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Pa. could get COVID-19 vaccine next month


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
November 20, 2020
A finished budget, vaccine coming soon, two dozen votes, nursing home outbreak, Dutch-style potato filling, and weird TV. Friday, Friday, Friday!

Despite the pleas of restaurant owners, service providers, and other industries, Republican leaders in the legislature are moving forward with a plan to use all $1.3 billion in remaining coronavirus relief aid to pay for the state budget.

Spotlight PA reports that the plan would use that federal money to pay the salaries of state-employed public health and safety frontline workers.

A spokesperson for the Republican in charge of the powerful House Appropriations Committee said the budget was "agreed to" by Gov. Tom Wolf and the Senate.

A spokesperson for Wolf didn't say whether the governor supported the plan, but noted, "It is critical for us to finalize the budget by November to avoid furloughs and any stoppage of critical payments to providers and grantees."

THE CONTEXT: Guidance from the federal government says states can’t use CARES Act money as a way of filling in lost revenue.

But the U.S. Treasury Department does give states broad discretion to use this funding to pick up payroll costs for state employees who spend substantial time responding to the pandemic — in turn, freeing up revenues to pay for other expenses.

Still, the plan unveiled Thursday appears to leave struggling industries hoping for a bailout in the cold. That includes restaurant and bar owners, who say they will have to close their establishments without more aid.

“Hopefully, they’ll remember what they had talked about in the past," Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, said of lawmakers.


"Pennsylvania’s food assistance programs were built for times like these and no one should be too shy to take advantage of what they have to offer."

— Russell Redding, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, on available assistance for the roughly 15.5% of adults who are food insecure in the state

POST IT: Thank you, Robert N. of Derry Township, for this colorful shot of downtown Hershey (the sweetest place on Earth). Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
COMING SOON: The state's top health official said a coronavirus vaccine could arrive in Pennsylvania by December, KDKA reports. When it is available, the state will prioritize health-care personnel, frontline and emergency workers, and those working with vulnerable populations.

GUN BILLS: The legislature has sent Gov. Tom Wolf two bills that would affect firearms during disaster declarations. One would take away the governor's power to suspend or limit the sale of firearms during an emergency, the Associated Press reports. Wolf plans to veto them.

BREWSTER'S DOZENS: As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Sen. Jim Brewster was winning his reelection race by 28 votes. His Republican opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, wants the courts to throw out more than 2,000 undated mail ballots, TribLIVE reports, and she scored a victory late Thursday.

LACK OF CONTROL: COVID-19 infections have exploded at Cumberland County's Messiah Village, where 12 people have died. The nursing home demonstrates how the coronavirus can still infiltrate facilities that regularly test staff members and have high infection control standards, PennLive reports.

POWER MOVE: Pittsburgh residents overwhelmingly voted to give more review power to the city's police review board, which investigates citizen misconduct complaints. The problem? The board is appointed by the mayor, who is seen as sympathetic toward police, and the union representing the city's officers is also challenging the legality of the board's powers, The Incline reports. 
» THIS IS JOURNALISM WORTH SUPPORTING: Become a member of Spotlight PA today and your contribution will be DOUBLED.

Thank you to everyone contributed yesterday: Michael R., Jessica G., Janet B., Margaret E., Dennis L., Debra L., Steve R., Nancy B., Joseph E., Francis H., Joseph M., Bernice H., Eric R., Heather B., Fred D., Charles C., Ann P., Stanley B., Rosa & Alberto E., Travis D., Andrea H., Will C., Morgan P., Jennifer C., Frank E., Dale H., and Catherine T. 

GOING STRONG: Ed and Donna Sturm, a Lancaster County couple, recently shared tips about how they've stayed married for 65 years. Among them: laugh and like the other person. Seems like solid advice.

SAFETY FIRST: Gun sales are surging in Pennsylvania, a state that doesn't require owners to be trained or to safely store their firearms. That could potentially put adults and children in danger. If you're in Philadelphia, you can request a free gun lock here, while anyone can seek a free safety kit from their local police department.

DINNER FOR TWO: My partner and I are staying home this Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean we (really, he) won't be cooking a big spread. Looking for recipes for us (again, him) to attempt, I came across this truly wonderful Pennsylvania Dutch-Style Potato Filling via the Washington Post. Bread and potatoes! Together at last.

WHAT TO WATCH IF ... You like weird TV: I recently binged the first four episodes of "How To With John Wilson," an extremely weird and strangely life-affirming new HBO documentary series. Among the characters Wilson meets: a Pennsylvania Wrestlemania fan who he later learns sets up stings to catch alleged child predators. It only gets wilder from there.

THE GRINCH WHO STOLE SANTA'S STUFF: An IRL grinch swiped $1,000 worth of Santa gear from Buck County's own Saint Nick, aka Rob Piazza. The Courier Times has this all-too-relatable detail: "He does have an old Santa suit, but it’s a little tight for Santa and he doesn’t feel like his jolly old self when he wears it." Same, Santa. Same.

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.

Yesterday's answer: Impersonator

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan D., Chip K., Heidi B., George S., John C., Doug W., Mary Ellen T., Dianne K., Carol D., Ron P., Joel S., and Patricia R. 
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