In This Update:
Governor Signs Martin Bill to Protect Young Victims of Sexual Assault
Young victims of sexual assault face unimaginable psychological pain that could be compounded by the possibility of being forced to regularly interact with the person who sexually assaulted or raped them at school. A bill I authored to protect these vulnerable young people was signed into law this week.
The new law will require schools to remove any student convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault against another student enrolled at the same school. A school district would be required to expel, transfer or reassign the offender to another school or educational program.
I introduced this proposal after speaking with the family of a young person who was raped by a classmate who was adjudicated delinquent for committing the crime, but later returned to the same school. The new law would prevent this sort of situation from occurring in the future.
New Law Protects Injured Volunteer Fire, EMS Personnel
Critical members of volunteer fire companies, ambulance corps and rescue squads provide an incredible service to our communities by protecting our lives and property. A bill I introduced with my colleague Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill was signed into law this week to ensure members of these organizations who are injured in the line of duty will qualify for worker’s compensation coverage.
Under the new law, volunteers would be insured through the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF). The legislation would apply to 1,550 volunteer fire companies and 92 ambulance organizations that are insured by SWIF.
More details about our bill are available here.
New Laws Support First Responders, Veterans, and More
Several critical measures approved by the Senate recently were signed into law over the past two weeks, including bills to support Pennsylvania’s first responders, veterans and military families, and much more.
The new laws include:
Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Open Now
Pennsylvanians who have a heating emergency or are struggling to pay utility bills can apply now for assistance through the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program is open to households earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty rate.
LIHEAP provides grants to help low-income families pay heating bills during the coldest months of the year. Crisis grants are also available for heating emergencies such as a broken furnace, utility termination or fuel shortage. Eligibility and grant amounts are based on income and the number of people living in a household.
Applications for LIHEAP can be completed online on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Access to Social Services (COMPASS) website at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Open Enrollment in PA Health Exchange is Available Through January 15
The open enrollment period for Pennsylvania’s new state-based health insurance exchange is open now through January 15. The state exchange – also known as Pennie – was created by lawmakers last year to transition Pennsylvania away from the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, and allow the state to take local control of operations and customer service to reduce costs to consumers.
The Pennie system is designed to help Pennsylvanians shop for quality health insurance and access financial assistance that may be available to them. State residents can learn more and enroll at Pennie.com.
According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, insurers offering coverage through the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange will provide plans in 2021 with a statewide average decrease of 3.3 percent for individual market plans.
New Scams Target Pandemic EBT Benefits, Unemployment Compensation
The departments of Human Services and Labor & Industry are warning Pennsylvanians to be vigilant of new scams targeting Pandemic EBT benefits and Unemployment Compensation payments. Both scams involve individuals receiving unsolicited phone calls asking for personal information such as their Social Security number or account passwords. Neither department will ever contact individuals to request this kind of personal information.
If you have questions about whether a call, text or letter regarding EBT benefits is legitimate, contact the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930. More information on how to identify and report fraud related to Unemployment Compensation benefits is available here.
Honoring Our Nation’s Heroes on Veterans Day
Communities throughout the country will join together next week on November 11 to celebrate Veterans Day in honor of the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served our nation in the military.
Our nation has paid a dear price to protect freedom and make the world a safer place, and we must never forget the individual and collective sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have endured to protect the principles and values that make America the greatest country in the world.