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Nursing home strikes could follow $600M budget boost

Plus, challenges loom as feds work to pinpoint where high-speed internet is unavailable.

A weekly newsletter by Spotlight PA

September 1, 2022 |
Looming strikes, police data, fire companies, malpractice ruling, broadband maps, fatal shooting, open registry, no entry, photo opp, and school lines.
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Months after the state approved hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to bolster caregiving in nursing homes, thousands of nurses, health aides, and other support staff may soon go on strike over how two for-profit companies plan to use the money.

At issue is how much of the $600 million earmarked by Gov. Tom Wolf and the legislature will actually go to workers who say they are working longer hours, taking duties outside their jobs, and even rationing food for residents.

Stephen Caruso reports that strikes could begin tomorrow.

Also this week, volunteer fire companies including those in Centre County are exploring whether collaboration — not consolidation — can help ease funding and staffing issues.

And finally, Pennsylvania State Police will not release an analysis on the racial breakdown of traffic stops this year — the first time new information could have been available in more than a decade — after researchers found problems with the data.


"We’re putting everything in this company. They benefited. Why aren’t they willing to even sit at the table with us and hear us out?"

—SEIU union member and LPN Simone Whyte on a contract dispute with two for-profit nursing home companies that may lead to a strike

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» PA LOCAL: ERIE’S BLACK ÉMIGRÉS: Join us today at 6 p.m. via Zoom for a free Q&A with Armendia Dixon, an educator in two states post-Brown v. Board of Education. We will also discuss the legacy of the Great Migration in Pennsylvania and the history of Erie’s Black community. Register for the event here and submit your questions to

» Major shift in medical malpractice rules in Pa. could help victims, but opponents fear the cost

» Pa.’s unreliable lobbyist disclosure website is getting a user-friendly upgrade

» Wolf looks to tap federal aid to stretch monkeypox vaccine

» Tell us what 2022 election coverage matters most to you


How much will Pa. get to improve broadband? It hinges on new federal maps.  

As Pennsylvania prepares to spend an anticipated flood of federal funding for broadband, one challenge looms particularly large: pinpointing where high-speed internet is unavailable.

Internet service providers, advocates, and local officials have different views on the best ways to use the money Pennsylvania will receive, which could be as much as $1 billion. But almost everyone agrees that the current federal broadband maps are deeply inaccurate. That means state officials still don’t have a complete picture of where the new funding is most needed.  

In Pennsylvania, 4% of residents can’t get internet access at broadband speeds — defined by the federal government as download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 3 megabits per second — according to the most recent data from the Federal Communications Commission. That number rises to 13% in rural areas. But those figures, compiled last year, almost certainly undercount the problem.

Another often-cited estimate from BroadbandNow, a website that lets users compare internet plans, puts the number of Pennsylvanians without broadband at more than twice the FCC’s number.

The FCC is working on new maps that officials say will be more accurate. It’s a huge undertaking with high stakes: the updated maps will dictate how much money Pennsylvania will receive from the federal government, as well as which areas within the state will get priority for the new funding. 

“We know it’s a step in the right direction, but we also know they’re not going to be perfect,” said Brandon Carson, executive director of the state Broadband Development Authority. 

The new maps, expected to be released later this year, will still be based on data reported to the FCC by internet service providers, but that information will be more detailed than in the past. 

And local governments will be able to challenge the new maps if a provider reports to the FCC that broadband speeds are available at a particular location but residents disagree. 

In the meantime, many counties have already embarked on their own mapping efforts.

It’s up to the state Broadband Development Authority to collect and synthesize the piecemeal data that already exist and fill any gaps. Carson said the authority is “looking at all the options” for doing so. 

If Pennsylvania doesn’t collect its own data to push back on possible inaccuracies in the new maps, the state could lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding, experts warned at a hearing in May organized by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a state agency that researches policy for the General Assembly. 

The federal government’s own delays on the new maps have given Pennsylvania “a last-minute reprieve,” said Sascha Meinrath, a professor at Penn State and lead author of two major reports on the state’s broadband woes, during his testimony at the hearing. “We have one more opportunity to more accurately document the haves and have nots.” —Charlotte Keith, Spotlight PA

FOURTH FATAL: A Pennsylvania State Police trooper has been cleared in a fourth fatal on-duty shooting, The New York Times (paywall) reports. Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said no charges would be filed in the most recent shooting by Jay Splain, saying the troopers on scene were in danger. Graf is married to a corporal in the State Police who once supervised Splain. Splain was previously cleared in three separate shootings that also resulted in deaths.

OPEN REGISTRY: A new lawsuit argues that Pennsylvania's child abuse registry is unconstitutional because it names people before they've been convicted and sometimes after the charges have been dropped, WHYY reports. Women of color are disproportionately impacted, the plaintiffs argue. They're calling for more due process and deliberation before names are added to the list. 

NO ENTRY: Pennsylvania's four legislative caucuses have been barred from joining — to support or oppose — Gov. Tom Wolf's lawsuit against a slate of GOP-advanced constitutional amendments, including one that could lead to new abortion restrictions. The caucuses were asked to explain their positions in writing instead. The Post-Gazette (paywall) reports each of them did. Track the amendments here.

PHOTO OPP: A photo of GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano posing in a Confederate uniform for a U.S. Army War College faculty photo in 2014 has emerged as the campaign's latest flashpoint, via Reuters. The college said the photo did not reflect its values. Some Mastriano supporters were quick to defend him, while critics noted his past support for protecting Confederate monuments.

SCHOOL LINES: Mastriano wants sharp cuts in education funding that have educators and advocates, including the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, alarmed. But how do the approaches between the two candidates — Mastriano and Democrat Josh Shapiro — really differ? WHYY explains on everything from funding to parental input

» AP: Shapiro breaks with Dems on COVID policies in Pa. gov race

» INQUIRER: Democrats see strong chance to take Pa. House

» PENNLIVE: Lawsuit alleges second assault of man who died at jail

» WITF: Nearly a million in Pa. could have their student loans wiped away

» WPSU: Some oppose plan for gas station next to bird-watching area

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