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What a Biden presidency means for Pa.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes and Tom Lisi
January 21, 2021
Presidential priorities, waiting teachers, delayed payments, primary challenger, hometown message, and a clairvoyant rodent. It's Thursday.

Pennsylvania's own Joe Biden is now the 46th president of the United States.

The 78-year-old Democrat took the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol — just 14 days after a mob of insurrectionists stormed the building — and called for unity and healing.   

Fellow Scranton native U.S. Sen. Bob Casey told The Inquirer there was an element of whiplash — from insurrection to inauguration in the span of two weeks.  

“The common denominator, the glue that strings together all those events and insults is the former president,” he said. “The good news today is we can start a brand-new chapter.”

THE CONTEXT: So what will Biden's presidency mean for the Keystone State in the immediate future? Here's what we're watching:

  • As part of a $1.9 trillion package to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden is proposing sending $350 billion to state, local, and territorial governments. Pennsylvania lawmakers previously used federal aid dollars to prop up the state budget, leaving other priorities — like relief for small businesses and those behind on utility bills — undone.   
  • Biden wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Pennsylvania is one of 21 states where the hourly base wage is $7.25, the current federal minimum. 
  • On Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Pennsylvania is one of the top producers of carbon emissions in the U.S.
  • In his first 100 days in office, Biden said he will push Congress to pass the "Equality Act," which would provide housing, workplace, and public accommodation protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Pennsylvania law does not provide those protections to LGBTQ people. 

Biden's presidency also means Pennsylvania has now sent two men to the White House. The first was James Buchanan, whose disastrous presidency and indifference contributed to the start of the Civil War.  


“It’s a military camp.”

— A apparently emotional Gov. Tom Wolf at the presidential inauguration, noting the unprecedented security measures surrounding the U.S. Capitol
POST IT: "Blue hour reflections" on the North Shore of Pittsburgh. Thanks, @badtruxwell for this shot! Send us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
WAITING GAME: Teachers in Philadelphia may have to wait weeks to get a COVID-19 vaccine, while educators in Western Pennsylvania have received little or conflicting information on what the game plan is, Chalkbeat and TribLIVE report. Meanwhile, the University of Pittsburgh is preparing to vaccinate up to 800 students who work in health sciences or have pre-existing conditions, according to the Pitt News. 
WHAT WENT WRONG? Two-thirds of the residents at a Lancaster County nursing home died from COVID-19, a tragedy advocates and surviving family believe was caused by inadequate staffing, LancasterOnline reports. Families of the 39 residents who died are now considering legal action.
DELAYED PAYMENTS: Recipients of unemployment benefits provided by two federal pandemic programs haven't received payments since the end of December. WGAL reports that the state must "revamp the computer system that issues benefits for the program" and that there is no timetable to resume the payments.

FRONTLINE BONUS: Pennsylvania will be able to provide $600 grants to as many as 33,000 child-care workers in the state, the Associated Press reports. Providers must apply on behalf of their employees.
PITTSBURGH PRIMARY: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will have at least one primary challenger in May. State Rep. Ed Gainey announced his candidacy Tuesday, Pittsburgh City Paper reports, and already has the backing of one powerful union leader.
HIS WAY: The president sent a video message to Scranton earlier this week to thank the city for designating part of the street where he grew up Joe Biden Way. "It’s a tremendous honor, and I know you know it, but it means the world to me," he said.

'MOSAIC OF LIFE': Philadelphia-area residents are taking part in a grassroots project celebrating Vice President Kamala Harris' Indian heritage. They're drawing kolams — "an ancient Indian art form of geometric patterns" — to contribute to a planned installation in Washington. 

CRYSTAL CLEAR: Bucks County-based Lenox Corp. once again provided custom-made crystal vases as inaugural gifts to the new president and vice president. The crystal and fine china maker has carried out the tradition since 1989.

THE TALENT: Groundhog Day must go on. After starring in a Super Bowl commercial with Bill Murray last year, a clairvoyant rodent named Poppy will predict the future virtually next month. Poppy, who lives in Lancaster County, should not be confused with Punxsutawney Phil, who can be found these days picking up extra cash on the app Cameo

RAISE A PINT: The oldest residence in Pittsburgh, known as the Woods House, is now a Scottish-style pub. The building dates back to 1792 and is named for "the surveyor who laid out what is now Downtown Pittsburgh."
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Yesterday's answer: Commemorate 

Congrats to our daily winners: George S., Craig W., Theresa T., Ashley S., David I., Jill G., Joel S., Mary Ellen T., Becky C., Carol D., Ron P., Dianne K., Neal W., John C., Patricia R., Theodore W., Irene R., Patricia M., Judith B., Lance L., Bill C., and Beth T. 
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