Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has made a series of proclamations since our last newsletter and several items of note were addressed by the legislature, including:
- On Thursday, April 9, Gov. Wolf’s administration released an announcement that all Pennsylvania schools would remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 academic year.
- A report released by the state Independent Fiscal Office on April 9 estimated a revenue shortfall of between $2.7 billion and $3.9 billion due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the state. We are continuing to hear the deficit will likely be at least in the $4 billion range for the year.
- The General Assembly has been advancing pieces of legislation that could serve as the Commonwealth’s final budget bill, with the House moving HB 2387 out of its appropriations committee and SB 1050 moving out of appropriations on the Senate side of the capitol. It is important to note that in their current form, these legislative vehicles are simply shells to expedite the parliamentary process and they do not contain any agreed-to budget package.
- The legislature moved SB 327 to override Gov. Wolf’s emergency declaration by creating an inter-governmental task force and reclassifying which businesses are deemed life-sustaining during the coronavirus crisis. The Senate has amended the proposal to grant counties the ability to determine which businesses can currently operate; the House will consider the Senate proposal next week.
- A bill was also passed to require Pennsylvania to adopt Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and United States Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security (CISA) regulations on essential and nonessential business. SB 613 has been sent to the governor’s desk, however Gov. Wolf has vowed to veto the legislation.
- As a member of the Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA campaigns, PPC has been advocating for a state stimulus package to support the child care industry during this crisis. Co-sponsorship memos have been circulated to garner support for legislation that could provide funds to child care centers to ensure their viability during the pandemic.
- A proposal from the medical community to grant legal immunity for healthcare workers and essential manufacturing businesses has been rejected by both House Republicans and Democrats and was never formally proposed on the House floor; this is a setback for our stimulus ask of granting immunity to child care centers operating during the pandemic.
- Also anticipated is House activity next week freezing local school property taxes, which would impact the overall revenue picture as the state considers moving forward any budget bills particularly in regard to basic education funding. At this time, the chamber is looking to move an amendment to HB 974 that would make this change. We will keep you posted as this situation develops.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Congressional leaders and the Trump Administration are considering a 4th phase of stimulus funding to further help small businesses, workers and families. There is disagreement on the scale of the stimulus, with the administration prioritizing transportation as being part of any future agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed an additional $250 billion in loans to help small businesses keep workers on payroll. Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are looking to do something more ambitious which would come with a higher price tag. Their provisions would include up to $25,000 in hazard pay for essential personnel, additional direct payments to young people not included in the CARES Act (Stimulus Phase 3), and up to $4 billion for voting protections given the uncertainty of in-person voting during a pandemic. PPC, along with our partners in the Childhood Begins at Home Campaign, continues to push for more federal funds to be included in a future stimulus package for home visiting flexibility for things like tele-visits. Any additional support may take several more weeks and there are rumblings that session would not resume until May 4th to allow leaders more time to deliberate.