HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Wolf announced a $1.7 billion plan funded by the American Rescue Plan to help Pennsylvanians with pandemic recovery.

The Governor outlined five proposals as part of the plan that he says will help Pennsylvanians still struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest of the five proposals is the Governor’s “PA Opportunity Program,” which would focus on assisting families with child care, job training, broadband, transportation, and afterschool programs through “direct payments.”

The exact guidelines for who would be eligible to receive direct payments were unclear, but the Governor highlighted helping families in need.

A fund for small business recovery would also be available for businesses impacted by the pandemic regardless of whether they’ve previously received funding. The Governor said the plan would be based on need.

1:30 p.m. Conference:

The Governor’s Office released an outline of each of the five proposed programs:

  • The PA Opportunity Program, $500 million

“The PA Opportunity Program would provide much-needed relief to workers and families from the high cost of childcare and household expenses and opportunities to complete a degree, credential, or license that will strengthen their skills and increase income—all leading to a better quality of life.”

  • Small Business Support, $225 million

“The COVID Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program ​would provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Among other things, businesses can use these grants to cover operating expenses and access technical assistance, including training and guidance to stabilize and relaunch their businesses. The program ​would prioritize women- and minority-owned businesses and rural communities. Gov. Wolf proposes to recapitalize this program at $225 million to help approximately 11,000 additional businesses.”

  • Increased Property Relief for Low-Income Renters & Homeowners, $204 million

To provide direct property tax relief to Pennsylvanians, Gov. Wolf wants to invest an additional $204 million into the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate program for a one-time bonus rebate to current program users. This investment would double existing rebates. An estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians would receive an additional average rebate of $475. 

  • Support for Pennsylvania’s Healthcare System, $325 million

“This investment would recognize healthcare workers for their heroic dedication and hard work throughout the pandemic and give healthcare providers resources to recruit and retain a skilled workforce​:

– $250 million for long-term care recruitment and retention incentives and workforce development initiatives to grow the critical healthcare workforce​;

– $40 million for the behavioral health workforce to expand county mental health programs; and 

– $35 million to expand the student loan forgiveness program at PHEAA to include additional critical healthcare workers.”

  • Growing Greener” Investing in Conservation, Recreation & Preservation, $450 million

“Pennsylvania must continue to invest in vital conservation, recreation, preservation, and community revitalization projects and address the threat of climate change. Gov. Wolf’s plan proposes new funding for the Growing Greener conservation and recreation program as well as for agriculture conservation programs, such as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program and the existing Agriculture Conservation Excellence Grant Program.

After experiencing record-breaking rainfall and flooding events this past year, this program would make Pennsylvania more resilient in the face of more extreme and frequent weather events caused by climate change. It would support our economy, enhance our communities, and improve quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. “

Governor Wolf highlighted the state’s surplus and $2.2 billion that he says is “sitting around,” but funding for his latest proposal would come from the American Rescue Plan.

“While Pennsylvanians are still bruised and trying to recover from the pandemic, we cannot sit on billions of dollars in federal aid that could heal Pennsylvania,” added Wolf. “It’s wrong to hold this money back from helping people​. It’s past time we take action.”

Republican House leaders released a statement that called the Governor’s proposal something “developed in a fiscal fantasy land where concern for future fiscal years apparently doesn’t exist.”

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The stream can be viewed in the player above at 1:30 p.m.