ISSUE 107 | May 12, 2021
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From Around the Region and the State
Economic and Policy News
On-the-ground strategies underway to reduce vaccine barriers
Vaccine hesitancy is among the top contributors to the declining COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Community leaders and volunteers in the Philadelphia area have engaged in a grassroots effort share information, reduce barriers, and eliminate inequities associated with the vaccines.

They are walking neighborhoods, engaging residents, and coordinating nighttime clinics. 

The May primary is an important one for PA
Primary elections and even non-presidential elections often yield poor turnout, but PA’s May 2021 primary includes several ballot measures for Pennsylvanians to consider.

All registered voters – regardless of party affiliation – will have the opportunity to vote on:

  • the extent of a Governor’s powers during an emergency

  • the borrowing capacity of volunteer fire departments

  • protections against discrimination based on race or ethnicity

Pittsburgh plans unique summer arts destination program 
Pittsburgh is closing several downtown streets from May through October to create a pop-up park, host an arts festival, and introduce other cultural and entertainment experiences to bring more people downtown.  

The location was strategically selected for its striking views and lower-than-usual traffic volume.

These efforts are intended to reinvigorate the downtown region and fuel recovery from the pandemic.

From Around the Nation and the Globe
Economic and Policy News
Broadband access gains prominence in ARP funding priorities
The pandemic has highlighted inequities in many systems, and broadband access as a key component of infrastructure is among them.

Although reports indicate that much of the nation is covered – including 89 percent of Lackawanna County residents and 97 percent of Luzerne County residents, they do not address affordability or sufficient speed. 

Just 47 percent of people in Lackawanna County and 32 percent in Luzerne County use broadband, which demonstrates the need for evaluation of both efficacy of speed and cost in grant requests as ARP funds become available. 

Independent analysis gives credence to workforce assessment
The Institute has reported that the workforce changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and worker shortage (due to mass retirements) is not the only force in play.

Other barriers to work include:

  • lack of affordable child care

  • limited transportation options

  • fear of infection (particularly in highly exposed settings such hospitality and retail)

A Pew Research Center survey validates these findings, and supports the assertion that livable wages are critical. 

Unions resist reform despite demand for independent oversight
Police unions continue to challenge community efforts to establish civilian oversight boards for enhanced accountability.

In some communities these boards have little or no authority, and bargaining agreements in others prohibit the existence of such oversight at all.

The function of police departments as political organizations may further complicate these dynamics.

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