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Barring a deal, workers at 14 Pennsylvania nursing homes could go on strike as soon as tomorrow, the unofficial start of the Labor Day weekend, and workers at four other homes could join them next week.
At issue is how much of a $600 million investment in the industry by Gov. Tom Wolf and the legislature will actually go to nurses, health aides, and support staff who say they are overworked and underpaid.
Their union, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, says issues for residents and caregivers are mounting and that the increased funding is needed to stem staff turnover that has plagued facilities industry-wide.
Managers at eight of the homes in western Pennsylvania said while there has been "great progress" in negotiations so far, contingency plans are in place to "avoid any disruption in care to our residents."
Read Spotlight PA's full report: Thousands of Pa. nursing home workers may strike despite $600M for care in state budget
THE CONTEXT: The new $600 million isn't a lump sum: Nursing homes will see their share of $250 million in designated federal stimulus funds this fall followed by a roughly $35-per-day increase in the state reimbursement rate they receive for taking care of low-income residents.
Zach Shamberg of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, an industry group representing more than 400 facilities here, said homes would need another $35 a day from the state to meet the union's demands.
Elizabeth Rementer, a spokesperson for Wolf, said in a statement that the looming strike was an "unfortunate and completely avoidable situation" before mentioning "select nursing home operators who are refusing to commit to the types of investments this funding was intended to support."
The homes in question are owned by two for-profit companies, Comprehensive and Priority. SEIU-backed workers for a third, Guardian Healthcare, reached an agreement earlier this week.
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TOO HOT: The first week back for School District of Philadelphia students included a number of heat-related early dismissals. And that's unlikely to change soon. Officials said Tuesday that they won't be able to fully air-condition every district school until 2027, per The Inquirer (paywall). Only 43% of the city's public schools have adequate AC now. Some classrooms are "over 100 degrees by 10 a.m."
SOUND DECISION: A case before Pennsylvania's Supreme Court argues that a technology used to detect gunshots in cities like Pittsburgh is part of a "larger pattern of flawed science polluting our criminal legal system," PublicSource reports. The case involves a Pittsburgh man who says ShotSpotter data was inappropriately allowed as evidence in his trial. The ruling could set a precedent.
WIPED OUT: Nearly a million Pennsylvanians could have their student loans erased under President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan, as long as they meet the plan's income thresholds, WITF reports. Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is reminding Pennsylvanians that they won't have to pay state or federal taxes on the forgiven loans, as some outlets reported earlier in the week.
NEW SHOTS: FDA authorization of new COVID-19 booster shots targeting the omicron variant is expected this week, NPR reports. The new shots are likely to roll out after Labor Day to help blunt potential fall and winter surges. In related news: The Inquirer (paywall) reports that a patent infringement lawsuit between two prominent COVID-19 vaccine-makers "has a Philadelphia backstory."
'OASIS' THREAT: York-based Rutter's wants to build a gas station next to a bird-watching wetland in Huntingdon County, WPSU reports. Fans of the Old Crow Wildlife Observation Area are up in arms.
COMING SOON: Filipino fast food chain Jollibee — the "wackiest, jolliest place on earth," according to Anthony Bourdain — is coming to Philly. ABC27 reports there's no opening date just yet.
DROUGHT WATCH: Thirty-six Pennsylvania counties are now under a drought watch, Capital-Star reports. Residents are asked to voluntarily conserve water and cut consumption by 3 to 6 gallons a day.
GRAND SLAM: The ball involved in last week's moonshot grand slam by Matt Olson at PNC Park has been found... by Pittsburgh River Rescue.
NEW ROUTE: Megabus is adding low-cost passenger service from Pittsburgh to Buffalo via a slew of smaller Pennsylvania towns, per TribLIVE.
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