State Sen. Art Haywood recently hosted a leadership breakfast at Arcadia College in Glenside to provide a legislative update on employment opportunities across the region.
The meeting between various community organizations, elected officials, and civic and religious leaders highlighted three main areas: the economy, the environment, and social justice.
Alison LaLond Wyant, director of the office of social impact and innovation at the Arcadia College delivered the welcoming remarks followed by Haywood’s presentation.
Gearing up for the second quarter of the year, the gathering provided an opportunity for constituents to connect with other leaders in the community in hopes to begin and continue partnerships for the area.
Haywood’s presentation highlighted the office’s base level of activity such as constituent services and community problem solving.
According to the senator, his office assisted approximately 10,000 residents individually with tasks like obtaining identification cards, disability placards, and social security cards.
Highlighted in the review were three major pieces of legislation that passed.
A provision about lead in school drinking water passed in the 2018-19 budget, amended into part of the School Code bill implementing the budget. It requires schools to either test for lead in drinking water and report elevated lead levels to the Department of Education or to hold a public hearing on lead. His original bill was SB 647 of 2017-18; the compromise language that passed was in HB 1448 of 2017-18.
Also, increasing the funding to PHARE for affordable housing projects was originally introduced as SB 31 of 2019-20 and simply lifted the cap on realty transfer tax dollars going into the PHARE Fund. Compromise language was amended into the Tax Code as part of the 2019-20 budget, increasing the cap from $25M to $40M as part of HB 262 of 2019-20.
And protecting survivors of domestic and sexual violence in public housing, ensuring they can get priority in emergency transfer requests passed as SB 919 of 2017-18.
“24 million dollars came into the district and a lot goes into education,” Haywood said. “We were able to increase summer camp enrollment up by 246 students. Mostly through Summer reading programs in recreation centers.”
La Salle University was one of the recipients and academic institutions in the 4th senatorial district that received a significant grant used to promote jobs and community improvement.
The conversation about jobs was a major focal point. Other than addressing the governor’s proposed Pennsylvania budget and the county’s growth much of the gathering was centered on supporting residents by demanding livable wages and creating a job pipeline.
The job and employment panel discussion at the leadership breakfast included: Nick Frontino, managing editor at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, District 1199C Training and Upgrade Fund; Dawn Johnson; Alissa McBride, coordinator for the Montgomery County Re-Entry Coalition; Michael Merritt, re-entry coordinator for the Montgomery County Correctional Facility; David Zellers Jr., director of commerce, Montgomery County Commerce Department; Jennifer Butler, Workforce Development Board, and Director of Business Development for the Philadelphia Technician Training Institute (PTTI); and Sandra Farmer.
There were two critical calls to action. One addressed volunteerism for the voter registration process and the other was to support the office’s efforts to raise the minimum wage.
Haywood asked for help in some capacity to both propel the movement to push fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, to raise its minimum wage in addition to increasing voter participation by 10,000 people.
“There’s been significant efforts to raise the wage,” he said. “McDonald’s pays as low as 7.25 per hour equaling to 15,000 a year, which is below the poverty line for a family of two and three.”
The senator recommended community leaders and residents support more businesses that pay people a fair wage. “When businesses pay their employers a fair wage it says to our neighbors you have value, you have dignity,” he said.