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Thousands of Pa. families face potential eviction in 2021

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December 11, 2020
Thousands face eviction, new COVID-19 restrictions, election overtime costs, a close race, and a pretzel empire moves on. Welcome to Friday.
Almost 15% of Pennsylvania renters could be kicked out of their homes come January, Spotlight PA reports.

Many tenants have been protected from eviction under a federal moratorium aimed at controlling the coronavirus by keeping people out of crowded shelters or other cramped living conditions.

But unless the CDC extends its ban beyond Jan. 1, or Congress passes another COVID-19 relief package that includes further protections, tenants could soon be in court — and out of their homes.

Even with the CDC order in place, loopholes and a lack of clear statewide guidance have let some who should be protected slip through the cracks.

THE CONTEXT: Just as we saw with the 1918 pandemic, the second wave of the coronavirus is more deadly than the first, with cases skyrocketing nationwide and within the state. 

Hospitalizations are up, and the possibility of thousands of newly homeless people has advocates and public health experts bracing for the worst.

“There’s no way to tell for certain how many households will be evicted,” said Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, which advocates for tenants. But, she told Spotlight PA, “it definitely looks scary.”  

There is possible relief in sight, as Congress debates a possible $908 billion bipartisan bailout plan, including $25 billion for rental assistance. But it's unclear if lawmakers will be able to come to an agreement.

Philadelphia City Council members on Thursday took action on their own, approving an amendment to extend the city's eviction diversion program, WHYY reports. The program requires landlords to engage in mediation before taking legal actions against tenants over unpaid rent.


"Tom and I are grateful for the well-wishes and support we have received."

— Frances Wolf, Pennsylvania's first lady, has tested negative for COVID-19. Gov. Tom Wolf, who tested positive Tuesday, remains in isolation at home and said he's doing well.

POST IT: Thanks, Doug W., for sharing this view of Saltsburg on the Conemaugh River. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
NEW RESTRICTIONS: Gov. Tom Wolf is temporarily banning indoor dining and school sports, limiting event sizes, and closing gyms and theaters to slow the spread of COVID-19, Spotlight PA reports. The new restrictions, announced Thursday, are scheduled to begin Saturday and remain in effect until 8 a.m. Jan. 4.

MILLIONS IN OVERTIME: County leaders are feeling sticker shock from what they say was far and away the most expensive election in their careers, Votebeat and Spotlight PA report. Dauphin County's elections director, for instance, estimates his office went $700,000 over budget this year, the first under Pennsylvania's new no-excuse mail voting law.

INFREQUENT JUSTICE: Of the nearly 8,500 shootings in which people were wounded or killed since 2015 in Philadelphia, just 1 in 5 led to charges, an investigation by The Inquirer found. And suspects were convicted in just 9% of cases. The conviction rate was even lower  only 6 %  when young Black men were wounded in shootings.

73 VOTES: In southwestern Pennsylvania, Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster holds a narrow lead over his Republican challenger, Nicole Ziccarelli. The results of a federal lawsuit could decide the election, TribLIVE reports, as Ziccarelli's campaign is contesting a decision by Allegheny County officials to count more than 2,300 ballots submitted with incorrect or missing dates handwritten on outer envelopes.

END OF THE LINE: Lawmakers will be sworn into new terms next month, and some Democrats want special precautions to protect them from their Republican colleagues who refuse to wear a mask. Philadelphia state Rep. Joe Hohenstein says those maskless members should be sworn in last to prevent them from contaminating the House floor, the Associated Press reports.
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EXITING EMPIRE: Auntie Anne's, the soft pretzel company that's a fixture of malls, is moving its headquarters from Lancaster to Atlanta. The company started in a Downingtown farmers' market 32 years ago. Fear not, mall rats, the company's move won't affect its local retail presence.

TALL ARRIVAL: A 15-month-old giraffe from Knoxville made her grand debut at the Philadelphia Zoo on Thursday. Bea stands 8 feet tall, weighs 300 pounds, and is handling the transition well, according to zoo officials.

NOT SINCE 1623: Jupiter and Saturn are moving closer together, culminating in an event called the Great Conjunction on Dec. 21. The two gas giants will be so close together they'll look like one big, bright star. The last time the two planets were so close together, astronomer Galileo Galilei was alive, according to an observatory in Perth, Australia.

WHAT TO READ IF ... You're looking for a new holiday dessert: Consider the Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake, which has a chocolate layer that sinks to the bottom. There is apparently some debate over the best baking method, which The Morning Call dove deep into three years ago.

IN GOOD COMPANY: Vivian Lord, 7, loves playing with toy soldiers but noticed that all of them were male. So she wrote letters to a number of companies, including Scranton-based BMC Toys. Now, Vivian's got a new Christmas present.
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. Love the scrambler? Make a donation to help us end 2020 strong.
Yesterday's answer: Acrimony

Congrats to our daily winners: Art W., Bob R., Chip K., David I., Jessica K., Irene R., John C., Susan D., Chris W., John H., Bill C., Lynne E., Michael B., Heidi G., Perry H., Gail H., Tracey C., Patricia R., Deb N., George S., Carol D., Joel S., Kim C., Bruce B., Craig E., Jill A-S., Mary Ellen T., Doug W., David W., Dianne K., Jarrod B., Jeffery S., Beth T., Lance L., and Ron P.
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