Pa. lawmakers vote to balance budget with CARES Act money, despite small business pleas

By KYW Newsradio

UPDATED: 11/21/20, 11:00 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Restaurants have been advocating for Pennsylvania CARES Act funding, but the money will not be going to their aid.

Late Friday night, the Pennsylvania legislature voted to use the remaining $1.3 billion worth of federal funds to balance the state budget instead of distributing it to small businesses.

Democratic State Rep. Matt Bradford said as a minority member chair of the House Appropriations Committee, he wanted the money to go to small businesses.

"We've had a tremendous drop in revenue to state government coffers. At the same time, we've also had tremendous demands on state government,” he said.

John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, said one could argue that the budget shortfall partially came from restrictions put on businesses.

"It's almost beyond outrage at this point, it's total discouragement," he expressed.

Longstreet also stressed that if small businesses aren't given some aid soon, legislators will lose the business taxes to help them balance future budgets.

"Based on what's happening right now, 63% of the restaurants — 17,000 restaurants across the state — think they'll be closed within the next six months," he said, "so what they need now is a lifeline."

"They're so short-sighted. It's amazing to me,” said Dave Magrogran, CEO and founder of Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar.

He was one of the business owners who went to Harrisburg this week to advocate for that money. Meanwhile, he added, small business owners are remortgaging their houses, laying off employees and starting crowdfunding campaigns to try and keep their businesses afloat.

"It's embarrassing how out of touch they are with what we are dealing with as citizens in Pennsylvania,” Magrogran said.

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he's just as frustrated about the vote as business owners.

"They had a proposal in front of them," he said. "A proposal was out there, but we're not in the majority. We don't control the chamber."

Hughes added, "I need 30 Republican senators to step up for the people who they claim they care about but they're not doing anything for."