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We should be fired up about Scrooge-like $600 federal stimulus checks and Pa.’s bungling of housing aid | Jenice Armstrong

Pennsylvanians behind on their rent and mortgages will have to bide their time. Just like they will have to wait on those paltry stimulus checks.

Alastair Sim as the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 film, "A Christmas Carol."
Alastair Sim as the definitive Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1951 film, "A Christmas Carol."Read moreAmerican Movie Classics / MCT

Those onetime $600 federal stimulus checks that Congress was voting on Monday night are unbelievably miserly.

It took members nine months to come up with a federal relief package and that’s what they came up with? Shameful.

But Republican Sen. Pat Can’t-Leave-Office-Soon-Enough Toomey and his fellow GOP Scrooges can congratulate themselves. They seemed to be on their way to blocking Americans from even getting what they got last spring. Now, Toomey and the others can return to their home districts and enjoy sumptuous Christmas feasts while many Americans go without. They’ll be waiting on their checks and trying to figure out ways to stretch $600.

Congress members with their cushy salaries and health care will be fine, though.

Same with officials in Pennsylvania who failed to distribute $108 million of federal money to help renters and homeowners before the Nov. 30 deadline expired.

Now those funds that were made available through the CARES Act are to be reallocated to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, of all things.

Yes, you read that correctly.

That’s a staggering amount of money to let slip away, particularly when so many people are struggling to stay in their homes.

» READ MORE: Pa. misses deadline to spend $108M in rent, mortgage relief from CARES Act

Nikkyeea Yabrough is an intake specialist at a local nonprofit that helps people retain their homes and knows better than most how devastating it is that the $108 million isn’t an option anymore.

Every day, she’s on the phone listening as callers explain their plight and beg for help.

“I get those type of calls eight to 10 times a day,” Yabrough told me. “People with children, senior citizens, people that were laid off because of the pandemic, and we don’t have funds or the resources to help those people.”

So, when she learned about Pennsylvania’s having bungled the distribution of the rent and mortgage assistance, she got irate and posted a video about it that has since gone viral.

“Everybody’s posting up about toy drives, coat drives. You have so many different locations giving out food boxes … these people are lining up for these items because they need it. Not out of greed. They are hungry and unable to pay bills and Pennsylvania lost $108 million in federal aid,” Yabrough says on the video, reposted on

“I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a little pissed off about that,” she added. “It’s not sitting right with me. Because when I go to work on my day job … and the phone rings, I don’t know what to say to people when they call and say they need help. The money isn’t there.”

I’ve been getting an earful about how Republican inaction in the Senate caused the breakdown.

Originally, $175 million of the state CARES Act federal allotment had been designated for rent and mortgage relief.

“The key thing that happened was we secured $175 million in the spring. The program had some problems in it. [The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency] came up with fixes to all of those issues,” explained State Sen. Art Haywood (D., Phila.), who helped lead the negotiations. “It was proposed to the legislature. It was ready to go in September. No action. No action. No action.

“Finally, the governor stepped in with executive action to address a couple of the problems. Then, the House sent to the Senate a unanimous piece of legislation that included all of the changes that PHFA had been seeking since the summer. It got to the Senate. The Senate leadership did not take it up for a vote. And the balance of the money went into the budget.”

To be more specific, the budget for the state Department of Corrections, which has been hard hit by COVID-19.

“We did what we needed to do, but the Republicans sat on it,” said State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.).

“Thank God we’ve got federal intervention that occurred,” he added, referring to the federal aid package agreed to over the weekend by Congress. “We believe there will be some money there to help people out of problems with evictions and foreclosures.”

Meanwhile, Pennsylvanians behind on their rent and mortgages will have to bide their time. Just like they will have to wait on those paltry stimulus checks. Here’s hoping the Ghost of Christmas Present will haunt those responsible for the fiasco this holiday season.