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100s stranded as demand swamps home repair program

Plus, the University of Pennsylvania is looking for a new president.

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The logo of PA Post, a free daily newsletter delivering the top news from across Pennsylvania every day.

A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmasters: Spotlight PA Staff

Monday, December 11, 2023
In today's edition: Overwhelming demand, mil definition, leadership changes, rail improvement, ballot appeal, and a real-life gingerbread man. 

In 2022, state lawmakers agreed to use $125 million in federal pandemic aid to create the Whole-Home Repairs Program, the largest state investment of its kind in years. 

As counties have begun taking applications, overwhelming demand has left hundreds of people unable to get help, interviews with more than a dozen program administrators show.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Demand for Pennsylvania's Whole-Home Repairs Program has been overwhelming, but more funding is on hold.

THE CONTEXT: The program offers income-eligible homeowners grants to address problems like leaking roofs, unsafe electrical wiring, and broken furnaces.

The funding can also be used to make properties more energy-efficient, or accessible for people with disabilities, as well as for construction-related workforce training. 

Despite issues, advocates say the program is worthwhile and needs more funding. Another $50 million for the program was included in the state budget approved in August, but the money remains in limbo until state lawmakers can agree on additional legislation.


"There are more regions of the country that are going to follow us in the future for sure … but this region in particular has suffered from a lack of new people moving in.”

Chris Briem, an economist at the University of Pittsburgh, on the Steel City’s struggle to attract more foreign-born residents to it
Support Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
We need your help right now.

We have just 3 weeks left in our year-end campaign and we need to raise $50,000 to hit our goal and ensure our vital work can continue strong in 2024. As a special bonus, if you give now a generous donor will DOUBLE it.

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» BOILO BASICS: Join us Thursday, Dec. 14 from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom for a free Q&A and demo on one of Pennsylvania's signature adult beverages, boilo. As a bonus, try your hand at some Pennsylvania wintertime trivia in the last half hour for a chance to win Spotlight PA swag. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

Tredway Trail on the Allegheny River, via Katherine M. Have a Pennsylvania photo to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.MIL MONEY: Property taxes are the lifeblood of municipal revenue and services in Pennsylvania, but depending on when a county last assessed its property values, local governments can overflow with cash or be strapped for it. Spotlight PA explores the question: "What is a 'mil' really worth?" and found the answer varies by millions.

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.UPENN UPDATE: Liz Magill resigned from her post as University of Pennsylvania president on Saturday as donors and politicians criticized her testimony on antisemitism to a congressional panel, the Inquirer reports. Shortly after Magill’s resignation, Board of Trustees Chair Scott Bok also said he would step down. 

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
SENATE STOP: John DiSanto, a Republican state senator who serves part of central Pennsylvania, will not seek reelection next year, ABC27 reports. DiSanto's 15th District was redrawn during last year's redistricting process and is considered a key target as Democrats look to take control of the chamber
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.KEYSTONE IMPROVEMENTS: According to WHYY, Pennsylvania will receive up to $143 million in federal grant money to improve rail service on the Keystone Corridor, which connects Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Among the expected benefits, per the Federal Railroad Administration: "Reduce[d] travel time, travel cost, and congestion."

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.ON APPEAL: The Republican Party is appealing after a court ruled undated and improperly dated ballots must be counted in Pennsylvania. PoliticsPA reports it is expected the case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court, as the outcome could influence the 2024 presidential race and other key upcoming elections here.
Support Spotlight PA's vital investigative and public-service journalism and for a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED.
🏆 PA POP QUIZ: Did you stay on top of the news last week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Sworn in on banned books, Fetterman’s troll target, and an Amtrak revival.
DEEP DIVE: The Guardian has a deep dive into the protest outside Goldie in Philadelphia, the accusations of antisemitism, and what staff members say was going on behind the scenes.

REDUCED PENALTIES: Two Pennsylvania state senators are seeking support for a legislative proposal that would reduce possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor crime to a civil offense, Marijuana Moment reports. 

IT'S LIT: PennLive has photos of the Capitol Menorah, which will be lit through Dec. 15 to celebrate Hanukkah. Gov. Josh Shapiro spent the first night of Hanukkah on the campus of Penn.

BREAD AND BUTTER: The Inquirer profiled New Yorker Jon Lovitch, who built the massive, Philly-themed gingerbread village at Reading Terminal Market

EVERGREEN ISSUE: Christmas tree farmers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say there is a "tight supply" this year and are urging folks to get their trees ASAP
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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. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Friday's answer: Babysitting

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