HARRISBURG – The Senate on Wednesday approved a comprehensive $912 million relief measure to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R-34).
“I have heard from hundreds of constituents about the devasting effects of the pandemic on their families and our communities,” Senator Corman said. “This financial assistance will provide many of our friends and neighbors with a crucial lifeline that could save homes, family businesses and jobs. It’s important that we look to measures to counter the effects of the pandemic across the Commonwealth.”
Senate Bill 109 transfers $145 million in funds from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to the hospitality industry. Under the Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, grants would be provided in increments of $5,000 up to $50,000 to those in the restaurant industry based on the following priorities to recipients who:
- Have not already received a loan or grant from the Federal Government or Commonwealth.
- Were subject to closure by the Governor’s disaster emergency and extensions.
- Can demonstrate a revenue reduction of at least 50% for the affected time period.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December of 2019 the hospitality industry employed 582,700 people. For comparison, the employment number was down 171,500 people by December of 2020 to only 411,200 employed. In December alone, Pennsylvania saw a drop of 36,900 employees in this industry.
“While we all have been trying to support our local employers by shopping and eating locally, restaurants, bars and taverns continue to struggle to survive under the mitigation standards that limit their in-person services,” Senator Corman said. “Using money that is available will help these employers during these dire times.”
The bill also allocates $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance and $197 million for education programs. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Federal funding for rental and utility assistance would be proportionally distributed to counties based on their population. The conditions set under Senate Bill 109 for the program are to ensure the funding is used prudently and responsibly with the intention of providing a financial safety net for tenants and landlords. Funding for the Rental and Utility Assistance program would be provided by federal coronavirus stimulus money as part of House Resolution 133, Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021.
“Many of our neighbors who once were secure in their employment and finances now find themselves facing joblessness and housing instability,” Senator Corman said. “This package makes resources available to local communities in order to provide assistance for those struggling to pay for their housing and utilities.”
The $197 million for education, which is also supported by federal funding, would be used to create a $150 million competitive grant program under the Department of Education to assist non-public schools that have been impacted by the pandemic and have not received government assistance.
The remaining $47 million would provide: $17.5 million for Career and Technical Centers; $17.5 million for Intermediate Units; $7.075 million for charter schools for the deaf and blind and approved private schools; and, $5 million for the State System of Higher Education to support its restructuring initiative.