HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Tom Wolf has signed the state budget, which looks to provide funding to public education and distribute federal coronavirus aid to counties, after it quickly passed through state legislature.
“Reaching an early budget agreement under these challenging circumstances is encouraging as we continue to fight the spread of COVID-19,” Wolf said. The budget approval is well ahead of the June 30 deadline.
The $25.8 billion package carries full-year money for many public school budget lines, as well as for state-supported universities, debt service and school pension obligations. But it funds much of the rest of the state’s operating budget lines, including billions for social services, only through Nov. 30, the last day of the two-year legislative session.
Wolf and other budget makers have said that will give them time to see how badly coronavirus-related shutdowns damage tax collections and whether the federal government sends another aid package to states. But it also sets up a budget fight in November to scrounge money for the rising cost of health care and human services that are putting considerable pressure on Pennsylvania’s state finances.
Budget analysts are projecting a multi-billion shortfall through next July 1.
Budget makers also point to as much as $2 billion in tax collections, if not more, that will not arrive in state coffers until after the July 1 start of the fiscal year because of tax deadlines that were delayed amid the pandemic-related shutdowns.
“While this is an encouraging step in the right direction, more needs to be done to ensure Pennsylvania has the resources it needs to protect key programs and investments,” Wolf said.
To help communities to recover, the budget provides $420 million to assist nursing homes with coronavirus-related costs, $50 million to help tackle food insecurity and $225 million for grants to small businesses.
The budget also provides $625 million to counties through block grants to help address their budget disruptions due to the health crisis. The funding looks to ease will the cost of purchasing personal protective equipment, help local governments, and provide grants to small businesses.
“As the state’s economy begins to reopen from the public health emergency, there are still unanswered questions about the state’s finances, but this agreement is an important step to stabilize our schools and put Pennsylvania on a path to recovery,” Wolf said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.