WILKES-BARRE — State Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced this week that the first payments under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program have been sent to qualifying Pennsylvania municipalities.
“These funds will be put to great use by communities across Pennsylvania,” Garrity said. “It’s a top priority at Treasury to make sure these payments get into the hands of local leaders quickly and efficiently so they can be used to help address the effects of the pandemic.”
Pennsylvania counties, cities, boroughs and townships are eligible for $6.15 billion from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program to aid in recovering from the pandemic. Nationwide, $350 billion was allocated for the program.
The state is responsible for disbursing funds to municipalities with fewer than 50,000 residents. To receive payments from the state, eligible municipalities must request funds through the Department of Community and Economic Development. Larger municipalities must apply to receive payments directly from the federal government.
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund payments will be processed in two batches — the first 50% of the allocation going out with payments starting this week, while the remaining 50% of allotted funds will be disbursed approximately 12 months later. Current payment information can be found on this interactive map at Treasury’s website. The map will be updated as additional payments are made.
The disbursements made this week include payments to 487 municipalities. Treasury will continue to pay municipalities on a rolling basis as they complete the necessary steps to receive payment. Pennsylvania has more than 2,500 municipalities that qualify for these payments.
Municipalities can use Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund payments to address negative economic impacts due to the pandemic, replace lost public sector revenue, support public health, assist essential workers, and invest in infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer or broadband services.
The Pennsylvania Treasury Department serves as the custodian of these federal funds and – working with DCED and the Office of the Budget – is responsible for disbursing them to eligible Pennsylvania municipalities.
More information about eligible uses for Local Fiscal Recovery Funding is available at the federal treasury’s Frequently Asked Questions for Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
DEP releases 2020 Oil
and Gas Annual Report
Natural gas production in Pennsylvania increased, while new well drilling decreased in 2020, according to the 2020 Oil and Gas Annual Report released this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Production from natural gas wells continues to increase. More than 7.1 trillion MCF of natural gas was produced, continuing an upward trend from previous years. Due to the increased volume, Pennsylvania is currently the second largest producer of natural gas.
Other details from the annual report:
• 1,017 drilling permits were issued; 918 unconventional and 99 conventional.
• There were 527 wells drilled; 476 unconventional and 51 conventional.
• DEP conducted 25,883 inspections and found 9,363 violations.
• DEP collected $33.3 million in fines and penalties in 2020.
“DEP will continue to improve systems to better serve the commonwealth and will remain vigilant in regulating the commonwealth’s oil and gas industry,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
DEP continues to identify and plug orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, many of which predate regulatory oversight — a result of Pennsylvania’s 160-year history of oil and gas development.
DEP estimates that there may be as many 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the state, which can leak methane into the air and possibly contaminate groundwater or surface water. On average, it costs $33,000 to plug one well.
“There are thousands of wells that need to be plugged,” McDonnell said. “Finding solutions to plug these wells will make the commonwealth a healthier place for our current and future residents.”
Legislation updates state’s
Medical Marijuana Act
Gov. Tom Wolf this week signed legislation that will provide important updates to Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act to ensure better access for patients.
House Bill 1024 acts on recommendations made by the Department of Health to revise the Medical Marijuana Act, which was signed into law in 2016.
Specifically, it protects patient safety standards and product quality of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program while empowering the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to continue to consider new medical conditions for eligibility. It will also retain certain flexibilities enacted under the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration that patients and dispensaries found convenient.
“It’s been five years since Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and in that time the Department of Health has examined the program’s successes and challenges and made important recommendations on improving the law,” Gov. Wolf said. “This legislation provides important updates to our state’s medical marijuana program to ensure that patients have improved access to medication.”
$20 million for NEPA in
INVEST in America Act
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and several colleagues last week held a press conference to highlight key infrastructure investments for Pennsylvania in the transportation bill expected to pass the House this week.
The INVEST in America Act is a surface transportation re-authorization package that will create good-paying American jobs by rebuilding safe roads and bridges, delivering reliable transit and modern passenger rail, and making sure water comes out of the tap safe to drink. It invests in American manufacturing and makes the U.S. more competitive with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that cuts carbon pollution.
Earlier this month, Rep. Cartwright announced that all 11 Member Designated Project (MDP) requests totaling almost $20 million that were submitted to the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee were included in the INVEST in America Act.
This week, the House is expected to pass this legislation, an important step toward enacting key priorities from the American Jobs Plan and bringing that federal money to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
This direct funding would be in addition to other resources authorized for distribution by various federal agencies if this bill is enacted.
“This investment in our infrastructure will help modernize our roads, bridges, rail, water systems and sewer systems – all these things handed down from the Greatest Generation that we’ve allowed to fall into disrepair,” Rep. Cartwright said. “On top of that, we’ve secured direct funding for projects all around Northeastern Pennsylvania that will improve the experience on our roads and public transit and create good-paying jobs. Passing the INVEST in America Act is an important step toward getting a major infrastructure package to President Biden’s desk and ensuring these investments make their way back home to our area.”
L&I highlights fast-growing career
in public safety, emergency response
To encourage more Pennsylvanians to enter careers in public safety and emergency response which are in high demand, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier said our public safety and emergency service workers have been heroes during the pandemic, helping our state and nation through this challenging time, and more people are needed to enter these careers,.
“These jobs offer good pay and benefits, and each person will know they’re providing an incredibly important service to their community,” Berrier said. “Students can prepare at institutions like HACC, which provides the opportunity and flexibility to get the training they need to start their career.”
Jobs as EMTs & Paramedics and Police & Sheriff’s Patrol are High Priority Occupations for 2020 and are anticipated to appear again in the list for 2021, which will be released in July. These careers are in demand by employers, provide good wages and stable employment for Pennsylvanians, as well as pathways up a career ladder to higher positions in the public safety sector.
PA CareerLink® serves as a connection between local workforce development boards, employers, and training programs for Pennsylvanians seeking to reskill or find a new career. Pennsylvanians seeking to learn more about training opportunities in their region can search on PA CareerLink®’s website or contact their local office.
The Wolf Administration has been focused on investing to expand job training through programs like PAsmart, which was launched in 2018. The initiative has supported registered apprenticeships, industry partnerships, STEM and computer science education and job training by businesses searching for skilled workers.
This year’s state budget calls for a historic $416 million increase in public education that will include nearly $5 million for community colleges.