Here’s how Pa. plans to spend his billions in federal stimulus funds (full list)
IMAGE: The Whole Home Repair program will provide grants and loans to homeowners and landlords to carry out repairs on their properties.
Spotlight PA’s Kate Huangpu and Spotlight PA’s Stephen Caruso
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HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers have agreed to a plan to use $2.2 billion of federal stimulus funds left over from the pandemic for housing, conservation and child care programs.
The deal came as the state finalized a $45.2 billion budget a week past the deadline.
None of these funds will be used for direct payments to Pennsylvanians, as requested by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Instead, Spotlight PA has identified 20 programs that will be funded using stimulus dollars. Here is an overview of the expenses:
Conservation and clean water
A total of $640 million, the bulk of the spending, will go towards conservation efforts that include ensuring clean water for state residents, rehabilitating and repairing state parks, and upkeep. water and sewage systems.
Of this amount, $320 million will be transferred to a pre-existing state program that helps water authorities large and small deliver drinking water and storm sewer projects, floods and repair dangerous dams.
An additional $220 million will fund efforts to preserve farmland and clean up runoff from farms and mines that could harm the state’s water supply.
Finally, the budget provides $100 million for the rehabilitation, repair and development of state parks and forests.
These latest programs are a continuation, except in name, of two similar programs from the late 1990s and mid-2000s that also focused on watershed management and park repair.
The former will help Pennsylvania avoid legal trouble for not doing its part to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, where much of the state’s waters flow, said David Hess, a former Pennsylvania cabinet secretary who has helped lead the first iteration of the program.
As for the latter, state parks have $1.4 billion in deferred maintenance, Hess said, and “many people have seen how valuable parks and forests are for recreation during the pandemic.”
Lawmakers have earmarked $375 million to help low- and middle-income homeowners and homeowners repair their properties and increase or strengthen the state’s affordable housing.
$125 million of that will fund a program modeled after State Sen. Nikil Saval’s (D., Philadelphia) Whole Homes Repair Fund.
“I thought there were issues that cut across geography — that cut across rural, urban and suburban areas,” Saval said, one of them being that “everyone has the right and deserves a home. safe, dry and healthy”.
The Whole Home Repair program will provide grants and loans to homeowners and landlords to carry out repairs on their properties. Funding is limited to homeowners whose household income does not exceed 80% of the area’s median income and homeowners who own fewer than 15 properties.
Two other programs have been designed to improve and increase the supply of affordable housing.
The Housing Options Grant Program will award $100 million to developers and nonprofits that build, acquire or rehabilitate affordable housing for low-income renters. The second program, funded to the tune of $150 million, will help agencies developing affordable multi-family rental properties recoup rising construction and material costs.
Property tax relief for older Pennsylvanians
The stimulus money will also fund a temporary 70% expansion of an existing state property tax relief program for people 65 or older and people with disabilities.
Generally funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery, the program will receive a one-time injection of $140 million.
Last year, the program provided checks to 430,000 renters earning less than $15,000 and homeowners earning less than $35,000. Someone who received the maximum reimbursement of $650 will receive an additional $455 as part of the one-year expansion.
Under the Department of Social Services, the Child Care Stabilization Program will provide grants to child care providers to retain staff for direct supervision of children or environmental services.
These one-time payments are intended to supplement the salaries of existing staff and are capped at $2,500. The program will accept applications on a rolling basis until the $90 million credit is spent or until the federal money expires in 2026.
The plan provides $250 million in one-time payments to a number of long-term facilities and services, including nursing homes, home health care agencies and adult childcare services.
The spending plan also includes $260 million in grants for law enforcement to upgrade their technology, support recruitment efforts and prosecute gun violence.
The Local Law Enforcement Support Grant Program will provide $135 million to agencies for reasons such as purchasing or upgrading new equipment, hiring non-traditional law enforcement personnel such as crisis intervention specialists and funding retention and recruitment efforts.
The grants are intended to supplement the amount of money allocated to law enforcement agencies in the budget. The program caps grants based on city size — Philadelphia, the state’s only first-class city, would receive a maximum of $25 million.
Another measure, the Gun Violence Investigation and Prosecution Grant Program, is more limited in scope. The program would provide grants to county attorneys’ offices and law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute gun crimes. The bill directs the program to focus on areas with high rates of gun violence, but reserves 10% of funding for rural areas.
The plan also includes $75 million in grants for district attorneys, community organizations and higher education institutions for violence intervention and prevention.
The budget also creates a Behavioral Health Commission for adult mental health — made up of lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, law enforcement officers, health care industry officials and experts. — and set aside $100 million to address issues it identifies.
Outside of those big items, the plan also provides $3.8 million in stimulus funds to public libraries, $15 million to arts and cultural nonprofits, $3 million to research in biotechnology, $25 million in public utility relief, $1.4 million in pandemic emergency relief to non-public schools, and an additional $35 million in a student loan relief program for nurses which was created last year.
Finally, the plan transfers up to $42.33 million to the state Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, which pays unemployment benefits for those out of work. Business groups had pushed for such a transfer to avoid an increase in their own unemployment contribution rates.
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