In This Update:
Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee Advances Bill Directing Johnstown Flood Tax Money to Act 47 Communities
This week, for the first time in my 22-year career in the General Assembly, I chaired my first committee meeting when the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee met for the first time this year. The committee passed Senate Bill 154 which establishes the Distressed Municipalities Recovery Fund to provide recovery grants for distressed municipalities.
As municipalities combat the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an important time to talk about recovery and getting our communities back on track.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc (R-35), would dedicate 5.6 percent of the annual proceeds from the Johnstown Flood Tax to statewide municipalities experiencing severe financial difficulties under the Act 47 program.
The statewide tax, levied on alcoholic beverages, was implemented to help the City of Johnstown recover from the St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936, but it was never rescinded. Currently, revenues generated by the tax are allocated to the state’s General Fund.
In the 14th Senatorial District, the city of Nanticoke became the first city in the state to exit Act 47 in 2015. Plymouth Township and West Hazleton Borough have also entered and exited Act 47 status. The city of Hazleton is currently in Act 47.
COVID-19 Restrictions Relaxed on Businesses, Gatherings
After weeks of dedicated advocacy from lawmakers, employers and employees, Governor Wolf finally announced that several restrictions on businesses and gatherings would be relaxed effective April 4. Some of the changes include:
In addition, occupancy limits will be increased to 25 percent for indoor venues and 50 percent for outdoor venues, regardless of size.
Unemployment Compensation Programs Extended
The federal government recently extended all Unemployment Compensation programs, including the additional $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, through September 6. The maximum number of weeks of eligibility for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was also extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks, and the maximum number of weeks of eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is extended from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.
In addition, up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits for an individual (or $20,400 for a couple, if both members received unemployment benefits) will not be considered federal taxable income in 2020, assuming the individual or couple earned less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income for the year.
World Down Syndrome Day is March 21
March 21 is designated as World Down Syndrome Day by numerous states and countries in recognition of the incredible achievements of the individuals living with this condition. Each person with Down syndrome has different talents, abilities and needs – and that makes every person living with this condition special and unique.
More information on World Down Syndrome Day is available here.
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