(HARRISBURG) – The Senate today unanimously approved a comprehensive $912 million relief measure to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36).
Senate Bill 109 allocates $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance, $197 million for education programs, and $145 million to support Pennsylvania’s struggling hospitality industry as it copes with the devastation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s mandated closings and restrictions.
The bill 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 H.R. 133, Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021.
“The rental assistance provisions contained in this relief package will be critical for both tenants and landlords in Lancaster County who have thus far been unable to utilize the previous aid extended for rent and utility assistance,” said Aument. “I am pleased that we were able to work in a bipartisan fashion to improve the finer details of this program in a way that increases access to the funding to ensure that those who need it can get it.”
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.
“This financial assistance will help ensure that those educational institutions that have not yet received funding through other federal actions will be able to afford the resources they need to continue providing a high-quality, world-class education to Pennsylvania students attending non-traditional schools,” said Aument.
The third component in the sweeping relief package would transfer $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to assist the hospitality industry, including restaurants, bars, and hotels.
“It is no secret that our hospitality industry in Pennsylvania has been hit the hardest by Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 policies,” said Aument. “Certainly, safely reopening these businesses would be the most economically viable option; however, overturning the Governor’s punitive mitigation orders is not Constitutionally possible in the near-term, so we must offer these businesses immediate relief in some other way. The funds provided in this package will serve as a lifeline to an industry that desperately needs it.”
Grants would be provided in increments of $5,000 up to $50,000. Grants may not be used to pay for the same operating expenses already covered by a federal PPP loan or the state’s prior $225 million Small Business Assistance Program. Importantly, priority in awarding grants will be given to those businesses that have not already received a loan or grant from the Federal Government or Commonwealth.
Aument also sponsored his own package of bills aimed at providing both immediate and long-term relief to the Commonwealth’s struggling restaurants, bars, and small businesses.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420