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

Unemployment relief for 500K in Pa. will continue

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
December 23, 2020
Calls to reform secrecy law, more COVID-19 relief, judicial elections, isolated fraud, Santa letters, and Christmas City. Welcome to Wednesday.
CHALLENGE EXTENDED: We need to raise $5,000 by Dec. 31 to unlock a $5,000 matching gift! Become a member now and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Let's do this!

More than a decade ago, when the state Public Utility Commission was first considering how to adopt a new anti-terrorism law to keep infrastructural designs confidential, critics spoke about the need for balance.

The secrecy, meant to protect vulnerabilities, could also create unintended risks, and critics had said the commission needed a system to ensure that powerful utility companies did not take advantage.

Now, there is bipartisan agreement that those concerns have come to pass, Spotlight PA reports. Some of the protections meant to ensure that the law was working have fallen by the wayside. Yet, a recent decision by Commonwealth Court could make the law stronger than ever, making it even harder and more expensive for residents to challenge what remains confidential.

Despite a consensus, powerful special interests are standing in the way of major changes.

THE CONTEXT: The law, known as the CSI Act, was implemented before the fracking boom in Pennsylvania, which led to a proliferation of pipelines, most notably the Mariner East system.

A Spotlight PA investigation found that the law has at times prevented people who live near the pipelines from getting the safety information they need to draft detailed emergency plans should disaster strike.

Two lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would abolish the CSI Act and depend instead on the state's Right-to-Know Law. But little has happened.

“We are an energy state, and I understand people don’t want to quote-unquote kill the goose that laid the golden egg," one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Chris Quinn (R., Delaware), said. “I don’t see us making any broad, drastic 180 on some of our current policies. But we can move things and improve things.”


"These college kids are like, ‘Whatever, I’m not going to get [COVID].'"

— Mummer Justyn Myers said his brigade, the Lobster Club, won't be marching on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia, but several thousand others say they will despite the official parade's cancelation 

POST IT: Thanks, @wvubush, for tagging us in this Winter Wonderland shot from Fayette County. Send us your hidden gems (or your snow photos!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
A NEW DEAL: A $900 billion coronavirus spending package will send $600 checks to many Pennsylvanians and offer businesses another round of loans. Gov. Tom Wolf called the bill a good first step, PennLive reports, but said more aid is needed for state and local governments as well as for restaurants

MORE RELIEF: Under the new stimulus, 500,000 people in the state who are unemployed will get to keep their benefits, the Post-Gazette reports. The majority of those people are gig workers covered by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, though issues with consistently accessing the money have left some wary of the program.

PERSONAL STORIES: USA TODAY's Pennsylvania Capitol Bureau profiled a number of Pennsylvanians who are struggling with poverty, unemployment, and other challenges as the pandemic continues. One 19-year-old who aged out of the foster care system and previously lived in his car wasn't able to get an economic stimulus payment because he lacks a Social Security card.

2021, HERE WE COME: The GOP is already gearing up for a must-win state Supreme Court election in 2021, as Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, a Republican, prepares to retire. So far, three Superior Court judges have thrown their hats in the ring, the Associated Press reports.

ISOLATED FRAUD: A 70-year-old Delaware County man has admitted to registering two dead relatives and illegally casting an absentee ballot for one of them to “further the campaign of Donald Trump," The Inquirer reports. The local district attorney cautioned that the case was an isolated incident and not evidence of widespread fraud. 
ALL GIFTS MATCHED DOLLAR-FOR-DOLLAR: Spotlight PA members Jim Friedlich and Melissa Stern have generously increased their challenge grant to $5,000. If we can raise that amount by Dec. 31, they'll DOUBLE it.

Help put us over the top right now and become a member today. Contributions of any amount go directly to our essential public-service journalism. Thank you to all who have contributed so far! 

SLICE OF HISTORY: As a public service, The York Dispatch has digitized its archive and made it available via Newspapers.com. This is great news not only for Pennsylvania but for me personally, since I love to search for strange, old stories like this one about a Pittsburgh man who drunkenly stole a streetcar.  In 2018, I dug through newspaper archives for decades-old letters from Pennsylvania kids to Santa and found a gem from a “considerate urchin” in Scranton who reminded Santa not to "burn your wiskers."

WANTED: The Pennsylvania State Police is looking for people to donate horses for its mounted units. The animals "must have quiet, sound dispositions and be free of serious stable vices," so please don't try to give away your chatty, annoying stallion. 

TAKE 5: Instead of doomscrolling last night, I played with Google's "Blob Opera" for a truly ridiculous amount of time. You don't have to know how to read music (or even have a good ear) to get sucked in.

PAINFUL PAST: I was only a little kid at the time, but the memory of visiting the Philadelphia Zoo soon after the 1995 Christmas Eve fire is still clear in my mind. As we approach the 25th anniversary, Philadelphia magazine examines the legacy of the blaze that killed 23 primates.

CHRISTMAS CITY, PA: A Los Angeles Times journalist from Bethlehem, Pa. walked around her hometown to see just how Christmas-y it really is. Apparently, there's a Live Advent Calendar (sure, why not?), a human Santa Claus kept safely behind glass (because, COVID-19), and extremely high-alcohol, local beer. Sounds like a lovely place to spend a holiday.

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: Gingerbread

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Jarrod B., Theodore W., Karen W., George S., Heidi B., John C., Irene R., David I., Carol D., Ron P., Dianne K., David W., Bob R., and Anne R.  
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.