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How Pa. has (or hasn’t) spent $7.3B in federal COVID relief
Spotlight PA reports that Pa. “received $7.3 billion in state and local pandemic relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. That money came with an expiration date: Funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. Any funds that remain unused by that deadline will be returned to the federal government.” So, how has Pa. spent the money? Turns out that as of March, the state had spent almost $5.6 billion. About $4.6 billion of this “was used to replace lost revenue; much of that went into the state’s general fund.” The story gives a searchable, sortable list of where the money has gone to date.
Funding for 3 state-related universities on hold, for now
Yesterday, House Republicans called for changes in education funding while voting against funding for the University of Pittsburgh and Temple and declining to vote on funding for Penn State. The reasons were varied. Some lawmakers opposed proposed tuition increases. Some pro-life Republicans challenged Pitt’s fetal tissue research. And some lawmakers opposed PennState’s transgender program, which includes giving puberty blockers to minors. Funding for the universities requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers. The Inquirer reports that “Democratic and Republican leaders both requested that the House reconsider the votes on a future day.” This means “the state-related universities still have a chance to get their state funding.”
Op-Ed: ‘Let’s work together to rescue kids from failing schools’
GOP Reps. Martina White (Philadelphia) and Clint Owlett (Tioga and Bradford counties) write in the Delaware Valley Journal about their legislation to establish Lifeline Scholarships in Pa. “Our Lifeline Scholarship program is simple,” they note. “Parents with school-age children … who attend a low-achieving public school will be eligible to receive a scholarship to offset costs associated with choosing an alternative academic setting and curriculum that meets their child’s needs.” They highlight Gov. Shapiro’s statements in support of Lifeline Scholarships and write, “We look forward to working with Gov. Shapiro to make this life-changing reform happen!”
Fetterman challenges work requirements change
The progressive Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that U.S. Sen. John Fetterman is among Democrats expressing concerns over “changes to eligibility and increases to work requirements” for SNAP benefits. The recent debt ceiling agreement “included additional work requirements for adults without dependents between 18 and 55, with a sunset date of 2030.” (Notably, the deal loosened work requirements for veterans, homeless individuals, and individuals 18-24 who were in the foster care system when they turned 18. Because of this, Reason.com notes, “78,000 more able-bodied, childless adults could get food stamps.”)
Pa. House votes to extend I-95 disaster declaration
The House voted 165-38 to extend Gov. Shapiro’s I-95 disaster declaration until June 12, 2024. In 2021, voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting a governor’s disaster declarations to 21 days unless extended by the General Assembly. The Senate must approve an identical extension for it to take effect.