2021 Year-In-Review: Progress on Education, Health Care, Good Jobs & More
Harrisburg, PA (STL.News) From the largest single-year education funding increase in Pennsylvania history to helping 6,000 restaurants and hospitality businesses survive the pandemic and continuing to improve quality and access to health care and combat gun violence, Pennsylvania continues to improve schools, create jobs and expand health care in the third year of Governor Tom Wolf’s second term.
In 2022, Governor Tom Wolf will continue to fight to invest in education, prevent gun violence, raise the minimum wage, improve health care quality while reducing costs and more, to improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians.
Highlights from 2021 include:
INVESTING IN STUDENTS AND EDUCATION
- Historic School Funding Increase: Gov. Wolf invested an additional $416 million to provide the largest single-year public education funding increase in state history. Under Gov. Wolf, annual public education funding has increased by more than $1.8 billion.
- $100 Million for Level Up: This new initiative provides $100 million to the state’s 100 poorest school districts and starts to close the funding gap between the state’s wealthiest and poorest school districts.
- Investments in Early Childhood Education: Gov. Wolf continues to make critical investments in early childhood education by increasing state funding by $30 million to help 3,200 more children and families access high-quality pre-k programs. Since taking office, Gov. Wolf has increased funding for Pre-K Counts by 149% and for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program by 77%.
- More Substitute Teachers: To address the shortage of substitute teachers, thegovernor signed a bill that temporarily expands who is eligible to be a substitute, such as retired teachers, and eligible college students and recent graduates, and more.
- It’s On Us PA: The governor awarded nearly $2 million in It’s On Us PA grants to combat sexual assault and make students safer on campuses. Since 2016, nearly $6 million has been invested to shift campus culture and promote healthy relationships. The governor also unveiled a four-bill package to further protect students.
- Protecting Taxpayers and Charter School Students: More than 80% of school districts are joining Gov. Wolf’s call to improve charter school quality and address sky-rocketing charter school costs that force school property tax hikes.
IMPROVING HEALTH CARE QUALITY AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Ensuring Access to Quality Care: The Wolf Administration has proposed updated skilled nursing home regulations to ensure the commonwealth’s quality of care requirements are aligned with the federal government. These proposed updates are the first changes to the nursing home regulations in nearly two decades, including an increase in the number of direct care hours a nursing home resident would receive in a day.
- Protecting Vulnerable Citizens: Substance use disorder recovery homes are now licensed by the commonwealth in order to receive state or federal funding. This critical change now allows individuals newly in recovery an opportunity to have safe, supportive housing.
- Increased Consumer Protections: With the federal No Surprises Act state implementation beginning January 1, 2022, Governor Wolf signed an Executive Order naming the Pennsylvania Insurance Department lead implementation agency. Pennsylvanians who receive surprise medical bills or have questions related to the federal law can direct all questions to the Insurance Department.
- Expanded Eligibility in Critical Programs for Older Adults: Gov. Wolf signed Acts 92 and 94 of 2021 renewing the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program and expanded eligibility to Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET). Both programs serve as a lifeline for Pennsylvania’s older adult populations and provide critical savings to this vulnerable population.
CREATING JOBS AND SUPPORTING WORKERS
- Fighting for Workers: Workers deserve dignity and respect. Gov. Wolf signed an executive order that ensures businesses getting financial assistance offers from the Governor’s Action Team provide paid sick leave and pay at least the minimum wage for state employees. The administration will also study the option to apply Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards to offices under the governor’s jurisdiction.
- Free Online Job Training: LaunchedSkillUp® PA with more than 2,200 courses and 2,600 training hours, including accounting/finance, information technology, project management, clerical and much more.
PROTECTING AND CREATING GOOD JOBS
- Helping Nearly 6,000 Hospitality Businesses: Created theCOVID-19 Hospitality Industry Relief Program (CHIRP) which provided $145 million to nearly 6,000 restaurants and hospitality industry businesses during the pandemic. Helping this vital industry is a priority for the governor.
- Protecting 25,000 Jobs: Helped create 7,000 jobs and retain 18,000 jobs through Governor’s Action Team offers of $49 million in state assistance to 48 businesses that are investing $2 billion into projects.
- Generational Investment in Broadband: Worked closely with the legislature to create the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority that will manage at least $100 million in federal aid to expand broadband. The generational investment will help close the digital divide in many rural communities, allowing more people to work, access health care and education and stay connected.
- Expanding Broadband in Unserved Areas: Some counties are at a disadvantage due to limitations on access to broadband. The Wolf Administration offered $5 million through the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program (UHSB) for projects that expand high-speed broadband service infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.
ADDRESSING GUN VIOLENCE
- Commitment to Share Gun Violence Data: Gov. Wolf joined New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamond in a Memorandum of Understanding to share gun data in an effort to prevent gun violence and enhance public safety.
- Funding Grassroots Gun Violence Prevention Projects: In continuation of his commitment to combat gun violence in Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf increased funding for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency’s Gun Violence Prevention Program to $24 million. In November, 40 local gun violence prevention projects across the commonwealth were funded for a total of $15.7 million.
ENSURING FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
- Fair and Transparent Congressional Redistricting: Created the Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council of six redistricting experts who held a series of in-person and virtual public listening sessions, and reviewed public feedback and maps submitted through a portal to develop redistricting principles that will help the governor to evaluate a Congressional redistricting map that will be passed by the General Assembly.
PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
- Addressing Environmental Justice: Gov. Wolf issued an Executive Order strengthening the administration’s efforts to address environmental justice and support low-income communities and communities of color that are adversely impacted by environmental issues with accompanying adverse health impacts.
- Commitment to Solar Energy: Gov. Wolf committed to a clean energy initiative that will produce nearly 50 percent of state government’s electricity through seven new solar energy arrays around the state. The project is the largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. announced to date.
ESTABLISHING GOVERNMENT REFORM
- Historic Rainy Day Fund Balance: Gov. Wolf has restored stability to Pennsylvania’s finances, and this year the administration deposited more than $2.6 billion into our Rainy Day Fund to prepare for any future challenges. Thanks to responsible financial planning, there is more than $2.8 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the most in Pennsylvania history.
- Protecting LGBTQ Commonwealth Employees: Sexual harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong and unacceptable. Gov. Wolf updated workplace policies for commonwealth employees to further protect members of the LGBTQ community from harassment in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.