As I write this, the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 has come and gone but there now appears to be a resurgence here in Pennsylvania. The vaccine is being distributed haphazardly at this point but should become available to all of us within a few months. We cannot get back to some sort of normal unless and until the vast majority of us get the vaccine. GET THE VACCINE WHEN YOU CAN, NOT ONLY FOR YOURSELF, BUT FOR ALL OF US!! If you were fortunate enough to get the vaccine already, you should still follow social distancing protocols, including wearing a mask, for the immediate future.
Governor Wolf has issued the following, to become effective Sunday, April 4th, 2021:
Restaurants may resume bar service; alcohol service allowed without food purchase. (Lifted; curfew for removing alcoholic drinks from tables.)
Indoor dining capacity raised to 75% for restaurants that are currently self-certified. (Restaurants who do not self-certify may raise capacity to 50%.) Mask-wearing, social distancing including 6-feet between diners still apply.
Business capacity increased to 75% max occupancy. Includes personal services facilities, salons, barbershops, gyms and entertainment facilities including casinos, theatres and malls.
Indoor events raised to 25% max occupancy. Outdoor events raised to 50% max occupancy. Maximum occupancy is permitted only if attendees and workers are able to comply with the 6-foot physical distancing requirement. Regardless of venue size.
More information can be found at www.ccpa.net/covid19.
The most recent restaurant, bar and indoor gathering guidelines from the state includes a Self-Certification option which would allow an increase in customers. The Self-Certification form can be found online at https://www.pa.gov/covid/business-unites/certify-my-restaurant/
On November 25, 2020, the Governor signed into law Act 118 of 2020 amending the Small Games of Chance law. “Section 502. Distribution of Proceeds.” of Act 118 states that 100% of Small Games of Chance proceeds can be used for operating expenses, beginning immediately with passage of the Act, up through one year after the termination date of the Governor’s emergency proclamation. Let’s say the Governor ends the emergency on June 1, 2021. Posts can use 100% of their SGOC proceeds for operating expenses from now until June 1, 2022.
Mission Blue Post Assistance Program Grants of up to $1,000 are still available from National. The grant may be used for Post mortgage, rent, insurance premiums and/or utilities; they cannot be used for bar, cantina or restaurant expenses. There is a list of qualifying criteria that must be met to apply for the grant. Contact Department if you are interested in applying and we can walk you through the process.
The Department of Pennsylvania High School Oratorical Contest for 2021 took place on March 13, 2021. However, due to the pandemic, we were not able to have our Department Finals at the Forum Auditorium in Harrisburg. Instead, we had to move the contest to Middletown Post 594. Attendance at the contest was by invitation only and the event was live-streamed on YouTube. Department awards are $7,500 for first place to Central Section student Noah Safford (Post 559, 19th District), $5,000 for second place to Western Section student Liam Dicken (Post 569, 20th District) and $4,000 for third place to Eastern Section student Bailey Tietz (Post 367, 14th District). The National Oratorical Contest in Indianapolis, Indiana has been canceled this year but National is awarding a $5,000.00 scholarship to all Department first-place winners. I want to express my thanks to all students, parents, teachers and Legion family members who made this contest possible, especially under these very trying circumstances.
Our Keystone Boys State (KBS) program will be held similarly to what was done last summer. The KBS website will be updated and the application will be available there by the time you read this. A link to the KBS website can be found on the Department website. There will be no cost to young men who sign up for the program and they will not have to get Post sponsorship.
We plan to have the National Commander, Bill Oxford, visit us on March 31, 2021 for just a single day. Obviously, there will be no dinners in each Section to honor him as in the past. Basically, he will be at Headquarters for a tour and Zoom meetings with State dignitaries. He will arrive at the Harrisburg Hilton on the evening of March 30 and will return to Indianapolis on April 1st after spending the night at the Hilton.
Our Spring Department Executive Committee meeting is planned to be held in person at the Red Lion Harrisburg Hotel on April 16 and 17, 2021. This will be by invitation only for our DEC members and Committee chairs required to give reports. The hotel has assured us that they will be able to provide social distancing, that the restaurant and bar will be open for us and that lodging will be clean and sanitary.
As I have stated before, I recommend that all veterans in PA go to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) website at www.dmva.pa.gov , click on the Veterans Registry and sign up. The Registry allows veterans, family members and people who work with veterans to connect with DMVA to request information related to the valuable state benefits, programs and services offered. By connecting with DMVA, registrants can also opt-in to receive ongoing communications such as the weekly DMVA DIGEST, breaking news and other updates.
Also, regarding the DMVA, over the past several years, I have observed the relationship between the member organizations on the PA War Veterans Council and the State Veterans Commission and the DMVA. There have been disagreements among the parties as to how much funding should be available and how it should be spent but, in the end, I think the relationship is good and serves the best interests of our veteran community here in Pennsylvania. I look forward to a long and fruitful cooperation between the veterans’ service organizations and the DMVA!
I am available to attend celebrations at your Posts, Section and District meetings and other events if you give me plenty of notice and guarantee that you will follow social distancing guidelines. My daughter moved in with us and gave birth to a bouncing baby girl at the end of August, so we don’t want to take anything bad back home to them after a field trip!
Finally, I want all of you to offer your congratulations to our new Department Adjutant, James R. “Woody” Hogan. Woody stepped up to temporarily fill the Department Adjutant position when Kit left and he has been doing a wonderful job. Since he became Department Adjutant, his old job of Assistant Department Adjutant opened up. One of the applicants for Department Adjutant was Troy Michaels, a 20-year Legionnaire from York, who had his eye on becoming 22nd District Commander this year. I offered him the Assistant Adjutant job and he accepted. So, let’s all welcome Troy. I expect these two great Legionnaires will work together to make this Department all that it can be!
Until next time, BE SAFE, BE STRONG, BE PROUD!