Easter and Passover, which ends at sundown on Thursday, are celebrations of hope and renewal after periods of fear and uncertainty.
These certainly are challenging times for all of us, and to those families who have experienced illness or the death of a loved one, may the spirit of the community lift you up with prayers and support.
Looking forward, the House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would create the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force. Encompassing all three branches of government, the task force would be charged with identifying immediate and urgent issues, providing a structure to catalog the Commonwealth’s response to the disaster emergency and creating a recovery plan.
The recovery plan would be aimed at facilitating how state and local officials could expeditiously resume mission-critical functions, including the restoration of housing, transportation, education and other public services, and economic activity to levels equal to or better than their pre-disaster conditions.
Senate Bill 327 would also establish a debt reduction review process directing all state agencies responsible for any level of borrowing to examine existing debts and determine if refinancing with current interest rates would be in the best interest of taxpayers. The Commonwealth is facing a significant loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with interest rates dropping, this may be an opportunity for our commonwealth to save some much-needed money for critical programs and services.
The bill is now pending consideration in the Senate. We are working on a variety of other ideas to help our state and our citizens recover from this unprecedented challenge. My office fields many, many calls from citizens who are frightened and frustrated because they couldn’t get through to the unemployment office to file a claim after being laid off of work. All the while, with over 1 million workers filing for unemployment, the Unemployment Compensation Department is finally hiring to attempt to meet the demand.
Business owners who have already lost their businesses due to the governor’s closure orders, or are fearful they will lose their business, are trying to secure small business loans with varied success. We must not lose sight of what drives Pennsylvania’s economy, even in a state of emergency, because those tax dollars from these businesses are supporting life-sustaining services. Getting these small businesses up and running as soon as possible, in a safe way that adheres to the CDC guidelines, is on the forefront of many bipartisan initiatives.
United communities are strong communities. Let these traditional celebrations of hope and renewal anchor our dedication to each other – we are all in this together.
Rep. Barb Gleim is a Republican who represents the 199th Legislative District in Cumberland County.
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