HARRISBURG, PA – Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Senator David Arnold (R-Lebanon) announced today (July 22) that in addition to the lawsuit filed by the Lebanon County Commissioners against Governor Wolf for withholding $12.8 million in federal CARES Act funding for the county, legislation has been introduced to ensure that Lebanon County does not lose out on this vital funding its citizens, the same as citizens across Pennsylvania, need during this enduring pandemic.
“While we are still calling on the governor to reconsider his decision to withhold the $12.8 million from the COVID Relief – County Block Grant program appropriated for Lebanon County,” Senator Browne said, “we have introduced legislation that will guarantee that Lebanon County either receives that funding or that it is allowed to offset the amount of realty transfer tax and inheritance tax owed to the Commonwealth, which is collected by the county, by the amount of the funds withheld.”
“Governor Wolf’s refusal to adhere to the law is concerning, not only for Lebanon County, but for the Commonwealth,” said Senator Arnold, who is the prime sponsor of the legislation.
Senate Bill 1245 specifically requires the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to release Lebanon County’s portion of the COVID Relief – County Block Grant program funding within 10 days of the effective date of this act. Pennsylvania’s CARES Act fiscal code legislation required the department to distribute the $625 million appropriation to each county on a proportionate population basis no later than July 15, 2020.
The governor’s decision to withhold this properly and legally appropriated funding for Lebanon County makes it the only county in Pennsylvania, and its population of 141,793 residents, not to receive either a direct funding allotment from the federal government or funding through the CARES Act county block grant program.
“It is obvious that the withholding of these federal dollars is political retaliation for rebelling against his arbitrary and ever-changing guidance,” Senator Arnold said. “Lebanon County and its residents will not be bullied by Wolf and will stand up for their freedoms when challenged. The governor is not hurting his political opponents, he’s hurting the people he claims he’s been trying to help. His actions have now resulted in fewer dollars for mental health, drug and alcohol treatment and business stabilization grants, among others. It is the intent of this legislation to rectify this injustice to Lebanon residents.”
This legislation is in addition to a lawsuit filed this morning (July 22) by the County of Lebanon against Governor Wolf in Commonwealth Court asking the court to require the governor to release the $12.8 million in CARES Act funding appropriated for Lebanon County.
“The lawsuit and this legislation are necessary to prohibit the governor from ignoring statutory language and the will of the General Assembly and to guarantee that the citizens of Lebanon County are not penalized for political reasons,” Senator Browne said. “The governor’s decision to deny Lebanon County residents much needed financial support for vital mental health and substance use disorder treatment services, small business and non-profit assistance and other support programs individuals, families and business owners need while managing the effects of this devastating health crisis is unacceptable.”
Under Act 2A and Act 24, eligible uses for the county block grant funding include: offsetting costs of direct county emergency response; small business assistance; programs to support local economic development entities; assistance to cities, borough, towns or townships for costs related to the emergency, including planning; behavioral health and drug and alcohol abuse treatment services, nonprofit assistance programs; and broadband internet deployment.