Nanticoke, March 15, 2021 – State Senator John Yudichak (I-14) and State Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) announced today that the Wolf Administration released application guidelines for the State Facility Closure Transition Program without the input of legislators, local leaders, or county officials. The 2019-2020 state budget appropriated $5 million for the program, but the administration halted early negotiations with legislators on a long-term legislative response to the economic impact of state facility closures. In addition to ignoring input from local leaders on this year’s program, the Wolf Administration announced in the Governor’s February budget address that the State Facility Closure Transition Program would be completely eliminated in the 2021-2022 state budget.
The guidelines created by the Wolf Administration would require counties to evaluate the needs of impacted communities by an aggressive deadline of March 31, 2021, less than three weeks from receiving the state guidelines for the program. It would be the responsibility of an impacted county to apply and distribute grants awards based on a state formula that uses staff member residency multiplied by $3,551.14 per staff member. The grant program is available to eleven counties outside the two counties directly impacted by the closures, SCI Retreat and White Haven Center in Luzerne County and Polk Center in Venango County. While state resources are always welcomed and appreciated in Luzerne County, the short-term nature of the program is problematic and significantly reduces the impact of state funds on communities most negatively impacted by the state closures.
“All of northeastern Pennsylvania legislators were unified in their support of the State Facility Closure Transition Program and urged Governor Wolf to work with local leaders to craft a comprehensive long-term economic recovery plan to help Luzerne County move beyond the loss of two facilities that added over $100 million annual impact to our local economy and bolstered our region with 800 good-paying, union jobs,” State Senator John Yudichak said. “It is intensely regrettable that the Wolf Administration ignored local leaders in the drafting of these guidelines and continues to look at the loss of jobs at White Haven Center and SCI Retreat in such a short-sighted way. The communities of White Haven Borough and Newport Township, and all the residents of Luzerne County, deserve a much more robust economic plan than the one presently submitted to us in this one-time grant program.”
“Governor Wolf has once again demonstrated his failure to recognize the added burden these closures have caused for our host communities,” State Senator Lisa Baker said. “The new program creates uncertainty for entities that are disproportionately impacted, such as the Shickshinny Sewer Authority, which built its facility in good faith, at the request of the state. We will continue to press for fair and equitable resources to allow them to adjust to the unique challenges reduced utilization will bring their facility, without affecting ratepayers.”