A comprehensive $912 million relief package to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic received final legislative approval today (February 5) and was sent to the Governor’s desk, according to Senator Joe Pittman, the prime sponsor of the legislation.
Senate Bill 109 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.
“It is worth pointing out that this is the very first bill to reach the Governor in this legislative session and should be signed into law as Act 1 of 2021. That clearly shows the importance of the measure and our efforts to bring relief to the people of Pennsylvania,” Senator Pittman said. “While this was a contentious week in Harrisburg, it is good to see a bipartisan product being delivered to Pennsylvanians, one that not only addresses for negative impacts of COVID-19, but also provides important protections to ensure that federal stimulus support to our citizens is not subjected to taxation by the Commonwealth.”
The bill would exempt income received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and stimulus checks from taxation under the state’s Personal Income Tax. The measure was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law.
“This legislation drives out more than $900 million in assistance to our communities to address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic through business assistance, rental assistance and assistance to our education community,” Senator Pittman said. “I urge the Governor to expeditiously sign this bill. It is vitally important to send out these dollars that are sitting in our state Treasury right now. This is funding that came to Pennsylvania from the Trump Administration several weeks ago. It is time we put this money in our communities to address these important needs.”
Under the measure, federal funding for rental and utility assistance would be proportionally distributed to counties based on their population. The conditions set by Senate Bill 109 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.
“We are providing nearly $570 million dollars to all 67 counties through this legislation to support tenants through rental and utility assistance programs,” said Senator Pittman. “We crafted this legislation very carefully to ensure that we have timelines in place that make it clear that funds not used by the counties will be reallocated and kept here in our Commonwealth.”
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 Centers.
- $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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