Wheatley: Legislative efforts to provide relief, assistance to all Pa’s in responding to pandemic

PITTSBURGH, April 27 – As Pennsylvania continues to recover from the effects of an unprecedented pandemic, state Rep. Jake Wheatley said he is committed to paving the way to help affected individuals, businesses and institutions with immediate and long-term assistance and support.

To date, Wheatley, D-Allegheny, has introduced several measures to provide relief and support, including the Emergency Relief of COVID-19 Workers Act, which would provide additional wages and support for essential workers, including those who have lost their jobs, and the creation of a special uncompensated care fund for Pennsylvanians who have lost their employer-provided health insurance coverage, due to being out of work.

In addition, Wheatley is crafting a $10 billion business relief package that would set aside $5 billion for small businesses, $3 billion for minority businesses, $1.5 billion for the food and hospitality industry and $500 million for sole proprietors. The package is designed to help preserve and bolster small business owners, the backbone of our commonwealth’s economy, he added.

“Residents in Allegheny County and across our state are hurting, and I am working diligently with my colleagues in the House to bring each of them immediate relief, and that includes our family-owned small businesses, our hospitality and healthcare workers, our seniors and our schools,” said Wheatley. “While there has been some federal help offered, we know that many Pennsylvanians can’t wait, and they need our immediate support and help during this extremely difficult time.”

Wheatley has also introduced legislation to require the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Human Services to work with local officials and private labs to ensure proper collection of data, notably in low-income communities of color.

“I’m extremely concerned that minority populations, which are more likely to be at risk for contracting COVID-19, are not being properly tracked, which significantly hampers efforts to curb the virus’s spread,” said Wheatley. “We know that these populations have higher rates of chronic diseases, including asthma, hypertension and heart disease, which increases their risk of becoming ill.”

Wheatley praised the governor’s recent action to furlough non-violent offenders from state prisons to further curb the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and staff. The Temporary Program to Reprieve Sentences of Incarceration applied only to state prison inmates identified as being non-violent and who would otherwise be eligible for release within 9 to 12 months and who are considered at high risk for contracting the virus.