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Scarnati: Senate approves COVID-19 emergency measures for local governments

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved emergency measures today to help local governments respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Senate Bill 841 would take a number of steps to ensure local governments can continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would:

– Allow local governments to provide greater flexibility on property tax deadlines.

– Permit local governments to conduct remote meetings.

– Give notaries emergency authorization to notarize documents remotely through the use of communications technology.

Under the bill, local governments would be authorized to extend deadlines for property tax discount rates to any date up until August 31. The legislation would also allow local governments to waive any fee or penalty for late payments of property taxes if paid in full by the end of the year. The provisions give local taxing bodies more flexibility to help local taxpayers who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Senate Bill 841 also extends the ability of notaries to conduct business remotely in order to meet the needs of local governments and individuals. A notary public would still be required to confirm an individual’s identity and reasonably identify records, and an audio/visual recording of the notarial act and all related interactions would be required.

The legislation would allow members of local governments to participate in meetings and conduct other business remotely during the governor’s disaster declaration.

Additional time would also be allowed for businesses to contribute to educational scholarship programs in order to earn tax credits.

In addition to providing emergency provisions for local governments, the bill also reauthorizes the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, which is responsible for collecting and analyzing data about the cost and quality of health care in the state and making recommendations to reduce the cost of care.

The panel would be responsible for preparing a report on the effect of the COVID-19 disaster emergency on healthcare facilities, including expenses and lost revenue during the crisis to determine additional financial assistance.

Senate Bill 841 has been sent to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.

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