Wolf Administration Outlines How Restore Pennsylvania Could Help Bedford Combat Blight, Expand Broadband Access
Bedford, PA – Today, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs Rick Vilello and Governor’s Office of Broadband Initiatives Acting Executive Director Sheri Collins joined local government officials, and business and community leaders for a roundtable discussion about the region’s challenges in its fight against blight and the efforts to expand broadband access. They also discussed how the bipartisan Restore Pennsylvania proposal could help municipalities address blight and close the digital divide.
“Blighted properties are becoming havens for health and safety issues in communities across every corner of the state,” Vilello said. “We must invest in programs like Restore Pennsylvania to give communities the opportunity to grow and improve the lives of families and workers in the Bedford area.”
Restore Pennsylvania, the $4.5 billion bipartisan proposal funded through a commonsense severance tax, would increase financial resources at the local level to acquire and demolish blighted properties to create new development opportunities and provide new green space. It will also support broadband infrastructure at every phase of the process, from feasibility testing to connection.
“Lack of broadband access is holding back communities across the state,” Collins said. “We expect our businesses and our schools to be at the forefront of technology, but we are not providing the resources they need to thrive. It’s clear that we need more funding to make progress and have long-term success.”
According to the Pennsylvania State Data Center, Bedford is one of only ten counties in Pennsylvania that experienced an increase of 2.5 percent or more in the number of vacant housing units from 2008-12 to 2013-17. Like many rural communities across Pennsylvania, it also struggles with lack of broadband access, which hinders students’ ability to learn, doctors’ ability to provide care, and the region’s ability to attract residents and businesses. Currently, local governments cannot fund broadband infrastructure or the demolition and redevelopment of most of their blighted properties themselves. If passed into law, Restore Pennsylvania would fund blight remediation efforts and broadband access at a level far beyond any existing funding mechanisms.
Restore Pennsylvania is a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that will help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.
Michael Gerber, DCED, 717.783.1132