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Healthcare workers deserve every penny of $225 million state package


By Rep. Anita Kulik

I recently have had plenty of opportunities to deal with medical facilities and personnel. Some of these interactions have been on a personal level, some have been as a result of my position as State Representative. In my meetings, discussions, and personal dealings with several facilities over the past couple of months, I cannot but marvel at the people who work in the medical profession.

Staff shortages, retention issues, and physical and emotional exhaustion plague our medical staffs and administrators. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, Pennsylvania is now able to invest in strengthening our healthcare workforce.

Additionally, House Bill 253 was passed with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate and was recently signed into law by the Governor.

In all, $225 million is being appropriated to support our healthcare workers. Of that, $100 million will be distributed to all acute care, critical access, and children’s hospitals licensed by the Department of Health for recruitment and retention payments to direct care staff. The distribution will be based on a per-bed basis.

A total of $110 million, again on a per-bed basis, will be distributed to high-medical assistance hospitals, critical access hospitals, and to inpatient and residential behavioral health facilities for recruitment and retention payments to critical staff.

The remaining portion of the appropriations, $15 million, will be available for the nurse loan forgiveness program administered through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

It is always good when legislators work together from all sides of the aisle to make good things happen for the people we represent. It needs to happen more.

Too often good bills get pushed aside for the benefit of politicking. I have found this to be true of many bills that get substantial support from members of the legislature and the public, but for some reason are not deemed worthy of consideration.

‘Four Chaplains’

In my role as State Representative, I often have the privilege of attending various events. I recently took part in a service at the American Legion in Carnegie. The service commemorated the sacrifice of the “Four Chaplains.” These four chaplains served aboard the USAT Dorchester during WWII. On Feb. 3, 1943, the Dorchester was torpedoed by a Nazi U-Boat while moving through the North Atlantic on its way to Greenland.

As the Dorchester was going down, and life jackets ran out, the four chaplains—a Catholic priest, a rabbi, a Methodist minister, and a minister from the Reformed Church of America—performed an amazing and heroic act. These four men gave their life jackets to four fellow soldiers. These four chaplains gave their lives to save the lives of four comrades and perished alongside some 600 other soldiers.

Reflecting on this story, I am reminded that every day there are ordinary people who do extraordinary things for the sake of others.

‘Love Your Library’

February marks “Love Your Library” Month.

I bring this up here because those who work at our libraries are doing great service to the residents of our district. We have several community libraries that serve the residents of our district, and I cannot say enough good things about them and the many programs they offer.

Our libraries stayed open during the COVID-19 crisis, with staff on hand to service residents in various manners, including curbside and online. Programs continued in whatever form was necessary to help people stay in touch through books, periodicals and the internet.

Libraries are community meeting spots and are no longer those hushed edifices most of us remember. The libraries in our district are vibrant places for conversations, learning, and entertainment.

Take some time this month to visit your local library or check out their social media pages for a listing of programs and activities. I hope you will also take time to support them as you may be able.

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