By Rep. Anita Kulik
Mid-February to mid-March is a busy time at the Capitol. Multiple budget hearings are held every day on the many different components of the final budget. The budget is due at the end of June, and I continue to be of the position that it is our obligation to have the budget finalized by the deadline. At the time this article is published, the Pennsylvania House will have returned to regular session, addressing specific bills and matters that have come out of committee.
Several bills have been introduced that will hopefully come to the floor for consideration in the near future. I am the prime sponsor of one and co-sponsor on the others highlighted here.
House Bill 633 would create a statewide registry for the COVID-19 vaccination.
The rampant problems with the current process are frustrating to residents just trying to get on a list, let alone get the vaccine.
Even though more and more people are receiving the vaccine as additional doses become available, many are still left trying to wade through what is a very complicated system.
One of the biggest issues that came to (what can be termed “glaring”) light was the lack of proper staffing in our healthcare facilities.
The ratio of nurse to patient has been well below what should be, and the pandemic only made this problem worse.
Legislation was introduced in the past session with bi-partisan support and has been reintroduced this session as the “Patient Safety Act.”
Nurses have been worked to their limits and have steadfastly stayed at their jobs, even when overwhelmed with patients. This Act would set appropriate ratios for Pennsylvania hospitals dependent upon the acuity of the unit’s patient needs.
This legislation will be a big step in ensuring the safety of patients by providing them with proper levels of care and attention.
When COVID-19 hit, our long-term care facilities shut down to family visitors. This was a harrowing experience for the residents as well as their family members.
Every day I hear stories from residents who have not had any real contact with their loved ones, many since the shutdown began.
My family has had personal experience with this. Not having contact with family has been detrimental to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of those confined to nursing homes and other facilities.
House Bill 649 will safely return family members to the long-term care facilities to assist in the care and support of our most vulnerable, by allowing a family member to be designated as an essential caregiver. Essential caregivers will be allowed access to long-term care facilities, with protocols in place to ensure the safety of the residents and workers.
More action is needed to help those businesses hardest hit by the pandemic shutdowns.
I introduced House Bill 738 to allow liquor licenses that are in safekeeping relief from paying the license renewal or validation fee for a period of one year during this health crisis.
Many bars, restaurants and clubs were in the midst of renovations or license transfers and put their licenses in safekeeping. Many have not been able to remove their licenses from safekeeping. This reprieve will help these businesses regroup and get back on their feet.
House Bill 675 provides for grants to small entertainment and hospitality venues that have had little to no business during the pandemic. House Bill 673 will provide grants to small wineries, distilleries and breweries to help keep them in business until things begin to return to normal. These locally and family-owned businesses provide much-needed stability to our communities and provide countless local jobs.
Just looking around communities in our district, such as in Carnegie, Stowe and Coraopolis, you will see the great importance of these small venues to the economic growth of these towns.
I have heard from several residents who cannot return to work during the pandemic because either they or a family member are vulnerable to the virus. It has been a very difficult challenge, not only for the worker but also the employer, to try to navigate the provisions of our unemployment compensation laws, and to try to stay on, or be removed from, unemployment benefits. House Bill 596 would amend the Unemployment Compensation Law to provide more clarity for claimants and employers about what constitutes good cause to refuse work or compelling cause to quit work and still remain eligible for unemployment compensation.
As we return to session, it is with great hope that these and other bills the legislature will consider will provide the most help to Pennsylvanians in these hard times.