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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced a $1.7 billion spending plan Wednesday funded by remaining American Rescue Plan dollars.
Gov. Wolf, alongside his cabinet members and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, said it’s time for the Republican-majority General Assembly to use remaining funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“Additional federal aid that could actually help Pennsylvanians thrive, and that money is sitting around right now. About $2.2 billion of it right now, not helping anyone,” said Gov. Wolf.
The General Assembly has set some of the relief aside into a “rainy-day fund.” Republicans say it’s important to be fiscally responsible and save the relief for future impacts of COVID-19, given the unpredictability of the virus.
Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) and House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) issued a joint statement after Wolf’s announcement that reads in part:
“The proposals by the governor and Democratic leaders were developed in a fiscal fantasy land where concern for future fiscal years apparently doesn’t exist. Of course, this can be expected from a lame duck governor in his final year.”
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) disagrees and is done waiting for a “rainy day.”
“The ARPA dollars are waiting to be spent and they were designed to be spent like this. I’m fed up with hearing that we need to save them for a ‘rainy day,’” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa. “Visit any hospital, talk to a small business owner, hear from a working mother who can’t find child care and now can’t work. They’ll all tell you that it’s raining now. It’s time to spend the money we have,” Costa added.
“That’s why today, I’m unveiling my action plan and my proposal for how the Legislature could use the millions of dollars of remaining American Rescue Plan relief money to help Pennsylvanians who need it right now,” said Gov. Wolf.
Wolf’s announcement today comes just one week after he signed bipartisan legislation that provides $225 million to the state’s health care workforce. Today’s proposal contains an additional $325 million to aid Pennsylvania’s health care system by providing funding for long-term care recruitment and retention incentives and workforce development initiatives
The proposal also calls for:
- The PA Opportunity Program, $500 million: To help families cover pandemic-related costs, stabilize their budgets, and rebuild their savings. The program would provide relief to workers and families for childcare, household expenses and funding to pursue opportunities to complete a degree, credential, or license.
- Small Business Support, $225 million: To provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by the pandemic. The grants would cover operating expenses, including training and guidance to stabilize and relaunch their businesses. The program would prioritize women and minority-owned businesses and rural communities.
- Increased Property Relief for Low-Income Renters & Homeowners, $204 million: Into the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate Program for a one-time bonus rebate to current program users. An estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians would receive an additional average rebate of $475.
- Investing in Conservation, Recreation & Preservation, $450 million: To fund the Growing Greener conservation and recreation program as well as agriculture conservation programs, such as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program and the existing Agriculture Conservation Excellence Grant Program. The funding would also address climate change and community revitalization.
Gov. Wolf says the commonwealth cannot continue to do nothing.
“All of the plans presented today will make a difference for Pennsylvanians, and all of them are infinitely better than doing nothing with the money meant to help people of Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Wolf.
In his final months as governor, he hopes to provide a clear path forward out of the pandemic.
“As Pennsylvania endured the pandemic, we strategically invested to support small businesses, frontline workers, agriculture, healthcare, first responders, and more. This ensured that Pennsylvania survived,” said Gov. Wolf. “Now it’s time for Pennsylvanians to thrive and investing $1.7 billion in a bright future for this commonwealth will give Pennsylvanians a sense of security and a clear path forward,” he added.
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