The 2021-22 session officially kicks off this week, with state House and Senate lawmakers converging in Harrisburg to be sworn into office on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
As a first order of business, the newly sworn in General Assembly may consider a new small business grant program, which Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed to be funded through a transfer of $145 million from the Workers’ Compensation Security Fund. (The WCSF is financed by Pennsylvania’s business community and ensures that injured workers will continue receiving medical and wage loss benefits in the event their employer or insurer goes out of business). Notably, the transfer must be approved and ultimately appropriated by the legislature. When announcing his proposal, the governor acknowledged that $145 million is not enough to save all small businesses, but that it can help many, particularly when coupled with the new federal COVID-19 relief bill.
The fate of the governor’s plan in the legislature remains uncertain. In response to Gov. Wolf’s announcement, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff issued a statement that said his caucus has led in helping the state’s small business owners get the support they need to survive pandemic-related financial challenges – including opposing the administration’s various shutdown orders. “Going alone is not what is best for Pennsylvania,” Benninghoff said. “We need to work together, and I encourage Gov. Wolf to work with us on relief plans and join us in focusing on long-term solutions that keep Pennsylvanians working and businesses and restaurants operating safely.”