In this month’s column, Rep. Emily Kinkead discusses how the state government plans to rebuild its economy after the COVID-19 pandemic, including ways that homeowners can find financial help. She also provides instructions on how to get your loved ones vaccinated.

Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead

I hope this column finds you safe and staying well during these challenging times.

Much of my time since my last check-in with you here has been spent in Harrisburg, as budget hearings began in earnest in recent weeks. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, these hearings provide me with an opportunity to dive deep into our state’s budgetary process and to ensure our investments are wisely spent. Fiscal policies may not be all that exciting, but they’re very important and truly set the tone for what our state’s overall priorities are for the new budget year. I take my role on this committee very seriously, and that includes asking the tough questions of department and agency officials and doing all I can to ensure your tax dollars are responsibly budgeted.

Additionally, I want to make you aware of the passage of Senate Bill 109, now known as Act 1, which was recently signed into law by the governor. This measure will substantially rebuild our state’s economy by quickly delivering $912 million in COVID-19 relief, including $570 million for rent and utility assistance, $145 million to help our local bars and restaurants recover, and $197 million in education relief for career and technical centers, nonpublic schools, community colleges, and other critical education providers. Of those funds, Allegheny County will receive nearly $80 million for rent and utility relief and another $13.7 million for hospitality industry relief.

For homeowners, the Biden administration has announced an expansion of forbearance and foreclosure relief programs that were due to expire at the end of March. The foreclosure moratorium and the mortgage payment forbearance programs have been extended to June 30. In addition, the administration has also provided up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30. My hope is that this will provide needed, urgent relief for homeowners who continue to recover from the financial impacts of this pandemic.

Finally, though the COVID-19 vaccine distribution has left much to be desired for many Pennsylvanians, I wanted to share with you that UPMC is now vaccinating residents in Phase 1A – which includes people over 65 and people with medical conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 complications. You can go online to https://vaccine.upmc.com for more details and to register. You can also call 844-876-2822 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week, if you have limited access to a computer or smartphone or if you need assistance to register. Allegheny County has also set up a way to receive COVID-19 vaccine alerts via its website, www.alleghenycounty.us/alerts. You can register to receive alerts on your mobile phone, home phone, or email. I know I’ve provided you with a great deal of information, but please know that if you need any assistance, including COVID-19 relief programs and services in the community, please reach out to my team and me by email at RepKinkead@pahouse.net or call 412-321-5523. Remember, we’re here for you!

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