Pennsylvania Governor announces $1.7 billion pandemic recovery plan
Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Wolf has announced on Wednesday a $1.7 billion plan to help the commonwealth fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and pave the way for a successful future.
Governor Wolf proposed to invest $500 million into a "Pennsylvania Opportunity Program" to serve as a one-stop-shop to help get Pennsylvanians back on their feet.
This program would provide much-needed relief to workers and families with relief from the high costs of childcare and household expenses and opportunities to complete a degree, credential or license that will strengthen their skills and increase income.
The Community Food Warehouse of Mercer County said they're seeing an increase in households seeking food assistance from the rising price of groceries. Becky Page, the Executive Director, said the increase of those in need is a key indicator families are struggling in a lot of other ways.
"Along with food insecurity comes other needs, such as the rental assistance, other worries and concerns about child care and transportation needs, and all of those things kind of culminate together when you're living in poverty," Page said.
Wolf also proposed to invest $225 million to assist small businesses. This would provide grants ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by the pandemic.
Businesses can use these grants to cover operating expenses, access technical assistance such as training and guidance to stabilize their business and much more.
The program would prioritize women and minority-owned businesses and rural communities. Governor Wolf also proposed to recapitalize this program at $225 million to help approximately 11,000 additional businesses.
The governor also proposed investing an additional $204 million into the existing property tax rent rebate program for a one-time bonus rebate to current users of the program.
This investment would double existing rebates with an estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians would receive an additional average rebate of $475.
Governor Wolf also proposed $325 million for support for the commonwealth's health care system.
This investment would recognize healthcare workers for their dedication and hard work throughout the pandemic and give health care providers resources to recruit and retain a skilled workforce.
$250 million was proposed for long-term care recruitment and retention incentives and workforce developmental initiatives to grow the critical health care workforce.
$40 million was proposed for the behavioral health workforce to expand county mental health programs and $35 million was proposed to expand the student loan forgiveness program at PHEAA to include critical health care workers.
Wolf proposed $450 million for investing in conservation, recreation and preservation and addressing the threat of climate change.
This plan proposes new funding for the Growing Greener conservation and recreation program, as well as for agriculture conservation programs such as the Agricultural Conservation and Assistance Program and the Agriculture Conservation Excellence Grant Program.
The governor was also joined by multiple guests advocating for his proposals including full-time mother and senior at Shippensburg University, Imani Cameron.
Cameron expressed her support for Wolf's plan for the PA Opportunity program stating that it "allows Pennsylvanians to know that they still matter.
"It is time for us to alleviate barriers that prohibit the working-class people from excelling. By doing this, we are setting Pennsylvanians up for a better tomorrow," Cameron said.
Senator, Jay Costa also showed up to the event to support Wolf's plan.
"We are at a time of upheaval and great change. And it's our duty as elected officials to step in and help folks who need that help," Costa said.
Pennsylvania Representative Joanna McClinton advocated for Wolf's proposal to increase support for the commonwealth's health care system.
"We might see fancy commercials about [health care workers] next weekend, but we don't want to just see a commercial. We want to give the front line workers the hazard pay they deserve," McClinton said.
Other guests included Senator Vincent Hughes and Representative Matt Bradford also expressed support for Governor Wolf's proposals throughout the event.
The funds for Wolf's action plan would come from the American Rescue Plan Act, which is federal dollars and would not pull from any general fund appropriations.