$175M available soon to Pa. renters, mortgage holders struggling with payments

By: Renatta Signorini

Applications will be accepted starting Monday for $175 million in assistance for Pennsylvania mortgage holders and renters who are struggling to make payments during the coronavirus pandemic as an end to a moratorium on evictions looms.

Residents who have lost a job or saw at least a 30% decrease in their pay as a result of the pandemic are eligible if they meet income guidelines, said Robin Wiessmann, director and CEO of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority.

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‘Clear as mud’: How Pa.’s chaotic coronavirus waiver program hurt small businesses

By: Charlotte Keith and Angela Couloumbis

HARRISBURG — On a Saturday in March, after Gov. Tom Wolf urged nonessential businesses to close, Cameron Peters turned off the lights in her flower shop on Phoenixville’s main street, pulled the candy-pink door closed, and started sobbing.

She was unsure when, or if, she would be able to come back. The picturesque downtown, normally bustling with activity, was eerily quiet.

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Allegheny County leads state in mail-in balloting; more expected in November

By: Deb Erdley

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of long lines at sharply reduced polling places, Allegheny County voters led the state in embracing Pennsylvania’s new mail-in voting option.

A new report by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found nearly one in three Allegheny County voters requested a mail-in ballot for the June 2 primary. The county led the state with 31.2% of voters requesting mail-in ballots. Montgomery, Luzerne and Chester counties were close at 27.1%, 25.2% and 24.9%, respectively.

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Pa. Capitol to reopen to the public on June 22

By: Jan Murphy

The “no visitors” signs at the state Capitol doors will soon be removed and life at the Capitol can get somewhat back to normal.

The state Department of General Services announced on Wednesday that the Capitol will be reopen to the public with modified prevention protocols, starting on Monday. Entrances to the Main Capitol, the East Wing and North Office Building will all be accessible to the public.

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State Attorneys General and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices (UDAP): What to expect in the wake of COVID-19

Almost every state has its own deceptive and unfair trade practices law (UDAP), enforced by that state’s attorney general (AG). No fraud need be involved. The enforcement is civil, not criminal, but the statutory civil fines can be steep. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ceded much of the enforcement to the states. In the wake of COVD-19, in addition to price-gouging, there will likely be many new enforcement actions against corporations who are alleged to have participated in unfair, deceptive or misleading acts that draw the attention of AGs. 

In some instances, these enforcement actions will involve multistate investigations in which sizeable numbers of attorneys general join together to investigate and possibly litigate. Some examples of areas that may face scrutiny include the following:

Health Care: Off-Label Drug Use

Off-label prescriptions, or the use of pharmaceutical drugs for an unapproved indication or in an unapproved dosage, dosage form or age group, is generally legal and frequently used by healthcare providers.

While in general there is nothing illegal in the off-label use of prescription drugs by doctors, marketing of pharmaceuticals or use of a drug for purposes outside of regulatory approvals is prohibited in most cases, and pharmaceutical companies have frequently been the subject of state AG investigations for doing so. As the race to find treatments for COVID-19 continues to accelerate, it is likely that representatives of some pharmaceutical companies will face scrutiny for promoting off-label use with hospitals and doctors.

Hotels and Leisure

Norwegian Cruise Lines is already being investigated under UDAP based on alleged communications from company employees to customers who prepaid for cruises, to the effect that the Norwegian Cruise Line ships had been sanitized, and so there was nothing to fear from COVID-19 in taking the planned cruise. The company allegedly had ample notice that its “sanitation” was insufficient to prevent the spread of the virus.

Advertising

Companies that host advertisements designed to sell products on their internet sites and take a fractional share of the sales revenue or profits garnered from the ads can be held responsible for misleading statements in the ads or misleading information about the charges to customers. This is true even in instances in which the seller/advertiser is located overseas and out of reach of a US enforcement action. Increased online sales suggest that these kinds of investigations are likely to increase. For example, with a huge surplus of used cars now on the market for the foreseeable future, AG investigations of false, misleading or deceptive advertising in online advertisements for used cars likely will increase, as well as investigations of misleading auto financing proposals – areas of traditional active UDAP enforcement.

Dentons’ State Attorney General practice is a full-service, nationwide practice to advise and assist clients when dealing with state AGs and their staff. If you have questions or an interest in more information on any of the items above and would like to discuss, please contact State AG practice co-chairs Thurbert Baker and Bill McCollum.

Related Information

Please also view Dentons’ recently published alert: “U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission Step-Up Enforcement of Product Misbranding and Efficacy Claims Related to COVID-19” for more insight on FDA and FTC actions related to COVID-19.

Pa. small business grant program to provide $225 million in relief aid to recover from COVID-19 losses

By: Jan Murphy

As Pennsylvania moves into the recovery era from the COVID-19 pandemic, some $225 million of the $2.6 billion in federal coronavirus relief money that the state received will be directed to help small businesses get back on their feet.

“Businesses will be able to use the grants to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and to help them in their transition to reopening,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in announcing the program during a televised news conference on Monday.

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Primary was practice game for Pittsburgh-area counties

By: Julian Routh

Elections officials in the counties surrounding Allegheny started to relax Thursday after months of preparing to administer an election amid COVID-19 and days of counting thousands of mail-in and absentee ballots.

But to some, Tuesday’s primary was the appetizer. November’s general election, headlined by a likely matchup between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, is the main course.

The officials are looking at ways to prepare for an even higher turnout and an even greater influx of mail-in and absentee ballot requests — their assessments beginning with a postmortem of what happened this past Tuesday and where their process was flawed.

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