Senate Budget Hearings – Key Points

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Department of Labor & Industry

Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chair Camera Bartolotta (R-46) discussed with Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier members concerns that, while the pandemic created a significant challenge for the department, the decisions made by the administration to shutdown businesses to greater degrees than was done in many other states forced even more workers onto unemployment, further stressing the unemployment system and unemployment office.

Overdue Unemployment Compensation Computer System Upgrades

Many members pressed Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier to complete UC computer upgrades, for which the General Assembly has appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars. The continued reliance on 40-year-old computers severely hampered the ability of jobless workers to access assistance during the administration’s business closures and throughout the pandemic.

Connecting Pennsylvanians with Good-Paying Jobs

Efforts to align Pennsylvania workforce development with existing employer needs was the topic of several discussions. Members urged the department to do more to connect jobseekers with the many good-paying jobs that are going unfilled.

Department of Agriculture

Impact of Pandemic Response on Farming

Senators questioned Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding about the impact of the pandemic, specifically the financial stability of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, including whether or not there were use limitations at the Farm Show complex caused by the storage of PPE at the site. He expressed optimism that Pennsylvania’s fairs will rebound this year — with limitations on grandstand capacity.

Questioned by members, Secretary Redding also discussed efforts to help Pennsylvania’s distressed dairy farms and detailed the reimbursement program for dairy farmers who were forced to dump their products during the pandemic.

Secretary Redding also elaborated on the department’s request to increase dog license fees and provided an update on the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program. 

Concerns with Department’s Response to Member Questions/Concerns

Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Chairman Elder Vogel and Senator Joe Pittman discussed their frustrations with the lack of response and answers they have received from the department on a number of issues, including detailed information sought on the governor’s proposal to transfer money from the Race Horse Development Fund and the lack of engagement by the department with those in the Race Horse industry that will directly be affected by that decision.