Pa. Dems’ bill would give grants to bars restaurants dealing with COVID restrictions | Monday Morning Coffee

December 21, 2020 7:05 am

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With hundreds of restaurants statewide rebelling against the Wolf administration’s COVID-19 indoor dining ban, two Democratic lawmakers from suburban Philadelphia say they’re reintroducing a plan that would deliver some badly needed assistance to the hard-hit industry.

Reps. Joe Ciresi, of Montgomery County, and Tina Davis, of Bucks County, said Sunday that they plan to reintroduce a $200 million grant program open to eligible bars, restaurants, catering halls and banquet halls. Funding for the program would come through the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The announcement comes even as Congress rushed over the weekend to put the finishing touches on a $900 billion stimulus package.

“Our restaurants and bars can’t wait for the federal government to take action, and we can’t wait to see what – if anything – will come from the federal government to help these mom-and-pop establishments,” the two lawmakers wrote in a Friday memo to their colleagues seeking support for the plan. “This is why we will be introducing legislation to provide grants, not loans, to eligible bars, restaurants, and catering and banquet halls that are struggling, focusing the aid on the smaller community businesses that need the help more right now, rather than chains and national conglomerates.”

The two lawmakers introduced their plan during this year’s legislative session, but it died without coming to a vote in the House Commerce Committee.

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News of Ciresi’s and Davis’ revamped plan comes about three weeks after Democrats in the state Senate floated a $4 billion, bond-funded relief plan that earmarks $800 million in assistance to business, including $300 million in aid to bars and restaurants.

During a Dec. 4 news conference, Senate Democrats said they could adjust their spending plan when an agreement emerges in Washington. But they also stressed, the state shouldn’t wait for Congress to act.

“These businesses are the lifeblood of our community. They employ hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. And they have been decimated by COVID mitigation policies like occupancy limits,” Sen. Christine M. Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, said at the time. “Meanwhile, the costs continue to pile up. They are doing everything they can to improve health protections for patrons and staff. We have an obligation to make them whole again.”

In their joint statement, Davis and Ciresi reiterated that their plan is intended to deliver a hand up to mom and pop operations that don’t have the financial resources of big chain operations to stay afloat.

Our restaurants and bars have had to play a major role in stopping the community spread of the COVID-19 virus for which they have paid a devastating financial cost,” Davis said. “The temporary suspension during the holiday season, although necessary, is yet another blow to the industry. It is grossly unfair that our ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants and bars and their employees should have to bear this burden alone. As they have helped to protect our physical health, we need to protect their financial health through the passage of this legislation which would help them get through the pandemic.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
With Christmas just four days away, this week’s edition of the Numbers Racket takes a look at the pressure that some among you feel to spend big this holiday season. Cassie Miller dives into the data.

Our Helping the Helpers series, in cooperation with the Uniontown Herald-Standard, continues this morning with a look at how one SWPA nonprofit has repurposed a former elementary school and turned into a community focal point.

The politicians may have quit Congress, but their ‘zombie’ campaign accounts live on, flush with millions of dollars in contributions. National Correspondent Daniel Newhauser explains why this is an issue.

Studies show that LGBTQ people are at a higher risk of eating disorders and self-harm, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Dick Polman says Republicans harbored un-American tendencies long before Donald Trump. And a Vanderbilt University astronomer has everything you need to know about tonight’s once-in-a-life interstellar event known as the Great Conjunction.

En la Estrella-Capital: El aumento del COVID en las prisiones de Pa. conduce a llamadas de bloqueo en todas las instalaciones, por Cassie Miller.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (Flickr Commons)

President Donald Trump’s
 re-election campaign has brought a new U.S. Supreme Court challenge to Pennsylvania’s election results, the Inquirer reports.
Despite court certification, Republicans could oppose the swearing-in of state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny, the Post-Gazette reports.
Many Pa. state government employees got pay raises in 2020, PennLive reports.
survey of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians shows the health issues that also increase coronavirus risk, the Morning Call reports.
Officials in Wilkes-Barre have found a buyer for the long-vacant First National Bank building, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by Michael Yatsko (@yatsko)

Advocates in Philadelphia are pushing lawmakers to adopt tiny home building codesWHYY-FM reports.
A Pa. prison inmate died of COVID-19, but state officials never told his familySpotlight PA reports (via WITF-FM).
GoErie explains how Erie County has spent $25 million in CARES Act funding.
PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners and losers in state politics. explains how COVID-19 eased drug treatment rules — and that saved lives.
Congress is set to vote today on that coronavirus relief package. Roll Call breaks down the details.
An FDA panel has outlined who’s next in line for the COVID-19 vaccineTalking Points Memo reports.

What Goes On.
State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine holds an 11:30 a.m. virtual news conference on the latest on the pandemic. You can watch online at

Heavy Rotation.
You’d be hard pressed to come up with a more unlikely pairing than David Bowie and Bing Crosby. But back in the 1970s, the Thin White Duke and Crosby teamed up for an indelible duet of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” It’s right up there as one of our favorite Christmas pop tunes of all time.

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The NHL announced over the weekend that it’ll kick off an abbreviated, 56-game 2021 season on Jan. 13, with teams arranged into regional divisions to cut down on travel and potential exposure to infection. The all-Canadian North Division just makes us smile.

A Note to Readers:
Associate Editor Cassie Miller
 will be writing the newsletter for the balance of the week. I’m off until after the holiday. Thanks to all of our readers, subscribers and donors for your friendship and support during this most extraordinary of years. It has meant the world to us.

Special thanks and kudos go out to Staff Reporters Stephen Caruso and Elizabeth Hardison, along with CassieEstrella-Capital translator Bella Altman, our amazing team of correspondents, our opinion contributors, our partner publications, and the whole States Newsroom family, for work above and beyond the call of duty at all times. It’s a privilege to call you friends and colleagues.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and the most peaceful of New Years. I’ll see you all back here in 2021.

Take care — and be kind to each other.
John L. Micek, Editor

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.