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Anti-fraud efforts block Pa. jobless from benefits

Plus, school spending could get boost from $8.5b surplus.


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Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
January 21, 2022
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Unemployment woes, low attendance, coal closure, hospital helpers, chicken habitats, prodigal Tom, alternative actors, and the code of the Jedi. It's Friday.
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"Prohibition ended 88 years ago. I just think it’s finally time to take this into the private sector." 

—State Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R., Allegheny) on her proposed constitutional amendment to privatize Pennsylvania's liquor system
» PULL UP: The federal government will soon open a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Hershey, PennLive reports. The site aims to test 1,000 people per day, and will primarily be funded by the federal government.

» SECOND SUIT: A group of students and parents in the Upper St. Clair School District has sued the district over the school board’s decision to make masks optional. The suit resembles one filed against the North Allegheny School District on the same grounds, and even involves the same lawyer.

» BOOSTER LIMITS: British researchers studied the duration for which Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots are most effective, and found protection against infection peaks after a few weeks while protection against severe disease lasts for months — results they said are expected and normal, WHYY reports. 

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» BACK IN SESSION: On Thursday, Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. EST, join Spotlight PA and our panel of experts via Zoom as we look back on the 2021 legislative session and discuss what themes are likely to emerge — or persist — in 2022. RSVP for free here. Submit questions to events@spotlightpa.org.
A gloomy Delaware River day in Bristol. Thanks for the photo, Bill G.! Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
BIG SURPLUS: Ahead of his last budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf is touting the state's $8.5 billion surplus, saying the strong economic picture is a result of his “progressive” policy agenda. Per the Capital-Star, the Democrat said he'll pitch the GOP-led legislature next month on making “generational investments" including full funding for school districts. 

BOBBY BOWS: Bobby Henon, the Philadelphia councilmember convicted of bribery and conspiracy for trading favors with electrical union leader John Dougherty, has officially resigned from his position, WHYY reports. Henon, in office since 2011, declined to comment on why he did not wait to resign until his sentencing date next month.

POWER DOWN: Allegheny County’s last coal-fired power plant, Cheswick Generating Station, is being sold to a new owner that will demolish, remediate, and redevelop the site, the Post-Gazette reports. The new owner, Kentucky-based Charah Solutions Inc., will take over shutting down and decommissioning the plant.

NO SHOWS: The Pennsylvania Farm Show, which returned to Harrisburg after being held virtually in 2021, saw a steep drop in attendance this year, AP reports. Citing parking revenue, a proxy for attendance given the event does not charge admission or count visitors, the state Department of Agriculture estimated 40% fewer people showed up to the indoor expo compared to 2020, a plummet likely attributable to the pandemic.

HELPING HANDS: When omicron slammed Delaware County hospitals earlier this month, filling beds and infecting staff, a volunteer group stepped in, The Inquirer reports. Delaware County Medical Reserve Corps' help came at a critical time. Staff levels reportedly dipped so far that one hospital began calling back sick workers from quarantines.
POULTRY PITCH: Next week’s episode of Shark Tank will feature Lancaster County entrepreneur Chet Beiler, owner of OverEZ Chicken Coop. The company sells backyard coop kits, and Belier appeared on the ABC show in hopes of expanding his operation to Europe. Wish him good … cluck.

AUDITOR JEDI: The official portrait of former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, which will hang in the auditor general’s office for posterity, features a lightsaber. The prop, in DePasquale’s telling to the York Daily Record, embodies the public servant’s love of Star Wars and his commitment to fighting government waste. 

HERMIT HANK: Tom Hanks will return to Western Pa. to film the American adaptation of the Swedish novel A Man Called Ove. The best-selling story of a cranky loner who learns to be kinder was first adapted to film in 2015, and received two Oscar nominations, so Hanks has his work cut out for him.

SWING TIME: In the aftermath of multiple COVID-related show cancellations, Lancaster's Fulton Theatre has taken a page from Broadway and decided to employ swing actors and understudies for its latest production. The backup performers wait on standby in case of absences or emergencies.

KNOW YOURSELF: In an ode to the City of Champions’ notoriously perplexing roadways, Pittsburgh City Paper created a quiz that can identify which intersection best represents yinz
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:
The weather
Yesterday's answer: Cloudburst

Congrats to our daily winners: Craig W., Eddy Z., Bonnie R., Doris T., Barbara O., Patricia M., Wendy A., Michelle T., Jann C., Don H., Becky C., Kimberly S., Janet C., Kevin M., Joyce O., Jill M., Susan N.-Z., BTF, Mark O., Beth T., Kimberly D., Daniel M., Judith D., Patricia R., Jodi R., Brian B., Alana G., Vicki U., Deb N., William M., Elaine C., K. C., Alan V., Mary Lou W., Steve D., Al M., Dan. W., James B., Myles M., Tish M., Karen W., Elizabeth W., George S., Bill S., Gail E., Jill K., Susan D., Kevin H., David W., Suzanne D., and William S. 
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