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Hundreds of vulnerable Pa. seniors waiting for vaccine


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Tom Lisi
January 27, 2021
Unemployment snags, sluggish start, parental control, start-up controversy, commuter rail future, and the Phanatic's cousin. It's Wednesday.

Pennsylvanians relying on extended unemployment benefits to survive have been suffering through a new round of bureaucratic holdups and glitches.

As part of a stimulus package former President Donald Trump signed in December, lawmakers approved another 11 weeks of $300 supplemental unemployment payments. But according to Jennifer Berrier, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, state officials didn't receive any instructions on how to move forward until Jan. 11.

The agency wasn't able to process four weeks of new payments until this weekend, Berrier said Tuesday. Since then, officials have issued some 115,000 of them.

THE CONTEXT: Pennsylvania was among the many states last spring that sunk under the weight of hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims, as Spotlight PA previously reported.

While the system has improved, claimants are still experiencing issues with the state website, according to TribLIVE. The problem appears to be particularly acute for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which serves gig workers and has been hard hit by fraud

According to the latest data, 420,000 Pennsylvanians were unemployed in December, 38% more than the prior year.

Berrier said Tuesday the department is still hiring new staff and receiving help from state workers in other agencies to meet the demand.

“We understand the frustration of the claimants who’ve been waiting for their payments to resume,” she said. “We are frustrated, too, and are working to make it right."


"In the last year, we’ve seen what I would call unexpected survivors. We were able to get them there just in the nick of time."

—Jeremy W. Cannon, trauma section chief at Penn Medicine, on a Philadelphia police policy to take gunshot victims to hospitals without waiting for an ambulance. Per a new study, it's saving lives.
POST IT: Here's a sunset in Bethlehem to help start your Wednesday. Thanks, @igbethlehemSend us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
SLOW GOING: After a sluggish start, the vast majority of nursing homes in Pennsylvania have hosted at least one COVID-19 vaccine clinic. The same can’t be said of personal care homes and assisted living facilities, where thousands of people have died of the coronavirus, Spotlight PA reports.

PARENTAL CONTROLS: The Harrisburg woman who allegedly stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's laptop can live with her mom before her trial, but she can't use the internet, a federal judge ordered Tuesday. Prosecutors accused the 22-year-old of deleting potential evidence from social media, PennLive reports.
TAKE-HOME DOSES: The founder of a start-up that ran a major vaccination site in Philadelphia personally took home doses, Billy Penn and WHYY News report. College students were also seen "vaccinating one another and taking photos as the clinic ended."

SCHOOL DAZE: Pittsburgh Public Schools, the second largest system in the state, is weighing whether to delay reopening school buildings until April, the Post-Gazette reports. Board members heard from parents desperate to get their children back in school and from fearful teachers who are still waiting to receive vaccines. 
FUZZY FUTURE: SEPTA Regional Rail has lost 85% of its white-collar-dominated customer base during the pandemic, The Inquirer reports. To survive, experts say, the system should "prioritize the needs of people of color [and] essential workers."
UNHIDDEN FIGURES: A Philadelphia artist is bringing Black luminaries to life through meticulously detailed figurines sculpted over a period of months. These aren't regular action figures: The pieces have been featured in galleries and commissions cost at least $1,600. 

STAMP OF RECOGNITION: The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled a Forever Stamp that honors the late Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson. The stamp, available for pre-order now, is part of a Black Heritage series.

FUTURE DINING: The restaurant industry is not out of the woods yet, but Bucks County chefs say the pain has produced some changes that could be here to stay. They include online menus accessed through QR codes, a focus on locally sourced ingredients, and curbside pickup.

ANGLING FOR MORE: State officials announced an earlier-than-usual open to this year's trout season. Starting April 3, anglers across the state will be able to harvest the freshwater fish.

IN RELIEF: The Lancaster Barnstormers are hosting a donation drive at its ballpark to help provide local nonprofits with food, clothing, and more. The drive's final day on Saturday will feature an appearance by none other than Cyclo, the beloved "distant cousin" of the Phillie Phanatic.
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: Perpetual 

Congrats to our daily winners: Jessica K., Bob R., Jason H., Jarrod B., Susan D., Neal W., Arlene W., Irene R., Bill C., Bruce B., David I., Nicole W., Bette G., Theodore W., Jill G., Steve D., John C., Ron P., Deb N., Craig W., George S., Mary Ellen T., Jill A-S., Kim C., Dianne K., Nichole H., James Z., David W., Sandra G., Heidi B., Chris M., Carol D., Dan S., Suzanne S., Joel S., and Perry H. 
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