Advocacy Corner, Issue 2 of 2021, Feb. 9, 2021

From the Desk of Brian Fuss
Policy & Program Director

Greetings Advocates and Friends,   

Welcome to February, where we celebrate Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and the Governor’s Budget’s unveiling.   

If you followed the Housing Alliance’s almost daily updates last week, then you know that SB109 passed and was signed by the Governor. SB109, or now Act 1, was indeed a bipartisan effort to bring assistance to everyone in the Commonwealth struggling with housing insecurity because of the pandemic. In case you missed it, the Housing Alliance’s summary (link) of Act 1 is available.   

After announcing his priorities, Governor Wolf’s video address on Feb. 3 explained his priorities in detail. Unfortunately, the Governor did not address housing instability directly. However, “The proposed budget prioritizes equity, fairness, and accountability.”1 The budget proposal outlines five broad categories:   

  • Invest in education and the Commonwealth’s children  
  • Continue to fight COVID-19 economically and medically  
  • Protect the most vulnerable   
  • Improve the infrastructure  
  • Reform the tax system  

Nationally, the U.S. Congress is preparing to draft the legislation for President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a $1.9T plan to ensure the Commonwealth and every state come back strong.   

Have a great week and keep on advocating,  

PS: If there is some local legislation you believe the Housing Alliance should follow, please let Brian know.  

National Updates

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the Commonwealth will receive almost $570M in Emergency Rental Assistance.  Separately, 19 counties are creating systems to disperse around $280M in federal funds for rental and utility assistance.   

According to many sources, by February 22nd, the U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on providing additional support and relief from the pandemic to individuals, families, businesses, and governments. The plan will mimic President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and most likely pass by a budget reconciliation bill rather than separate legislation. Let’s continue to exert pressure on all of PA’s federal representatives. 

Commonwealth Update

With the signing of Act 1 into law, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will receive 1% for the administrative costs of the Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance program. Counties administering the program at the local level from the statewide allocation of federal funds will receive no more than 9.09% for both administrative costs and housing stability services. Therefore, people in the Commonwealth struggling with housing and utility payments will receive almost $513M.   

On February 3, Governor Wolf unveiled his budget for 2021-2022. Now, both the PA Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings related to the different agencies of the Executive Branch and their budget requests. The House will begin its hearings February 16th, and the Senate will begin March 8th. The Housing Alliance will be watching several hearings and advocating for more housing stability service money.  

In the Governor’s budget, overall, homeless assistance programs will continue funding from prior years with no cuts or increases.  

As the weeks’ progress, the Housing Alliance will be monitoring the national and state budgets. 

Commonwealth bills the Housing Alliance is tracking 

HB136, HB328, HB264 and SB157 are still in their respective committees.