PAPSA, Coalition Send Letter to Senate in Opposition to HB 2169 (May 23, 2022)

On May 23, 2022, a joint opposition letter regarding HB 2169 was sent by the Pennsylvanians Against Vouchers (POV) Coalition to the full PA Senate. Also attached was the HB 2169 FAQ from POV.
PAPSA signed on to the letter, which can be accessed by clicking here.
To view the FAQs, click here.

The Senate Education Committee sunshined a May 24th committee meeting to consider HB 2169. However, HB 2169 was pulled from the meeting agenda prior to the meeting.

Previously, on April 27th the PA House passed HB 2169 with a vote of 104-98. This was an unprecedented vote, since voucher legislation had never before passed the PA House. The bill has been considered a tuition scholarship program that uses public funds to provide private school alternatives for students enrolled in the state’s lowest-performing public school districts. Known as the Lifeline Scholarship program, the bill would allow an enrollee to be eligible to use their share of state funding for use at a private school. The proposed bill defines an eligible student as a child who has not yet received a high-school diploma, currently resides in the attendance areas of a low-achieving school (the bottom 15% of public schools as measured by performance on standardized testing); and one of the following: attending a public in PA in the preceding school year; received funds from the program in the preceding school year; will attend first grade for the first time in the next school year; a child in foster care; a child whose adoption decree is not more than one year prior to submission of an application, OR a child of full-time active duty military personnel. Federal funding and school district tax monies would not be available for use.

Updated May 24, 2022.

Pfizer: Three doses of Vaccine 80% Effective for Those Under Five (May 23, 2022)

On May 23, 2022, a news release from Pfizer and BioNTech reported that preliminary findings from a clinical trial of children younger than five years-old showed that three doses of the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong enough immune response — 80 percent effective in preventing symptomatic infection in a subset of the 1,678 trial participants, who were six months through four years old — to meet the criteria for regulatory authorization.

To read more from the New York Times, click here.

L&I Employee Honored for Exemplary Leadership in Advocating for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing During Pandemic (May 23, 2022)

Governor Tom Wolf has honored Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) employee Melissa Hawkins with a Governor’s Award for Excellence in recognition of her work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the delivery of critical, life-saving information to Pennsylvanians with disabilities through the services of certified deaf interpreters.

In her role as director of Pennsylvania’s Office for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (ODHH) within L&I’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), Hawkins collaborated with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Department of Health to bring critical information to Pennsylvanians who are deaf and hard of hearing to keep them informed of the latest information related to COVID-19.

At the start of the pandemic, to keep the deaf and hard of hearing community informed, Hawkins and ODHH teamed up with health officials to create educational videos in American Sign Language during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: “Coping and Mental Health Tactics,” “What is a Pandemic,” “How to Communicate with Your Children,” and many more developed by Commonwealth Media Services – ultimately empowering the deaf and hard of hearing community to make informed decisions for themselves and loved ones.

In 2020, ODHH created a COVID-19 Communication Card, geared toward Call Centers established as COVID-19 hotlines for individuals who needed information about vaccinations, hospitals, and Department of Health resources. As a result, the COVID-19 Communication Cards were used as a tool to help those answering the calls relay communication and health-related assistance to individuals during the pandemic. Hawkins also worked closely with L&I’s Unemployment Compensation office to implement assisted technology so people who are deaf or hard of hearing could apply for UC benefits.

For more information, visit the L&I website.

CDC Signs Off On COVID-19 Booster Shots for 5-11 Year-olds (May 20, 2022)

On May 19, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children five to 11 years-old. Those children can now receive  booster shots at least five months after their second dose of the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC sign-off came two days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized booster shots for the 5-11 year-old age group.

Presently, mid-May 2022 data from the CDC shows 28.9% of children in this age group have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. In addition,  CDC data also shows upwards of 15,000 children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized and at least 189 of them have died.

A recent CDC report also revealed that nearly 75 percent of children 11-years-old and under showed evidence of an infection by February 2022, up from 44 percent in December 2021.

To view the CDC press release, click here.

Source: NBC News

PA DHS Announces Pandemic-EBT Plan Approval to Cover the 2021-2022 School Year, Outlines Updated Eligibility (May 14, 2022)

PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead announced that the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) approved Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) plan for the 2021-2022 school year. Eligible families will begin to receive these P-EBT benefits in mid-to-late June.

P-EBT is designed to help eligible families cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches their children would have been eligible to receive for free or at a reduced price through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in child care or school settings that closed temporarily or permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School children who received free or reduced-price school meals are eligible for these 2021-2022 school year benefits if their school was closed or had reduced hours for a period of at least five consecutive days due to COVID-19 and if the student was absent from the classroom due to COVID-19.

Families who have previously received and activated P-EBT cards should keep them and ensure that the child’s school has a current mailing address and the correct birthdate for any school-aged children. Parents who have a standard EBT card for other benefits such as SNAP and cash assistance and have children who were deemed eligible for P-EBT will have their P-EBT benefits loaded to their EBT card, if possible. Families can use their P-EBT benefits to purchase almost any unprepared food item in participating grocery stores or food markets that accept EBT, and the program follows the same rules as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for eligible purchases.

Those who do not still have their P-EBT cards will be able to get a replacement through an automated replacement card process that will be available once issuances begin. More information on this process will be available soon.

Families of students who entered kindergarten in Fall 2021 or entered a different school district for the 2021-2022 school year can fill out an application for free or reduced-price school meals by visiting your school district’s website or by applying through COMPASS.

The P-EBT Hotline is available to for families who need further assistance or to report an issue at 484-363-2137. More information on P-EBT can be found here.

See the press release here.