Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Pa. fails to spend $108 million in housing relief

HELP US END 2020 STRONG and sustain Spotlight PA in 2021. Become a member now and join us in the fight for facts, science, and the truth over misinformation and partisanship.

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
December 21, 2020
Unspent housing relief funds, a rush for PPE, 10,000 votes in purgatory, LGBTQ health challenges, Farm Show schedule, and puppy scams. Guess what? It's Monday.

Pennsylvania tenants and homeowners missed out on roughly $108 million in federal relief funding because state programs made it too hard to access, Spotlight PA reports.

Now that money will go to the Department of Corrections for payroll expenses.

Over the summer, Pennsylvania created two new housing programs to spend money it received under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act: $150 million for rent relief and $25 million for mortgage help. But the rental initiative was flawed from the beginning, with a demanding application process and a $750 per month cap that led many landlords not to participate.

Despite being aware of these problems since July, the GOP-controlled legislature declined to institute fixes

THE CONTEXT: An estimated 240,000 Pennsylvania families may face eviction in January, when a federal ban on evictions for people who could not pay rent expires, and back rent is due.

Congress on Sunday agreed on a $900 billion relief package that reportedly could extend the eviction ban until the end of January and includes $25 billion in emergency rent assistance. Still, it's unclear how that money will be distributed and if it will come soon enough to stave off what advocates warn could be a surge of eviction cases in the new year.


"If we want to save lives and livelihoods — and I’m thinking of restaurants and bars here — we need to get residents and employees in long-term care facilities vaccinated as soon as possible."

— Zachary Lysek, Northampton County coroner, on a $750 incentive to get employees of the Gracedale nursing home vaccinated for COVID-19

POST IT: A great snowy view from York County by Chris M. Send us your hidden gems (or your snow photos!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
A NATIONAL RUSH: Pennsylvania spent $35 million on plastic face shields earlier this year, as officials rushed to snap up personal protective equipment they could find for sale, the Associated Press reports. The state also spent $16.9 million on sanitizer and $5.6 million on ventilators.

IN PURGATORY: The fate of roughly 10,000 votes cast this November is still under legal review, and even though they won't affect the outcome of the election results, whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides on Jan. 8 will have major implications for years to come, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. At issue are ballots that arrived in a three-day extended window created by the state Supreme Court and challenged by Republicans. Meanwhile, the Trump campaign on Sunday filed another long-shot petition to change the election results

LGBTQ HEALTH: An assessment of the health of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians conducted this spring did not find significant changes from two years ago, when the survey was last conducted, The Morning Call reports. However, some of the health challenges faced by respondents — such as smoking, binge-drinking, and obesity — would make them more likely to face coronavirus complications. 

NO ENFORCEMENT: Westmoreland County Sheriff James Albert is one of a growing number of law enforcement officials who say they won't enforce Gov. Tom Wolf's temporary ban on indoor dining. TribLIVE reports that Albert believes the order violates the balance of government mandates and “at the same time protecting individual civil liberties.”

TO SEAT OR NOT TO SEAT: Despite certification by the Department of State, the GOP-controlled state Senate could decide not to seat Democrat Jim Brewster, the Post-Gazette reports. A federal court decision in the contentious race is not expected until after the legislature is sworn in this January.
» HELP US FINISH 2020 STRONG: Support Spotlight PA's essential local journalism by becoming a member now. Any amount makes a difference. A special thanks to Theresa B., Lawrence D., and Eileen S. for contributing and claiming tote bags in the last couple of days. 

SEEING, NO SMELLING: The 2021 Farm Show is going virtual this year, with daily cooking and educational demonstrations starting Jan. 9. While you won't be able to pet (and smell) the farm animals, you can still get your fix with special online events like "Alpaca Obstacle Courses."  

PUPPY SCAMS: Yes, that's right — puppy scams. Attorney General Josh Shapiro recently warned of "pet sale scammers" who charge people thousands of dollars for dogs that don't exist. One Quakertown-area woman lost $5,500 in such a con. 

MOVE OVER, FROSTY: A roving band of pranksters has left inflatable, 18-foot-tall snowmen at the homes of nearly 40 people in Beaver County. Instead of being weirded out as your newsletter writer would be, people in the area seem to be delighted: "My husband and I were just saying the way this year has been, this is something nice," one resident said.

TODAY I LEARNED: As a certified whiskey-head, I'm a bit ashamed to admit I didn't know until Sunday that Old Overholt originated in Westmoreland County. In an attempt to raise the brand's profile, the company has released a 114-proof whiskey, and an 11-year-old straight rye, only in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Santa, please take note. 

MOTHER OF THE BLUES: As a gift to myself, I've been saving "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" to watch this weekend. I've read August Wilson's masterpiece, but I'm just now learning about the real Getrude “Ma” Rainey, who "broke new ground for generations of blues singers to come by fusing vaudeville with southern blues."

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.

Friday's answer: Replicate

Congrats to our weekly winner: Susan D.

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., George S., Edward M., Heidi B., David I., Irene R., Dennis and Rose M., Mary Ellen T., Kim C., John C., Doug W., Ron P., Lynne E., and Beth T.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.