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Wolf's business waiver program was unfair, audit finds


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
October 7, 2020
Child care concerns, easing COVID-19 restrictions, "Keystone Kops" business waivers, and new presidential polling. It's Wednesday, & you're halfway there.

A new Spotlight PA report found that 260 licensed child care centers across Pennsylvania closed between March and the beginning of September, largely a result of the pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

And as federal relief funding dries up and the pandemic lingers, advocates warn that the worst could be yet to come, and more of the 6,500 child-care programs that remain operational could close, too. 

The Context: Interviews with eight child-care providers offer a glimpse into the wide variety in reasons for centers closing up. Some had difficulty recruiting workers, while other experienced challenges in finding and paying for cleaning supplies and making up for revenue they lost during the business shutdown.

For months, the state continued making payments to providers based on how many children they had enrolled before the pandemic, even at centers that saw enrollment plunge or that were temporarily closed. Those payments equaled about $370 million.

The state switched back to its old formula at the beginning of September, over the objections of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association and other advocates. Now, going forward, providers will receive payments only for the number of students they are actually, currently serving.

Advocates estimate some programs could lose up to 30% of their revenue.


“Twenty-three thousand landlords have applied for this money. My goal is to still get this bill through with some changes and make it a lot easier for landlords and lenders to get the money.”

–– Rep. Sue Helm (R., Dauphin), on Gov. Tom Wolf's move to extend the deadline for the state's mortgage and rent relief program, weeks after saying only the Legislature had the authority to extend the deadline
POST IT: Thanks, @saltydogphoto, for this rockin' photo of Pulpit Rock near Hamburg, Pa. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
'SHIFTING SANDS': In his initial review, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found Wolf's coronavirus business waiver program was inconsistent and unfair, Spotlight PA reports. The program allowed businesses deemed non-essential to apply to reopen during the shutdown earlier this year. DePasquale likened it to a Keystone Kops routine.

NEW RULES: After a temporary court victory, Gov. Tom Wolf issued new, looser restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, the Associated Press reports. The new guidelines are based on a percentage of the maximum capacity of the specific venue. 

WIDENING GAP: A new poll among Pennsylvania voters finds former Vice President Joe Biden has a 12-point lead over President Donald Trump in the Keystone State, the York Daily Record reports. Since the first debate, Biden has increased his lead from previous polls, which found him up by single-digits in September.

WESTERN SPIKE: A Westmoreland County commissioner has tested positive for COVID-19, and some county offices will be closed, TribLIVE reports. The county as a whole has reached its highest seven-day case total. A total of 22 counties are showing a rising trend according to Spotlight PA's coronavirus tracker, including Philadelphia.
RUN ON GUNS: Pennsylvania's firearm background check system saw its busiest quarter on record in the third quarter of 2020, Erie News Now reports. The third quarter of 2020 surpassed the previous record by over 45,000 more background checks.

» YOU'RE INVITED: Register now for our upcoming live interview with Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar on ensuring a fair and accurate election in Pennsylvania. You can also submit your questions.

LIVIN' ON A PRAYER: The rock and roll star Jon Bon Jovi gave a shout out to a Philadelphia nun in his discussion with talk show host Stephen Colbert. Who doesn't love a good nun story?

COSTUME SHOP: Feeling antsy about what you'll wear for Halloween? Millersville University's costume shop might just be the place for you. But beware: You'll need an appointment.

FEEL GOOD STORY: While the pandemic has caused unthinkable financial damage and tightened people's budgets, it's also inspired a surge in local giving in the Lehigh Valley.

A SEAT AT THE TABLE: A group of Bangladeshi immigrants are making inroads in the "club" of Philadelphia politics.

OUTSIDE THE BOX: Need some inspiration to get creative while we're still stuck at home? Take a page out of these actresses' books, who are starting a new venture with their talents.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out the winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Abundance 

Congrats to our daily winners: John C., Craig W., Susan D., Joel S., Chip K., Shaye and Dave., Lisa M., Marty M.,Theodore W., Ron P., George D., Tracey C., Dianne K., Patricia R., Alex L., David W., Irene R., Lynne E., Brandie K., Kim C., Karen W., and Chris W.
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