Even though Pennsylvania is still waiting for a state budget, Gov. Wolf left a little something in the stockings of scholarship organizations and other educational nonprofits.
On Thursday, he directed the Department of Community and Economic Development to send out tax-credit approval letters that will enable corporations to fulfill promised scholarships for thousands of students in 2016-17.
State law permits corporations to obtain tax credits for donations they make to approved scholarship and educational programs.
For months, organizations that rely on funding from those programs had been urging the Wolf administration to release the tax-credit approval letters. They warned that if those letters were not sent by the end of the year, up to $150 million in philanthropic dollars would "disappear."
The administration had said it could not send the tax credit letters without a 2015-16 budget, which sets amounts for the programs.
"However, given the protracted nature of this impasse, we have issued awards that serve as conditional approval of requests for tax credits," Jeffrey Sheridan, Wolf's spokesman, said Monday.
Ina Lipman, executive director of the Children's Scholarship Fund Philadelphia, said she and others worked with the governor's staff to make sure the tax credits were not lost even though the budget remains in limbo.
She said the governor's decision to release the letters "ahead of an approved budget is indeed a demonstration of goodwill, and we are very grateful for his action."
Now, Lipman said, her organization and others across the state are scrambling to contact donors to make sure they write their checks by Thursday to claim their 2015 tax credits.
"I think most groups have kept their donors apprised of the situation," she said.
Lipman said Children's Scholarship has alerted its 50 to 60 corporate donors that participate in the tax credit program.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Community and Economic Development said about 3,000 letters were sent to corporations and businesses Thursday.
Children's Scholarship - the state's largest provider of financial aid to low-income K-8 students who attend nonpublic schools - has been counting on $2.5 million in donations to fund 2,000 new gifts for city students.
Joan Mazzotti, executive director of Philadelphia Futures, said that as soon as she got the news, she sent an email to the president of her board that read, "Merry Christmas!"
Her nonprofit works with low-income Philadelphia students who are the first in their family heading to college.
She said Philadelphia Futures would use the $175,000 it is expecting for its Sponsor-a-Scholar and College Connections programs.
"I have been writing to the governor almost every other day," Mazzotti said. "This is really important to us."
"We would have hoped it would have been done prior to the final week of the year," said Aaron Troodler, state director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which advocates for Jewish day schools. "We're definitely appreciative nonetheless."