP.

Senate Bill 1100 now heads to the full Senate for consideration

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Schwank Announces PA Office of Consumer Advocate to Intercede on Behalf of PAWC Ratepayers

READING, May 7, 2020 – At the request of State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district), the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate will intercede on behalf of ratepayers in a case involving the Pennsylvania American Water Company’s request to increase its overall water and wastewater rates.

The PAWC recently requested that the Public Utility Commission grant an overall rate increase of $138.6 million over two years for all of its water and wastewater operations. This would mean a nearly 80 percent increase for the average customer by the second year.

Schwank wrote a letter to the POCA on behalf of her constituents who will be affected by the proposed increase. In addition, Schwank has requested that the PUC schedule public hearings to allow residents and business owners to express their concerns on the proposed rate increase.  (As yet, she has not received a reply from the Commission to her request.)

“With more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians currently out of work and seeking unemployment compensation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are already struggling to pay their bills,” Schwank said. “While it is not unreasonable for a company to seek sufficient revenue to cover operating and capital expenses and earn a reasonable return on their investment, now is not the right time to pursue it.”

“When it comes to these matters, we need to make sure the public has the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Schwank added. “And, I am grateful that the Consumer Advocate is willing and able to lend the expertise and resources of her office to help protect the interests of consumers.”

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Schwank to Talk Coronavirus with Medical and Unemployment Professionals at Telephone Town Hall

READING, May 1, 2020 – State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district) will be hosting a live telephone town hall on issues associated with the coronavirus COVID-19 on Wednesday, May 6, at 6:05 p.m. Joining her are:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Gerard Oleksiak; and
  • Dr. Debra Powell, Section Chief of Infectious Diseases and Medical Director for Infection Prevention for Tower Health Reading Hospital.

To sign up for the telephone town hall, visit http://www.senatorschwank.com/telephone-townhall.

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Senate and House Democrats Discuss Legislative Action to Fight COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

Harrisburg – April 23, 2020 – State Senators Judy Schwank (D – Berks) and Lindsey Williams (D – Allegheny) joined State Representatives Joanna McClinton (D- Philadelphia) and Sara Innamorato (D – Allegheny) for a telephone town hall hosted by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) to discuss COVID-19 legislation.

“This public health crisis has unearthed glaring inequities faced by our working class and low-income families,” Schwank said. “Ensuring all Pennsylvanians have access to basic necessities like health care, decent housing, food and quality childcare will take bold actions. Please join our teleconference to share your thoughts on how we will improve our Commonwealth.”

The legislators discussed the bills that have been brought forward to assist in K-12 online learning, work to make unemployment compensation more accessible and comprehensive, and the movement of the Pennsylvania primary election to June 2 for the health and safety of all residents of the Commonwealth.

“We’ve been working to pass legislation that will protect and support our constituents, our communities, and our businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that’s through providing our front-line essential workers with PPE or ensuring that childcare facilities can stay open to care for the children of those essential workers while they risk their lives for us,” said Williams. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss these and other measures with people from across Pennsylvania.”

A full list of legislation proposed by the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats to adequately respond to the needs of all Pennsylvanian’s during this pandemic can be found here on  our website.

“Even as we stayed home to save lives by flattening the curve, we made sure the people’s voice is heard,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair, McClinton. “This statewide telephone town hall proved now, more than ever, the people want us fighting for the issues that matter – fair pay, safe workplaces for everyone, paid sick leave and so much more that needs to happen even after the virus has been defeated. I want to thank the thousands of people who took time to join us and remind us all it’s always the right time to stand up for fairness and justice for all.”

For more information of McClinton’s work to help those effected by the COVID-19 pandemic, visit her website.

“When I hear the stories of how my neighbors are struggling, my heart breaks,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny. “It is clear that to address these real needs we need to reimagine our social contract. We need a government that provides for the people before it rushes to defend private profits. We need policies that puts food on families’ tables, and keeps people safely housed while they shelter-in-place. We have already sacrificed so much in this fight, and it is clear after talking to people at events like this that not only do we have more to do, but we must continue to fight to put people first.”

To follow all the work that Innamorato is doing to help those effected by this pandemic, visit her website.

All legislators voiced their support for the American Working Family Relief Action Plan to protect workers, ensure adequate healthcare, and provide economic relief as we endure and emerge from this pandemic.

For the most up to date information concerning the COVID-19 coronavirus statistics and protection guidelines in Pennsylvania, visit the PA Dept. of Health’s website.

Schwank, Caltagirone, Rozzi: Reading School District and Berks IU Receive Funds   

READING, April 22, 2020 – Reading School District and the Berks County Intermediate Unit have been selected for Continuing of Education Equity Grants (CEEG) for the 2019-2020 academic year, State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th District), State Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-127th District) and State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-126th District) announced. 

CEEG grants are designed to help provide access and inclusion for all learners by bridging the gap for students who are currently limited in their ability to participate in continuity of education.

The grants may be used to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets and internet hot spots, or be used toward providing instructional materials, such as paper lessons and coursework. Schools with the highest percentages of students lacking access to resources were given priority in receiving CEEG grants.

The following organizations received a CEEG grant:

  • Berks County IU 14:  $11,300.00
  • Reading School District: $500,000.00

“In these difficult times it is imperative that we give students access to every resource available to ensure that they are able to continue learning, especially in districts like Reading where not every student has access to a computer or the internet,” Schwank said. “These funds will help our dedicated education professionals better reach their students.”

“Access to education is of paramount importance, and some of those connections have been lost while students have been out of school,” Caltagirone said. “I’m grateful to see these funds bridge that gap.”

“We know that students have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rozzi said. “These grants will help bring a little bit of normalcy back to their lives by getting them back in touch with their teachers.” 

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Upgrades for Perkiomen Avenue Water Main Approved by PENNVEST

READING, April 22, 2020 – A low-interest loan in the amount of $1.7 million approved today by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) will help fund the Mount Penn Borough Municipal Authority’s recently completed Perkiomen Avenue Water Main Replacement Project, according to state Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11) and state Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-126).

“This project will help ensure that the residents of Mount Penn Borough and the Antietam Valley continue to enjoy the benefit of a safe and high-quality municipal water service for decades to come,” Schwank said. “I commend local officials for their foresight and diligence in coordinating this infrastructure project with PennDOT’s Perkiomen Avenue upgrade work.”

“Replacement of aging infrastructure and preventative maintenance are some of the more difficult challenges local officials face,” Rozzi said.  “This project addresses both those needs—it protects water quality, improves service reliability, and will lessen the potential of breaks and service loss.” 

The project included the replacement of 5,740 feet of water lines, as well as valves, hydrants, and customer service connections.

PENNVEST funding comes from a combination of state funds approved by voters, grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, and loan repayments from previous PENNVEST funding awards.

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Schwank to Talk Coronavirus with Medical Professionals at Telephone Town Hall Meeting

READING, April 9, 2020 – State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district) will be hosting  a live telephone town hall on issues associated with the coronavirus COVID-19 on Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m. Joining her are medical professionals including:

  • Psychologist Dr. Timothy Ring, American Red Cross Disaster Relief Specialist who practices at Berkshire Psychiatric & Behavioral Health Services, P.C.
  • Penn State Health St. Joseph President John R. Morahan
  • Penn State Health St. Joseph Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Jeffrey Held
  • Penn State Health St. Joseph Vice President of Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer Sharon Strohecker


 To sign up for the telephone town hall, visit https://www.senatorschwank.com/telephone-townhall.

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PA Senate Democrats Urge Action on Legislation for Working Families, Pledge to Oppose Partisan COVID Task Force

Harrisburg, PA − April 8, 2020 − The Senate adjourned Tuesday afternoon after the House Republicans indicated they would not be taking up Senate Bill 841, legislation that would have enabled local municipalities to hold their meetings remotely, permitted e-notary use; lengthened the time period a property tax payer can receive an early payment discount and delay penalties for late payments to Dec. 31st; and allowed businesses to make delayed payments on EITC. Another important amendment offered by Senator Pam Iovino (D-Allegheny) allowed school districts to renegotiate contracts to ensure contracted school workers can get paid and continue to receive benefits.

The amended SB 841 passed the Senate with bipartisan support. While the Senate Democrats and Republicans chose to put partisan difference aside, the House Republicans were pushing to please special interests and big donors. Intending to use this crisis as leverage, Speaker Turzai and his caucus passed legislation to prematurely allow businesses to reopen during this public health crisis and create a partisan task force to interfere with the Governor’s disaster response, both of which unnecessarily risk lives and threaten to expend the emergency.

Standing With Workers During COVID-19“While the Governor and Department of Health Secretary offer leadership on public safety in daily briefings and Democratic members of the PA House and Senate draft legislation to protect working people who are either out of work or employed on the front lines of essential businesses, Republicans are putting lives at risk and undermining the Governor and Secretary Levine’s best efforts to end this crisis,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Instead of taking the advice of our Health Secretary, they are trying to slow down our response and hasten the re-opening of non-essential businesses against the guidance of every public health entity in the country.”

The House Republicans were seeking even more egregious measures to provide civil immunity to big businesses, upend school districts ability to pay their teachers, and leave our corrections department employees at serious threat of the Coronavirus. Perhaps worst of all, the language does nothing to protect frontline workers, provide assistance to those that are out of work, or to help small businesses weather this crisis.

In an amendment to Senate Bill 327, House Republicans designed a task force with partisan appointees to usurp the Governor’s ability to rapidly respond to this quickly-evolving crisis. Their bill would require the Secretary of Health to leave PEMA, take hours away from public health crisis planning and defend her work in front of a redundant, political body.

The Senate Democratic Caucus will not support these bills. Alternatively, this caucus will be supporting legislation on the following issues:

  • The American Working Family Relief Action Plan for front-line worker protections (Collett/L. Williams)
  • Protecting workers during public health emergencies (Santarsiero)
  • COVID-19 Food Worker Safety Act (Tartaglione)
  • COVID-19 Grocery Store Worker Safety Act (Tartaglione)
  • Payment of contract services in schools (Iovino)
  • Childcare assistance (Schwank/L. Williams)
  • Emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act to provide paid sick leave (Farnese)
  • Crisis grants for volunteer fire and EMS companies due to COVID-19 (Brewster)
  • Require business interruption insurance to cover COVID-19 related business closures (Hughes)
  • Eviction protection for all disaster emergencies (Farnese)
  • Coronavirus disease and schools: allowing for online instruction (Dinniman)
  • Creating a Common Wealth Fund to collect donations from individuals to provide for essential needs of those in need (AH Williams)
  • Providing a presumption of eligibility for Workers’ Compensation benefits for workers that get sick in the workplace (Tartaglione)
  • Ensuring receipt of a stimulus check from the Federal government is not included in an individual’s income for purposes of qualifying for social safety nets (Schwank)
  • Exempting stimulus checks from the Federal government from State and local taxation (Brewster)
  • Collaborating with financial institutions to mandate mortgage loan forgiveness, assistance to homeowners that were laid off due to state emergencies (Farnese)

“While many working Pennsylvanians are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, facing lost hours or even complete unemployment, others who find themselves in more fortunate circumstances have expressed a desire to help their fellow citizens by either donating to a local charity or patronizing local businesses,” said Senator Anthony H. Williams. “By establishing the “Pennsylvania Common Wealth” restricted account, taxpayers could redirect all or a portion of their stimulus check to the state, which in turn would be authorized to direct those funds into programs which help the neediest Pennsylvanians – property tax & rent rebates, temporary assistance for needy families, CHIP or medical assistance.”

“Pennsylvania needs solutions that help protect its working people who have been hit the hardest by the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic,” Senator Vincent Hughes said. “We in the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus have put forth a number of policy proposals that would do just that, meanwhile House Republicans have chosen to ignore these needs and push an agenda that jeopardizes public health and puts additional pressure on working people by delaying immediate relief. Our mission should be helping people in this unprecedented time of need and we will remain vigilant in protecting hardworking folks across the commonwealth.” 

“As public servants, our most important duty is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. This includes making difficult decisions in challenging times. We all want businesses to reopen, employees back on the job, students back in classrooms and some semblance of normal life to resume, but that cannot happen unless we first continue mitigation efforts and follow the advice of our scientists and experts,” said Senator Wayne D. Fontana. “Anything contrary can set back progress and cause further harm on our economy and most importantly, on human health. The bipartisan legislation the Senate approved provides some necessary guidance and relief to local governments, businesses, school employees and property taxpayers during this unprecedented situation. It is unconscionable that House Republicans blatantly disregarded that duty and have chosen not to act.”

“The spread of coronavirus has not quieted the voice of special interests in Harrisburg and that’s tragic,” said Senator Larry Farnese. “Mitigation through isolation is working and we have to recognize that sacrifice through legislation that actually helps front-line workers instead of just saying nice things on social media.”

“This crisis and the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires leadership, transparency and cooperation – not partisan politics,” said Senator John Blake. “While we’ve worked well with the Senate majority on real solutions that actually help people in this crisis, the House majority looks to undermine the executive authority of the Governor as well as the advice of medical and scientific experts regarding public health.  I applaud the work being done by Governor Wolf and his administration to keep Pennsylvanians safe and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I will continue to support important legislation to help our business community, front-line workers and medical professionals; and to protect our citizens, schools and local governments across this state. We need to remain vigilant in following the recommendations of the PA Department of Health and the federal CDC.”

“Issues that the Commonwealth was already facing have been exacerbated by this pandemic, and child care services and early learning programs are near the top of the list. Childcare centers are teetering on the brink of insolvency, which is why part of our legislative package addresses early childhood learning and safe, quality childcare. We will not be able to restart Pennsylvania’s economy without this key component,” Senator Judy Schwank said. “Additionally, it’s vital that the income requirements of state programs like PACENET and Property Tax and Rent Rebate are adjusted so that Pennsylvanians receiving federal aid are not penalized later.”

“The key to an effective response to the pandemic is to ensure that our citizens are protected, health risks are addressed, and our economy restarts quickly,” Senator Jim Brewster said. “That’s why I introduced a six-point stimulus plan that will help small business, protect workers and create jobs once we are clear the threat posed by the pandemic. In addition, we need to make sure to address the immediate and long-term needs of first responders and all workers and businesses who are providing essential services during this time of extraordinary stress.”

“There is no segment of our Commonwealth that hasn’t been upended by this crisis. Everything is a priority. But in order to save livelihoods, we must first save lives,” said Senator Maria Collett. “As a nurse, I know firsthand the challenges our health care workers are up against and the urgency of passing legislation like the American Working Family Relief Action Plan for Front-Line Workers. Our doctors, nurses, first responders, senior care aides and others should not have to worry about getting sick or infecting others while performing their essential work.”

“It is irresponsible for the state to reopen businesses at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who are not essential workers should remain home,” said Senator Art Haywood. We need to do all we can as legislators to support essential employees risking their lives on a daily basis,” said Senator Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia). “I will continue to support the work Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine have done to inform the public to remain safe and stay home.”

“The citizens of Pennsylvania are counting on their elected representatives to save lives by responding swiftly, pragmatically, and in a bipartisan manner to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus,” said Senator Pam Iovino. “To fulfill our duty to the public, we must follow the consensus guidance of public health professionals, focus on protecting front-line essential workers, and put in place protections that allow furloughed or unemployed workers and small businesses to weather the economic disruption.”

“As the Democratic chair of the Local Government Committee, I worked with stakeholders for weeks to craft the provisions of SB 841, I am disappointed these commonsense measures, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support, are being held up by House Republicans for little reason,” said Senator Tim Kearney. “The House should immediately pass SB 841 and focus on bringing relief to Pennsylvanians, rather than sabotaging the Governor’s efforts to keep our families safe.”

“Yesterday, the majority party in both chambers failed to use their legislative power, where they can literally pass any bill they want to, and instead decided to pack up and go home without,” said Senator Katie Muth. “Failing to pass meaningful bills when people are fighting for their lives is simply negligent.”

“Now is not the time to play politics,” said Senator Steve Santarsiero. “Saving lives has to be the first priority.  In order to do that, we must all do our part and follow the Governor’s and Department of Health’s plans as they’ve been explained to us countless times. SB 841 is just one of many ways our caucus has worked in a bipartisan effort to provide relief to those who need it most. However, SB 327 is exactly what our healthcare professionals warn us against. Promoting a premature return to normalcy will only undermine our effort to keep the public safe, and further endanger thousands of lives.”

“Government’s most important role is the protection of its people. Since the COVID-19 crisis the Senate has met three times, with little to show for it. Communities across the commonwealth have no interest in the paralysis of government especially in the most desperate of times.  What they do care about is the protection of our essential workforce, the interruption of our small businesses,  job loss, staying in their homes and educating their children. The only thing that matters is the preservation and protection  of every resource needed to keep families safe during this health crisis,” said Senator Sharif Street.   

 “We need to be back in Harrisburg, we need to get back to work.  We must work together to ensure our communities are protected during uncertain times.”

 “As thousands of Pennsylvanians continue to get sick and hundreds die, now is no time to play partisan politics,” Senator Tina Tartaglione said. “As public leaders, we must unite behind the common goal of reducing the threat of this virus and mitigating the harm being done to our constituents. The package of bills we have proposed will directly help all Pennsylvania families, including essential workers, displaced workers, first responders, school children, those who have become sick, and those in need. I urge all legislators from all political parties to support these bills.”

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives is our top priority. We also need to protect and support our constituents, our communities, and our businesses,” said Senator Lindsey Williams. “Our front-line essential workers – our hospital workers, grocery store workers, emergency service personnel and others – cannot afford to wait for PPE. They needed it weeks ago. Our childcare facilities need our help to stay open and provide care to the children of our essential workers while they risk their lives for us. Our small businesses need financial support to stay afloat. Our municipalities need the ability to meet remotely and make decisions that will ensure the safety of all of residents. There are a lot of needs right now and our constituents do not have time for us to waste playing partisan games or naming bridges. The Senate Democrats have offered concrete solutions that will help people. We should all be working together to get them to the Governor’s desk for signature as soon as possible.”

More information on the work of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus during the COVID-19 crisis can be found at pasenate.com/covid19.

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Senators Schwank, Williams to Introduce Childcare Assistance Legislation

HARRISBURG, March 28, 2020 – State Senator Judy Schwank (D-11th District) and State Senator Lindsey M. Williams (D-38th District) will soon introduce legislation to support childcare centers, pre-K, and Head Start programs, as well as their hard-working employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA campaigns, Pennsylvania could see permanent closures of nearly one-third of its childcare centers from an extended economic shut down, which is why Schwank and Williams are taking action.

Their proposed legislation would: 

  • Provide $100 million to childcare centers to cover administrative expenses, including payroll, and fill the loss of tuition payments from families;
  • Provide $17 million for Pre-K and Head Start to cover administrative expenses, including payroll to compensate for lost co-payments that would otherwise have been collected;
  • Appropriate $50 million to extend Pre-K and Head Start programs into the summer to mitigate early childhood learning losses for students.
     

“Early childhood learning and safe, quality childcare is critical for restarting our economy as we come out of this crisis,” Schwank said. “It’s important that we act quickly to strengthen and sustain our childcare and early learning systems.”

Key, but often neglected components of workforce development are early childhood learning and childcare. However, these programs are critical to enabling parents to return to work confident that their children are being properly cared for and are receiving the education they will need to succeed in life.

 “We know that affordable, quality childcare is a major barrier to entry into the workforce during normal times. Our essential workers should not have to worry about finding childcare as they work to care for us in hospitals, keep supermarkets stocked, and keep our communities clean and safe,” Williams said. “Childcare workers have traditionally been underpaid and undervalued, but times like these show how critical their role is. We must treat these professionals like the integral part of our workforce that they are.”

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Schwank Office Open for Calls, E-mail Only Effective Tuesday, March 17

Reading, March 16, 2020 − In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, beginning Tuesday, March 17, State Sen. Judy Schwank’s district office at 210 George Street will be closed to the public and will instead serve constituents by e-mail, phone and fax.

“This measure is out of an abundance of caution,” Schwank said. “As you are able, please avoid large gatherings and stay home if you are feeling sick.”

To reach Schwank’s office during business hours (Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), e-mail senatorschwank@pasenate.com; call 610-929-2151; or send a fax to 610-929-2576. 

As the Pennsylvania Capitol Complex is closed for the next 14 days, Schwank’s Harrisburg office is also closed during that time.

Additionally, in adhering to the CDC’s recent recommendation to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, Schwank’s Earth Day Celebration scheduled for Saturday, April 18, at Third and Spruce Recreation Center in Reading is cancelled, as is a Coffee with Constituents event on Wednesday, April 15, at Airport Diner in Kutztown.

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Schwank Announces Two Non-Profit Security Grants Awarded in Berks

Reading, March 11, 2020 − A Mohnton church and Wyomissing Synagogue each received a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Non-Profit Security Grant to improve the safety and security of their facility, State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11) announced.

The new grants, which stemmed from legislation supported by Schwank (Act 83 of 2019), are meant for non-profit entities that principally serve individuals, groups or institutions that are included within a bias motivation category for a single bias hate crime incident identified by the FBI. Those incident categories include: race/ethnicity/ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.

Eligible projects include:

  • Purchase of safety and security equipment
  • Threat awareness and response training
  • Upgrades to existing structures that enhance safety and security
  • Vulnerability and threat assessments
  • Any other safety or security-related project that enhances safety or security of the non-profit organization

Of more than 800 applications, the two Berks recipients are:

  • Allegheny Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mohnton, $23,648
  • Reform Congregation Oheb Sholom, Wyomissing, $25,000

“The sad reality is that hate crimes can happen anywhere,” Schwank said. “The grants will help these local worship centers better ensure the safety of their congregations and the many community groups who also use their facilities.”

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Schwank Invites Constituents for Coffee at Clair’s Family Restaurant

Reading, March 3, 2020 − Sen. Judy Schwank is inviting constituents to meet her for coffee, pastries and conversation at Clair’s Family Restaurant on Tuesday, March 10, at 9 a.m.

Instead of a typical Town Hall, Sen. Schwank has decided to hold an open forum for constituents to address concerns, share comments and ask questions.

The event is free and open to the public.

What: Coffee and Conversation

Where: Clair’s Family Restaurant, 3146 W Main Street, Morgantown

When: Tuesday, March 10, 9 a.m.

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Schwank Invites Constituents for Coffee at the Shillington Farmers Market

Reading, February 6, 2020 − Sen. Judy Schwank is inviting constituents to meet her for coffee, doughnuts and conversation at the Shillington Farmers Market on Thursday, February 13, at 9 a.m.

Instead of a typical Town Hall, Sen. Schwank has decided to hold an open forum for constituents to address concerns, share comments and ask questions.

The event is free and open to the public.

What: Coffee and Conversation

Where: Shillington Farmers Market, 10 S. Summit Ave., Shillington

When: Thursday, February 13, 9 a.m.

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New Grant Program for Non-Profit Security Accepting Applications

Reading − January 15, 2020 − The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) today opened the application window for a new Non-Profit Security Grant program, which stemmed from language sponsored by State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11) to address security needs and confront violence and intolerance against organizations with diverse membership.

The program was established in 2019 by House Bill 859 (or Act 83 of 2019) and will award grants to non-profit organizations who principally serve individuals, groups or institutions that are included within a bias motivation category for a single bias hate crime incident identified by the FBI’s 2017 Hate Crime Statistics publication.  Those incident categories include: race/ethnicity/ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.

“Hate crimes are an alarming reality in our Commonwealth, and we need to address safety issues in places of refuge or worship,” Schwank said. “I am hopeful that organizations in Berks County who fit the criteria are able to access these funds.” 

Applicants are eligible for security enhancements designed to protect the safety and security of the users of a facility located in the Commonwealth that is owned or operated by the nonprofit organization.

Eligible projects are:

  • Safety and security planning
  • Purchase of safety and security equipment
  • Purchase of security-related technology, which may include, but is not limited to:

Metal detectors; protective lighting; surveillance equipment; special emergency communications equipment; electronic locksets; deadbolts; trauma kits; and theft control devices

  • Safety and security training
  • Threat awareness and response training
  • Upgrades to existing structures that enhance safety and security
  • Vulnerability and threat assessments
  • Specialty-trained canines
  • Any other safety or security-related project that enhances safety or security of the non-profit organization

For more information on the grant program, visit https://www.pccd.pa.gov/schoolsafety/Pages/Non-Profit-Security-Grant-Fund.aspx.

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Legislators Announce Reading Muhlenberg CTC Awarded $50,000

READING, December 19, 2019 –The Pennsylvania Department of Education awarded $50,000 to Reading Muhlenberg CTC to purchase new equipment aligned to training students in high-demand occupations, State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-126th District) and State Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-127th District) announced.

The grant is one of 32 competitive grants totaling nearly $1.2 million awarded to Career and Technical Centers (CTC) and Area Vocational-Technical Education Schools across the state to purchase equipment aligned with the needs of local employers for use in PDE-approved Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and to provide hands-on training to students in those programs.

The maximum grant allowed under the program is $50,000, and each grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar from a local source, which could include local school funds or contributions from business and industry partners.

Reading Muhlenberg CTC’s grant will help purchase the following equipment:

  • Mechanical Training System
  • CNC Plasma Cutter

“This funding will help Reading Muhlenberg CTC give their students the opportunity to learn on state-of-the-art equipment,” Schwank said. “Students will learn the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century work place.”

“Students deserve to learn in classrooms equipped with the most up-to-date technology available to prepare them for the future,” Rozzi said. “This funding will support Reading Muhlenberg CTC in that endeavor.”

“In this day and age, we must look to the future and consider what will be most useful to our students in their upcoming careers,” Caltagirone said. “This funding will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”

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Schwank Hosting Free Information Session on Holiday Scams

Reading, December 10, 2019  State Sen. Judy Schwank is teaming with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to bring a free information session on holiday scams to The Heritage of Green Hills at 200 Tranquility Lane in Cumru Township at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12.

The event will feature a presentation by David Shallcross, Director of the Attorney General’s Senior Protection Unit, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The event is free and open to the public.

Who: Sen. Judy Schwank and David Shallcross, Director of the Attorney General’s Senior Protection Unit

What: Free holiday scams information session for seniors

Where: The Heritage of Green Hills, 200 Tranquility Lane, Cumru Township

When: Thursday, Dec. 12, 10:30 a.m.

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Schwank and Rozzi Hosting Free ACA Event Nov. 22, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner to Speak

Reading, November 19, 2019 – State Sen. Judy Schwank and State Rep. Mark Rozzi are hosting a free Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Muhlenberg Township Building at 210 George Street on Friday, Nov. 22. Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman will open the event and be available for media questions.

During the two-hour session, healthcare consumers will have access to expert help signing up for ACA or Medicare coverage. Medicare enrollment ends December 7 and the open enrollment period for ACA ends December 15.

Participants will need documentation to verify his or her annual income (a W-2 or pay stub) and a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID.

“Pennsylvanians need access to affordable healthcare if they are to live healthier and more productive lives,” Schwank said. “This event is meant to give the citizens of Reading and Berks County another opportunity to sign up for healthcare.”

“The deadline to sign up for healthcare is coming up fast. We need to make sure everyone has access to the resources necessary to choose the best health care plan for themselves and their families,” Rozzi said. “It can seem like a daunting process, but help is available.”

This event is FREE and open to the public.

Contact: Jamie Klein, 610 929-2151, jklein@pasenate.com

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Sen. Schwank and Rep. Gillen Announce $2 Million State Investment in Berks

HARRISBURG, November 12, 2019 – A Wyomissing Borough development/transportation enhancement project will receive a much-needed boost thanks to $2 million in Multimodal Transportation Fund grant funding approved today by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Multimodal Transportation Funds are meant to improve transportation infrastructure and promote economic development.

The grant will allow Wyomissing Borough to move forward with the municipality’s planned $4 million 4th Street Extension Multimodal Project, which, among other things, will connect North Wyomissing Boulevard and Innovation Way, according to Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district) and Rep. Mark Gillen (R-128th district). Extending Fourth Street will provide more direct access between the Knitting Mills and related redevelopment and the Route 422 Bypass, alleviating traffic congestion on North Park Road and safety issues caused by traffic cutting through residential neighborhoods. The installation of other multimodal improvements such as a bus stop, bike share station, bike racks, and sharrows and pedestrian and bike route signs will further improve accessibility, safety, and traffic flow. Schwank worked closely with Gillen to advocate for the Wyomissing project.

“The scope and pace of area redevelopment projects like The Knitting Mills are creating tremendous positive regional impacts,” Schwank said. “The Fourth Street Extension Project will help ensure that our local transportation infrastructure can accommodate this growth, which benefits pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.”

“I commend Wyomissing officials for their foresight and diligence in pursuing this important project,” Gillen said. “This state funding represents a wise investment in the economic future of our community.”

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Schwank Applauds Senate Vote to Expand Absentee Voting Rights

Harrisburg, October 30, 2019 – All Pennsylvania voters would be able to vote by mail under legislation approved Monday by the Pennsylvania Senate. The bill includes language proposed by Sen. Judy Schwank (D-11th district), who has been a leading advocate for “no-excuse” absentee voting for years.

Schwank said the expansion of absentee balloting to all voters is why she voted in favor of the bill, which makes numerous changes to the elections process. The language was approved by the State House of Representatives last week and now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf, who is expected to sign it promptly.

Under the bill, SB 421, a voting system that mirrors the current process for voters unable to vote in person on election day will be established, allowing any qualified voter to vote by absentee ballot without needing an excuse. The bill also extends the deadline to get mailed-in ballots to county voting offices until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“Pennsylvania voters should have the same rights as voters in other states,” Schwank said. “The right to vote is a distinguishing characteristic of our democracy and the opportunity to exercise that right is something we must protect. SB 421 makes it easier for Pennsylvanians to vote by giving them the option to vote in the privacy of their own homes and removes the worry of an emergency keeping them from the polls on election day.”

“Voters shouldn’t have to hope that their plans to vote on election day aren’t foiled by unforeseeable or unexpected circumstances,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to choose between fulfilling their roles as citizens and meeting urgent demands for their time, attention and resources.”

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