– Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) has introduced five bills to help fire and ambulance companies, small businesses, frontline workers, those without access to broadband internet and unemployment claim processing delays by using some of the $7.3 billion in recently approved federal stimulus funds the Commonwealth is set to receive.
“When choosing how to divide the latest stimulus funds, we need to first help those who never stopped working – our first responders and frontline workers,” Ortitay said. “Members of our volunteer fire companies and EMS have been unable to conduct their normally large in-person fundraisers. They rely on this money to keep their crews operational when we call 911. While they’ve done a great job adapting their fundraising, the government should lend them a helping hand. Next, the pandemic amplified the digital divide. This is an opportunity to use one-time stimulus money to solve the rural broadband problem once and for all. Next, our economy relies on our small business. They made sacrifice after sacrifice when the government shut them down and restricted their ability to operate. They have been decimated and need assistance to continue their operations and relief should be given to those who lost their businesses during the last year through no fault of their own. This bill will be the first of its kind in the country to provide grants to businesses that permanently closed.”
House Bill 742
would allocate up to $1.5 billion in funding to create a grant program for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. House Bill 743
would create the Fire and EMS Relief Program for volunteer fire, ambulance and rescue companies that experienced a loss in revenue as a result of COVID-19. House Bill 1192
would create the Financial Assistance for Frontline Workers Program to provide grants to essential employees who were unable to work remotely during the pandemic. This legislation would work differently than the program Gov. Tom Wolf started last year as it would not require the employer to submit for the grant on behalf of its employees, but would instead go directly to the workers. House Bill 956
would establish the Broadband Deployment and Development Program, a county-run program to provide grants to individuals who lack reliable access to high-speed broadband service. With the advent of technology, new and improved means of getting internet access are available without costly physical lines. Finally, House Bill 848
would allocate $40 million to hire temporary unemployment center staff to help process claims.
“Far too often I hear the stories of constant busy signals when people call the unemployment office,” Ortitay said. “It is my hope that by hiring additional staff the unemployment office can process claims faster in this unprecedented time.
“Unlike previous stimulus packages approved by Congress, we should not be using the bulk of these funds to balance our state budget,” Ortitay added. “While I recognize the federal government can print money to balance its budget, the state cannot. This money should be used for one-time issues and given directly to the people who were hit the hardest by COVID-19. These funds will eventually be paid for by the next generation in the form of inflation and/or higher taxes. The least we can do is give it back directly to the people instead of using it to fund our bloated state budget.”
The 46th Legislative District includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway boroughs in Washington County.