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GOP ups pressure on Levine over missing Pa. data


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 19, 2021
Tax tips, leaning on Levine, hate crimes, reverse search, school violence, re-classified, and the maple syrup hero we need. Friday has arrived.
If you, like me, are running a little behind on your taxes this year, good news: We just got an extension. The IRS and Pennsylvania announced this week that their respective filing deadlines have been moved back from April 15 to May 17. 

Feel free to celebrate with tax tweets to procrastinate by, courtesy of BuzzFeed. But we're not off the hook, and a very complicated fiscal year could equal more complicated 2020 tax filings for many. 

This includes, but is by no means limited to, people who:That last group, in particular, has contended with conflicting advice, making an already stressful situation even more so. Here's what we know. 

THE CONTEXT: Numerous Pennsylvanians have received federal tax docs — either 1099-Gs or UC-1099Gs — for unemployment benefits they never requested or did request but never received, Spotlight PA reports.

What should they do? For starters, report suspected fraud immediately. If you did request benefits but have tax docs for different amounts than what you received, report that here.

The state says corrected forms will be issued but not to wait. Instead, the IRS and Pennsylvania's Office of Unemployment Compensation suggest plowing ahead and filing 2020's taxes with real income, "not fraudulent income," reflected. 

Not everyone endorses this approach, given the potential for a painful future audit, but it's worth weighing the IRS' own advice on the subject. 

There is also some good news via the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which made the first $10,200 of unemployment payments non-taxable in 2020, effectively lowering tax liabilities for recipients. Less conveniently, it could also mean people who already filed have to amend their returns. 

And if you, like me, are trying to get your taxes done on the cheap this year, be sure to read this ProPublica piece about available "free" services first


"These poor decisions were mine and mine alone."

—Gregg Shore, who was demoted as an assistant Bucks County district attorney over DoorDash deliveries performed during work hours
VACCINE UPDATE: The Wolf administration reports the state's COVID-19 vaccine rollout is speeding up, with Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation for the number of shots given per 100,000 people over the past week. Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said officials are working toward opening up eligibility to all adults by May 1, as directed by President Joe Biden. For vaccine providers, check Spotlight PA's map and county-by-county listing.
» The Fettermans: Join Spotlight PA at 5 p.m. April 6 for a conversation and reader Q&A with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Second Lady Gisele Fetterman on immigration, legal cannabis, racism, and more. RSVP FOR FREE

POST IT: Thanks, Kathleen D., for this shot of Union Canal Tunnel Park in Lebanon. Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us at @spotlightpennsylvania.
DATA CRUNCH: U.S. House Republicans want former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to give more detail about the state’s missing nursing home data ahead of her confirmation to a post in the Biden administration. Four Republican House members, including two from Pennsylvania, cited Spotlight PA reporting in asking Levine to address data gaps from her tenure that continue today.

FEARFUL: U.S. hate crimes fell overall in 2020, but hate crimes against Asian Americans surged by 150%, fueled by misplaced anger over the coronavirus crisis. In Philadelphia, Asian Americans have seen the spike firsthand. “I try not to make eye contact with people,” Qunbin Xiong told The Inquirer. “I literally do not want to expose my Asian face to them.”

JOB SEARCH: Pennsylvania restaurant owners are happy pandemic dining restrictions are beginning to lift but concerned about their ability to meet demand after a rollercoaster year that has driven many potential employees away from the industry for good. Stroudsburg restaurant manager Steve Ertle told York Daily Record of the staffing outlook, "This is the worst I’ve ever seen it."

SCHOOL VIOLENCE: More than 300 people age 18 or under were shot in Philadelphia last year, 37 of them fatally. That's more than a two-thirds increase from 2019, WHYY reports. And that rise has presented unique challenges for school communities in the midst of online learning and raised questions about whether the decentralized approach has been a contributing factor itself

'MICROPOLITAN': State College is one of nine areas in Pennsylvania that would go from "metropolitan" to "micropolitan" under a proposed federal rule change. The change isn't just symbolic either: It would mean a change in how federal funding and resources are allocated, The Daily Collegian reports.
WRITTEN IN STONE: A 50-ton, 74-foot-high slab of Tennessee marble inscribed with the First Amendment is headed for Philadelphia. The monument graced the facade of Washington’s now-defunct Newseum and is being relocated to the National Constitution Center in Center City, Washingtonian reports. 

'SCABS ARE HERE': The Jersey Shore was always a horror show. Quite literally, the shore's haunted attractions were big draws for tourists from states like Pennsylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Atlas Obscura gathered a few of their stories, including one involving an off-duty cop, a lost gun, and a frantic search inside a pitch-black haunted house.

NEW TRIBUTE: Pennsylvania icon Fred Rogers was a snowbird, spending winters just outside Orlando in the town where he and wife Joanne graduated college. Their alma mater is now honoring the TV legend with a bronze sculpture, a lasting reminder that, in the words of the Post-Gazette, "Mister Rogers is both a yinzer and a Florida man."

SWEET SPOT: North Philly dad Jethro Heiko spent a pandemic winter tapping dozens of neighborhood trees for maple syrup, part of a small but growing DIY movement. “One person was almost angry that he was living there all this time and had no idea he could make his own maple syrup,” Heiko told Philly Mag. 

HOMEMADE HELP: More than 100,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have passed through Lou Farrell's Hatfield home in the past year. Farrell is making them for unhoused people and has turned his home's garage into something of a factory. "This is the 'bread drop' world headquarters," he told 6ABC.
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: Spacecraft

Congrats to our daily winners: Yvette R., Craig W., Jessica K., Neal W., Patricia M., Susan D., Mary Ellen T., Irene R., Dianne K., Jill M., Beth T., Kim C., Elaine C., George S., Dennis M., David I., Heidi B., Karen W., Parker B., Carol D., Suzanne S., Joel S., Elizabeth W., David W., Bob R., Bill C., and William M.
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