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Billions in relief aid at stake in Pa. budget drama


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Joseph Darius Jaafari
November 19, 2020
Budget negotiations, a 'vindictive' decision, stay-at-home advisory, vaccine declines, the virtual life, and a fake pig couch. Happy Thursday. 

At a rally outside the Capitol on Wednesday, restaurant and bar owners pleaded for help — and a slice of the $1.3 billion in coronavirus relief funding the state has yet to spend. 

“We want our share of those federal dollars,” Tom Tyler, president of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association and owner of McStew’s Irish Sports Pub, said. “We deserve our share of those dollars.”

But as lawmakers this week negotiate how to fund state services for the next seven months, they're not ruling out using some or all of that money to instead pay for the state government, Spotlight PA reports.

THE CONTEXT: In May, lawmakers approved a plan to spend about $2.6 billion sent by Congress on nursing home aid, small business grants, and funding for child care providers. But they’ve sat on the remaining $1.3 billion for months, watching to see if Washington would send another federal relief bill or provide more flexibility in how to spend those remaining dollars. 

Time is about up, as they face a Nov. 30 deadline to finish the budget.

The money cannot be used to replace lost revenues, but it can be used for a host of other costs like salaries for state employees who are primarily responsible for pandemic response. So as lawmakers look to their own bottom line, interest groups like restaurants and those that serve people with autism and intellectual disabilities fear they will be left out in the cold.


"It will stay on my record forever. I can never work with autistic kids, which is what I was going to school for. I have $25,000 in student loans."

— Jennina Gorman, an Altoona woman who was accused of endangering her child, never had a trial and was put on the child-abuse registry. Her situation is not unique.

POST IT: Thank you, Chris W. of Harrisburg, for this picture of Yellow Breeches Creek in Cumberland County. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
'VINDICTIVE': Despite being rejected by the GOP-led Senate, Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm could remain on the job for weeks — and possibly longer. She told Spotlight PA she's also considering her legal options after the top Senate Republican publicly revealed she's under an ethics investigation. 

FAIRNESS, NOT FRAUD: State House Republicans moved a step closer to launching a review of the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, though the process would not be completed until after the state’s vote is officially certified. GOP lawmakers insist they aren't interested in overturning the election, but improving the process.

STAY HOME: As Allegheny County reported more than 600 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, officials released a countywide stay-at-home advisory, TribLIVE reports. Officials warned that, if cases continue to rise, an actual order could be next.

PANDEMIC FALLOUT: Children in the Lehigh Valley are not being vaccinated as much as they used to against highly infectious and deadly diseases such as polio or measles, the Morning Call reports. Capital Blue Cross found a 19% decrease in children receiving vaccines between 2019 and 2020, blaming the decline partially on the pandemic. 

AN INTERVENTION: The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider a challenge by the Trump campaign to more than 8,300 mail ballots in Philadelphia, The Inquirer reports. At issue: whether the city should have to throw out mail ballots over technical errors like failing to write the date on the outer envelope.
» BE THE ONE TO PUT US OVER THE TOP: We're so close! Join Spotlight PA today and your contribution will be DOUBLED.

Thank you to everyone donated yesterday (& late Tuesday night): Valerie H., Anne L., Mary Lou B., Howard K., Scott R., Keelin B., Irene K., Joanna P., Debra W., David I., Michael S., Sandra G., Richard K., Henry P., Robert A., Sherri A., Robert & Mary Ellen S., Marie G-M., Kathleen & Steven H., Kevin M., Jacqueline S., Michael F., William G., Kathy K., David F., Daniel G., Garet C., Martina M., Stuart K., George A., Theresa B., Bonnie H., William S., Jane H., Jennifer M., David F., Mary B., Rosemary R., Suzanne M., and Terry R.

GLAMPING: You know, it's kinda like camping but with a bit of an Urban Outfitters vibe. If you haven't done it, I suggest you go before the weather dips below freezing by the end of the month. But don't take it from me, hear from a New Yorker who made the trek to *gasp* Western Pennsylvania to try it out.

PASS THE WINE: No, seriously, we all need a glass. If you're like millions of people, you're fretting what to do about the coronavirus and the holidays. Well, whether you're home or with family, make sure you're with some of Pennsylvania's best wines this year.

IT'S A VIRTUAL LIFE: Typically, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, downtown Indiana throws its annual "It's a Wonderful Life" parade, which pays homage to the Pennsylvania borough's favorite hometown son, Jimmy Stewart. This year, the parade will be virtual. You can still stroll around to see the 37-foot tree and light displays.

THIS LITTLE PIGGY: A couch shaped as a pig was advertised for sale in NYC on Craigslist, but it has a very Pennsylvania connection. The couch, which desperately needed someone "to pick it up ASAP as my new boyfriend hates it and sadly this is non-negotiable for him," is actually a college art project. And the post is fake. It's all a bit wild, and you can read about it here

NAME GAME: John Oliver, on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight," recently poked fun at the name of the Northeast Pennsylvania borough Forty Fort. "It feels so good in the mouth," Oliver accurately declared. Personally, my favorite municipality name in the state is probably Eight Four (why is it named a number? No idea!), but I understand why people find the Dutch Country names so delightful. 

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. If you love the scrambler, make a donation and we'll DOUBLE it.
M O E N S R O T R I P A 

Yesterday's answer: Jubilation 

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Jason B., Timothy P., Alletta S., Chip K., Theodore W., Mary Ellen T., Thomas B., Lynne E., Jeffery S., Irene R., Bob R., Bruce B., Kim C., Kathleen M., Beth T., Heidi G., Craig E., Michael K., John C., Patricia R., Steve D., Dianne K., George S., David I., Joel S., Carol D., Chris M., Robert S., Ron P., Bruce B., Anne R., George Sa., Valerie H., Mary Ann M., and Bill C.
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