Pennsylvania lawmakers advance $912M pandemic relief bill

The Associated Press
Orange fencing is set up outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in advance of Joe Biden's Presidential Inaugural in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20. (Mark Pynes/The Patriot-News via AP)

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers on Friday began taking the final steps to approve legislation carrying over $900 million to aid hospitality-related businesses hit hard by the coronavirus, private schools and people struggling to pay rent or utility bills.

The bill passed the House unanimously Friday and headed back to the Senate for one final vote, although senators last week approved a similar version unanimously.

Most of the $912 million in the bill is federal aid approved by Congress in December.

Some of it, $145 million, is cash from a state worker’s compensation fund that Wolf has asked lawmakers to send to businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

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The money would be available through counties in grants of up to $50,000 for bars, restaurants and hotels with under 300 employees. Industry representatives say the money is helpful for a little while for those that receive it, but it won’t reach many in Pennsylvania’s industry of more than 30,000 such businesses that remain under pandemic restrictions.

The majority of the money, $570 million, would be divided up to counties based on population to help people struggling to pay rent or utilities. Landlords and tenants would be eligible to apply, with priority under federal guidelines for lower-income households or those where someone is unemployed.

The rest of the money, $197 million, would be distributed to educational institutions that did not get a cut of the $2.2 billion in federal coronavirus aid that public schools and charter schools are receiving under December’s federal coronavirus recovery package.

Most of it would go to private schools.