Senate Approves COVID-19 Financial Aid Bill

The state Senate unanimously voted in favor of legislation last week that contains more than $900 million in financial aid to Pennsylvanians impacted by COVID-19, with most of those dollars provided by the federal government’s latest round of COVID-19 relief funding.

An amendment to S.B. 109 contained a $145 million grant program to help small businesses in the hospitality industry that have been financially impacted due to the pandemic. Local economic development agencies would administer the program and employers would be able to access up to $50,000 in financial relief. Priority will be given to businesses that have not already received a loan or grant from the federal government or state, those who were subject to closure by the emergency declarations and those who can demonstrate a revenue reduction of at least 50 percent for the affected time period.

To pay for the grant program, S.B. 109 included a proposal from Gov. Wolf to transfer $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund, which is financed by the businesses community and provides workers’ compensation benefits in the event an insurance carrier becomes insolvent.  The bill stipulates that the transfer must be repaid by July 1, 2029 or within 180 days of the federal government providing a flexible stimulus allocation to Pennsylvania.

The bulk of the money in the version of S.B. 109 that has cleared the Senate – around $569 million – will go toward rental and utility assistance for residents in all 67 counties. In addition, nearly $200 million will go toward ensuring that educational institutions receive resources to address COVID-19 related issues.

The bill now awaits consideration in the House.