Anti-vax House member backs bill that would force businesses to return relief funds

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Rep. Scott Perry is a co-sponsor of a bill that could cost his state billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funding.

Anti-vaccine Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) co-sponsored a bill last month that would force any entity that requires vaccination for its employees — be it a state college, small business, or food program — to return pandemic relief funds to the federal government. On Wednesday, Rep. Scott Perry's own alma mater announced it was joining the ranks of those who would be impacted by the bill.

Perry signed on to U.S. House bill H.R. 5106, which would "prohibit any entity that receives Federal funds from the COVID relief packages from mandating employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine." The bill, authored by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), has a total of 14 co-sponsors — all Republicans.

If passed, the bill would require an entity that imposes a mandate to return "any funds received from the COVID relief package to the Federal Government," defining "COVID relief package" as the CARES Act, Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and the American Rescue Plan.

"Folks, if you want the vaccine, by all means, get the vaccine. But if you don't want the vaccine, you shouldn't have to worry about being forced or fired," Perry wrote on Facebook on Sept. 30. "Not nurses, not docs, not First Responders, not our Troops. Consent, never coercion."

But many businesses, state and local government, and institutions of higher learning across the nation have already implemented requirements that their workers get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In September, President Joe Biden announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require all businesses with 100 or more employees to implement rules mandating either vaccination or weekly coronavirus testing. Assuming the OSHA rule is deemed a vaccine mandate, it would mean every large employer in the state that receives federal relief funding would lose it under the bill.

For Pennsylvania businesses, this could mean having to return all of the PPP loans and other relief funds they received since the start of the pandemic. A review of data at USAspending.gov, a website created and run by the Bureau of the Fiscal Service of the U.S. Treasury Department, finds that more than $3 billion was provided under those programs to employers in the state with more than 100 employees.

A locality such as Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which has adopted a vaccine requirement for its own employees, could lose the $380 million it received through the American Rescue Plan's grants to local governments.

Penn State University, the school from which Perry graduated in 1991, recently announced a vaccine requirement for its main campus. On Wednesday, it expanded the rule to cover its six regional campuses.

Federal spending data shows that the university system received more than $340 million in COVID-19 relief grants.

A Perry spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Studies have shown vaccine mandates are a highly effective tool at getting people vaccinated and vaccination is a safe and effective way to curb the spread and risk of COVID-19.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement posted to his official website on Oct. 13:

Today, the commonwealth has reached a milestone in our fight against this deadly virus. Now, 70 percent of Pennsylvania's adults have accepted their responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 and most importantly keep themselves and their loved ones safe. This milestone is critical to protect those not yet eligible for the vaccine, like our children under 12 years of age.

But Perry has done little to support the effort to protect Pennsylvanians, making the false claim in July, "I'll remind everybody here, these vaccinations are not approved by the FDA. They are experimental. Yet this government is saying you'll inject something into your body whether you want to or not. You want to know the definition of tyranny? That's the definition of tyranny."

On Oct. 11, Perry praised GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for issuing an order banning vaccine mandates. "This is the kind of leadership PA needs and deserves," he wrote on Facebook. "Good governments convince, not coerce or force."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.