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PA CARES 21 Allocates $300 Million for Restaurants and Bars 

WEST CHESTER (December 4, 2020) – State Senator-Elect Carolyn Comitta joined more than a dozen state senators in announcing a $4 billion pandemic relief plan to provide direct aid to workers, families, small businesses, the restaurant industry, and others that continue to struggle in the face of the coronavirus resurgence.

The Pennsylvania Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act of 2021 (PA CARES 21) Plan would fund previously existing aid programs and establish new programs to help struggling Pennsylvanians and struggling areas of the commonwealth’s economy.

“There’s no denying that cases of the coronavirus are growing every day. Almost every day we’re setting records. What will tomorrow bring?” said Senator-elect Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester). “We need a bold, innovative plan to deliver support and assistance to Pennsylvania families and businesses. PA CARES 21 gives us more tools, more resources, and the flexibility to prepare for the future.”

Comitta noted that the plan allocates $800 million for business assistance, including $300 million for restaurants, bars, and caterers.

“Support for restaurants, taverns, and the hospitality industry has dried up, but they continue to deal with mitigation efforts, limited capacity, and the end of outdoor dining due to the colder weather. It would have been preferable to get this support in the budget, but we still have a responsibility to support them and their employees,” she said.

PA CARES 21 also provides vital support for schools and universities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, transportation, mental health services, childcare, unemployment assistance, housing support, and more.

It authorizes the commonwealth to issue $4 billion in emergency debt to (1) recapitalize programs previously funded with federal CARES funds pursuant to Acts 2A, 24 and 30 of 2020 and (2) establish new programs that provide targeted assistance to struggling Pennsylvanians and struggling sectors of the Pennsylvania economy. The plan does not rely on or call for tax increases.

Where appropriate, this proposal utilizes the programs created under Act 24 of 2020 to drive out the funds. If proposed funding does not fit into an existing program (e.g., utility assistance), a new program will be created. Additionally, the caucus supports fixing programs created by Act 24 (e.g., PHFA’s rental assistance program) as requested by stakeholders to maximize program effectiveness.

PA CARES 21 proposes allocating the funds to the following priorities:

  • $800 million in business assistance
  • $1 billion in UC benefits
  • $594 million in local government assistance
  • $135 million in hazard pay
  • $318 million in DHS programs
  • $250 million in basic education
  • $136 million in higher education
  • $100 million to hospitals
  • $100 million to utility assistance
  • $75 million in child care
  • $100 million in housing assistance
  • $50 million in food security
  • $25 million in pre-k education
  • $25 million for PPE and vaccines
  • $15 million for mental health funding
  • $180 million in transportation funding

Comitta joined state Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr., Senate Democratic Appropriations Chairman Vincent Hughes, Senator Maria Collett, Senator Katie Muth, Senator Tina Tartaglione, Senator Judy Schwank, Senator Art Haywood, Senator Sharif Street, Senator Steve Santarsiero, Senator Lindsey Williams, Senator Tim Kearney, and Senator-elect Nikil Saval in announcing the plan.

“Folks have not seen pandemic-specific relief from the state or federal government since last spring, yet thousands remain unemployed, underemployed and struggle with their housing and utility bills. This cannot go on any longer,” said Costa. “There are immediate needs in communities across this state that must be addressed immediately. We are in the middle of another surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths. We need help to recover, personally and financially; the state must play an active role in that recovery and that is what our plan today does.”

“Thousands of Pennsylvanians have been hurt by this pandemic and have received some assistance to get through this generational crisis — however it is time to do more in that space to get people the help they need,” Hughes said. “Rather than use federal dollars to help people in their time of need, we used the money to plug budget holes, telling people we had to keep state operations running to prevent further crisis. Having averted that crisis, it is now our job to step up and help our communities. They cannot wait any longer for help and the legislature must act now.”

“There is no overstating the economic toll COVID has taken and continues to take on families and businesses across the Commonwealth,” said Collett “As a former infection control nurse, I promise you that the sacrifices you’ve made have saved lives and prevented long-term health complications associated with this dangerous virus for so many. But I also know these words offer little comfort when you are struggling to pay the mortgage, or juggle your job and the constant changes to your kids’ schooling, or keep your business afloat. Government is supposed to work for you and that is exactly what our PACARES 21 proposal does. It identifies ways to get money into the hands of those who need it most, including those about to lose their COVID unemployment benefits, frontline workers, child care centers, and our main street businesses, especially local restaurants and bars, in the quickest, most efficient way possible. Your families and your businesses can’t afford to wait any longer for relief. So until our communities are safe and our economy is running at full steam again, it is critical that we extend this lifeline and do so now.”

“As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Pennsylvania continues to climb, it is the General Assembly’s duty and obligation to provide relief to all those affected – unemployed folks, front-line workers, small businesses, and especially hospitals that serve high-Medicaid populations as well as our institutions of higher education,” said Tartaglione. “These are the pillars of society that serve us in our times of greatest need and will lead our recovery.”

“We are entering a stage of the pandemic that is, by virtually every measure, worse than the first stage, laying bare and exacerbating inequalities in all our health systems, devastating essential workers, and disproportionately harming Black and brown people,” said Saval. “We need to keep people in their homes, fight hunger and food insecurity, and give our children every tool they need to learn. We need this stimulus because our communities desperately need support and relief.”

For more information on PA CARES 21, visit www.PASenate.com/cares.

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