Office for Safe Schools Releases PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey (January 24, 2021)

On January 20, 2021, Office for Safe Schools Director Dr. Scott Kuren disseminated a PennLink to all LEAs titled PCCD Threat Assessment Needs Survey, informing recipients that Act 18 of 2019 amended the Public School Code of 1949 by adding Article XIII-E, Threat Assessment. Among its provisions, Article XIII-E requires all school entities in Pennsylvania to establish threat assessment teams and tasks the School Safety and Security Committee within the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to support school entities with this effort by developing model procedures and guidelines, training and information materials, and other resources.

To fulfill these responsibilities and support school entities in implementing these new requirements, PCCD is working with a selected training and technical assistance provider, Risk and Strategic Management (RSM) Corporation, to design and launch new resources, including an online training program and train-the-trainer curriculum. PCCD anticipates making these resources available to school entities (at no cost) beginning in early spring 2021.

To inform the design of this new comprehensive threat assessment training curriculum tailored for PA school entities, PCCD is asking school administrators, School Safety and Security Coordinators, and other personnel who will be involved in a school entity’s Threat Assessment Team(s) to complete a confidential Threat Assessment Needs Survey:

LEAs are asked to provide responses by Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

More information about PCCD’s threat assessment initiative, as well as model procedures and guidelines, guidance, training, and informational materials, can be found on PCCD’s website.

Wolf Names Two to Replace Dr. Levine at PDH (January 23, 2021)

On January 22, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced his intention to nominate Alison Beam to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health (PDH) and named Dr. Wendy Braund Interim Acting Physician General. Beam currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Wolf, coordinating initiatives and resources across Pennsylvania’s departments of Health, Human Services, Drug & Alcohol Programs, Aging and Insurance, as well as the Office of Advocacy and Reform. She has helped coordinate the administration’s COVID-19 pandemic response; the rollout of Pennie, Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace; the Reach Out PA campaign; and the Wolf Administration’s health care reform plan. Prior to transitioning to the Governor’s Office, Beam served as Chief of Staff to the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner. She previously served as Director of Public Policy and Associate Counsel for Independence Health Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Beam will assume the role of Acting Secretary effective January 23, 2021. The governor has also named Dr. Wendy Braund as Interim Acting Physician General, replacing Dr. Rachel Levine in that role. Dr. Braund, currently serves as the COVID-19 Response Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Previously, she was the Director of the Center for Public Health Practice, Associate Dean for Practice, and a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Prior to her time in academia, she served as the Wyoming State Health Officer and Public Health Division Administrator for the Wyoming Department of Health. Before working at the state level, Dr. Braund was employed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, first in the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and then at the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Health Professions. Dr. Braund will assume the role of Interim Acting Physician General effective January 23, 2021. For more info, click here.

PA to Provide $2.2B in Stimulus Funds to K-12 Schools (January 23, 2021)

Governor Tom Wolf is dedicating $2.2 billion in federal stimulus funds to K-12 school districts and charter schools affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to support food programs, technological improvements and other education services.

“All schools have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and I commend school communities for rising to the challenge to combat the toll it has taken,” said Gov. Wolf. “This extra funding is critical to help schools meet the unique needs of educating students at this time while keeping school buildings safe when students return to the classroom.”

The federal relief is provided by the bipartisan Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund passed by Congress in December.

“Additional, much needed support is on its way to Pennsylvania schools,” said Acting Secretary Noe Ortega. “These funds will provide critical assistance to school communities as they continue to navigate COVID-19.”

To promote equity, efficiency, transparency, and local flexibility, PDE will administer 100 percent of ESSER II funding through the Federal Title I, Part A formula which considers the number of low-income students served by school districts and charter schools. Each entity will receive an amount proportional to federal Title I, Part A funds received in the 2020 fiscal year under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

PDE has urged school entities to continue to prioritize equity and consider how investments can accelerate opportunities for vulnerable students and families, including those living in deep poverty, students with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness, and children in foster care.

School districts and charter schools may use ESSER funding for a wide range of activities, including food service; professional training; technology purchases; sanitization and cleaning supplies; summer and after-school programs; and mental health supports. A list of ESSER II fund allocations is available on PDE’s website. Funds must be used by September 2023. School districts and charter schools must apply to PDE to obtain their allocated funds. The application process will be posted on the PDE website.

Department of Human Services Provides Update on Latest Medicaid, SNAP Enrollment Data, Announces Recent Changes to SNAP Benefits and Eligibility (January 12, 2021)

On January 6, 2021, PA Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller reminded Pennsylvanians that safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid (MA) are available to individuals and families who are struggling to afford food or access health care. Secretary Miller also discussed recent SNAP changes that will help individuals and families amidst the continuing public health crisis and heightened unemployment.

Enrollment statewide for Medicaid has increased by 300,076 people since February 2020, for a total enrollment of 3,131,639 people in November 2020, which is a 10.6% increase.

In addition, Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for comprehensive health, vision, and dental coverage through CHIP regardless of their parents’ income. Children who are not income eligible for Medicaid are automatically referred to CHIP for coverage.

Enrollment for SNAP statewide has increased by 96,549 people since February 2020, for a total enrollment of about 1,834,008 in November 2020, which is a 5.6% increase.

SNAP helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians purchase fresh food and groceries, helping families with limited or strained resources be able to keep food on the table while meeting other bills and needs. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.  Congress has temporarily increased the SNAP maximum benefit allotment by 15% through the recently-signed federal government funding bill. This change affects every SNAP recipient in the commonwealth and is effective from January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021. More information, including the new SNAP maximum monthly allotment, can be viewed by clicking here.