In this Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, left, talks with incoming House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, on the House floor before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are sworn-in at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. After only their first few weeks of work, tensions already are high among lawmakers meeting in-person at some state Capitols — not because of testy debates over taxes, guns or abortion, but because of a disregard for coronavirus precautions.
Sam Dunklau is the Capitol Bureau Chief for WITF. He previously covered Illinois state government for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, IL.
Since 2015, Sam has been floating around the radio airwaves as a reporter, disc jockey, and station manager. He grew up in the small midwestern town of Paw Paw, Illinois and is a proud graduate of Augustana College.
(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania will send out nearly $1 billion in relief to renters, homeowners, schools and businesses that are reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the $912 million is federal relief money. It will go to rental and mortgage assistance programs, colleges and universities, and small businesses like restaurants.
Each county may apply for a share of $569.8 million in new Rental and Utility Assistance grants. Tenants and homeowners, as well as landlords and mortgagers, can then qualify for a share of the money if they meet certain criteria.
A $145 million transfer from the Workers Compensation Security Fund to fund hospitality business grants of up to $50,000 each. Gov. Tom Wolf has been requesting this as pressure for more direct business assistance has mounted from organizations like the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association.
More than $150 million for private schools.
More than $47 million in other emergency educational grants, including: $14 million to community colleges, $5 million for Pa. State System of Higher Education schools, $20 million for “area career and technical schools,” and more than $8 million for “chartered schools for the education of the deaf or the blind and… private residential rehabilitative institutions.”
The House and Senate approved the proposal unanimously — after months of negotiations and calls to send more direct aid to those who are struggling to pay bills.
“Especially those with rental problems and/or landlords that are providing assistance and/or forgiveness for the last 10 months for their tenants,” Benninghoff said. “These have been tough times for everybody and we’ve all got to pitch in. That’s what we’re trying to do to the best of our ability.”
Wolf signed the legislation Friday, which sends the nearly $1 billion in funding out immediately.
“Business owners and employees have worked hard to protect their customers and their communities during this pandemic,” Wolf said in a statement. “But the pandemic has been hard on businesses, and they need and deserve our support.”
Supporters like state Rep. Seth Grove (R-York County), who also supported the move to object to Pa.’s electoral college vote despite no significant evidence of voter fraud, said that limit would give the legislature more say in how to deal with long-lasting emergencies.
In a statement, Senate Republican leadership rebuked arguments that limiting the governor’s emergency power would jeopardize federal emergency funding. The statement did not offer legal evidence to support that claim.
Opponents like state Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware County) call it an unfair “power grab.”
“Some forms of government want to seize power from other forms of government, but the people are being ignored,” Davidson said.
As part of WITF’s commitment to factual reporting, and because many who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 have said their goal was to overthrow the U.S. electoral system and government, we use language in this story that shows elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. To read more about this commitment, click here.