Key Takeaways from House Appropriations Hearings
HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee held its third day of budget hearings. The committee heard from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED):

Inflation and challenges with attaining workers continue to hinder small businesses in Pennsylvania:

Just last week the Consumer Price Index or CPI was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and registered a 7.5% annual gain in January, which was 20 basis points greater than the consensus estimate and represented the fastest rise since 1982. Inflation occurs when too many dollars chase too few goods. Supply chains are tight across most of the nation, but we’ve also seen an abundance of very generous spending from our partners in Washington, D.C.  
Recently, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) released a survey that found that the net percent of small business owners raising average selling prices rose to 61% in January, a four-point increase from the previous month and the highest reading since the fourth quarter of 1974. Another 50% of the firms said they boosted wages amid recent difficulty in attracting new workers.  Finally, the NFIB's index measuring optimism among small businesses dropped last month to 97.1, an 11-month low, as owners confronted high inflation, worker shortages and uncertain future economic conditions. 
December’s unemployment report (most recent available) shows a slight increase in employment but an even greater exit from the labor force. Pennsylvania’s workforce participation rate of 60.8 is the lowest it has been since June of 1987.
See an exchange between Rep. Lynda Culver (R-Northumberland) and Acting Sec. Neil Weaver on this issue here
Pennsylvania was second only to Michigan in shutting down businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bipartisan audit conducted by the Auditor General (started under Eugene Depasquale and concluded by Tim DeFoor) exposed the business shutdowns and subsequent waiver process run by DCED as being full of “questionable decisions,” including confusing guidance and inconsistent responses between industries.
A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University shows that lockdowns during the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, only reduced COVID-19 deaths by 0.2% in the U.S. and Europe. The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins University economics professor Steve Hanke, Lund University economics professor Lars Jonung and special advisor at Copenhagen's Center for Political Studies Jonas Herby, says a meta-analysis shows that lockdowns had major economic consequences, but little public health effects.
While Acting Sec. Weaver acknowledged and accepted the audit, he refused to apologize to Pennsylvanians or business owners impacted by the arbitrary shutdown orders.
The audit recommended a bipartisan working group to explore how DCED could improve their process, including lawmakers.  Acting Sec. Weaver admitted the group had not been formed but pledged to do so.
When asked by Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette) if DCED had conducted any studies into the impacts of the COVID-19 shut downs, Weaver admitted that DCED has not commissioned any studies.
Watch an exchange between Rep. Greg Rothman (R-Cumberland) and Weaver here.

Rep. Stan Saylor, Majority Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
Pennsylvania House of Representatives