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BREAKING NEWS: Wolf extends ban on evictions, foreclosures

The Investigator

Your guide to the Capitol & stories holding the powerful to account

July 9, 2020 | spotlightpa.org

As advocates and Democratic lawmakers sounded the alarm about a looming crisis, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday put evictions and foreclosures on ice until Aug. 31.

The announcement — just two days before an earlier moratorium was set to lapse — was welcome news to housing organizers, who said the reprieve would give renters more time to seek needed assistance. 

The state is trying to provide that help through a $150 million program, though it got off to a rocky start Monday, as confused applicants failed to file all the necessary paperwork. The program, which is doling out assistance on a first-come, first-served basis, also launched without Spanish-language application forms, potentially putting some communities at a disadvantage. 

Proponents of extending the moratorium cited the risk to renters' health should they become homeless during the pandemic. While Pennsylvania was able to flatten the curve in the spring, COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, as the Spotlight PA tracker shows. The state reported nearly 1,000 new infections Tuesday, the highest number since late May. 

Sarah Anne Hughes


"We need to be as crystal clear as we possibly can, in all acts of government."

— Rep. Wendi Thomas (R., Bucks) on a bill that would add transparency requirements and new rules to Pa.'s notoriously fraught redistricting process.
STILL RISING: After seeing a steady decline into June, COVID-19 cases are trending up in Pennsylvania, with a seven-day average of 685 infections per day. Several counties to the west, led by Allegheny, are leading the rise. We provide our data tracker and trend analysis as a free public service, but we need your help to keep it going. If you value it, please consider a gift today.

More from Spotlight PA

» In Pa.’s growing fireworks war, it’s fed-up residents versus cold, hard cash
» Lawmakers will rule again over redrawing of Pa. political boundaries
» Everything you need to know about Pa. police reform efforts by the legislature

In State College, a police shooting and calls for action, not more committee reports

In March 2019, a State College police officer shot and killed Osaze Osagie, a 29-year-old Black man in the midst of a mental health crisis. The killing and the police department’s refusal to name the officers involved sparked protests and the creation of The 3/20 Coalition, named for the date Osagie died.

Gabriel Green, a Ph.D. candidate studying English and African American and African Diaspora at Penn State University, is a member of the coalition and has spent years advocating for police reform in the community. Spotlight PA spoke to him as part of a new series contrasting the demands for police reform in communities across the state to the actions taken so far by the state legislature:
Tell me about the police in the State College area and their relationship with the community.

I think that’s a two-part answer. The first side of that ... is that it's very community-oriented. That they're here to protect and serve. It's Happy Valley and so there's this idea that we're a very safe place. The reality of what that relationship is, and this is especially the case for folks of color, is that folks see the police here as an extremely white presence and extremely marginalizing presence, and one that for some folks — and I will say, myself included, right? — represents a level of fear because most of the cops that are here, they don't look like me.

What does police reform look like to you?

I am very much a proponent of defunding the police. By defunding the police, I mean taking funds from the police department and reallocating those funds towards community services. What that looks like is reallocating funds that could otherwise go to education, healthcare, homelessness, mental health assistance, and things like that.

If you had a magic wand that could make the legislature produce a police reform bill tomorrow, what would it be? 

This would be a massive reallocation of funds and resources … towards community initiatives. Also, putting the police in situations where they are doing things they only need to do, strictly public safety. Like, stopping people from driving drunk … first responders to emergencies, like active shooters and things of that nature.  

How can this be achieved? 

Community members can keep the pressure on city leadership. That means, keeping up direct action and protests and things of that nature. That means going to the town hall meetings and staying in the ear of these congressmen and council members. It means holding them accountable in a way that, “Hey, these are the things that we want and if you do not follow through on them, we will make sure that you don't have that seat in the future.”

— Yaasmeen Piper

From across the state

» International students could face deportation under a new federal rule, a decision the Post-Gazette reports could impact over a million people including thousands at schools here in Pennsylvania. 

» The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has applied for a $52.5 million state contract to lead the coronavirus response in Western Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, according to PublicSource. As Spotlight PA previously reported, UPMC helped write legislation that designated $175 million to health systems to take over testing and infection control inside homes.

» Pennsylvania police departments have publicized their use-of-force policies in an attempt to gain the trust of the public, something lawmakers are considering making mandatory. PA Post reports that some small-town departments aren't among those agencies. 

» An Erie police officer fired for criticizing the Black community, protestors, and journalists in an email could still be eligible for a yearly pension of over $50,000, according to GoErie.

Best of the rest across Pa.

» BILLY PENN: Tracking Philly’s gun epidemic depends on one guy named Gary

» CBS21: Two lawmakers call for an investigation into the state’s unemployment system

» INQUIRER: Philly landlords are suing to overturn new renter protections

» LNP: Lancaster County sees lowest number of unemployment claims since May

» PENNLIVE: Wolf signs off on bill to reform state universities

» POST-GAZETTE: State centers see first coronavirus case in residents

» TIOGA PUBLISHING: Nursing home death data doesn’t match political debate

Yaasmeen Piper


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Shots fired (Case No. 46): There are 13 birds in an oak tree. A hunter shoots one bird and it falls out. How many birds remain in the tree?
Stumped? Get a hint. Feeling smart? Challenge a friend.

Last week's answer: The greatest amount of money in coins without being able to make change for $1 is $1.19 (three quarters, four dimes and four pennies).

Congrats to Lynda G. who will receive Spotlight PA swag (when we reopen our office!). Others who answered correctly: Melissa J., Joseph A., Tom G., Joseph S., Jonathan N., Lou R., Rick S., Roseanne D., Nathan B., Jim S.
» This week's Riddler hint: BANG!

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