MEMO FROM STATE LEGISLATORS: Federal Pandemic Relief and Recovery to State Governments


TO: The United States Congressional Delegation from Pennsylvania

FROM: Members of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania

DATE: Monday, July 20, 2020

RE: Federal pandemic relief and recovery to state governments

On behalf of our constituents and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we the undersigned write to thank you for your leadership in Congress in addressing the needs of our communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis and ask you to help ensure that the next federal COVID-19 relief legislation includes additional state fiscal relief; an expansion of the temporary increase in the share of federal matching funds for Medicaid; and other critical measures for the people, communities, and businesses of our state.

As state legislators, we are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians, and we know you share that commitment. Our state has worked in concert with the federal government to contain the spread of COVID-19; support hospitals, health care workers, and others on the frontlines of stopping the pandemic and treating people who have fallen ill; and assist people and businesses that are taking extraordinary financial hits from the pandemic and resulting economic shutdown.

This response has required a significant commitment of state resources at a time when revenues (particularly income tax and sales tax revenues) have fallen dramatically due to the economic shutdown. As of July 1, we have a $3.2 billion shortfall in our general operating budget for the current fiscal year that ended June 30 and at least a $4.8 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that began on July 1. As you know, the budget that we enacted for FY2020-21 is a partial, stop-gap budget, with most agencies and programs flat-funded for the first five months of the fiscal year and education funded for the full twelve months at FY2019-20 levels. By November, we will need to find an additional $5.5 billion to fund a barebones budget for the rest of the fiscal year. Level funding has implications. It fails to account for increased costs in goods and services procured or for contracted personnel increases. The administration will be forced to address these shortfalls through cuts, hiring freezes, and other administrative tools, all of which will deepen and prolong the current economic downturn, creating additional hardship for Pennsylvanians.

The most effective, flexible, and efficient form of state fiscal relief would be a larger increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid that continues until the economy fully recovers. The Families First Act provided a small, temporary increase in federal Medicaid funding — an estimated $1 billion to $1.25 billion for Pennsylvania — but it is not adequate and will end prematurely. Increasing the FMAP not only provides general state fiscal relief but also helps protect health coverage and access to care by discouraging state Medicaid cuts. Already in Pennsylvania, an estimated 1.5 million people have lost employer-based coverage, nearly 75 percent of whom are Medicaid-eligible according to a Kaiser Family Fund report released in May. To cope with surging enrollment during an unprecedented budget crisis, Pennsylvania needs the federal government to cover a larger share of Medicaid costs.

We also respectfully ask that Congress allocate more money to the Coronavirus Relief Fund that was established in the CARES Act, allow states to spend those funds beyond the end of calendar year 2020, and give states the flexibility to use that money to cover rising costs in a wide range of programs and make up for steep losses in tax revenues. The current constraints on the Coronavirus Relief Fund will severely limit its effectiveness and fail to help prevent deep state budget cuts.

As you consider the needs of our state, we hope you will also keep in mind those who are struggling to feed their families and meet other basic needs amid the downturn. A temporary 15 percent increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotment would help families keep food on the table and stimulate spending at local grocery stores. The creation of an Emergency Assistance Fund for states and making the economic impact payments available more easily and to more people would also help more Pennsylvanians weather this downturn.

Further, these critical relief measures — not only the FMAP increase but also the recent expansion in unemployment insurance benefits (currently scheduled to expire at the end of July) and any future increases in SNAP food assistance — need to remain in place until the economy recovers, instead of ending prematurely when the public health emergency ends or on an arbitrary date.

We are grateful for the aid that Congress has provided thus far, but more is sorely needed. Working together, as the federal and state governments have historically done, we can ensure that Pennsylvania emerges from this crisis stronger and more prosperous than ever with a bright future ahead.


Senator Lisa Boscola, Senate District 18
Senator Vincent Hughes, Senate District 7
Senator Timothy Kearney, Senate District 26
Senator Daylin Leach, Senate District 17
Senator Katie Muth, Senate District 44
Senator Judy Schwank, Senate District 11
Senator Lindsey Williams, Senate District 38
Representative Ryan Bizzarro, House District 3
Representative Matt Bradford, House District 70
Representative Tim Briggs, House District 149
Representative Donna Bullock, House District 195
Representative Danilo Burgos, House District 197
Representative Frank Burns, House District 72
Representative Thomas Caltagirone, House District 127
Representative Morgan Cephas, House District 192
Representative Carolyn Comitta, House District 156
Representative Scott Conklin, House District 77
Representative Angel Cruz, House District 180
Representative Mary Jo Daley, House District 148
Representative Austin Davis, House District 35
Representative Jason Dawkins, House District 179
Representative Daniel Deasy, House District 27
Representative Pamela DeLissio, House District 194
Representative David Delloso, House District 162
Representative Frank Dermody, House District 33
Representative Maria Donatucci, House District 185
Representative Michael Driscoll, House District 173
Representative Elizabeth Fiedler, House District 184
Representative Isabella Fitzgerald, House District 203
Representative Marty Flynn, House District 113
Representative Dan Frankel, House District 23
Representative Robert Freeman, House District 136
Representative Neal Goodman, House District 123
Representative Liz Hanbidge, House District 61
Representative Patrick Harkins, House District 1
Representative Jordan Harris, House District 186
Representative Carol Hill-Evans, House District 95
Representative Joseph Hohenstein, House District 177
Representative Kristine Howard, House District 167
Representative Sara Innamorato, House District 21
Representative Mary Isaacson, House District 175
Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, House District 181
Representative Stephen Kinsey, House District 201
Representative William Kortz, House District 38
Representative Bridget Kosierowski, House District 114
Representative Leanne Krueger, House District 161
Representative Mark Longietti, House District 7
Representative Maureen Madden, House District 115
Representative Steven Malagari, House District 53
Representative Brandon Markosek, House District 25
Representative Joanna McClinton, House District 191
Representative Jeanne McNeill, House District 133
Representative Robert Merski, House District 2
Representative Gerald Mullery, House 119
Representative Kyle Mullins, House District 112
Representative Jennifer O’Mara, House District 165
Representative Danielle Friel Otten, House District 155
Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, House District 121
Representative Christopher Rabb, House District 200
Representative Adam Ravenstahl, House District 20
Representative Harry Readshaw, House District 36
Representative James Roebuck, Jr., House District 188
Representative Mark Rozzi, House District 126
Representative Chris Sainato, House District 9
Representative Steve Samuelson, House District 135
Representative Ben Sanchez, House District 153
Representative Christina Sappey, House District 158
Representative Mike Schlossberg, House District 132
Representative Peter Schweyer, House District 22
Representative Melissa Shusterman, House District 157
Representative Wendy Ullman, House District 143
Representative Perry Warren, House District 31
Representative Joseph Webster, House District 150
Representative Dan Williams, House District 74
Representative Rosita Youngblood, House District 198
Representative Michael Zabel, House District 163