State Program to Help Small Businesses Amid Pandemic Already Out of Funds
The COVID-19 Working Capital Assistance program announced last week already out of funding.

A state funding program announced by Gov. Tom Wolf last week to help small businesses weather the economic storm created by the COVID-19 pandemic has already been exhausted of funds , according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Officials with DCED announced that the COVID-19 Working Capital Assistance (CWCA) program is no longer accepting applications, as the program has already received more requests for funding than what was allocated by the state. The program was initially provided with $61 million in funding, but before DCED cut off applications, they received more than $75 million in funding requests. Nearly 900 applications were submitted in just over one week.

The CWCA program was the latest state program administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) to provide working capital financing to Pennsylvania small businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The program provided zero percent interest loans of up to $100,000 in capital to be used for certain business operations.

Although the CWCA program might be tapped out of funds, small businesses can still apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the federal Small Business Administration . Small businesses and nonprofits across the state impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak can apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans, which offers low-interest loans of up to $2 million and can be used to pay debt, payroll, accounts payable and other bills.

Understanding the growing need of many out-of-work citizens, the state urges unemployed Pennsylvanians to apply online for benefits.

With the economic pressure placed on many small businesses and their employees right now amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the state is urging furloughed and laid off individuals to apply online for unemployment compensation. For the first time ever, independent contractors and sole proprietors are eligible to apply for the unemployment relief.

The state has seen more than one million claims over the last two and a half weeks, a record-high number of requests for immediate financial aid during the pandemic-spurred shutdown. Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor Jerry Oleksiak said that in most cases, state-issued unemployment checks could arrive within two to four weeks. And despite a growing backlog, the state system is generally working and processing claims as they come in.

The governor also announced on Friday that paychecks will freeze for nearly 9,000 state employees, or almost 10 percent of the state's workforce. The pay freeze was ordered to reduce spending as the coronavirus shutdown continues to batter the economy.

At the federal level, high demand is expected for small business, nonprofit funding program through the CARES Act.

The $350 billion in federal funding provided to small businesses, including nonprofits, independent contractors and sole proprietors , will begin to accept applications on Friday. And it is expected that the demand for the loans and grants provided by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that was part of the federal CARES Act will be extremely high. To help mitigate some of the volume of applications, the federal government is delaying the application timeline for self employed workers and independent contractors until April 10.

In anticipation of a massive number of applications, the federal Treasury issued updated guidelines on the program late Thursday evening. Concerns from the banking industry were made yesterday, as large and small financial institutions voiced apprehension that they are not yet ready to administer the program.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

According to the Department of Health , as of this morning the Commonwealth has more than 1,400 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 8,420. In addition, 102 Pennsylvanians have died directly from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 54,000 negative cases across the state.

During the state's live update on COVID-19, Gov. Tom Wolf asked all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus. The state Department of Health has provided guidance on how individuals can create homemade masks for their use in order to preserve high quality personal protection equipment for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control is also expected to recommend face masks in public.

As was reported in yesterday's Capitol Buzz, the Commonwealth is also providing resources and reminders for residents and businesses related to COVID-19. This includes several Fact Sheets about the virus, as well as posters, infographs and images, many of which are aimed at sharing information via social media.
Other (Good) News...
In today's edition of Capitol Buzz , we are going to focus on some good news from around Pennsylvania and the country during this tough time.

University of Pittsburgh's medical school creates possible COVID-19 vaccine. The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced this week that they have developed a possible vaccine for COVID-19. Officials said the vaccine has worked on mice, and the school has applied to regulatory agencies for permission to begin trials on human beings. The school is hoping for an accelerated protocol for approval that could shrink waiting time before the vaccine would be generally available.

Some Pa. health insurance companies waiving deductibles, co-pays for COVID-19 treatment. Both Highmark and UPMC have announced that they will cover participating members' out of pocket costs associated with COVID-19 treatment . Both companies have committed to waiving all deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance costs for insurance members who receive in-network, inpatient care related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Here are some companies hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrisburg-based newspaper the Patriot News/Pennlive provides a list of companies currently hiring during the pandemic. With all of the news about unemployment rates and business shutdowns, it's important to report about those companies providing critical services who are still in need of workers.

And finally, John Krasinksi, who played "Jim" on The Office (which is America's funniest sitcom about/set in Scranton, PA), launched the Some Good News Network.

Krasinski, recording the internet-based show from his home while practicing social distancing, focuses solely on uplifting and positive news during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the first episode below (with a special guest from a fellow The Office alum).
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov .
2020 SENATE SESSION SCHEDULE

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