In season of sharing, Pa. must show it cares | Opinion

(Source: Pa. Senate Democrats)

By Senator-Elect Amanda M. Cappelletti, Senator-Elect Carolyn T. Comitta, Senator-Elect John Kane, and Senator-Elect Nikil Saval

Last week, a graphic was shared on Twitter that showed the deadliest days in American history. Of the top ten days, four of them were in December of 2020, with the highest being on December 9, 2020, when we lost more than 3,000 American lives.

The coronavirus is tearing through our country: medically, economically, politically, and emotionally. The death toll in the United States has surpassed that of any other country in the world. As of December 14th, there are 499,764 positive COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth. Further- we’re reminded that more than 12,600 Pennsylvanians have tragically succumbed to this virus. Their lives were lost, and their families and friends are faced with unbearable grief. This is unacceptable. 

Economically, the virus has upended our traditional ways of doing business, costing many people their livelihoods and causing even more people to live at the edge of poverty. Over the past 9 months, proven business models have failed and proved to be unsafe in the face of a contagious virus. The stock market remains turbulent and countless jobs have been lost in Pennsylvania. Small businesses, especially restaurants, childcare centers, and those in the hospitality industry, are closing their doors. Parents have been forced to leave their jobs to care full-time for their children as they navigate online learning. People are risking their health working on the front lines in order to pay their rent or mortgage. The considerable impact of COVID-19 on our economy, our community resources, and our access to jobs has taken a great toll on Pennsylvanians. We want to protect these businesses – and, the workers in them – from even worse harm. We need to supply them with the resources to be able to make it through this time.  

Pennsylvanians desperately need leadership with a plan during this unprecedented moment. Hard times are here, now. People need help, now. The Senate Democratic Caucus has provided that leadership with the proposal of the PACARES21 stimulus package, which was drafted with a data-drive approach to provide relief now. We are proud to stand with our colleagues in support of this plan. It allocates funding to the areas that need it the most to get through this crisis. Our proposal covers funding for resources from hazard pay to mental health programs. These vital resources will get us through the winter, as guided in our decision to allocate money for PPE and vaccine distribution – these are the investments we need to make to guard Pennsylvanians from getting sick and potentially dying. 

Specifically, we propose allocating more than $1 billion towards unemployment compensation protection, as so many Pennsylvanians have lost jobs and income over the course of the pandemic. We propose $800 million in business assistance, including $300 million for taverns and restaurants so they can pay workers and rent, and be in a position to reopen safely. And we propose more than $100 million for housing assistance. Housing is a human right, and we must make affordable housing accessible always – but especially right now. 

The package also allocates $75 million toward childcare and $411 million towards public education (Pre-K to Higher Education). These funds are focused on providing parents and children with the resources they need to make up for lost time at work and lost time in the classroom. This state, and country, will grapple with the fallout from this pandemic for years to come. By investing now, we jumpstart the recovery – and save people’s lives.

We ran for office to address the real issues that are impacting and threatening the lives and livelihoods of all Pennsylvanians. We were elected and entrusted by our constituents to do this job. Now, we must get to work. We are ready to provide the relief that individuals, families, and businesses so desperately need. 

Let’s come to the table, or this year, the Zoom meeting, and pass PACARES21. 

Learn more about PACARES21 at PASenate.com/PACARES.