UPMC to invest in Harrisburg University’s new health sciences tower

UPMC announced Monday its support of Harrisburg University’s new health sciences tower and program development with a 10-year financial commitment.

Newly named, the UPMC Health Sciences Tower at Harrisburg University will open in the fall. It will house classrooms, skills labs, science labs and simulation spaces for multiple health care programs, including nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, exercise sciences and other allied health programs.

The 12-story building also will include classrooms and training space for advanced manufacturing and interactive media programs, auditoriums and student life and tutoring areas. In addition, there will be expanded classroom and lab space for the UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing at UPMC Harrisburg, a 16-month accelerated diploma program for registered nurses.

“UPMC and Harrisburg University share a commitment to our community,” Lou Baverso, president of UPMC in Central Pa., said in a release. “Our partnership is crucial to training the next generation of health care workers. This space will provide new opportunities for students pursuing careers in health care, and we’re excited to be part of it.”

Eric Darr, president of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, added: “The philanthropic and community-minded leadership UPMC demonstrated is historic for our community and region. This investment will directly support the health care workforce and make Harrisburg the anchor for Eds & Meds in our region.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Hershey Co. invests in growth through $240M stock purchase

The Hershey Co. announced that it has completed the purchase of 1 million shares of its common stock from Hershey Trust Co., as trustee for the Milton Hershey School Trust, for approximately $240 million, or $239.91 per share.

“Share buybacks are an important part of our capital allocation strategy,” Steve Voskuil, chief financial officer for The Hershey Co., said in a release. “This transaction is consistent with that practice. The company’s strong balance sheet enables continued flexibility to invest in our business to help drive future growth.”

The global confectioner has approximately 19,000 employees worldwide and more than 100 brand names in approximately 80 countries that drive more than $8.9 billion in annual revenues, including such brands as Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers, and fast-growing salty snacks including SkinnyPop, Pirate’s Booty and Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Pennsylvania’s gas tax to jump 3.5 cents in 2023

For Pennsylvania drivers, gas at the pump may soon cost more, thanks to a 2013 state law enacted to fund road and bridge improvements.

The commonwealth’s gas tax is scheduled to rise 3.5 cents in 2023, an increase levied on wholesalers that will likely be passed on consumers.

From the current 57.6 cents per gallon, the tax will rise to 61.1 cents per gallon next year, according to a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Meanwhile, the tax on diesel fuel is set to climb from 74.1 cents per gallon to to 78.5 cents per gallon.

Pennsylvania’s gas tax is already one of the highest in the nation, ranking in the top three.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Cumberland County awards more than $5 million in Recovery Grants 

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted last week to approve $5,0496,757 in additional Cumberland County Recovery Grants. 

Commissioners Jean Foschi and Vince DiFilippo voted 2-1 to approve grants for P25 radios. Funding for the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities and Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation was also approved. 

Funding in the amount of $3,783,557 was approved for the purchase of P25 Radios for Cumberland County EMS, fire, police, and municipal emergency management departments. 

Allocated to the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities was $873,000, $500,000 of which will be used to address affordable housing, and $250,000 for the creation of a land bank. The remaining $123,000 is allocated for gap funding to cover administration of community development block grants and the 2023 community business development subsidy. 

Approved for the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) is an additional $750,000 in grants. This includes $500,000 for tourism product development grants and $250,000 for a small business revolving loan fund. 

Cumberland County has granted a total of $22,664,618 in Recovery Grants and has allocated $25 million for county revenue replacement. The remaining $3,172,534 will be allocated later. 

Most recently, on Nov. 9 the Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 with Commissioners Foschi and DiFilippo voting to approve $1.2 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for Business/Non-profit and COVID-19 recovery, and $25 million for county revenue replacement. 

On Oct. 26, Cumberland County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve $6,434,235 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for infrastructure projects in the county. Twenty-one municipalities were awarded funding for improvement projects.  

On Oct. 12, Cumberland County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve $7,112,908 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for mental health and physical health organizations across the county. Funding was awarded to 17 organizations to improve the physical and mental health of residents directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19. 

York County receives $12.5M in state redevelopment money

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, announced Tuesday that York County received $12.5 million in grants from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program that will benefit the 95th Legislative District.

Grant recipients, award amounts and the projects being funded include:

· City of York Health and Safety Complex ($1.5 million): The Pine Street School (Sylvia Newcome Center) will be renovated to house the consolidated operations of the Bureau of Health. A public health clinic is planned within the renovated space as well as the addition of a mental health division in conjunction with the police department. A multipurpose room will offer activities for students in grades 3 through 12. Classroom space will be provided for theater, dance, photography, cosmetology and physical fitness education and activities.

· Community Progress Council Integrated Services Building ($5 million): The council will use these funds to support the construction of a new, integrated services building that’s more cost effective to operate. Construction, land acquisition and parking improvements as well as soft costs such as design, legal services, permitting, inspections and construction management are included in the funding, too.

· York County Agricultural Society Redevelopment ($4 million): The funds are for renovations and upgrades and overall modernization of the buildings and venues throughout the York Fairgrounds. Numerous improvements are needed to the grandstand and buildings. Perimeter fencing around the fairgrounds will be constructed and/or upgraded to provide additional security.

· Newberry Township ($2 million): This grant are part of a project for a multiuse emergency services building.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lancaster Science Factory in the running for $1M prize

The Lancaster Science Factory was selected from more than 2,000 national applicants as one of 64 quarterfinalists for the 2022 Yass Prize.

All quarterfinalists will receive a $100,000 award and move into the next phase to compete for up to $1 million before the end of the year.

The award highlights education providers that strive to offer instruction that is sustainable, transformational, outstanding and permissionless (STOP).

“The Lancaster Science Factory is thrilled to be a quarterfinalist for the 2022 Yass Prize among so many innovative education organizations. We are experiencing a peak in community demand for our hands-on STEM programs, exhibits and facility,” Lancaster Science Factory Executive Director Emily Landis said in a release. “This funding will help us grow our capacity to successfully meet the needs of local students and families.”

The quarterfinalists were announced Oct. 11 at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit. They come from 33 states and the District of Columbia and represent eight kinds of education providers.

In conjunction with the $1 million Yass Prize, which will be announced Dec. 14, the STOP Awards Initiative will distribute over $10 million to the remaining education innovators, providers and entrepreneurs through the course of the competition.

The quarterfinalists now move into the next phase to determine the 32 semifinalists who have the ability to receive a $200,000 STOP Award and will take part in a four-week hybrid accelerator program.

At the end of that process, seven finalists will be chosen from which the $1 million prize winner will be selected. The other six finalists will receive a $250,000 STOP Award.

The Yass Prize for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless Education is powered by the Center for Education Reform in partnership with Forbes.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Emerald Asset Management names new CEO

Scott L. Rehr
Scott L. Rehr

Leola-based Emerald Asset Management announced that Scott L. Rehr has been appointed the new CEO, succeeding Emerald’s founder Joseph E. Besecker, who will assume the new role of nonexecutive chairman.

David A. Volpe was named the company’s new president, and Mark F. Schlegel takes over as chief marketing officer. Rounding out the senior leadership team at Emerald are Chief Investment Officer Kenneth G. Mertz II and Chief Operating Officer Richard Juliano.

“As Emerald approaches its 30th anniversary managing client funds, I’m proud of our team and of these longtime leaders moving into these new roles,” Besecker said in a release.

Rehr co-founded Emerald Advisers in 1991. He served as chief operating officer of Emerald since 2012, where he has been responsible for all noninvestment-related functions.

“We’re excited to continue to bring ‘The Emerald Advantage’ to our clients in the years to come, working to provide an exemplary client experience and grow Emerald in a strategic fashion,” Rehr added. “We’re thankful for the path Joe has led us on and will continue to rely on his guidance and experience.”

Emerald Asset Management PA LLC is a diversified investment management holding company that operates through subsidiaries Emerald Advisers LLC, Emerald Mutual Fund Advisers Trust, Emerald Separate Account Management LLC and EmStone Advisers LLC. Assets managed by these companies totaled approximately $3.9 billion as of June 30. Beyond the Leola global headquarters, Emerald and its subsidiaries maintain offices in King of Prussia, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Through May, state’s general fund revenue sets record pace

With the May totals now in, Pennsylvania has collected a record $43.9 billion in general fund revenue for the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, Gov. Tom Wolf announced

The $3.2 billion in general fund revenue that came into the state’s coffers last month was $402.4 million, or 14.2%, over estimate. Year-to-date general fund collections are 12.5% above

Here are more May numbers from the release:

• Sales tax receipts were $1.2 billion, or $129.1 million above estimate.

• Personal income tax revenue was $1.1 billion, or $126.9 million more than expected.

• The corporation tax revenue totaled $510.9 million, or $129.5 million more than

• Inheritance tax revenue was $132.3 million, or $15.6 million above estimate.

• Realty transfer tax revenue was $69.3 million, or $13.9 million more than expected.

• Other general fund tax revenue, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and gaming taxes, totaled $176.3 million, or $3.1 million less than anticipated.
• Non-tax revenue was $29.7 million, or $9.4 million below estimate.

Outside general fund collections, motor license fund collections – which include gas and diesel taxes, as well as other license, fine and fee revenues – were $301.1 million in May, or $10.7
million more than expected.

Also, the state’s rainy day fund, a separate account to protect Pennsylvania against emergencies, now contains a record $2.8 billion.

“We have the money in the bank to pay for the historic investment I want to make in K-12 education, as well as the corporate net income tax cut and reforms I have proposed to bolster
Pennsylvania businesses, and still have $1.8 billion left over,” Wolf said in the release. “At a time when Pennsylvanians are hurting and state government is not, there is no excuse not to
use this huge pot of money to improve education, lower costs for taxpayers, and build a stronger economy.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Study finds state’s nursing homes are underfunded

Pennsylvania’s nursing homes were underfunded by nearly $1.2 billion in Medicaid in 2019-2020, according to a report commissioned by the LeadingAge PA, an association that represents over 380 quality senior housing, healthcare and community services statewide. To begin helping address this inequity, the association is asking state lawmakers to approve a $294 million increase in Medicaid funding for the 2022-23 state budget.

Medicaid funding is provided to caregivers to cover costs for those who can no longer afford to pay for it. As one of the oldest states in the nation, Pennsylvania’s nursing homes care for one of the largest Medicaid populations in America. Pennsylvania’s Medicaid reimbursement rate has remained nearly stagnant since 2014, rising only one percent for half of the commonwealth’s providers in the 2018 fiscal budget.

“Gross inequities in Medicaid funding for Pennsylvania nursing homes began long before the pandemic and have continued to escalate,” said LeadingAge PA interim president and CEO Bob Bertolette in a press release. “COVID-19 created a dire situation in which some caregivers can no longer afford to fill their beds. In some cases, families who need care for a loved one cannot find it. This funding request should serve as the starting point for providing seniors with the support and care they deserve.”

The Pennsylvania Medicaid Funding Shortfall for Nursing Facilities study was released March 1. It was prepared for LeadingAge PA by advisory firm, RKL LLP. To determine the potential gap between nursing home expenses and the reimbursement amount facilities receive through the Medicaid program, RKL’s senior living services consulting group developed a custom database using publicly available Medicaid cost reports to conduct granular calculations.

“Pennsylvania’s nursing homes need reliable data to manage the industry’s unique profitability and management challenges,” said Jeffrey E. Boland, CPA, partner and leader of RKL’s Senior Living Services Consulting Group.

Chuck Quinnan, LeadingAge Pa senior vice presidents and chief of government affairs, said the nursing homes have been challenged with a workface staffing crisis and with Medicaid underfunding for quite some time.

“The situation has gone from serious to dire, “he said, “doing nothing will lead to facilities taking beds off line or closing completely.

In the Harrisburg area, the Hewish Home of Greater Harrisburg is in the process of being sold to a real estate investment company—their Medicaid gap was about $100 per day.”

Jonathan Hollinger, president and CEO Pleasant View Communities, said like so many other Pennsylvania companies, the 67 year-old Manheim-based retirement community, has experienced pressures of supply and workforce shortages leading to rising inflationary costs.

“However, unlike other businesses, we are unable to pass on these costs to our biggest customer, the state Medicaid program,” he said.

He pointed out that 15 years ago Pleasant View’s medical assistance reimbursement rate was $178 per day; today that rate is $189 per day. Hollinger said the mere 6% increase over 15 years does not even cover the current year’s inflation. He said in the last five years, hourly pay rates for CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) jumped from $13 per hour to $20 per hour.

“That’s over a 60% increase and currently this is not enough to keep up with other industries,” he said.

In the past 10 years, Pleasant View has provided over $30 million dollars in unfunded care costs. To help bridge the gap, Hollinger said Facilities like Pleasant View have used several strategies. Nursing and caregiver wages were held at modest levels, but this is no longer an option with the higher pay scales of hospital systems and non-healthcare jobs.

Another way to bridge the gap is increasing the rates for private pay seniors. Hollinger said at Pleasant View private pay seniors approximately 2.5 times the state medical assistance rates.

“But that means their life savings are depleted quicker, thus leading to more Pennsylvanians covered under the Medicaid program,” he said.

Hollinger said Pleasant View has also used reserves to bridge the gap. Those ‘rainy day’ funds were intended for building improvements, to repair parking lots and sidewalks, new roofs, or updated equipment and technology, which have been delayed since funds were shifted to bridge the Medicaid funding gap.

“I see this as a real healthcare crisis,” Hollinger said. “The continued underfunding of medical assistance for senior care will cause organizations like Pleasant View to continue to lose staff and be forced to provide care to less and less seniors as beds and entire nursing wings will be shut down. Reductions in skilled nursing care will lead to acute care for seniors being provided at higher costs in an already taxed hospital system. Senior living organizations simply cannot financially afford the continued gross underfunding of skilled nursing care for our Pennsylvania seniors.”

Quinnan said the Medicaid system itself needs to be addressed. He called on the state to strengthen the system and create a sustainable solution.

“We all want our communities to not only survive, but thrive,” Quinnan said.

He said Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed new funding for nursing homes in his 2022-2023 budget is linked to facilities “meeting the administration’s misguided regulatory proposal to increase minimum staffing thresholds by 50%”. Quinnan said those staffing requirements are unrealistic because facilities lack funding to hire more employees and, even if they could, there is a critical worker shortage across the state.

“More staffing does not necessarily produce better care in many cases,” he said.

Rochelle Shenk is a freelance writer

Assets selected for $105,000 award to support small and minority-owned business lending 

Lancaster-based business consultancy nonprofit, Assets, is expected to receive $105,000 in funding to aid small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The grant, awarded by Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders (NALCAB), will be used to help increase access to capital for small businesses in low- and moderate-income communities, Assets announced on Monday. 

“We are excited to put this funding to work in support of our clients. This helps us take important steps toward our vision of creating an equitable, ethical, and prosperous economy that works for everyone,” said Jesse Casler, Assets’ Interim CEO. 

Assets is one of 15 nonprofit lenders across the country to receive funding from the Open for Business Fund, which is given to organizations with a track record of providing small business lending and development services to low-wealth populations with difficulty accessing capital. 

Assets, founded in 1993, offers small business training and support to low- and moderate-income populations, social enterprise acceleration, microloans, business start-up loans and more. 

Gov. Wolf announces $1.7 billion COVID recovery plan for Pennsylvania

Gov. Tom Wolf announced a plan on Wednesday to invest $1.7 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help the state recover from the pandemic—a bid that critics say fails to put taxpayers first. 

The plan would invest $225 million into small business support; $204 million for relief for low-income renters and homeowners; $325 million for Pennsylvania’s healthcare system; $450 million for conservation, recreation and preservation; and $500 for a new PA Opportunity Program, which would provide relief to workers and families from the cost of childcare and household expenses. 

“As Pennsylvania endured the pandemic, we strategically invested to support small businesses, frontline workers, agriculture, healthcare, first responders, and more. This ensured that Pennsylvania survived,” said Wolf. “Now it’s time for Pennsylvanians to thrive and investing $1.7 billion in a bright future for this commonwealth will give Pennsylvanians a sense of security and a clear path forward.” 

Wolf was joined by Senate and House Democratic leaders at the capital on Wednesday to reveal the plan, which would be funded solely through federal dollars and not any general fund appropriations. 

The plan would include funding for The COVID Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program, which would provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. 

It would also provide an additional $204 million investment into the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate program. 

For Pennsylvania’s health care industry, the plan sets aside $250 million for long-term care recruitment and retention incentives, $40 million for the behavioral health workforce to expand county mental health programs and $25 million to expand the student loan foreverness program at PHEAA to include additional critical health care workers. 

“Our state’s economy can’t fully recover until all Pennsylvanians can share in its recovery,” said House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Delaware and Philadelphia. “These targeted investments, drawn on a portion of the commonwealth’s American Rescue Plan dollars, will help thousands of Pennsylvania families and small businesses rebound from the repeated challenges caused by COVID-19.” 

The plan has been met with skepticism by House Republicans. 

In a joint statement released Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster; House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre and Mifflin; and House Appropriations Committee Majority Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, said the proposals were “developed in a fiscal fantasy land where concern for future fiscal years apparently doesn’t exist.” 

Gov. Wolf and his Democratic allies have only put forward the largest cradle-to-grave tax increases in Pennsylvania history and proposals that will increase the cost for Pennsylvania families to heat their homes to fuel their desired unchecked spending regardless of the economic circumstances,” the House leaders wrote in the statement. “In short, the only reason the economic difficulties that have been brought upon the nation by federal Democratic leadership over the last year have not happened in Pennsylvania sooner is because Republican leadership has kept this administration in check.” 

Wolf administration launches $350 million Pa. Homeowner assistance fund 

Pennsylvania homeowners that are at or below 150% of their region’s median income will soon be able to apply for financial assistance through the new Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund (PAHAF). 

The Wolf administration announced this week that the new fund, administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), has been approved by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

The fund consists of $350 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Homeowner Assistance Fund and will be given to Pennsylvania homeowners grappling with unforeseen financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we continue to advance our COVID-19 recovery efforts, we must address the rising number of homeowners facing possible loss of their homes and foreclosure – this program will do just that,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “The Homeowner Assistance Fund will prioritize individuals and families with the greatest need, as well as those who are socially disadvantaged. I am grateful that the U.S. Treasury has approved Pennsylvania’s plan, and we can start the new year by distributing this critical funding to homeowners.”   

PAHAF will use the funds to provide eligible Pennsylvania homeowners with much-needed assistance to prevent and/or ease mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, displacement and utility disconnection. 

Our mission is to help Pennsylvanians achieve housing stability despite the many hardships faced during these uncertain times,” said Robin Wiessmann, executive director and CEO of the PHFA. “PAHAF will provide critical support to eligible Pennsylvania homeowners, allowing families to recover and helping communities overcome the devastating financial and economic impacts of the pandemic.“ 

Applications for the fund open on Feb. 1. Applicants that qualify for the assistance must be a Pennsylvania homeowner that saw a reduction of income or increase in living expenses due to the pandemic after January 21, 2020.