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Wolf throws landlords a lifeline, hoping to help renters


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
October 14, 2020
Landlord lifeline, PPP loan relief, lost jobs, another push for weed, prison outbreak, a long bike ride, and a very happy hour. Welcome to Wednesday. 

With the legislature not scheduled to return to Harrisburg until next week, Gov. Tom Wolf took matters into his own hands and made a significant change to the state's troubled rental assistance program. 

Previously, each tenant who applied was eligible for up to $750 a month in assistance, and landlords were required to waive any additional rent owed. This requirement is a major reason why many landlords haven't signed up for the state's program, a previous Spotlight PA report found. 

Now, the new guidance will allow landlords to enter into payment agreements with their tenants for the remaining balance owed.

The Context: While the state's eviction moratorium has expired, a ban instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in place until the end of the year. Still, advocates say such a moratorium is only a temporary fix for tenants who will soon find themselves deep in debt. 

And while the state's rental assistance program was meant to provide a solution, it has been hampered by a number of issues, including a lengthy application process that requires tenants to submit extensive paperwork to prove they are eligible. Many landlords say the $750 a month cap is too low.

By the end of September, the state had paid out only $9.6 million of the $150 million available, raising concerns that the program could end with money leftover despite the urgent need.

Despite knowing about these issues since the summer, the legislature has failed to act. A House lawmaker's COVID-19 diagnosis further delayed action. Wolf is still calling on the legislature to make more changes. “These are positive steps, but we still need a larger solution,” he said in a statement. 


"After many thoughtful and active discussions, we are thrilled to announce that the fan experience will return to Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday."

–– Philadelphia Eagles President Dan Smolenski on fans being allowed back at Lincoln Financial Field to watch the Birds play football
POST IT: Thank you, @pa.wanderlust, for this amazing photo of sunflowers and the Milky Way in Kane, Pa. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
JAIL (OUT)BREAK: Coronavirus cases have exploded inside the Westmoreland County Prison, an example of how the virus can spread rapidly in confined and crowded spaces, TribLIVE reports. "This is what we feared," the warden said. Meanwhile, experts say the rise of COVID-19 cases in Western Pa. is not surprising.

TOUGH TIMES: The Jefferson Health System in Bucks County announced it will cut 500 positions after recording a loss in the hundreds of millions this year, the Bucks County Courier-Times reports. The health system will still forge ahead with plans to expand its infrastructure in other locations.

IN THE WEEDS: Gov. Tom Wolf once again reiterated his push for the legislature to legalize cannabis in the hopes of recouping some of the state's losses this year — which could total just under $5 billion. Republicans aren't eager to come on board, the Morning Call reports. 

SWEET RELIEF: Small business owners who borrowed $50,000 or less through the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program got some welcome news: their loans will be forgiven, the Inquirer reports. Some accountants are urging borrowers to wait to apply for forgiveness in case the government decides to sweeten the deal.

DANGEROUS DRILLS: Surprise security training drills conducted with loaded weapons at the VA Butler Healthcare Center endangered veterans, employees and police officers, according to a new federal report. The Post-Gazette reports the review stemmed from a 2017 incident and was prompted by a whistleblower complaint

» TIME IS RUNNING OUT: 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.

TO LOOK FOR AMERICA: Bloomberg Opinion's Frank Barry is driving the transcontinental Lincoln Highway, which cuts through southern Pennsylvania. Barry visited the Flight 93 National Memorial, found Lancaster reeling from a police shooting, and looked for meaning in Gettysburg. 

SHUT UP AND RIDE: OK, maybe you're ready for a little adventure yourself? The Washington Post recommends biking the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage trail from Cumberland, Md., to Pittsburgh. I may need a little practice first. 

EXTRA HAPPY HOUR: Let's be honest, we all need it. Several Pennsylvania breweries have joined forces to create a special state pale ale that will be released during a virtual happy hour in November.  

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Madison Reyes is now starring in the Netflix show "Julie and the Phantoms." But if it wasn't for the Lehigh Valley schools she attended, she might not have even considered a career in acting.

TAKE THE COMPETITION BY STORM: Harrisburg University was just nominated for a 2020 Tempest Award for the best esports collegiate program. The school is no stranger to gaming prowess — Harrisburg was nominated and took home the award last year, too.

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: Amuse 

Congrats to our winners: John C., Chris W., Craig W., Joyce F., Kathy W., Maureen G., Irene K., Steve D., Bob S., Theodore W., Tom F., Thomas B., Dan E., Tracey C., Nancy M., Jenn. C., John H., Debi D., Patricia M., Kathleen M., Mark O., Debra S., Irene R., Art. W., John H., Chris M., Patricia R., Bruce B., Richard S., Jonathan W., Annie P., Deb. N., Carol D., Jessica K., Jill A.S., Heather D., Lynne E., Beth T., Bruce B., Dianne K., Mary Ann M., George S., Kim C., Melissa S., Robert D., Brandie K., David W., Karen W., Heidi G., George S., Chris W., Lynne P., Jeffrey S., Ed M., Bruce F., Daniel G., Jarrod B., Carl K., Lee W., Morgan P., Sue C., and Sherry. 
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