Wolf administration highlights ‘Back to Work PA’ as tool toward recovery from the pandemic

PITTSBURGH — State leaders are looking for relief for people who were laid-off work because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and they’re focusing on manufacturing jobs.

“The skills gap is massive; Covid has only exasperated these issues as businesses are changing like we’ve never seen,” said State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh County).

Gov. Tom Wolf has drafted a ‘Back to Work PA’ plan to help businesses and the state economy as a whole recover from the pandemic.

“This plan responds to a dire need for swift, targeted action allowing us a unique opportunity to invest $3 billion over the next 10 years in Pennsylvania’s economy, giving relief to families, small businesses workers and communities in need,” said Dennis Davin, state secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Schlossberg said Pennsylvania is the only gas-producing state without a severance tax, which is a tax on raw materials extracted from the ground, like natural gas.

“We can use the money from extraction tax for broadband access, work force training, childcare and reentry support -- all these things make sure our workers have a better chance at high paying jobs they deserve,” Schlossberg said.

But others disagreed.

State Rep. Josh Kail, (R- Beaver and Washington Counties), said excising a severance tax would be detrimental to the state economy.

“Pennsylvania has an impact tax that generates more revenue than the severance taxes of other states,” Kail said. “While it’s true we have no severance tax, it’s also true that we have an impact tax that other states do not have. The real issue here is not one of revenue, it is about who can spend money. A severance tax will destroy local jobs and will send money to Harrisburg instead of local communities.”

Finding qualified workers in the future will be the key, Schlossberg said.

“Workers who have the skills education and certifications necessary to give themselves the opportunity to succeed,” he said.

Wolf’s plan can help provide people with new skills without the need to obtain a degree, or find ways to help them finish a degree.

The administration said they look forward to continuing discussions with the state General Assembly and various community organizations over the coming months to put the ‘Back to Work PA’ plan into action.