COVID relief and vaccination efforts have put Pennsylvania on the rebound


The state has gained more than 44,000 new jobs since Inauguration Day.

Pennsylvania's economy has shown significant improvement in the months since Jan. 20, 2021. A number of indicators point to President Joe Biden's pandemic relief legislation and efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic as a significant factor in that improvement.

When Biden took office, Pennsylvania was experiencing continued high unemployment and massive rates of COVID-19 infection.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2021, 7.3% of Pennsylvanians were unemployed, a rate that was 0.2% higher than the month before. That number climbed to 7.4% in February.

In March, Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that included economic assistance to state and local governments.

In a statement released after Congress passed the legislation without a single Republican vote in favor in either chamber, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said:

This bill will provide more than $13.7 billion for state and local governments in Pennsylvania. It will provide direct payments to more than 5.5 million households. It will provide $671 million in emergency rental assistance. It will extend federal unemployment insurance benefits that help more than 480,000 Pennsylvanians make ends meet.

The unemployment rate in Pennsylvania has dropped each month since the law was enacted, down to 6.9% in May. The number of new nonfarm employees in the state increased by 44,100 between January and May, after dropping by 271,000 during President Donald Trump's term.

Trump narrowly won the state in 2016 after a campaign in which he promised, "We're gonna make Pennsylvania so rich again, your jobs are coming back."

But after polls showed him losing a significant number of older voters and suburban women, with many citing his botched response to the coronavirus pandemic and behavior in the job, he lost the state and its 20 electoral votes in November 2020 by a margin of 1.2%.

On Jan. 20, the day Biden was inaugurated, 5,784 Pennsylvanians tested positive for COVID-19. Virtually none of the population of the state had been vaccinated after Trump's administration failed to fulfill its promise of a quick immunization process.

Biden made inoculation a top priority, including funding in the American Rescue Plan for vaccination programs, and, as of July 14, 63.9% of the state's population has received at least one vaccine dose. The number of new cases of COVID-19 on July 14 was 388.

Wolf noted in June that money provided to Pennsylvania under the law would be allocated in the state budget to make up part of the largest educational funding increase in Pennsylvania history: $350 million in relief funds will go to schools to make up for learning time lost due to the pandemic, $50 million will go to help make college education more accessible and affordable, and $350 million will go to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.

The Congressional Research Service estimated in March that 5,876,366 Pennsylvania households would benefit from the law's $1,400 direct relief checks, totaling $14,883,553 for residents of the state.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated at the same time that 2,368,000 children in the state would benefit from the law's 2021 child tax credit expansion, and a typical family of four making $120,000 would save $605 per month in Affordable Care Act premiums under the law's health care expansion.

"Pennsylvania is coming back, and it's thanks to President Biden and Democrats in Congress. While we still have work to do, we know President Biden's economic plan is working," noted Rosie Lapowsky, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. "The pandemic is in retreat: nearly 300 million doses of vaccine have been administered and deaths have been reduced by more than 90%. Schools, businesses, and communities across the commonwealth are reopening, and Pennsylvanians are getting back to work."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.