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What the SEC wants from Pa.'s school pension fund

Plus, Philly is almost out of rental assistance money.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA
Your Postmaster: Spotlight PA Staff
October 1, 2021
Dwindling funds, driver shortage, SEC subpoena, GOP hopefuls, dangerous lead, bag ban, detention center, and the season's first leaf report. It's Friday.

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With thousands of people still waiting for help, Philadelphia’s emergency rental assistance program could run out of money in as little as two weeks, Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report.

Another $35 million in federal relief is on the way, though exactly when it will arrive is unclear. But even that won’t be enough money to help everyone who has applied.

The city would need another $276 million just to cover the pipeline of existing applications — not counting the roughly 1,500 new ones that are arriving each week. 

THE CONTEXT: Congress has approved more than $46 billion in rent relief to stave off an eviction crisis, but many state and local governments have been slow to pay out the money to landlords and tenants.

Some of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, which are each running their own assistance programs, have similarly struggled to work through a mountain of applications and get funding out the door.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, has been hailed as a national model, both for the speed with which it has sent the money out and the way the assistance program is integrated with the municipal court system.

But the city’s success — and the level of need — have yet to be matched by sufficient funding, and the current shortfall has already left many tenants unable to receive all the help they qualify for.
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"We can’t allow the county commissioners to save this money for a rainy day when we need it now."

—Westmoreland County resident Diana Steck during a rally Thursday urging local officials to start spending $105 million in federal COVID-19 cash

COVID-19 UPDATE: Gov. Tom Wolf suggests the school mask mandate will end when kids can be vaccinated; Pennsylvania is grappling with a school bus driver shortage made worse by the pandemic; and tips to find quality masks online. To find the vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» CRISIS OF CARE: Join us Friday, Oct. 8 at noon ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on rising rates of Alzheimer's disease in Pennsylvania, the barriers to care, and the solutions urged by advocates. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org
Our Hidden Gems are starting to look like hidden talents. Thanks, Charlie D., for this painting of a sunset near Potters Mills in Centre County. Send us your gems, use the hashtag #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
EXPANDED PROBE: The SEC has widened the federal scrutiny of Pennsylvania’s mammoth public school pension plan, demanding records that could show whether the fund’s staff improperly traded gifts with Wall Street consultants and investment managers, Spotlight PA and The Inquirer report.

GROWING FIELD: Will Jake Corman run for governor in 2022? As politicos wait to see what the top Republican in the state Senate will do, the Associated Press reports the GOP field is getting larger by the day. State Sen. Dan Laughlin of Erie County is expected to declare soon.

DANGER ZONE: The percentage of children in Pennsylvania with elevated blood lead levels is more than twice the national rate, The Inquirer reports. Gov. Tom Wolf last year proposed a $1 billion program to tackle lead as well as asbestos in schools, but the proposal went nowhere. Advocates are still calling for action

BAN IT: Dozens of Pittsburgh businesses and organizations have signed a letter supporting a plastic bag ban in the city, per WESA. City Council is expected to take up the issue this fall, months after a statewide preemption on single-use plastic bans expired.

FOR PROFIT: A former private prison in Clearfield County will become a for-profit immigrant detention center, Business Insider reports. Local commissioners defended the decision as a way to provide well-paying employment for county residents.
DASANI'S STORY: Eight years after telling the story of Dasani Coates, then a homeless child, the New York Times has an updated profile. Among the new details: Dasani for a time attended the Milton Hershey School, which was the subject of a Spotlight PA/Inquirer/ProPublica investigation.  

A RECKONING: Yesterday was a “Day for Truth and Reconciliation” in Carlisle. Mayor Tim Scott issued the proclamation in remembrance of survivors and victims of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

IT'S TIME: Break out the cable-knit sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes, because fall has truly arrived. The state has released its first foliage report of the season, and leaves in north-central counties are approaching best color.

TODAY I LEARNED: A semi-regular Turnpike user, I had never heard of a "V-toll" before reading this WPXI piece. Apparently, some customers with older transponders that don't always register are being charged $10 fines.

CATCHING KODY: So how exactly does one go about catching an escaped Steller’s sea eagle? With food, familiar objects, and some well-placed traps, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh hopes.
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: Wainscotting

Congrats to our daily winners: Susan Z., Kimberly S., Myles M, Kim C., George S., Don D., Lynne E., Elaine C., David W., Suzanne, Neal W., Doris T., Dianne K., James B., Bill S., Brian B., Tim B., and Elizabeth W.
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