ISSUE 129 | October 21, 2021
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From Around the Region and the State
Economic and Policy News
Pandemic highlights health challenges related to obesity 
Patients struggling with obesity yield poorer outcomes when dealing with COVID-19 than those who are not obese.

Poverty, food insecurity, lack of physical activity, and poor access to health care are also risk factors of obesity – adding complexity to prevention and management efforts.

The self-reported obesity rate in Pennsylvania is 31.5 percent, compared to the nationwide rate of 39.7 percent. 

Pittsburgh businesses urge plastic bag ban
After some success in Philadelphia, nonprofit Penn Environment encouraged Pittsburgh businesses to take a proactive approach regarding waste reduction.

Over 100 local businesses signed a letter supporting a ban on plastic bags, and city council is set to address this matter this fall.

Such an ordinance has potential to prevent 108 million plastic bags from entering the waste stream. 

Program helps build intergenerational wealth in West Philly
The Bridges to Wealth program uses churches as conduits to reach residents and offer instruction on stock market investing.

Participants receive six hours of financial literacy education, followed by instruction surrounding narrower issues such as small group investing.

Approximately 97 percent of the participants belong to minority populations, and 75 percent are women. 

From Around the Nation and the Globe
Economic and Policy News
Bill under consideration could help landlords and reduce evictions
Just 11 percent of available funds have been disbursed through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, suggesting that few landlords and renters are receiving the help they need.

A new bill that would allow landlords to apply for back rent payments without tenant consent is under review in the House of Representatives.

It could also set a national standard for evictions using best practices that have emerged from states during the pandemic.

Midwest farmers rely on immigrants to mitigate workforce challenges
Using the H-2A visa program, Illinois farmers increased immigrant employment by 250 percent in the past five years.

Farmers previously reported difficulty finding interested and capable workers, due to the rigorous nature of the work, but met incredible success once they started marketing to immigrants.

Advocacy groups are encouraging legislation to ensure provision of livable wages and labor protections. 

Rhode Island pilot program aims to reduce implicit bias in schools   
A Rhode Island High School will test a program designed to minimize the achievement gap between White students and students of color.

The pilot will involve 11 students and 11 teachers, and measure information retention as well as student cortisol levels to assess program impact.

By fostering stronger relationships between teachers and students, stakeholders hope to reduce implicit bias and subsequently improve academic performance.

Research Spotlight: The Institute's Jobs, Economy & Economic Development Task Force has studied Northeast Pennsylvania's workforce shortage, as well as opportunities to close skills gaps. Click below, and then on the red box labeled 'Jobs, Economy, and Economic Development.' Scroll to find briefs covering labor demand and skills shortages.
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