A comprehensive $912 million relief package to help restaurants, schools, employers, and tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic received final legislative approval on Friday and was sent to the Governor’s desk for enactment into law, according to Senator Scott Hutchinson, who strongly supported the bill. Senate Bill 109 amends the state Fiscal Code to allocate $569.8 million for Rental and Utility Assistance, $197 million for education programs, and $145 million to support Pennsylvania’s struggling hospitality industry as it copes with the devastation created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s mandated closings and restrictions. The bill would exempt income received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program and stimulus checks from taxation under the state’s Personal Income Tax. The measure was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives this week and was sent to the Governor for enactment into law. “It is important that we move these dollars out into the community where they can be used to provide relief to the people and small businesses that have been most severely impacted by the pandemic,” said Senator Hutchinson. “This is a priority and it is certainly worthy to be the first Act signed into law in 2021.” Under the measure, federal funding for rental and utility assistance would be proportionally distributed to counties based on their population. The conditions set by Senate Bill 109 will ensure the funding is used prudently and responsibly with the intention of providing a financial safety net for tenants and landlords. Funding for the Rental and Utility Assistance program would be provided by federal Coronavirus stimulus money as part of H.R. 133, Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. The $197 million for education, which is also supported by federal funding, would be used to create a $150 million competitive grant program under the Department of Education to assist non-public schools that have been impacted by the pandemic and have not received government assistance. The remaining $47 million would provide:
$20 million for Career and Technical Schools.
$14 million for Community Colleges.
$8.075 million for Private Residential Rehabilitative Institutions, charter schools for the deaf and blind, and approved private schools.
$5 million for the State System of Higher Education to support its restructuring initiative.
The third component in the sweeping relief package would transfer $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund to the COVID-19 Response Restricted Account to provide county block grants to assist the hospitality industry, including restaurants, bars and hotels. Grants would be provided in increments of $5,000 up to $50,000. Grants may not be used to pay for the same operating expenses already covered by a federal PPP loan or the state’s prior $225 million Small Business Assistance Program.