State-wide news briefs
Here are this week’s state-wide news briefs, courtesy of The Center Square.
Grange president calls on lawmakers to act on broadband bill
Pennsylvania State Grange President Wayne Campbell wants state lawmakers to approve Senate Bill 835 establishing an authority to coordinate broadband expansion efforts. He recently called on legislators to fund the Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives.
“Broadband access is to this century what rural electrification was to the 1900s,” he said in a news release.
The request was one Campbell asked lawmakers to tackle before adjourning Nov. 30. He also wants legislation regulating telemedicine and insurance payments of remote health care claims; and a new, non-taxpayer dollar funding mechanism, such as a $1 or $2 monthly fee on cell phones in use in Pennsylvania.
Gaming revenue up in September
Gaming and fantasy contest revenue topped $284 million in September. That’s a 1 percent increase over a year ago, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Revenue from table games decreased by 16.2 percent from last September, while casino slot machines revenue was down 16.4 percent.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced gamers to stay away from in-person wagering, they turned to online options. Online casino games generated more than $57 million in gross revenue, marking the highest single month and far surpassing the $4.1 million in revenue reported in September 2019.
Public cyber charter schools enroll thousands during pandemic
Pennsylvania’s 14 public cyber charter schools enrolled more than 14,000 new students since March 13.
“Parents have sought out public cyber charter schools in order to have predictability, consistency and purpose-filled learning opportunities for their children,” Patricia Rossetti, CEO of PA Distance Learning Charter School, said in a statement.
The schools accepted more than 1,500 new students after Wolf closed schools; but they received no compensation for any new student enrolled between March 13 and June 30. Cumulatively, students lost $4.9 million in taxpayer funds that school districts kept after enrolling in a public cyber charter school.
Wolf announces executive order to expend relief program
This week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order extending the application deadline for the COVID Relief Mortgage and Rental Assistance Grant Program.
The order raises the $750 monthly cap on rent relief to at least 130 percent of HUD limits. It also eliminates the requirement that applicants apply for unemployment compensation and households be 30 days behind on rent.
“Improving the program and giving people more time to apply will help families to stay in their homes,” Wolf said in a news release. “That will reduce the strain on social services and help landlords to pay their mortgages.”