Harrisburg – July 1, 2020 – State Senators Jay Costa (D- Allegheny) and Art Haywood (D- Montgomery/Philadelphia) joined Pennsylvania House Representatives Summer Lee (D- Allegheny) and Liz Hanbidge (D- Montgomery) for a telephone town hall hosted by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) to discuss a Just Recovery for Pennsylvania.
“Not only have communities across Pennsylvania been grappling with the losses and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also seen these communities rise up in protest of the unjustifiable killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement,” said Costa, Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania Senate. “Pennsylvania needs a Just Recovery from this pandemic, but we as legislative body must also pass legislation to address the systemic racism that existed prior to COVID-19.”
This telephone town hall comes on the heels of several press conferences held Thursday, June 18, 2020, emphasizing the need for economic and racial justice across the state. Democratic legislators in the Pennsylvania House and Senate announced their bicameral support for a plan that provides ‘A Just Recovery’ to all Pennsylvanians.
“We can’t afford to return to normal as it was, because that normal simply wasn’t working for thousands and thousands of Pennsylvanians,” said House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia). “We must demand real reforms that will ensure the health and well-being of our residents, strengthen our small businesses and protect our communities, specifically our communities who are often marginalized and overlooked when it comes to recovery plans.”
Costa said that the Senate Democratic Caucus not only advocated for the passage of $3.6 billion of federal CARES Act money to be allocated to support small business grants, housing assistance programs, funding for education and childcare, utility assistance, and support for frontline workers across Pennsylvania struggling because of COVID-19, the Senate Democrats have also laid out a legislative police reform package.
“Ending racism and police brutality is our mission,” said Haywood.
Haywood said that he has introduced Senate Bill 611 to require a Special Prosecutor be appointed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General whenever a police officer uses deadly force. Costa also had introduced Senate Bill 458 to create a database to track all disciplinary actions and reports against police officers in the state, as well as requiring more training for municipal police.
The PA Senate Democrats have laid out their entire plan for a Just Recovery at pasenate.com/COVID19. This includes how to protect our frontline workers and best prepare our healthcare systems, how we can provide the much-needed assistance to working people and families, and the economic stimulus Pennsylvania will need as we continue to recover from COVID-19.
“Decades of inequities have led to over-policing of the Black community while simultaneously leading us to poorer health and economic outcomes, which leaves us as sitting ducks when it comes to COVID-19. We have to act swiftly to reimagine and rebuild our communities in a just way, which requires putting the appropriate amount of resources where it is needed the most. Addressing these dual pandemics will help create a society where we no longer expect our communities to be over-policed and over-incarcerated,” said Lee.
There was also a consensus among legislators during the town hall that the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for our state and revealed the thin margins that individuals have been operating on. A Just Recovery for Pennsylvania is necessary to ensure the financial and physical health of all communities, as well as ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have the right to quality healthcare, education, housing, and social services. The systemic racial challenges that Black people face are also essential to these conversations.
“Our nation is going through a crucial period of reflection and change right now, and Pennsylvania is no exception. From ensuring that we have the tools we need to beat COVID-19 in every corner of our commonwealth to addressing systemic racism at its core, it’s going to take a great accounting just to know what specifically needs to be fixed,” said Hanbidge. “It’s going to take strong political will to commit resources for the work, and it’s going to take open hearts and minds to mount a truly Just Recovery.”