With the election behind us and every state House seat decided, my colleagues and I went to Harrisburg this week to elect new caucus leadership. These positions are very important in deciding an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. I am pleased to share that we elected Representative Joanna McClinton to serve as the new Democratic Leader. With her election as House Democratic Caucus Leader, Rep. McClinton makes history as the first woman (and first woman of color!) to lead our caucus.
This week’s leadership elections also shifted the leadership of the caucus from the western part of the state to right here in the Southeast region. Rep. McClinton represents the 191st Legislative District, covering parts of Philadelphia and Delaware counties, and in total, five of the seven leadership team members hail from the eastern part of the state.
As a fellow member of the Southeast Delegation, I look forward to working with Leader McClinton on a legislative agenda that meets the needs of those living in the 155th Legislative District and will improve the lives of everyone across the commonwealth.
Next week, my colleagues and I will return to Harrisburg to work on the state budget. In June, the General Assembly passed a five-month stopgap budget, in which we allocated $2.6 billion in funding from the CARES Act. This left an additional $1.3 billion in federal funds unspent.
I continue to hear from small businesses, restaurants, families, unemployed workers, non-profits, and community hospitals across Pennsylvania in desperate need of relief, yet the majority continues to sit on these funds. If they are not distributed by the end of 2020,current law requires that the monies will be distributed to counties that did not receive dedicated CARES Act allocations earlier in the year, meaning that Chester County and the six other most populated counties in Pennsylvania would not receive any additional funds.
This is a challenging budgetary year, and I am committed to working with my colleagues toward a solution that benefits all Pennsylvanians and helps ensure our economic recovery from the ongoing COVID pandemic.
As everyone is aware, COVID case numbers continue to rise in Pennsylvania, with each day this week breaking a record for statewide daily increase. Chester County has done a truly admirable job of keeping cases down, remaining in the “moderate” risk of COVID transmission category even while every surrounding county has moved to “substantial.” On Wednesday, it was reported that Delaware County hospitals have had to divert patients because they are inundated with COVID cases, and today the Montgomery County Board of Health ordered all Montco school buildings to close for two weeks.
With Thanksgiving now less than two weeks away, many are understandably saddened at the prospect of spending the holiday away from extended family and friends. Some are planning to hold smaller gatherings in the hopes of staying safe. The PA Department of Health strongly recommends that gatherings include only members of your own household, as small gatherings have been found to be a major source of community transmission. If you do plan to have family members with you for the holiday, particularly elderly family members, now is the time for you and the members of your immediate family – and members of any other households included in your gathering — to begin quarantining to protect one another.
[The above is an excerpt from Rep. Friel Otten’s newsletter to constituents, 11/13/20]