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Here’s what Pennsylvania and New Jersey are getting out of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package

It includes billions for schools, restaurants, transit agencies, and state and local governments, along with hugely expanded tax relief for the region’s poor and working class.

Passengers during the evening commute at SEPTA’s Broad Street City Hall subway station in Philadelphia on March 1. Pennsylvania will receive about $1.28 billion in transit assistance, including about $650 million for SEPTA and $115 million for Philadelphia International Airport, from the new coronavirus stimulus package.
Passengers during the evening commute at SEPTA’s Broad Street City Hall subway station in Philadelphia on March 1. Pennsylvania will receive about $1.28 billion in transit assistance, including about $650 million for SEPTA and $115 million for Philadelphia International Airport, from the new coronavirus stimulus package.Read moreDAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed Wednesday includes billions for Pennsylvania and New Jersey schools, restaurants, transit agencies, and state and local governments, along with hugely expanded tax relief for the region’s poor and working class.

The exact distribution of aid remains to be seen. But estimates for Pennsylvania include $13.7 billion for state and local governments and $10.2 billion for those in New Jersey.

The money could mean fewer layoffs at Philadelphia International Airport, survival for restaurants operating on the brink, rental assistance to keep people in their homes, and money to ensure SEPTA trains keep criss-crossing the region. It could also lift thousands of families out of poverty through a child tax credit expansion, extended unemployment benefits, and new stimulus checks. The bill re-ups and in some cases expands aid in the first relief bill enacted under then-President Donald Trump last spring.

“This is the most popular economic rescue plan in my lifetime,” U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, a Philadelphia Democrat, said on the House floor Wednesday. “To the American people, help is finally on the way.”

Republicans call it excessive and unnecessary as the economy rebounds, and it passed with zero GOP votes in either chamber. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) objected to several provisions that he said have nothing to do with the pandemic, including aid for multiemployer pension plans, $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers, and millions for the National Endowment of the Arts.

”President Biden had every opportunity to do a bipartisan bill here. It would have passed but it would have represented both parties’ interests, not just liberal Democrats’,” Toomey said. “This is just a big, liberal wish list.”

Here’s a breakdown of the money coming to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. All figures are estimates.

Aid to states and municipalities

Pennsylvania would receive about $13.7 billion in state and local assistance, from which Philadelphia would get an estimated $1.1 billion, according to House Oversight Committee estimates. New Jersey is slated to receive $10.2 billion.

Republicans criticize the $350 billion in aid to governments, pointing to independent estimates that show it’s far more than states and local governments lost in overall revenue.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey both did see drops in revenue, and state and local governments nationwide have cut 1.3 million jobs amid the pandemic.

Hunger and nutrition

The bill would extend a previously approved $27-per-month increase in SNAP benefits aiding 1.8 million Pennsylvanians and 788,000 New Jersey residents. Pennsylvania is in the top 10 states with the most SNAP recipients, and the estimated increase in SNAP spending here is $46 million. Many advocates see SNAP as the greatest single way to help people out of poverty.

“We get $600 a month in SNAP, which I use on the first of the month to shop for produce, juice, and other things we need,” said Yvetta Orji, a 35-year-old cosmetologist and mother of four from Souderton who was thrown out of work by the pandemic. “Without it, we’d have been struggling during all this. It’s a safety net, but we have to stretch it.”

Manna on Main Street, a hunger-fighting social service agency in Lansdale, has seen a 70% increase in food need, said Suzan Neiger Gould, the group’s executive director. In Philadelphia, Philabundance reported a 60% rise.

Expanded child tax credit

The expansion of the child tax credit would mean significant additional income for low-income children and families previously left out of the program, due to income requirements. Nationally, the full credit would become available to 27 million children — including roughly half of all Black and Latino children and a similar share of children who live in rural areas.

In Pennsylvania, an estimated 892,000 more children would be eligible for the full tax credit. In New Jersey, 560,000 more children would qualify for the full amount.


Pennsylvania stands to receive about $5.1 billion for its K-12 schools and additional money for colleges and universities, about 4% of the total share of education assistance, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. New Jersey would get about $2.7 billion for K-12 schools, part of about $130 billion nationwide.

After weathering the last year thanks partly to previous relief bills, districts are planning to use the new money to reopen school buildings and cope with the pandemic’s lasting effects on learning.

Dan McGarry, the Upper Darby School District superintendent, said many students have fallen behind after a year of online learning or been traumatized by the lack of socialization and the pandemic’s impact on their communities and families.

He hopes the latest aid can help fund more emotional support staff and summer programs to get students caught up.

“We will have to continue to bring in more experts and resources,” McGarry said. “Our students are very aware of the social injustice that’s occurred and they’re going to want to talk to people about it.”

» READ MORE: Philly students could attend school this summer and stay hybrid in the fall, the superintendent says

The bill also allows money to be used for upgrading ventilation systems, hiring, and avoiding teacher layoffs.

Some $565 million in aid received in December, plus spending down their own reserves, helped Philadelphia schools balance the district’s budget for this year and next, said Uri Monson, the district’s chief financial officer — despite the cost of 100,000 laptops, 140,000 cloth masks, and more.

Now the district is expecting close to $1.2 billion in new aid. Monson said the district has to be careful in how it uses the money, since it can’t be counted on every year.

“If you just plow it into recurring costs, it’s going to run out and you’re going to be stuck with having to make massive cuts,” Monson said.

Day care and pre-K

The bill provides more funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG), which fund day care, as well as additional funding for Head Start, the federally funded pre-K program.

Finding affordable, quality child care was a challenge even before the pandemic largely closed schools. An August study found that 50% of parents who hadn’t returned to work cited child care as the reason. The money for day care aims to help families and child-care providers, many of whom are lower-income women of color.


Pennsylvania will again receive an infusion of emergency rental assistance, about $670 million out of $19 billion total, according to Treasury estimates. New Jersey will receive about $466 million.

In cities like Philadelphia and Camden, more than half of residents are renters and an eviction crisis was already playing out before the pandemic.

“It’s essential,” said Rachel Garland, managing attorney for the housing unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. “Right now tenants need to be able to pay their rent, they need to have a home to live in, landlords need to be able to collect rent. This fills that gap.”

» READ MORE: Gaps in Black and white home ownership transcend a booming market and threaten to leave some behind

To qualify for rental assistance, people need to have experienced a pandemic-related income reduction. That often leaves out people who have been less directly impacted.

About $74 million is earmarked for homelessness assistance in Pennsylvania.

Vaccines and testing

The plan sets aside $14 billion for vaccines, and $7.6 billion to hire 100,000 public health workers to distribute shots nationwide.

While Pennsylvania and New Jersey county officials are awaiting details of how that money can be spent, Burlington County Health Commissioner Herb Conaway hopes to hire workers and buy mobile health units to go directly into communities that are hard to reach.

“These are Black and brown people in particular who are among the hardest-hit persons by the pandemic and yet so far the vaccine program has not done a very good job of reaching them,” said Conaway, who is also a Democratic state assemblyman. “This is a state and nationwide problem. We have to approach those populations differently than we’ve been doing.”

Funding includes $60 million for Pennsylvania seniors to provide vaccine outreach and education, as well as meals and support for family caregivers, according to preliminary numbers.


Pennsylvania will receive about $1.28 billion in transit assistance, including about $650 million for SEPTA and $115 million for Philadelphia International Airport.

The Philadelphia airport’s slice of the total $8 billion for airports nationwide will reduce and delay layoffs, and go toward recouping losses in a year when traveler traffic dropped about 64% compared to pre-pandemic levels, said CEO Chellie Cameron.

The airport received $116 million in the first relief bill last spring and about $20 million in aid since. It costs about $1 million a day to operate.

“It’s been a real lifeline for us to be able to get through this horrible past year,” Cameron said.


Hard-hit restaurants, bars, and eateries nationwide will receive about $25 billion in targeted assistance, though it’s unclear how that will get distributed in the region.

Whatever cash comes into the revenue-starved industry will be welcome.

“They’re operating on fumes,” said James Zeleniak, founder of Punch Media, a marketing firm that represents several local restaurants. “Some might have gotten some sort of [Paycheck Protection Program loan] or other financial help earlier, but now that’s all been used up.” This next round of money, he said, “is a lifeline to get to the other side.”

Philip Scotti, owner of P.J. Clarke’s, across from Washington Square, closed the restaurant months ago without the normal foot traffic from tourists or office workers to sustain it. But with warmer weather and the city easing indoor dining limits, he reopened Wednesday as temperatures crept into the high 60s and the House gave final passage to the bill.

“I doubt they will give another round after this,” Scotti said, “So whatever it is will have to last us until January and then everybody has to just hope that that will be enough.”