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Pa. gov: Cuomo should resign over sexual harassment

Plus, new order, ruling give hope to anxious Pa. renters.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 4, 2021
Eviction hold, step down, audit warning, crypto keepers, major restitution, fire fights, and Post Malone eats chicken in Pennsylvania. It's Wednesday.
JOIN US: On Thursday, we're hosting a virtual panel about rental assistance in Pennsylvania and what the new federal COVID-19 eviction ban means for tenants. Register here.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has given one county permission to pause eviction cases for up to 60 days if someone has already applied for help, opening the door for lower courts across the state to do the same.

Bucks County's request cited the need for more time to get assistance money out to tenants, Spotlight PA reports.

At least 400 applications for rental assistance from county residents remained under review at the end of July, according to the request. Statewide, some 44,000 such applications are stuck in backlogs.

Pennsylvania has $847 million in federal rent relief funding to distribute with another $670 million on the way, but less than 20% of that pot had been spent by the end of June.

That's faster than most states but still far short of the pace advocates hoped to see amid lingering economic disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE CONTEXT: Spotlight PA reported last week on the thousands of Pennsylvania tenants contending with long waits and few updates in their pursuit of rent relief — some with landlords eager to force them out after long periods of nonpayment.

After a disastrous first round of pandemic rent relief last year, the state vowed a more concerted effort this time around. But having each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties running its own program led to uneven results.

An additional reprieve came late Tuesday in the form of a new, limited federal eviction moratorium. The order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protects renters in counties with high or substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission. Currently, 29 of the state’s 67 counties meet that threshold.
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"We gain nothing by penalizing the distribution and use of fentanyl test strips."

—Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announcing the city will no longer arrest people for test strips used to detect the powerful opioid in street drugs

VACCINE UPDATE: Restaurants in Pittsburgh and Wayne are among those requiring proof of vaccination to dine indoors, and while a number of states have banned the practice, Pennsylvania isn't one of them. New York is now the largest U.S. city requiring vaccine proof for indoor activities. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
>> HOUSING PENNSYLVANIA: Join us Thursday, Aug. 5 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free panel on everything we know about rental assistance in Pennsylvania. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
"Views from the Millersburg Ferry on the beautiful Susquehanna." Thanks for another amazing shot, Don H.!  Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
STEP DOWN: In a statement with the governors of New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, Pennsylvania's Tom Wolf called on Andrew Cuomo to resign following the release of an inquiry that found the New York pol sexually harassed 11 women. The governors said they were "appalled at the findings of the independent investigation."

NO VOTES: The U.S. Department of Justice has joined the chorus warning against a third-party, Arizona-style audit of Pennsylvania's recent elections, WITF reports. The DOJ said turning over things like ballots or hard drives could violate the Civil Rights Act. Meanwhile, the Arizona audit has ended, producing no evidence of widespread fraud but a fresh maelstrom of misinformation, per the Arizona Republic.

COIN FLIP: New cryptocurrency rules in the U.S. Senate's $1 trillion infrastructure bill have drawn the attention of cryptocurrency investor Pat Toomey. The Pennsylvania Republican called the provisions "unworkable" and said he'll offer up an amendment. Per Bloomberg News, the bill would raise tax reporting rules for cryptocurrencies as a means of generating money to help pay for itself.

THEFT CASE: A major state contractor has agreed to pay restitution of more than $20 million over allegations it illegally diverted pension money and other benefits from its workers, the AP reports. Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. of State College also entered no-contest pleas on four theft counts, four months after being charged in what state Attorney General Josh Shapiro called "the largest prevailing wage criminal case on record."
FIRE SEASON: Some 1,300 wildfires have burned around 3,000 acres in Pennsylvania this season, StateImpact reports, a small total compared to the 400,000 acres burned by Oregon's Bootleg Fire this summer. But one official warns: "The potential is here, with the wrong weather conditions and extended periods of drought, that we could have some fairly significant wildfires that I think would open a lot of people’s eyes." 
CARDED: Wawa data breach victims are one step closer to earning a $5 gift card, a $15 gift card, or $500 cash for their trouble. The tiered settlement proposal earned preliminary approval from a judge last week. Per Bloomberg Law, the amount paid would correspond with the "severity of their injury."

LEAF PEEPS: Not to rush the end of summer or anything, but the Laurel Highlands is once again in the running for USA Today's Best Destination for Fall Foliage Award, as chosen by the paper's readers. It's the second year in a row, and with views like this, it's no wonder why, WTAE reports.

PA POST: Days before playing a massive Lollapalooza set in Chicago, musician Post Malone brought his well-documented love of fried chicken to Tully's in Clarks Summit. A bartender told CBS21 Malone ordered an assortment of tendies, was "very polite," and spent over an hour inside.

CLEAN UP: Lackawanna County may have Post Malone, but the Pittsburgh area is getting a visit from the world's largest bottle of soap. The 21-foot, 2,500-pound bottle is currently on a nationwide tour aimed at "raising awareness of the importance of hand hygiene," City Paper reports. 

MEME STATE: Can the essence of an arguably one-sided rivalry between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia be conveyed with a single "Mad Men" meme on Twitter? You be the judge.
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: Significance

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Becky C., Susan F., Neal W., Susan N., Don H., Elaine C., Susan D., Myles M., Suzanne S., Dennis M., Irene R., James B., Chris R., David W., Kevin H., Christine M., Barbara A., Craig E., Kim C., Beth T., and Kathleen S.
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