(The Center Square) — Governor Tom Wolf met Thursday with Democratic lawmakers at a community center in Philadelphia to urge the Republican-controlled General Assembly to spend Pennsylvania’s remaining federal relief funds.
Wolf touted his $1.7 billion plan to spend most of the remaining Commonwealth American Bailout Act funding at the North Light Community Center, where he highlighted the ongoing struggles facing many Pennsylvanians due to the pandemic.
“Our Commonwealth is sitting on billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds intended to help our citizens,” Wolf said. “It’s high time to use this money for its intended purpose: to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians. Like helping Pennsylvanians pay for child care and after-school care, like the program here at the North Light Community Center.
“We know the positive impact of quality child care on future generations, as well as the economic impact of child care on a guardian’s ability to keep their job. Many households across the Commonwealth are still recovering financially from the pandemic, and this money would go a long way to help those who are still suffering.
Wolf pointed to his plan unveiled earlier this month to pump hundreds of millions into a variety of programs for families, businesses, healthcare workers and revitalization projects focused on climate change.
The plan includes $500 million in direct payments through a PA Opportunity program to help families with child care, job training, broadband, transportation and after-school programs. Wolf argues that the program will provide much-needed relief from household and childcare expenses, while providing the opportunity to earn a degree or other training to supplement one’s income.
Wolf’s proposal also includes $225 million for the COVID Relief Statewide Small Business Relief Program to provide grants between $5,000 and $50,000 to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The program allows businesses to use the money to cover operating expenses and technical assistance, with an emphasis on prioritizing women- and minority-owned businesses and rural communities. The governor estimates the money would help about 11,000 businesses.
An additional $204 million would be used to double payments under Pennsylvania’s existing rental property tax rebate program, which would benefit about 466,000 residents with an additional average refund of $475.
Wolf also wants to spend $250 million on recruitment and retention incentives for long-term critical health care workers, $40 million to boost behavioral and mental health programs, and $35 million in student loan forgiveness for healthcare workers.
The Wolf plan would spend an additional $450 million on conservation, recreation, preservation and community revitalization projects that align with the governor’s focus on fighting climate change.
Rep. Pamela DeLissio, D-Philadelphia, and Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, attended Thursday’s press event in support of Wolf’s spending plan.
“As Minority Chair of the Children and Youth Committee, I applaud and support the Governor’s proposal to ensure that families who have been particularly hard hit over the past two years due to the pandemic have access to resources additional financial support to help their families recover and stabilize,” DeLissio said.
“The inaccessibility of affordable, high-quality child care has been a major barrier for families, communities and our economy as a whole as we struggle to recover from the pandemic,” Hughes said. “Years of disinvestment in our children’s future have been dramatically exposed in the last 24 months and now we have the opportunity to reverse this trend and invest in the next generation.”
Wolf’s event came the same day Senate Republicans introduced bills to spend federal relief money on fire companies, the historically disadvantaged business revitalization program and the revitalization program. Main Street businesses. Other Republican proposals seek to channel the funds toward school choice programs, water quality improvements, workforce development and other uses.