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Pa. mortgage relief applicants in limbo — again

Plus, bill would lift medical marijuana ad ban for doctors.

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Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

Thursday, June 29, 2023
No relief, marijuana ads, HQ lawsuits, gun policies, penalty phase, Moms for Liberty, and firework warnings. This is PA Post.

Some Pennsylvania homeowners could lose their properties despite seeking help through a troubled state mortgage relief program.

The program was launched in February 2022 with $350 million in federal pandemic aid to help homeowners catch up on their bills. But as Spotlight PA previously reported, homeowners seeking aid from the program have faced long and uncertain waits — in some cases, more than a year.

Now, the state’s attempt to fix the program has some applicants stuck in limbo again.

Read Spotlight PA's full report: Advocates fear some could lose their homes while waiting on backlogged mortgage relief program.

THE CONTEXT: The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency took over the program from a private contractor earlier this year. Applicants now must reapply in the agency’s new system to get in line again; if they don’t, their applications can’t move forward and they can’t receive assistance. An estimated 55% of applicants have not registered in the new system, according to PHFA.

Advocates gathered at the Capitol this week to urge action. They want PHFA to give local courts information on who has applied, and for courts to pause foreclosures while those applications are processed.

“It really needs to speed up,” said Adam Goldman, a housing counselor at the Philadelphia Unemployment Project. Homeowners “should not be the ones who are punished because things have been moving so slowly.”


“This isn’t something that’s going to clear out, unfortunately, in 24 hours.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks on Wednesday’s return of wildfire smoke from Canada to Pennsylvania 
» Schmidt confirmed by default, Bogen nod withdrawn, via PoliticsPA

» Budget talks near deadline and get more contentious, via AP

» Pa. Senate advances probation overhaul bill, via PennLive (paywall)

» Pa. House passes bill setting nurse-to-patient ratios, via @JanMurphy

» Pa. House backs study of housing-health links, via LNP (paywall)
Investigative journalism that gets results. Spotlight PA's vital work depends on you. Donate now.

A baby tree swallow in a nesting box in Kennett Square, via Joyce P. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania.

A bird flying to the opening of a nesting box in a grassy yard.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.AD BAN: Large third-party companies that help people get medical marijuana cards in Pennsylvania can advertise their services, but doctors can’t and risk their licenses if they do. A new proposal under consideration would lift that restriction and make other changes to the state’s medical marijuana law, Spotlight PA reports. 

Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.LITIGATION LAW: Any company that does business in Pennsylvania can be sued here under a state law the U.S Supreme Court upheld this week. Lawsuits can be brought even if the conduct occurred elsewhere or if the company is headquartered in another state, SCOTUSblog reports. The court’s ruling could spur other states to pass similar legislation.

Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.BIPARTISAN BACKING: Despite differing political ideologies, Democrats and Republicans nationwide who responded to a Johns Hopkins survey overwhelmingly support more restrictive gun policies, including one that would allow courts to temporarily take away firearms from people in crisis, WHYY reports. Such a proposal has been considered in Pennsylvania, though it’s faced GOP opposition in the past.  

Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.SYNAGOGUE TRIAL: The death penalty phase of the trial of Robert Bowers, who was recently convicted of killing 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, has focused on the man’s mental health history, according to TribLIVE. Doctors for the defense testified on the MRI scan results of Bowers’ brain and gave dueling theories about what the results showed.

Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.SUMMIT SPEAKER: Moms for Liberty, a “parental rights” group that supports book bans and laws that target LGBTQ kids, will hold a conference in Philadelphia that begins tonight. Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has backed out, but The Inquirer (paywall) reports former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — all Republicans — are still slated to appear. 
Support vital journalism for Pennsylvania. The future of local news is in your hands. Donate now.

BISON ATTACK: Halfway through a safari ride, a bison approached a stopped Lake Tobias Wildlife Park bus. One of the employees reached out to pet the bison, and the animal gored her leg, PennLive (paywall) reports. 

PRINT SIDE: The Philadelphia Inquirer continues to invest in its print product despite the medium's general decline. Press Gazette asked the paper's chief technology officer, Matt Boggie, why.

CAVE TOUR: You can feel like Indiana Jones right here in Pennsylvania at Lincoln Caverns. The Huntingdon County site was discovered during the construction of U.S. Route 22 in 1930; the family who bought the cave still leads tours of the popular attraction. 

‘LACK OF COMPLIANCE’: Jefferson County says a “lack of transparency and accountability” led its Board of Commissioners to decertify the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau as its official, taxpayer-funded Tourism Promotion Agency.

DRY SPELL: Despite the recent rain, Pennsylvania is still under a drought watch, so watch those at-home July Fourth fireworks, officials say, per The Morning Call (paywall).

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.
 O P E S T E R P H R O

Yesterday's answer: Transmogrify

Congrats to our daily winners: Barbara F., Eric F. Craig W., Susan N.-Z., Kevin M., Don H., Jon W., Kim C., Dennis M., Susan D., David W., Dianne K., James B., Wendy A., Tom M., Joel S., and Starr B.
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