BUDGET UPDATE: Short Term, Stop Gap Budget On Track to Pass Pa. General Assembly This Week
As the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the state's finances, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly are working toward completing a short term, stop gap budget this week that will carry funding for the first half of the new fiscal year.

The $25.14 billion spending plan, which passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday evening along partisan lines, will be a five-month "temporary budget" that would move the Commonwealth forward while allowing for state officials to address many of the uncertainties created by the novel coronavirus crisis later in the year.

The budget plan is loosely based on funding levels currently in place from last year’s adopted budget, which passed with bipartisan support in June of 2019. This approach will allow important programs to continue to be funded while legislators and the administration obtain a better grip on where Pennsylvania's revenues might be toward the end of 2020. The state’s Independent Fiscal Office estimates that the Commonwealth will lose nearly $5 billion in permanent revenue through June 2021 due to the virus.

The five-month proposal passed by the House on Tuesday does have a few exceptions, as funding for education would be allocated for the full year, helping education providers plan for school and program budgets amid the pandemic. Early childhood and special education, as well as public schools and higher education, would be flat-funded through the end of the next fiscal year. The bill also includes a full year of funding for food programs that have seen unprecedented demand as the state’s jobless benefit claims topped 2.1 million since March 15.

It is still unclear what other potential policy issues might accompany this week's budget proposal, as part of the state's infamous "code bills" that are usually adopted along with the revenue and spending plans. What is clear, however, is that legislators and the administration are working to position the Commonwealth to overcome the massive economic hurdles ahead as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 451 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 68,637. In addition, 5,152 Pennsylvanians have died from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 340,000 negative cases across the state.

Daily COVID-19 update for Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health reported 33,006 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 2,002 deaths, including probable cases, by Tuesday afternoon. There have been 5,579 hospitalizations and 1,450 ICU admissions.
Other News...
Centre Co. shifts position, will move to "green phase" on Friday. After initially requesting Gov. Tom Wolf to not move the county into the "green" phase of the administration's reopening plan, Centre County commissioners changed course over the weekend and approved the county's designation which will begin on Friday.

Pa. SNAP beneficiaries will now be able to order food online. Pennsylvania residents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will soon be able to order food supplies online. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the change, as more beneficiaries look to adhere to social distancing policies and other mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus. There were 1.86 million people in Pennsylvania who signed up for SNAP benefits last month.

COVID-19-related cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children confirmed in Pa. A handful of cases of a mysterious disease impacting children believed to be caused by COVID-19 was confirmed in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. According to Pennsylvania's Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) is similar to Kawasaki disease, causing inflammation of organs, including the heart, lungs and brain. The state, as well as the federal Centers for Disease Control, said little is known about MIS-C, but many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19.

Pa. colleges and universities begin fall reopening plans. Several colleges across the Commonwealth are looking to reopen their campuses this fall, as numbers of COVID-19 cases across the state continue to drop and counties move into "yellow" and "green" phases of Gov. Tom Wolf's plan to reopen the state's economy.

Pittsburgh task force provides guidance to businesses on how to safely reopen. A 64-page document titled “ Street Life: Supporting the vitality of PGH people and places in COVID-19,” which was developed by the Streets and Mobility Task Force, provides guidelines on how businesses can safely reopen and continue operations, as well as for local governments regarding public spaces.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations and nonprofit consulting assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

You can also visit the McNees COVID-19 Article & Resource Page for more information on various legal and political issues created by the novel coronavirus.

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov .

The Senate returned to session at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

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The House stands adjourned until Wednesday, May 27, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.

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