HARRISBURG – Lancaster County Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and Scott Martin (R-13) supported passage today of an interim state budget proposal and a package of bills designed to support families, businesses, employees and organizations affected by the pandemic.
The $25.8 billion interim spending plan for Fiscal Year 2020-21 provides five months of funding for most state agencies and services. The short-term budget offers lawmakers more time to determine the full impact of the governor’s COVID-19 shutdown orders, the amount of revenues available to spend during the upcoming fiscal year, and any additional support that may be coming from the federal government in the months ahead.
“The scope of this crisis is unprecedented, and we need to take the proper precautions to ensure we do not spend beyond our means while our economy begins to recover,” Martin said. “The most fiscally responsible thing we can do right now is ensure our obligations are met and our vital community services are funded while we work to determine what the new economic landscape will look like in the months and years ahead.”
According to a Revenue & Economic Update report prepared by the Independent Fiscal Office, April 2020 revenue collections were $2.16 billion short of projections, representing a 49.8% decline in revenue that is directly tied to business closures and the grinding halt of Pennsylvania’s economy. Further, the report estimates that the shortfalls are almost entirely due to the impacts of virus on economic activity, payment processing, and the extension of tax due dates.
“This data shows how rapidly the fiscal outlook in Pennsylvania is changing as a result of the pandemic,” said Aument. “As such, we must ensure continuity of operations in the short term by funding critical services while simultaneously practicing fiscal restraint as we prepare for a future with significant revenue shortfalls. As Pennsylvania begins to reopen and our economy begins to recover, we will have more information to make better, data-informed decisions when we reconvene in November to work on a budget that meets the needs of Pennsylvanians while responsibly spending within our means.”
Although most line items is the budget are only funded for five months, a number of critical programs are funded for the full year, including basic education, early childhood education, higher education, food security programs, debt service and pension obligations.
In addition to voting in favor of the short-term budget plan, the Senators supported a package of bills that allocates $2.6 billion of Pennsylvania’s share of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support programs and services that have suffered the greatest impact from the public health emergency.
Senate Bill 1108 appropriates a portion of Pennsylvania’s share of federal COVID-19 funding for these critical needs and Senate Bill 1122 and House Bill 2510 provide further direction on how state agencies are to distribute the funding.
Nursing homes and other long-term living facilities will receive $692 million from the CARES package to boost testing, improve infection control, purchase Personal Protective Equipment for staff, and take other steps to ensure the health of residents.
“Long-term care facilities are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, and every effort needs to be taken to safeguard these vulnerable patients,” Martin said. “Ensuring these facilities have the resources they need is one of the keys to helping our communities emerge from this public health emergency with the least damage possible. These patients and staff and their families deserve nothing less.”
“It is widely known that nursing home residents are among our most vulnerable populations with some of the highest rates of infection and death from this virus,” said Aument. “As such, we must do all that we can to ensure that long-term care facilities have the resources, protocols, testing capabilities, and personal protective equipment (PPE) that they need in order to protect their residents and staff. This funding will serve as a lifeline to the many long-term care facilities in Lancaster County as they fight to reduce the already devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on our senior population.”
In addition to receiving a full year of funding in the state budget, school districts will receive an additional $150 million to clean, repair and retrofit schools to ensure the safety of students.
“If we are to restore and reimagine a stronger Pennsylvania in the aftermath of this pandemic, we must work with our academic institutions and educators on a plan to safely return students to school this fall,” said Aument. “This funding will go a long way in ensuring that our children’s education will not be further disrupted by the shutdown by giving school administrators the resources they need to continue providing a high-quality, world-class education to Pennsylvania students in a safe, clean environment.”
A total of $77.2 million of CARES funding will benefit college students, including $30 million for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and $42 million for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
The CARES Act funding will also support small business assistance, nonprofit organizations, first responders, mortgage and rent assistance for affected workers, child care assistance, county services and food assistance programs.