Harrisburg—Facing an uncertain economic future and working to address the devastating impact of COVID-19, the Senate today set a course for recovery by approving a $25.8 billion interim budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 as well as a plan to direct $2.6 billion in federal CARES funding to support individuals, small businesses, organizations and county governments that were most severely impacted by the virus. Following the vote, Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20) issued the following statement:
“An interim state budget is the most effective way of preventing the service cuts and disruption our citizens and communities can ill-afford. It might be the only viable alternative.
“In the midst of this pandemic, it is vital for us to ensure the continuity of services in health care and food security and to allow key institutions such as schools to reopen.
“We have been hearing how every institution and service provider is suffering because of lost revenue and added costs. By giving these entities an assurance that state money is coming in for the next five months and by providing for the distribution of federal assistance dollars, caretakers and other committed professionals can concentrate their efforts on continuing or restoring services rather than having to fight over insufficient state funding.
“The measure providing for the distribution of emergency money is essential and well-directed. These are services and providers we depend on daily during this crisis and beyond. There is no other place for them to go to get the resources they need right now to combat the virus and put in place the preventive and protective measures that will allow workers and businesses to resume functioning. While there are categories of eligibility delineated, the counties are given the authority to decide where to most effectively deploy these dollars, avoiding controversy over state guidelines that could prove too inflexible.
“Attempting to do a full-year state budget now would necessitate dramatic cuts that would restrict reopening and inflict additional revenue losses. By the time this interim plan expires, conditions will have changed and some answers will have been provided to what are open questions at the moment. The economy should be in recovery. The revenue picture will be improved from what is likely a low point now. The long-range implications of coronavirus should be better understood, and the progress on vaccines more evident. We will have a better understanding of how Institutions and services will be operating, so funding decision will be based on actual needs instead of assumptions.”