After a tumultuous 2020, Gov. Tom Wolf is urging Republican lawmakers to help free up $145 million in small business relief ahead of 2021 budget hearings.
“Republican leaders have failed to act thus far and that has to change. They need to act quickly because businesses need this help now,” Wolf said. “Don’t think there is any confusion businesses are hurting.”
The proposed aid is being reappropriated from the worker’s compensation fund, Wolf said during a news conference on Thursday. The governor was joined on the call by Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware). Wolf first announced his proposal for the small business relief in December.
Both Costa and McClinton urged Republican counterparts in the General Assembly to help pass this allocation ahead of the 2021 budget hearings. Costa estimated that if the relief is not approved by the time Wolf submits his 2021 budget early next month, the $145 million will likely be lost until March.
“We don’t know how many businesses we’ll have by then,” Costa said.
During the call, Gov. Wolf acknowledged several times that additional federal aid will be coming via the CARES Act and from the recent stimulus package passed in December. However, the $145 million was aid the state could immediately provide for businesses if the General Assembly can make a swift decision.
While the Harrisburg lawmakers will prepare for a potential vote, distribution is still being discussed. Parameters on which industries, businesses or how much individual aid each county may receive have not been finalized.
“The key is we want to get it [money] in the hands of people who need it and quickly,” Wolf said.
Costa acknowledged that distribution of the funds may come through qualified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which helped distribute $96 million in small business grants in August. The Department of Community and Economic Development helped allocate those grants in addition to $226 million in COVID-related relief for Pennsylvanian businesses.
“[We’re] open to mechanisms on how to drive these funds out,” he said
Mark Masterson is the executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund in Pittsburgh, one of the CDFIs that help allocate funds last year. He estimated that the development fund helped nearly 1,500 businesses last year, adding that the need to approve this funding is critical for small business and restaurant survival in communities throughout the state.
“We stand ready to do this,” Masterson said.
McConnell added that the $145 million could be broken down into smaller portions: $5,000 grants could be allocated to 29,000 businesses throughout the commonwealth.
“House Republicans said when the governor first announced his desire to create a small business grant program from excess Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fund dollars three weeks ago that we would work with him on relief that accompanies long-term solutions that, among other things, ends the threat of these ridiculous shutdowns,” Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman said in a statement.
Read Gottesman’s entire statement below:
“Over the past ten months, Gov. Tom Wolf has repeatedly shut down whole sectors of Pennsylvania’s economy on his own initiative to the utter devastation of mom and pop main street stores, small to mid-sized businesses, and the hospitality industry.
“As Republicans in the General Assembly worked to undo the damage done by this governor’s unilateral, overbroad, and inconsistent orders, legislative Democrats stood in lock step with Gov. Wolf to keep Pennsylvania’s businesses closed and reeling from the effects of his orders without certainty as to when the next shut down would occur.
“House Republicans said when the governor first announced his desire to create a small business grant program from excess Worker’s Compensation Insurance Fund dollars three weeks ago that we would work with him on relief that accompanies long-term solutions that, among other things, ends the threat of these ridiculous shutdowns. To our knowledge, he has not transferred any money in furtherance of his plan and has not engaged with House Republican leadership on this or any relief initiative on any level.
“Our doors are open, our phone lines are working, and we await engagement from governor on what ideas he can bring to the table.”
“In the meantime, House Republicans have prioritized economic recovery from a holistic level through the creation of the ‘Envy of the East’ Task Force announced earlier this week. We look forward to continue standing up for small businesses throughout Pennsylvania in this new legislative session.”
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Gov. Wolf urges Republicans in General Assembly to free up $145M for small business relief