On the same day that he tightened business and travel restrictions in four more Pennsylvania counties, Gov. Tom Wolf said state officials are still working to determine how Pennsylvanians will benefit from a $2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday.
State officials believe that the stimulus bill, which is the largest relief package in modern American history, will distribute roughly $5 billion to state and local governments to aid their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wolf said during a Saturday briefing.
In Pennsylvania, leaders and elected officials are still discerning how that money will be allocated and what form the disbursements will take, Wolf said.
“There are a lot of different buckets” of funding, Wolf said Saturday, when he addressed reporters via a virtual press conference. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly what Pennsylvania will get … but we are heartened by what we’re seeing early on.”
As of Saturday, 2,751 Pennsylvanians in 56 counties had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The state has also confirmed 34 fatalities, all in adult patients.
The pandemic has ground life to a standstill in the United States, shuttering schools and businesses and leading to a tsunami of layoffs and furloughs.
Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system, which received a record-breaking 650,000 claims from laid off workers in the last two weeks, will get some support from the federal stimulus bill, Wolf said Saturday.
The package also includes some money to help states expand Medicaid programs, he said.
But Wolf declined to say whether or not he anticipated the need for more legislative aid from Harrisburg, where lawmakers this week approved $50 in emergency funding along with a raft of regulatory relief bills to help the state respond to the pandemic.
The measures, which Wolf signed into law Friday, delayed the state’s primary election until June 2, waived instructional requirements for K-12 schools, and eased some restrictions for workers seeking unemployment benefits.
Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Harrisburg for the foreseeable future. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Wednesday that legislative leaders would wait to see the details of the federal stimulus before deciding to return to session.
On Saturday, Wolf reiterated his calls for Pennsylvanians to stay at home and eliminate as much social interaction as possible in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
His administration extended stay-at-home orders to Beaver, Centre and Washington counties on Saturday. The orders permit residents to leave their homes for essential reasons, including grocery shopping, seeking medical treatment, caring for sick loved ones, or taking a walk near their homes.
The stay-at-home orders, which are now in effect for 22 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, are scheduled to last at least until April 6, even though health experts predict the state may not see a peak volume of cases and hospitalizations until later that month.
State Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said Saturday that the stay at home orders are made in consultation with county commissioners, and based in part on how quickly COVID-19 caseloads grow in each jurisdiction.
State officials will continue to implement the orders in other countries “according to the situation on the ground” over time, she said.