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Crisis hotlines in Pa. are busier than ever

A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Jordan Wolman
December 28, 2020
Ending 2020 with federal relief, an explosion of illegal dumping, the adventures of wrestler John Cena's action figure, and grieving with dogs. Relish the paws, it's Monday. 
CHALLENGE EXTENDED!: We've been challenged again by a generous donor, and this time we need to raise $10,000 by Dec. 31 to unlock a $10,000 matching gift! Become a member now and your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Let's do this!

After more than half a million Pennsylvanians lost pandemic-related unemployment and lawmakers from both parties pleaded with him, President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure Sunday night.

It had taken Congress several months to agree on the package, which revives federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic, provides billions of dollars for coronavirus vaccine distribution, and more money for small business loan programs, according to the New York Times. 

So when Congress finally passed it overwhelmingly last week, Trump caught people by surprise by refusing to accept it, and calling for $2,000 in direct payments instead of $600

He was still railing Saturday, as federal unemployment benefits across the country expired and people were left in limbo — including in Pennsylvania.

The state's Republican U.S. senator, Pat Toomey, had said Trump “wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”

Trump also signed a government spending measure Sunday night for fiscal year 2021, with days left before a government shutdown, according to the Associated Press. 

THE CONTEXT: The end of 2020 has been a grim countdown for Pennsylvanians relying on a federal relief through eviction bans, loans, and other benefits to keep their business, homes, and livelihoods afloat. 

Trump previously threatened to withhold aid from the state out of frustration with Gov. Tom Wolf in October for coronavirus restrictions as new cases soared.  


“It honestly made my stomach drop. Because it’s Christmastime, I’m a mother with three children, and bills aren’t stopping. There’s presents to put under the tree and that expectation that I have for my kids.”

Kendra Allen, a restaurant worker in Millersville, on learning of the most recent restrictions on restaurants and the impact they are having on the industry during the usually busy holiday season

POST IT: A post-snow storm view of the Susquehanna river from Harrisburg. Thanks Daniel S.Send us your hidden gems (or your snow photos!), use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
STATE OF LITTERING: Illegal dumps across Pennsylvania increased by 212 percent in 2020, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reports came from dumpsites in 50 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, including 19 in state parks, state forests, or state game lands. Household trash was the most reported item, found at 71% of sites, followed by building materials from renovations and construction at 42% of sites, and tires at 41% of sites.

AFFLUENT OR AFFORDABLE?: A Philadelphia developer didn't make good on his promise to build affordable housing when he bought public land at sweetheart prices, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Philadelphia Housing Development Corp. downplayed one of the contracts in the report, saying it was among “multiple projects” for which “records and justifications were unclear.”

WEATHERING THE HOLIDAY: Erie County residents did not have to dream about a white Christmas because they saw as many as 30 inches of snow over the long weekend, according to the Erie Times-News.

MASS CALLS FOR HELP: The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that crisis hotlines are busier than ever on a local and national level, often for people suffering from depression. The national nonprofit Crisis Text Line reported its highest volume ever in November, recording more than 180,000 conversations — an increase of 30,000 from October and 78,000 from September. 

STANDARDIZING DIVERSITY: The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will require that the electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, and telecommunications companies it oversees to document their diversity efforts, the Capital-Star reports, pending the approval by the state's attorney general.
» A NEW CHALLENGE: Our members have been stepping up BIG this month in support of Spotlight PA's essential journalism. Last week, we successfully unlocked a $5,000 matching gift from Jim Friedlich and Melissa Stern!

Now, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has challenged us to raise $10,000 by Dec. 31, and they will match every gift dollar-for-dollar! Sustain fearless journalism in Pennsylvania with a gift of any amount today.

A WILD RIDE: 2020 has sure been .... something. So PennLive and TribLive compiled some of their best photographs of people across Pennsylvania throughout the year's wild events.

GREAT ESCAPE: We've all had to find our outlets over the course of the stress and sadness of this year, and for one Philadelphia Inquirer photographer, it was staging scenes with an action figure of pro wrestler John Cena.

NEVER SAY NEVER(LAND): Michael Jackson's former estate is now the property of Ron Burkle, a co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Burkle purchased the California property for $22 million, a significant decrease from the asking price of $100 million in 2016.

EAGLE LANDS AGAIN: Chalk this up to a win for all you bird enthusiasts out there. A popular bald eagle live streaming camera in York County is getting renewed for another year. 

RUFF TIMES: One of the most heart-wrenching parts of the pandemic is the inability to grieve with loved ones after someone close passes. This has amplified the roles of two dogs — Ketchup and Sammy, at two Lehigh Valley funeral homes — and how they can help people feel a little less lonely.

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.

Thursday's answer: Frankincense 

Congrats to our weekly winner: John H.

Congrats to our daily winners: Mary Ellen T., Thomas B., Theodore W., Susan D., Irene R., Patricia M., Irene K., Jill G., George S., Bill C., Bette G., Patricia R., Susan R., Lex M., Craig W., Kim C., Karen W., John C., David I., Chris M., Dianne K., Joel S., Walter T., Lynne P., Carol D., Bruce B., Jarrod B., John A., Mary Anne M., Beth T., Tish M., Art T., John B., Margaret D., Bob R., Ron P., and Becca W.
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