Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Pennsylvania Team Develops Domestic Violence Awareness Toolkit

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) and the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) have teamed up to create a domestic violence awareness toolkit to educate family support workers and Family Supports staff on how domestic violence may impact the clients and families they serve while screening for intimate partner violence. The toolkit also aims to provide domestic violence programs with a deeper understanding of the OCDEL network and the services their programs provide within all communities across the Commonwealth.

Research shows that exposure to violence, especially during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood can significantly increase the likelihood of serious physical, emotional, and behavioral health problems. Children who live with domestic violence are also at increased risk to become direct victims of child abuse and are at an increased risk of becoming perpetrators themselves. Children who have been exposed to domestic violence often learn destructive lessons about the use of violence and power in relationships. They may also believe that it is acceptable to exert control or relieve stress by using violence, or that violence is in some way linked to expressions of intimacy and affection. Children also associate experienced abusive tactics with their view of adulthood, and how adults behave.

Trauma can be exacerbated by environmental factors and relational behaviors. During COVID-19, health professionals are urging the public to use wear face masks to help mitigate the spread of the virus. A face mask can activate a fear response, though, according to the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, & Mental Health.

The National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health (NCDVTMH) offers a tip sheet about face mask requirements using an accessible, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed approach, which can help in interactions with parents, caregivers, and children.

Partnerships between PCADV and OCEL’s programs are fundamental to preventing, and appropriately intervening in, domestic violence. Collaborating at the local level is key to building capacity to fully support survivors. Cross education allows staff from both systems an opportunity to connect and understand the best ways to develop protocols, make warm referrals, and engage in professional development.

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, both OCDEL and PCADV wanted to support survivors of domestic violence. Both organizations realize that communities are stronger together and coordinated agency collaboration to make resources widely available to better support survivors is a step closer to ending domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month serves as a reminder that domestic violence isn’t a private matter. It affects the safety and well-being of whole families and communities and can quickly turn lethal. In 2019, 112 women, men, and children lost their lives from domestic violence. Additional statistics about domestic violence fatalities can be found in PCADV’s 2019 Fatality Report.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, text “LOVEIS” to 22522, or chat online: If you are in immediate danger, contact 911.

Provider Relief Fund Phase 3 Final Days to Apply!

HHS is distributing up to $20 billion to healthcare providers under a Phase 3 General Distribution through the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).  Applications will be considered regardless of whether an organization was previously eligible for, applied for, received, accepted, or rejected prior PRF payments. For this new phase, funding will be allocated to providers based on assessed financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by COVID-19.

Providers have until Friday, November 6, 2020 to initiate their application for Phase 3 General Distribution funding.

Apply here.

HHS is also hosting an informational webcast on Monday, November 2 at 3 p.m. EDT for providers to learn more about eligibility, the application process, and the payment methodology.

To learn more about this opportunity:

Read through the Provider Relief Fund Frequently Asked Questions

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Waives $27.7 Million in 2021 Licensing Fees for Businesses Most Impacted by COVID-19

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) today approved, by a vote of 2-1, the forgiveness of an estimated $27.7 million in license fees in 2021 for retail licensees most impacted by the pandemic, including holders of restaurant, retail dispenser, club, catering club, and hotel licenses.

“Following the Governor’s request last week to waive license fees and provide some relief to struggling businesses, the PLCB did its due diligence in evaluating our authority to waive fees authorized by various state laws, as well as the fiscal impact of doing so,” said Board Chairman Tim Holden. “We believe it’s the right thing to do in support of our restaurants, bars, and gathering places, so we’re glad next year to ease the financial burden to some extent for these local businesses.”

License and permit fees being waived for these retail licensees next year include the following, which vary from $30 to $700 per fee: filing fee, license fee, renewal fee, validation fee, renewal/validation surcharge, amusement permit fee, Sunday sales permit fee, and extended hours food license fee. Safekeeping extension fees, which start at $5,000 or $10,000 per year depending on the county where a license is located and allow a license to preserve an inactive license beyond two years, will also be waived in 2021. While these license fees will be waived through 2021, licensees will still be required to timely file validation and renewal applications to keep licensees current and to avoid late-filing fees.

“I absolutely support efforts to provide relief to our bars and restaurants, but I don’t believe the PLCB has the authority to waive statutorily established fees,” said Board Member Mike Negra, explaining his dissenting vote. “This fee waiver is the equivalent of the PLCB legislating, rather than administering current law, and legislating is the role of the Pennsylvania Senate, House and Governor.”

Based on permit and fee collections in FY 2019-20, licensees may save an estimated $27.7 million in license and permit fees associated with renewals and validations, while the PLCB’s operating income will decrease about $23.8 million, split over two fiscal years. The difference between the licensee savings and the operating income decrease for the PLCB is about $4 million in fees paid by licensees but returned by the PLCB to local municipalities hosting those licensees.

In the interest of fairness and in light of the fact that less than 1,000 licensees have not renewed/validated their licenses in 2020 as compared to about 16,000 that have done so and paid the associated fees, the PLCB will require all licensees to file all documents and pay all fees necessary to bring their license up to date for 2020 by Dec. 31, 2020. Additionally, licensees not actively using their licenses must put their licenses in safekeeping by Dec. 1, 2020 (there are no fees associated with putting a license in safekeeping), but licenses already in safekeeping don’t need to extend their safekeeping periods.

License fees that will continue to be collected in 2021 include, for example, those associated with wine expanded permit applications and renewals, direct wine shipper licenses, change of ownership and/or location of a license, application fees for new licenses, fees associated with a licensee’s change of officers/managers and extension of licensed premises. Manufacturers, beer distributors and transporters for hire – businesses less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, will be required to pay license fees in 2021.

Licensees are encouraged to review the PLCB’s revised Advisory Notice 27 for details on the fee waivers.

As a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impact on licensees, the PLCB, beginning last March, established certain waivers and fee deferrals that continue today.  Not only are safekeeping requirements waived for licensees no longer able to use their liquor license, but late-filing fees were waived and licensing fees continue to be deferred. Further, the PLCB continues to expedite applications for temporary extensions of license premises to include outside service areas.

The PLCB regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in Pennsylvania, operates 600 wine and spirits stores statewide, and licenses 20,000 alcohol producers, retailers, and handlers. The PLCB also works to reduce and prevent dangerous and underage drinking through partnerships with schools, community groups, and licensees. Taxes and store profits – totaling nearly $17.9 billion since the agency’s inception – are returned to Pennsylvania’s General Fund, which finances Pennsylvania’s schools, health and human services programs, law enforcement, and public safety initiatives, among other important public services. The PLCB also provides financial support for the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, other state agencies, and local municipalities across the state. For more information about the PLCB, visit

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Warns Pennsylvanians of Potential Scam Involving Pandemic EBT Benefits 

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is warning of a possible scam concerning Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits and reminding Pennsylvanians to be skeptical of unsolicited or random calls or text messages about public-assistance programs – especially when the calls or text messages solicit personal information, such as Social Security numbers.

“We are all living through difficult times, and unfortunately, there are people who will try to take advantage of others who may need help meeting essential needs. Be mindful, stay aware, and if you think something looks off, it probably is,” DHS Secretary Teresa Miller said.

DHS is investigating a report of individuals receiving calls with pre-recorded messages advising them to expedite their P-EBT benefits issuance by providing their Social Security number and case record number. In the message, the speaker claims to be from a County Assistance Office (CAO).

DHS and other government agencies do not ask for information about P-EBT, SNAP or any other public-assistance programs via unsolicited or random calls or texts, and Pennsylvanians should not reply to such a call or text or share any personal information if they are contacted in this way. If you or anyone you work with receive unsolicited or random calls or text messages telling you that you qualify for assistance and then asking for personal information, it is most likely a scam. Do not respond. Delete the message so you do not get caught in an identity theft scam.

Pennsylvanians who have questions about whether a call, text, letter, or other communication is legitimate should contact DHS’ Office of Income Maintenance. Clients in Philadelphia should call the Philadelphia Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226. Clients in all other counties can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930.

The federal government authorized P-EBT in the spring to allow states to assist families with school-age children who qualified for free-and-reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program – and who lost their easy access to breakfast and lunch at school as a result of the school closures related to COVID-19 earlier this year.

DHS began distributing P-EBT benefits to Pennsylvania families in late May. To date, more than $360 million has been distributed to about 680,000 households to help families feed nearly 1 million children.  Families received about $370 per child.

DHS administered this program in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and schools across the commonwealth. The program was recently reauthorized by the federal government for the 2020-2021 school year. Pennsylvania and other states are currently awaiting guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture to begin the program for the current school year.

Additional information about Pennsylvania’s P-EBT can be found here.

If Pennsylvanians need help purchasing or affording food for themselves and their families, help may also be available through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP helps nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians by providing assistance each month for groceries, helping households purchase enough food to avoid going hungry. SNAP is our country’s most important and most impactful anti-hunger program. For every meal provided by a Feeding Pennsylvania food bank, SNAP provides nine. While SNAP is intended to be a supplemental program, during a pandemic and historic unemployment, resources are strained, particularly for our lowest income Pennsylvanians.

Applications for the SNAP and other public assistance programs can be submitted online at All Pennsylvanians experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic, a lost job, or a change in income are strongly encouraged to apply and see if they qualify for assistance with food, health care, and other essential needs.

For more information about food assistance resources for people around Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic insecurity, visit the Department of Agriculture’s food security guide.

Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration: Ag Surplus Program Has Saved 4 Million Pounds of Farm Fresh Food from Waste, Distributed through PA Food Banks

At Warrington Farms in Dillsburg, PA, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding commended Pennsylvania’s farmers who take part in the Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System for their contributions of more than 4 million pounds of food to date in 2020 to Pennsylvania’s charitable food system amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“2020 has been a year of firsts for many, including Pennsylvania’s farmers. But what’s been unwavering is their commitment to community,” said Redding. “Despite their own unknowns, Pennsylvania farmers commit the fruits of their labor to those whose uncertainty lies around the dinner table.”

Warrington Farms is one of 30 Pennsylvania farms currently under contract with Feeding Pennsylvania for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act-funded Pennsylvania Agricultural Surplus System (PASS), which acquires surplus agricultural products from Pennsylvania producers to be funneled through the charitable food system to families in need. Feeding Pennsylvania holds the state contract to administer this traditionally state-funded program, which has been enhanced with $10 million in CARES funding to address food security in the commonwealth as Pennsylvania endures the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the CARES Act funding, Feeding Pennsylvania has acquired more than 2.4 million pounds of food from Pennsylvania farmers to date in 2020, and expects to acquire another 3 million pounds before the end of the year.

“Farmers and processors are essential to the work of our food banks and their local partner agencies,” said Jane Clements-Smith, executive director of Feeding Pennsylvania.  “Thanks to their participation in the PASS program, we are able to provide fresh and nutritious Pennsylvania ag products to families facing hunger, while also reducing food waste and supporting Pennsylvania’s agriculture economy. It is truly a win-win.”

PASS reduces agricultural waste by connecting the agriculture industry with the charitable food system in all 67 Pennsylvania counties. The program was originally enacted into law in 2010 and first funded in 2015 by Governor Tom Wolf at $1 million annually. In 2017-18, the program funding was increased to $1.5 million annually.

From 2015-2019, the program sourced more than 11.3 million pounds of food that would have gone to waste and distributed it through Pennsylvania’s charitable food system. In this year alone, through September 2020, more than 1.6 million pounds of food were moved from farmers to families in need with state dollars. This is in addition to the 2.4 million pounds of product that have been secured to date using CARES funds. In total for 2020, the 4 million pounds of local product have been distributed to all 67 counties through the 13 partners that are members of the Feeding Pennsylvania and Hunger-Free Pennsylvania networks of food banks.

Thanks to state PASS dollars, over the past five years the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, a Feeding Pennsylvania partner, has been able to source more than 300 animals from 4-H and FFA youth livestock auctions at agricultural fairs in central Pennsylvania to be processed by Warrington Farms.

How Are Hospitals Investing in Community Development?

The new report Exploring Hospital Investments in Community Development provides the first in-depth, national analysis of nonprofit hospitals’ reported spending on community building activities, examining how this spending varies by geography and hospital characteristics. The report also includes a qualitative review of related activities undertaken by hospitals in Third District states (Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey), highlighting areas of potential alignment with the community development field.

Social determinants of health — such as economic security, housing conditions, and neighborhood context — are increasingly recognized as having an even greater impact on health and well-being than clinical care. Although many hospitals and health-care systems are exploring opportunities to address these nonmedical determinants, before now, little was known about how much hospitals typically invest in community development–related activities or what types of partnerships and initiatives they pursue.

Exploring Hospital Investments in Community Development sheds new light on this topic by examining nonprofit hospitals’ spending on efforts to address the social and economic needs of patients and communities. The report finds that, in aggregate, nonprofit hospitals reported spending an average of $474 million on community building each year during the study period. This funding was primarily allocated toward workforce development, community services, and community health improvement advocacy efforts. Additionally, a qualitative review of hospitals’ reported activities identifies examples of interventions related to housing, economic development, food access, and more.

Read the full report: Exploring Hospital Investments in Community Development.

See the Data Appendix for hospital spending breakouts for states, metropolitan areas, and nonmetropolitan portions of states.

Friendly Reminder: Help WalkWorks Expand Its Network of Walking Routes

If you have not already submitted your application and are interested in joining the network of WalkWorks walking routes or know of anyone who might be interested, this is a friendly reminder that applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on November 13, 2020. To learn more about WalkWorks, check out their website. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact them at

Walking may just be the pandemic panacea
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed our lives, impacting our physical, mental and social wellbeing. While we have adopted measures to keep each other safe, such as social distancing and wearing a mask, one thing has remained consistent, we can walk!

It has been a few years since the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities was issued, though its goal is at least as vital as it was when issued: to increase walking by working together to increase access to safe and convenient places to walk and to create a culture that supports walking for all Americans. Further, the number one priority of the Pennsylvania State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) 2015-20 is obesity, physical inactivity and nutrition.

That is why WalkWorks – a collaboration of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh, which aims to increase opportunities for physical activity through safe, fun, fact-filled walking routes in communities across Pennsylvania – is inviting organizations interested in improving the health status of the residents of their communities to express interest in joining its network of 100 walking routes by completing a brief application. Though we are living in an environment that presents its challenges, it will always be important to take care of yourself and those around you. With the right information, with which WalkWorks will assist, you can offer opportunities to help those in your area cope with stress in a healthy way that will make them, the people they care about and the overall community stronger. A limited number of partners will be added to our network during this cycle.


Selected organizations will be asked to:

  • Identify a walking route of one to two miles, including points of interest;
  • Engage community stakeholders to ensure the route will meet residents’ preferences;
  • Collaborate with community organizations to encourage walking and, when the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines permit, optimize sustainable walking group; and
  • Organize a kick-off celebration for the route.


Selected organizations will receive:

  • Technical assistance with route selection;
  • Guidance for physically distanced walks and, in the future, creating sustainable walking groups and identifying walking group leaders;
  • The opportunity to hear from partners and affiliates already engaged in the program;
  • Promotional materials and signage for the walking route(s); and
  • Network emails and invitations to webinars.


Successful candidates will demonstrate the needs of the communities they serve, as well as their ability to implement and sustain the program to ensure lasting impact. Examples of eligible candidates are non-profit organizations and municipal entities.

Click here to download the application

The application must be completed and returned to
no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 13, 2020.

Appalachian Commission Extends Strategic Plan Through 2021

ARC develops a Strategic Plan every five years with community input from listening sessions, workshops, and other information from the Region. ARC’s current Strategic Plan Envision Appalachia: Community Conversations for ARC’s Strategic Plan technically expired when fiscal year 2020 ended at the end of September. Plans were in the making for a new strategic planning process earlier this year. However, noting challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, the Commission unanimously voted to extend our strategic plan through fiscal year 2021.

Learn more about ARC’s investment priorities in relation to the extended strategic plan here.

The Present and Future of the Appalachian Gas Industry

Eighty-five percent of the growth in the United States natural gas production over the past decade has occurred in Northern to Central Appalachia. Additionally, petrochemical manufacturing, currently in development in the Region, is projected to attract between $16-20 billion in capital investment, and create more than 9,800 jobs directly and indirectly in Appalachia by 2025 noted The Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance which was released by the Department of Energy earlier this year.

This week, Dr. Dean Foreman, Chief Economist for the American Petroleum Institute and an expert on domestic and global natural gas markets, briefed ARC staff on the current economic state and future growth potential for the Region’s significant shale gas resources. He noted that U.S. natural gas supply/demand fundamentals remain solid, with prospective market opportunity hinging largely on electricity generation, and that developing regional pipeline capacity enables Appalachian gas to reach diverse markets, thereby increasing demand and prices. Moreover, Dr. Foreman noted that natural gas demand and supply have held up relatively well through the COVID-19 pandemic, and with low prices are expected to support record 38.9% penetration of natural gas into U.S. electricity generation in 2020.

What’s an Opportunity Zone and How Can it Help Your Community?

The ARC hosted a 90-minute Learning Session led by Regional experts about how Appalachian communities can use Opportunity Zones to strengthen local communities. There are 737 distressed communities in Appalachia designed as Opportunity Zones where new investments may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.

The session included remarks from Donna Gambrell of Appalachia Community Capital (ACC) and Alex Flachsbart of Opportunity Alabama (OA), who were recognized recently by Forbes Magazine as visionaries for Opportunity Zones. Using ARC support, ACC is working directly with nearly 20 communities to get them ready for successful Opportunity Zone-driven investments and Opportunity Alabama is developing an Opportunity Zones-based funding and business development ecosystem across Alabama’s 37 Appalachian counties.

The seminar, which included formal presentations and a fireside chat, identified these key steps for successfully implementing Opportunity Zone investment strategies:

  1. Organize a local ecosystem
  2. Identify community assets and needs
  3. Prioritize properties and projects
  4. Help facilitate connections

Learn more about Opportunity Zones in Appalachia and view the session here.