A comprehensive $912 million relief package to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic received final legislative approval and was signed into law by the Governor on Friday (February 5), according to Senator Elder Vogel, who strongly supported the bill.
Senate Bill 109 (Act 1 of 2021) amends the state Fiscal Code to allocate $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 new law exempts income received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and stimulus checks from taxation under the state’s Personal Income Tax.
“The COVID pandemic has impacted so many lives in Pennsylvania,” said Senator Vogel. “We wanted to invest these funds in ways that will provide help to those who have been impact the most. We wanted to help families who are struggling to meet their housing costs and are in danger of being evicted from their homes. We also know that many bars and restaurants are struggling — and some have already closed. Often, these are small, family-owned businesses and it is essential that Pennsylvania help them get beyond these troubled times.”
Under the measure, federal funding for rental and utility assistance would be proportionally distributed to counties based on their population. The conditions set by Act 1 will 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 $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:
- $20 million for Career and Technical Schools.
- $14 million for Community Colleges.
- $8.075 million for Private Residential Rehabilitative Institutions, charter schools for the deaf and blind, and approved private schools.
- $5 million for the State System of Higher Education to support its restructuring initiative.
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.
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.
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