Federal and State Legislative Update
Congress started a new term on Sunday, January 3rd, as lawmakers in the House and Senate were sworn in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. Democrats maintain a slim majority in the House of Representatives, while control of the Senate is now split 50-50 following the outcome of two run-off races this week in Georgia where Democrats defeated Republican incumbents. In practice, with the 50-50 margin, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will act as the tie-breaking vote as needed, effectively giving Democrats control of the chamber and providing the incoming Biden administration a unified Democrat-controlled federal government.
Since the publication of our last newsletter in late 2020, an omnibus package including the full federal FFY 2021 budget and a COVID relief package was signed into law, providing much-needed funding for small businesses, vaccine distribution, and direct payments to many Americans. Prior to the passage of the bill, the federal government had been operating on funding extended via a series of short-term Continuing Resolutions since the budget’s October 1, 2020 start date. On the stimulus package side, the public, businesses and a wide variety of stakeholder groups were awaiting additional relief since this summer when the last package – the CARES Act – passed. Priorities PPC followed through the process in the bill include:
- $10 billion for child care providers in stimulus funding. Early estimates indicate that Pennsylvania will receive $302 million in funding through the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). PPC with its partners in the Start Strong PA campaign are in communication with policymakers at the state level regarding recommendations on how these funds can be distributed to the industry, as state plans on the use of funds are due to the federal government within 60 days of enactment of the law. For comparison to the $10 billion amount, last summer’s CARES Act contained $3.5 billion nationally for child care relief.
- A total of $82 billion in stimulus funding in the Education Stabilization Fund, with $54 billion allocated specifically for K-12 education to be apportioned via the Title I formula to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Collectively this is more than double the amount of education funding contained in the CARES Act last summer. Of the $54 billion available nationally, estimates are that Pennsylvania will receive approximately $1.9 billion for K-12 education in stimulus funding. On the annual budget side, specific to CTE, an increase of $52 million for the Perkins Basic State Grant was included, marking the fourth consecutive increase for this appropriation.
- Specific to child welfare, the language includes a temporary increase of the federal reimbursement rate from 50% to 100% for Title IV-E prevention services; an additional $400 million for FFY 2021 for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood (commonly referred to simply as Chafee funds) which assists in providing services to current and former foster youth; $20 million in funding for national kinship navigator programs as well as statutory flexibility in the operation of them; and $2.75 million in stimulus funding for the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse.
- $13 billion in stimulus funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For the period January 1st, through June 30th household benefits will increase to 15 percent above the June 2020 benefit amount.
- $7 billion in stimulus funding to expand broadband internet access.
In state government news, members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate were sworn in on Tuesday, January 5th. An exception was made for the 45th senatorial district, where legal challenges to the Department of State certified victory of Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) led to him not being formally seated. Senator Corman (R-Centre), the newly elected Senate President Pro Tempore, said he hopes to seat the winner of the 45th district as soon as challenges from his opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, have concluded. PPC will keep you updated.
The House of Representatives also announced the following committee chairs this week for both the Republican and Democratic caucuses:
- House Health Committee: Majority Chairwoman Kathy Rapp (Warren) / Minority Chairman Dan Frankel (Allegheny)
- House Education Committee: Majority Chairman Curt Sonney (Erie) / Minority Chairman Mark Longietti (Mercer)
- House Children & Youth Committee: Majority Chairwoman Sheryl Delozier (Cumberland) / Minority Chairwoman Pam DeLissio (Philadelphia)
- House Judiciary Committee: Majority Chairman Rob Kauffman (Franklin) / Minority Chairman Tim Briggs (Montgomery)
- House Human Services Committee: Majority Chairman Frank Farry (Bucks) / Minority Chairman Angel Cruz (Philadelphia)
The events in the state capitol this week were overshadowed by the death of Republican caucus chairman Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland). Reese died Saturday, January 2nd and is survived by his wife and three children. He was a member respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle, known for tackling challenging policy issues, such as charter reform, with thoughtfulness and respect for all perspectives. PPC’s thoughts are with Rep. Reese’s family at this time.