Harrisburg — The Senate today approved a comprehensive $912 million relief measure to help restaurants, hotels, schools and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Mario Scavello (R-40).
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Among other allocations, Senate Bill 109 sets aside $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.
“Tourism in our region, including the restaurant and lodging fields that support it, has taken a serious hit over the course of this prolonged pandemic,” Scavello said. “So many jobs have been lost and so much economic development has been disrupted. This funding provides a lifeline for employers and workers desperately trying to weather the storm.”
The measure would transfer available funds from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to assist the employers in the hospitality field, including restaurants, taverns 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 Paycheck Protection Program loan or the state’s prior $225 million Small Business Assistance Program.
Senate Bill 109 also includes the $197 million Federal Emergency Education Relief Fund, which 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 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.
“We previously allocated funding to help K-through-12 public schools operate during the pandemic, and this round of assistance covers many of the other educational entities that serve students in a wide variety of ways,” Scavello said.
The bill also includes $570 million in federal funding for rental and utility assistance, which 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.
“If we are to get through this pandemic together, and we will, it’s important that Pennsylvania allocate the federal funding that’s been made available to us in a coordinated and efficient manner,” Scavello said. “I am encouraged by the bipartisan Senate vote on this measure and hope the House of Representatives follows suit in a timely manner.”
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