SCRANTON, May 28, 2020 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today released the following statement regarding passage of a $25.789 billion interim state budget that accounts for five months of spending for most appropriations. The interim budget fully funds for 12 months all education-related line items, including higher education, at 100% of the current FY 2019-20 enacted levels.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to inflict damage in our personal lives and on our state’s economy, it was imperative that the legislature and the Governor work together for a responsible, interim solution that focuses on predictability and necessity”
“The interim 2020-21 spending plan rightly prioritizes education, workforce development and social services. This budget allocates level funding to basic education, early childhood education, special education and higher education through the next fiscal year. It is imperative that, as our schools plan for a safe return to in-person instruction in the Fall, that there is no uncertainty in their finances. This funding commitment protects our schools, our students and our taxpayers while also leaving open the possibility to increase funding when we return to finish a final ‘20-‘21 state budget later this year.”
“There are over 2 million Pennsylvanians who are now unemployed and investments in education, workforce development and job training are critically important to getting Pennsylvanians back to work safely.”
“It is estimated that the Commonwealth will fall $5 billion short of expected revenues this year. The bipartisan passage of this interim spending plan allows us to budget responsibly within our line of sight. It also affords the General Assembly an opportunity to reassess revenue estimates later this year and to monitor the very real prospect for additional federal aid for state, county, school district and municipal budget shortfalls.”
Blake also commented on the passage of legislation that allocates approximately $2.6 billion of federal CARES Act funds that must be spent on coronavirus-related costs and expenses. To-date, Pennsylvania has received approximately $3.9 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
“Since April, we have called for the release of CARES funds to create a grant program for our small business community; to fund our nursing homes and health care facilities; and to compensate counties for their own COVID-related expenses. The passage of Senate Bill 1108 moves out $2.6 billion in federal aid to relieve the tremendous pressure that many of our organizations, businesses and local governments have been feeling since mid-March. Important also is that the interim spending plan and the release of federal aid commits to making whole the state’s property tax relief fund which had lost nearly $300 million due to the closure of Pennsylvania’s casinos during the pandemic.”
“Finally, today’s legislation allocates $225 million for our recently announced Main Street Business Revitalization program that will provide grant funding to Pennsylvania small businesses with fewer than 25 employees. Our Main Street small businesses across the Commonwealth have struggled throughout the pandemic and this grant funding will give them an opportunity to get back on track and to heal some of the financial hardship inflicted on them during this public health crisis.”
Blake noted that the Main Street Business Revitalization program will be run through US Treasury designated Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), such as MetroAction in Lackawanna County, and it will provide grants of up to $100,000 to compensate small business owners for the adverse financial consequences of COVID-19. Each CDFI will create a single application available for eligible main street businesses and eligible historically disadvantaged businesses to apply for grants; and funds must be spent by November 30, 2020.
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