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Rural Republicans plead for end to ballot audit

Plus, answering your Pa. eviction and rent relief questions.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 11, 2021
New relief, moving infrastructure, audit 'chaos,' learning losses, prison probe, telemedicine rules, and DA Larry Krasner's ponytail. It's Wednesday.
A skeptical judge is reviewing a targeted federal eviction ban put in place by the Biden administration last week, Politico reports, as millions of Americans remain behind on rent and thousands in Pennsylvania remain stuck in financial aid backlogs.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich declared an earlier federal COVID-19 eviction ban illegal and is weighing in on the new, more limited version following a challenge by landlords. A decision is expected soon.

Friedrich has indicated familiar doubts about the rule's legality, but she's also questioning her power to block it after a higher court said in June that the federal government had strong arguments in favor of a freeze.

For renters in Pennsylvania, the uncertainty caps an especially turbulent few weeks that raised a host of questions, many answered in Spotlight PA's panel on rent relief options and rapidly shifting eviction policy last week

THE CONTEXT: The federal eviction ban currently under review only applies in counties with "substantial" or "high" rates of COVID-19 transmission. As of Tuesday, that was most of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Some local courts are also putting in place limited bans after a favorable state ruling. But long waits for more than $1 billion in available rent relief continue statewide. At least 44,000 applications were pending at the end of June.

In Philadelphia, a city judge recently expanded the city's eviction moratorium to halt "lockouts" of tenants whose pending rental assistance applications have been marked "complete," the Philadelphia Tribune reports.
Huge issues are being debated in Harrisburg, from voting changes to redistricting, that could have ramifications on our state for years to come. Now more than ever, we need unflinching investigative journalism in Pennsylvania.

And Spotlight PA is answering the call in a bold new way.

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If you value our vital investigative journalism, make a contribution of any amount and become a member now. 

"There’s more of a feeling, since we had it, what’s the use?"

—Allen Hoover, of the Parochial Medical Center in New Holland, on the Plain community's eschewing of COVID-19 vaccines after high rates of infection
VACCINE UPDATE: Gov. Tom Wolf will require 25,000 employees in state health-care facilities, prisons, and high-risk congregate care settings to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 7 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Wolf is also offering incentives to drive participation. For vaccine providers, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
PA Poster Alan V. went cicada-observing at Gifford Pinchot State Park in York County earlier this month. Thanks for the photo, Alan! Send us your hidden gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
ON THE MOVE: An infrastructure bill with $550 billion in new spending is headed to the House after earning bipartisan Senate approval Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) joined all Democrats in voting yes, while Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) split with GOP Leader Mitch McConnell in voting no. The Inquirer reports Pennsylvania electeds and advocates are already dreaming about all the projects that could result.

'CHAOS' AGENT: Republican-led Tioga County is accusing Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano of sowing "unnecessary chaos" with his Trump-aligned push to audit recent elections there and in two other counties, the AP reports. A terse letter from Tioga County's Republican-led Board of Commissioners says there's real work to do.

NO-SHOWS: A New York Times piece about the more than 1 million U.S. children who did not enroll in local schools during the pandemic begins with a Philadelphia six-year-old named Solomon Carson, whose family opted out of in-person and online classes last year. As a result, the article says, vulnerable students are even more so.

CASE CLOSED: A statewide grand jury probe of prison sex abuse cost Lackawanna County $1 million and saw four of seven arrested guards cleared of all charges or the cases against them dropped or dismissed, per a Times-Tribune report. Attorney General Josh Shapiro — who was sued by one guard — says the probe is officially over. 

SCREEN TIME: Telemedicine became an essential tool for health-care providers bridging physical divides during the pandemic, but more than a year later, Pennsylvania still has no permanent rules on the books, City & State reports. Experts say that's a problem: Clear parameters are urgently needed, pandemic or not.
MY PONY: Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner's recent "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me" appearance included a tell-all about his decision to wear a ponytail into his 40s and his impulsive decision to shear it off, which he mangled, leaving himself "looking like Pepe Le Pew," PhillyVoice reports.

FIXER UPPER: Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering right-to-repair legislation that PublicSource reports could affect everything from the price of medical bills to cellphone repairs.

MEAT BALL: An almost 30-year-old pickup baseball game is at the center of a "beef" between the Post-Gazette's music critic and musician Meatloaf. The two have very different recollections of how it went and who won.

PIZZA CHAMP: A reporter's taste-off compared New York pizza, Chicago deep dish, Detroit squares, and Philly's tomato pie and declared the latter cheeseless option the victor, via Insider.

IN THE CARDS: A California man is looking for two cards to complete his rare set of 20th century Scranton Miners — aka Scranton Red Sox — baseball cards, and he's turned to Facebook for help.
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.

This week's theme:
Pennsylvania town names

Yesterday's answer: Quakake

Congrats to our daily winners: Wendy A., Michelle T., Doris T., Kevin M., Susan F., Susan D., Diane P., Fred O., Barbara F., Beth T., Helene K., Judith D., Karen W., Don H., Eddy Z., Elaine C., Suzanne S., James B., Mike B., Susan N., Donna D., Jill A., Johnny C., Patricia R., Clayton L., Bruce B., Becky C., Skip B., Ron P., Catherine J., Brian B., Craig W., Dennis M., John H., Daniel M., Craig E., and Carol D.
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