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Senate GOP slams the door on rent relief fixes


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
October 23, 2020
No rent relief changes, failed election negotiations, double ballot trouble, Reese's on demand, and the best of the wurst. Yes, it's the glorious Friday.

The state Senate adjourned this week without passing fixes to Pennsylvania's rental assistance program, making it likely many landlords and families on the financial brink will not get the aid they desperately need.

Spotlight PA's Charlotte Keith reports the failure came as a surprise even to House Republicans, who joined with Democrats in unanimous support of a bill that would make critical changes to the $150 million program.

A spokesperson for Senate Republicans said changes made earlier this month by Gov. Tom Wolf “negated the need” for the legislation. Lawmakers in both parties, as well as tenant and landlord groups, disagreed, since burdensome paperwork requirements and a $750 monthly cap remain. 

The Context: As Spotlight PA previously reported, problems with the program emerged almost immediately. The state agency tasked with implementing it began asking lawmakers to make sweeping changes in July.

But leaders in the GOP-controlled House and Senate failed to take up the issue until this month, after the program's initial deadline for applications had passed.

At the moment, thousands of families across the state are at risk of losing their homes amidst the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A federal order protects some tenants from eviction until the end of the year, but advocates warn of a surge in eviction filings come January.


"I think there’s been sort of a NIMBY response to affordable housing proposals here and there regardless of who’s in office. That’s nothing new."

–– Joel Johnson, head of Montgomery County's housing authority, on how President Donald Trump's comments on "saving" the suburbs have — and haven't — changed the conversation around affordable housing
POST IT: Thanks, @photolope, for this wonderful photo of Valley Forge National Historical Park. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
WITH A TWIST: A new legal challenge has emerged to Pennsylvania's mail-in ballot extension, this time from a Republican congressional candidate and four voters. They are trying out a new argument that a recount lawyer for George W. Bush told Spotlight PA is a strong one. 

KAPUT: The state House and Senate adjourned this week for the final time before Election Day without passing the No. 1 item on counties' wishlist: time before Nov. 3 to begin processing mail-in and absentee ballots. “The governor and the legislature spectacularly failed the voters by not coming to some sort of agreement on this issue,” one election official told Spotlight PA and The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

DOUBLE TROUBLE: The Pennsylvania Department of State is blaming a computer glitch for sending out two mail-in ballots to more than 4,300 voters, WHYY reports. Officials stressed that the error would not result in anyone voting twice.

CLEANER SLATE: A bill that would expand Pennsylvania's Clean Slate law, which automatically expunges some criminal records, is headed to Gov Tom Wolf. WGAL reports that the new bill eliminates certain fees and fines that have stopped some people from participating in the program.

SNAIL MAIL: Mismanagement, staffing shortages, and Trump administration changes have severely hampered mail delivery in central Pennsylvania, PennLive reports. "The ship has no captain," one U.S. Postal Service worker told the newspaper. 

ON DEMAND: Is the prospect of door-to-door trick-or-treating a little too spooky this year? Hershey is offering to send a robot door to your home to deliver king-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Safe and delicious. 

CHECK YOUR SOURCES: At this critical moment, it's more important than ever to verify stories and social media posts before you share them. Take, for example, this totally fake story on "shredded Pennsylvania mail-in ballots" shared thousands of times.

BEST OF THE WURST: For some reason, Food & Wine picked the best hot dog in every state and for Pennsylvania selected Johnny’s Hots in Philadelphia. This is really just my excuse to return to my favorite Pennsylvania political debate — whether a hot dog is a sandwich or not (Gov. Tom Wolf says heck yes). 

WELL, SHE'S GOT A POINT: A Halloween display near Pittsburgh featuring disfigured dolls is not sitting well with some people in the area. When informed by a reporter that the display was disturbing to some neighbors, the woman behind the display replied, "existence is disturbing."

SWEET SCIENCE: A Pennsylvania man is setting off a scientific debate: He recently went to eat Twinkies he bought eight years ago and discovered, to his horror, that the treat tasted like "old sock." Aren't Twinkies supposed to be ... immortal? Researchers in West Virginia are now investigating.  

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: Apparition

Congrats to our winners: Irene K., Karen A., Craig W., Jarrod B., Edward M., Brandie K., John C., Steve D., Mark O., Robert S., Theodore W., Thomas B., Kim C., Gail H., Chris W., Patricia R., Tracey C., Lynne E., Dianne K., Ron P., Barbara L., Karen W., Claudia M., Beth T., David W., Robin C., Lex M., Lynne P., Susan C., Joan S., Ann and John, Irene R., Mary Ann M., George S., Carol D., Ann S., and Joel S.
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