ISSUE 73 | August 6, 2020
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From Around the Region and the State
Economic and Policy News
PA cancels volunteer coronavirus contact tracers, moves to hire 1,000 paid staff
The Pennsylvania Health Department recently announced the postponement of its program to train volunteers in contact tracing, the practice of identifying individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The commonwealth is planning to hire 1,000 paid workers instead. Public health experts are concerned that Pennsylvania is severely understaffed in terms of contact tracers.

Four months later, thousands wait on unemployment compensation 
As a result of the pandemic, unemployment compensation claims in Pennsylvania surged to about three million.

Although 92 percent of those claims have been paid or approved, tens of thousands of have not yet been addressed by the Department of Labor and Industry.

The department has expanded its staff in order to respond more effectively to this heightened need.

More help may arrive for Pennsylvanians struggling to pay utility bills
In March, Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission ordered a moratorium on utility shutoffs to last the duration of the statewide disaster declaration.

PUC commissioners are now unanimously in favor of using federal funding from the CARES Act to provide financial assistance to households and small businesses struggling to pay utility bills. 

From Around the Nation and the Globe
Economic and Policy News
COVID-19 downturn triggers jump in Medicaid enrollment
The number of people covered by Medicaid has risen significantly due to the pandemic and its economic effects – although the increase was not as large as some experts predicted.

It may be that some individuals have avoided seeking healthcare due to fear of the coronavirus.

Enrollment is expected to continue as people lose workplace coverage and income in the coming weeks. 

Visualizing vulnerable jobs across America
The Brookings Workforce of the Future Initiative has published a report and launched an interactive tool for visualizing job vulnerability in metropolitan areas nationwide.

The authors define vulnerable jobs as those paying below the local median wage and which do not provide employer-sponsored healthcare.

Workers in vulnerable jobs face barriers to economic mobility and often struggle to meet their health needs.

In 2018, about 19 percent of jobs in the U.S. were considered vulnerable. 

States are broke, with many eyeing massive cuts
Unprecedented unemployment rates have led to a substantial decline in state revenue from income and sales taxes across the U. S.

As a result, cuts to education, healthcare, and other public services are likely in many regions.

NPR used data from the Urban Institute to create an interactive tool for examining the pandemic-induced impact on revenue in different states. 

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