PA Senate, House Moving Quickly On $912 Million COVID Relief Package
The state Senate and House are moving quickly to take final action on a $912 million– primarily federal funded– COVID relief package for businesses, individuals and school districts.
Senate Bill 109 (Pittman-R-Indiana) was passed by the Senate last week, and sent to the House, which has already reported the bill out of the House Appropriations Committee putting it in position for a final vote this week.
Approximately $767 million of this proposal would come from federal monies allocated to the state for pandemic relief.
The bill would create a new Rental And Utility Assistance Grant Program which defines “utility” as all home energy providers. The amount appropriated to this program is just short of $570 million.
The money would be allocated through block grants apportioned to counties, which would administer the program.
The state Department Human Services would develop the eligibility requirements and application process for the new program. Federal guidance previously issued directs the assistance to be used to mitigate financial hardship of lower income renters.
This bill was created to replace the less than successful Renters Assistance program created last year. The difficult application process and lack of landlord participation resulted in $175 million being unused at year end.
The leftover money was then transferred to the Department of Corrections budget.
The legislation also creates a $145 million Hospitality Industry Recovery Program allocated to all 67 counties to be administered by local economic development agencies. There is a cap of $50,000 on the grants awarded under this program.
The program is funded by a $145 million loan from the state Workers’ Compensation Security Fund that must be paid back by July 2029, hopefully with additional federal COVID relief funds.
The bill also allocates $200 million to the Department of Education– $150 million for non-public school aid and $47 million for career and technical centers, intermediate units and charter schools for the deaf and blind and approved private schools.
The bill will be taken up by the House this week.