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Pennsylvania Governor Delivers 2021 Budget Address

On February 3, 2021, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf outlined his budget plan to remove barriers and cut taxes for working class families in Pennsylvania while investing billions of dollars into Pennsylvania schools​ and workforce development initiatives. The governor’s plan would make Pennsylvania’s tax structure more fair and equitable, cutting taxes for working class families while still making historic investments in public education through the fair funding formula.

“We will defeat COVID, but we can’t yet say when it will be safe for life to return to normal – and it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ will even look like. But I refuse to tell any young family in Pennsylvania that they just happen to be starting out at the wrong time – that, with everything going on, 2021 just isn’t going to be the year we get around to lifting the barriers that stand between them and the future they hope to provide for their children,” Gov. Wolf said. “I think it’s more important than ever that we act boldly and courageously to remove those barriers once and for all. So, today, I’m proposing a budget designed to do exactly that.”

The governor is asking Pennsylvanians to join him in urging the General Assembly to focus on these priorities as the 2021-22 state budget negotiations begin.

“We can have a great public school for every child in every neighborhood in Pennsylvania, good job opportunities for everyone who wants them, and an economy strong enough to provide for everyone. It is possible to pursue a legislative agenda for this commonwealth that is good for families, good for businesses, and good for the economy,” Gov. Wolf said. “Most of all, I think your family’s future is important enough that we ought to just have this argument right now instead of putting it off until next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Let’s make Pennsylvania an even better place to live, work, and dream big dreams for your kids.”

Governor Wolf’s budget plan builds on his recently unveiled 2021 agenda.

  • Cutting Taxes for Pennsylvania Working Class Families and Making the Tax System More Fair and Equitable
  • Reaffirm Our Commitment to Build the Strongest Education System in the Country
    • Put all Basic Education Funding through the Fair Funding Formula
    • Stabilizing Child Care and Ensuring Equal Access for Families
    • Increase Special Education, Head Start and PreK Funding
    • Introduce Accountability into the EITC and OSTC
    • Nellie Bly College Tuition Program
    • Attract and Retain the Best Teachers for Our Children
    • Comprehensive Charter School Law Reform
    • Applying the Special Education Formula to All Charter Schools:  Establishing a Statewide Cyber Charter Tuition Rate
    • Improving the Redirection Process
  • Get Pennsylvania Back on Track After the Pandemic
    • Inject Billions into a Reformed Workforce Development System
    • Invest in Public Infrastructure, Including School Buildings
    • Increase the Minimum Wage to $12/hour, with a path to $15/hour
  • Build on Bipartisan Progress 
    • Reform the Criminal Justice System
    • Reduce the Corporate Net Income Tax and Close the Delaware Loophole
    • Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis
  • Change Harrisburg by Demanding Accountability   
    • Reintroduce the Governor’s Government Reform Plan
    • Curb Special Interest Influence
    • Build on Election Reform

Watch the Governor’s address at

For more information:

Read More About the Governor’s Budget Proposal

Read the Budget Proposal Press Release

NEW Customizable Communications Toolkit Released

Templates to educate patients, build trust and confidence in the rural hospital and clinic and communicate services

The Customizable Communications Toolkit supports rural hospitals and clinics in developing internal and external communication materials.

Each topic includes customizable templates such as educational flyers/posters, newspaper scripts, radio scripts, talking points for leaders and staff, materials that can be printed, website graphics, landing page content, social media graphics/posts, digital displays, infographics, and digital videos.

USDA Seeks Applications to Support Business Development and Create Jobs in Rural Pennsylvania

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) it is accepting applications to support economic development and create jobs in rural America.

USDA is making this funding available under the Rural Business Development Grant program for eligible entities to support business opportunity and enterprise projects in rural communities. Eligible entities are rural towns, communities, state agencies, authorities, nonprofits, federally-recognized tribes, institutes of higher education and cooperatives.

Eligible applicants for the set-aside funds must demonstrate that at least 75 percent of the benefits of an approved grant will assist beneficiaries in the designated areas.

Applications must be submitted to the nearest USDA office by 4:30 p.m. local time on March 31, 2021. For additional information, see page 8610 of the Feb. 4, 2021, Federal Register.

In Pennsylvania, please contact David Foster, Rural Business & Cooperative Program Director, for more information: Phone: (717)237-2181 or

The funding may be used to establish business support centers or to finance job training and leadership development in rural areas. Projects must be consistent with any local and area-wide community and economic development strategic plans, support other economic development activities in the project area, and be consistent with any Rural Development state strategic plan. Funding for enterprise projects must be used to finance or develop small and emerging businesses in rural areas.

This year, USDA anticipates that part of the funding will be set aside for federally-recognized Native American tribes, Rural Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities/Rural Economic Area Partnerships, and Strategic Economic and Community Development (SECD) projects. USDA also anticipates a set-aside of funding for projects located in Persistent Poverty areas, including those of Native Americans.

Supporting Immigrant Communities and Those with Limited English Proficiency During the Pandemic in Pennsylvania

In June 2020, immigrant community leaders and other stakeholders working directly with immigrant communities and those with limited English proficiency in Pennsylvania were invited to complete an online survey to help the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrant/LEP communities in the Commonwealth.

The survey was developed by a working group addressing pandemic-related disparities specific to immigrant/LEP communities. This White Paper, published in November 2020, shares key findings from the survey and includes open-ended responses that provide more detail on the top pandemic-related challenges experienced by immigrant/LEP communities.

NIOSH COVID-19 Updates

As part of NIOSH’s efforts to keep our stakeholders up to date on the CDC and NIOSH COVID-19 response, here is a summary of new information available.

  • COVID-19 Response Guidance for Businesses and Employers
    CDC recently updated their Guidance for Business and Employers, addressing shortened quarantine options and additional considerations for testing. The updates also clarify information around mask-wearing.
  • COVID-19 Checklists for Employers and Employees in Construction
    CDC offers Construction Checklists to share ways employers can protect construction workers, and how these workers can protect themselves, to slow the spread of COVID-19. The checklists are available as an interactive online tool or as a PDF in both English and Spanish.
  • Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Isolation Gowns
    CDC recently updated their Isolation Gown Optimization Strategies, moving the prioritization strategy of gowns from crisis capacity to contingency capacity. The updated information also clarifies the situations where gowns should be prioritized.
  • Workplace SARS-CoV-2 Testing: Consent Elements and Disclosures
    This recently updated webpage describes the elements of consent and recommended disclosures necessary to support employee decision-making for participating in workplace-based testing. Workplace testing should not be done without an employee’s consent.
  • Easy to Read COVID-19 Safety
    CDC has recently published Easy to Read COVID-19 materials. This information was primarily developed for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and for those who read or listen with understanding below a third-grade level.
  • Toolkit for Essential Workers
    A new communication toolkit is available to help employers across various industries provide information about COVID-19 vaccines, increase awareness about vaccination benefits, and address common questions and concerns. The toolkit contains a variety of resources including key messages, FAQs, posters, newsletter content, and more.

Interim List of Categories of Essential Workers Mapped to Standardized Industry Codes and Titles
An interim list is now available to help state, local, tribal, and territorial officials and organizations prepare for the allocation of initially limited COVID-19 vaccine supply. The interim list maps essential industries to corresponding COVID-19 vaccination phases and workforce categories, as recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) it is seeking applications for funding to increase the supply of affordable housing for farm workers.

Subject to the availability of funds, the loans and grants will be provided through USDA’s Farm Labor Housing Program. Eligible recipients are farmers, associations of farmers, family farm corporations, nonprofits, federally-recognized tribes and public agencies, among others.

The funds may only be used for the construction of new off-farm worker housing.

USDA is issuing this notice now in order to allow applicants enough time to leverage financing, prepare and submit their applications, and give the Agency time to process applications within Fiscal Year 2021.

Applications must be submitted electronically to USDA’s Rural Housing Service before the deadline for each round of funding. The deadline for preapplications for the first round of funding is April 1, 2021, 12:00 P.M., Eastern Time. Final applications must be submitted by Aug. 2, 2021. For additional information, see page 7840 the Feb. 2, 2021, Federal Register.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

Information Requested on Promising Telehealth Pediatric Practices During COVID

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), with support from the Health Resources and Services Administration Maternal and Child Health Bureau, is working to identify promising practices that enhance access to pediatric care via telehealth during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Promising practices can focus on all pediatric populations, including a special focus on the following populations:

  • Children and adolescents with mental and behavioral health conditions
  • Adolescents and young adults
  • Children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN), including those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities, and children with medical complexity
  • Children, adolescents, and their families/caregivers living in rural areas

All identified promising practices are encouraged to highlight how access to care may be improved via telehealth for underserved populations utilizing a medical home approach. For the purposes of this project, the AAP is defining underserved populations as any population experiencing disparities in access to care.

These promising practices are intended to be practical replicable strategies that pediatric clinicians can quickly implement within their delivery of telehealth care. Identified promising practices will be published through the Academy’s Telehealth Playbook on

Using the framework below, identify promising practices for your specific area of expertise (CYSHCN, adolescent health, behavioral/mental health, rural and underserved communities). In alignment with the overall grant goal of increasing access to care for all children, please keep in mind the importance of replicability of the practices identified, and strategies utilized within each practice to promote health equity.

Preliminary findings from the project’s needs assessments demonstrate that many pediatric clinicians and practices have rapidly begun to implement telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, many practical strategies and tips for implementing telehealth may be in the preliminary pilot phase of implementation. While this project aims to highlight outcomes and evaluation findings as much as possible through identified promising practices, we also recognize that not all practices may have outcomes at this stage in the pandemic.

Please submit the framework for each identified promising practices by 2/15/2021 to Erin Weil at Please contact Erin Weil with any questions.

Pennsylvania’s Shenango River Named PA 2021 River of the Year in Public Voting

Winding through Northwestern Pennsylvania, connecting Pymatuning and Shenango lakes with the Beaver River via 82 miles of scenic, peaceful river, the Shenango River has been voted the state’s 2021 River of the Year.  

The public was invited to vote online, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Results were announced jointly today by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR).

Other waterways nominated were the Buffalo Creek, Lehigh River, Loyalhanna Creek and Tunkhannock Creek.

“The River of the Year selection does much more than focus on attributes of the most deserving Shenango, it recognizes the Shenango River Watchers and other supporters who rallied behind it,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This annual honor recognizes not only our state’s wealth of rivers and streams, but also the dedicated folks who fight to protect them.”

A total of 16,494 votes were cast, with the Shenango River receiving 5,436; Buffalo Creek, 3,079; Lehigh River, 5,287; Loyalhanna Creek, 1,703; and Tunkhannock Creek, 989.

DCNR and POWR will work with the Shenango River Watchers to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Shenango River as the 2021 PA River of the Year.

The Shenango River Watchers will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2021 River of the Year activities.

Shenango River Watchers was founded in 2001 by a small group of interested and dedicated citizens. The organization began by hosting trash and litter cleanups. Since 2001, it has removed over 1.5 million pounds of trash from the watershed and attracted more than 50 volunteers at each cleanup event. In addition to cleanups, they conduct water quality monitoring and aquatic life surveying. In the last 20 years, Shenango River Watchers has provided outdoor, hands-on environmental learning opportunities for hundreds of students within the watershed through its annual Outdoor Environmental Education Day.

Shenango River Watchers is currently the only organization in Mercer County whose sole focus is on the clean-up, preservation and protection of the Shenango River and its recreational opportunities. Shenango River Watchers host over 20 annual events including two successful sojourns attracting up to 400 paddlers per event; an outdoor environmental education day with over 250 local students; and a 5k race that attracts over 1,200 runners plus spectators. They also partner with other groups to host free recreational workshops such as a fly-casting clinics and introduction to kayaking courses, as well as community hikes, volunteer work days and cleanups. For 20 years the Shenango River Watchers has demonstrated commitment and ability to plan and implement a wide range of events for the benefit of the community and the Shenango River.

“We are thrilled to have the Shenango River chosen as the Pennsylvania River of the Year. This is a great honor, not just for the Shenango River Watchers but for our region as a whole. Thank you to DCNR and POWR for this fabulous opportunity,” said Shenango River Watchers President Dr. Brandi Baros. “Thank you to our volunteers, who have cleaned up 1.5 million pounds of garbage from the river and its watershed and turned a neglected waterway into a paddler’s paradise. Every year we see more and more people come out to enjoy the wondrous recreation opportunities the Shenango has to offer, including kayaking, fishing, hiking, and birdwatching.”

In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices was overseen by the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“POWR would like to commend everyone across the commonwealth for their support for the nominated waterways,” said POWR’s Janet Sweeney. “Enthusiasm for River of the Year continues to grow. This program truly is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all the nominated waterways and the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources.”

A commemorative River of the Year sojourn is among many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers. More sojoun information and details on grant applications are offered by POWR.

Learn more about River of the Year.