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Pennsylvania − December 4, 2020 − Aiming to stimulate Pennsylvania’s economy by providing direct aid to workers, families, small businesses and other vulnerable populations, the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus announced a bold, innovative $4 billion pandemic relief plan Friday morning.

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.

“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 Senate Democratic Leader Jay 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,” Sen. 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.” 

PA CARES 21 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. 

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.

The PA Senate Democrats propose allocating the funds to the following priorities (a detailed spreadsheet of the spending proposal is attached):

  • $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

“There is no overstating the economic toll COVID has taken and continues to take on families and businesses across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Maria Collett (D-Montgomery). “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 Senator Tina Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia). “These are the pillars of society that serve us in our times of greatest need and will lead our recovery.”

“There’s no denying that cases of the coronavirus are growing every day,” said Senator-elect Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester). “We need to do more than just say, ‘help is on the way.’ We need a bold, innovative plan to deliver it to Pennsylvanians. PA CARES 21 gives us more tools, more resources, and the flexibility to prepare for the future.”

“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 Senator-elect Nikil Saval (D-Philadelphia). “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.”

More information on the proposal and the caucus’ work in pandemic relief is available online at pasenate.com/pacares.

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