Pennsylvania got $7B in federal stimulus money. How it might spend it

As the Republican-led state Legislature returns to Harrisburg this week, stripping Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency powers is the top priority, according to the majority party. 

“The clock is ticking, and we need to do away with the disaster declaration,” said Jason Gottesman, spokesman for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff. “It’s the No. 1 priority.”

He said he expects both chambers to vote on rescinding Wolf’s disaster authority on Monday or Tuesday.

But it’s not the only key issue awaiting lawmakers upon their return: There is federal stimulus money to decide how to use.

Democrats see the focus on Wolf’s powers as political theater, especially given that Wolf has ended all COVID-19 restrictions except the mask order. The mask mandate will end on June 28 or when 70% of Pennsylvania adults are fully vaccinated — whichever comes first. 

Instead, the minority party wants more focus on distributing the $7 billion Pennsylvania received from the American Relief Plan.

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Differing plans on stimulus spending

Governor Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference at Two Dudes Painting, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Lancaster. Governor Wolf spoke about his desire to raise the minimum wage in Pennsylvania during the event.

State Democrats have been calling for action for weeks, putting forth two plans of their own: the Pennsylvania Rescue Plan from House Democrats and the New Deal for PA from Senate Democrats. Both plans include direct benefits to residents by helping schools, workers, businesses, families, renters and landlords.

State Republicans, who haven’t revealed a formal plan of their own, expect the $7 billion will “go to core functions of state government,” Gottesman said.