The Update: What’s Important in Harrisburg and DC – July 19, 2021




As we move through the summer, we are seeing more and more of the programs and policies of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) roll-out. Last week, families with children started receiving their Child Tax Credit payments. This program is predicted to cut child poverty nearly in half.

Meanwhile, the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are deciding how to distribute their funds. There is a lot of opportunity to do a lot of good for their residents. Check out our analysis below of the best way that Pittsburgh to use their American Rescue Plan funds.


Stephen Herzenberg
Executive Director


Achieving a More Equitable Pittsburgh Budget: Treasury Guidance on How the City Can Use American Rescue Plan Funds

With the recent influx of $335 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, the City of Pittsburgh has formed the Pittsburgh Recovery Task Force to manage the dispersal of aid to hurting residents of the city. Made up of the Mayor’s Office and Councilmembers Ricky Burgess, Daniel Lavelle, and Theresa Kail-Smith, the group has been charged with helping the communities most impacted by the pandemic and the resulting recession, and with ARP funds providing nearly 60% of the City’s yearly operating and only a 30% budget loss in 2020, the City has a historic opportunity to address not only the immediate effects of the pandemic but also well-known and long-standing inequities.

Charged with developing a proposed allocation plan for ARP funds, the Pittsburgh Recovery Task Force framed its challenge the right way when formed in April of this year. It said that a plan to spend ARP funds should put equity first. But the reality is quite different.

Read more.

Blockbuster Investigation on Tax Avoidance Shows Clear Need for Bold Federal Tax Changes

Last month’s ProPublica revelations identified what many experts, some lawmakers, and a majority of Americans already knew about the U.S. tax code: Policymakers over the past several decades have created a system that allows some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals to pay little or no federal income tax each year.

Read more.

Not According to Need: PA Again Shorts Counties with More Renters, Higher Rents, and Larger Black Populations

In mid-June, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center released a report documenting that Pennsylvania inequitably distributed Emergency Rental Assistance funds (ERA1) in the late 2020 federal COVID relief package. Pennsylvania allocated the funds on a per population—or per capita—basis. This has the advantage of being simple. It has the disadvantage of being blatantly unfair. In this case, it also has the disadvantage of being racist in the analytical sense that the allocation formula predictably and deliberately discriminates against places with more Black renters in need of emergency rental assistance. Here’s why the seemingly straightforward per capita approach is unfair: it ignores the well-known realities that (a) a higher share of households in urban counties rent as opposed to own their homes and (b) rents are higher in urban counties.

Read more.



Sign our Petition to Urge Legislative Leaders at the State and Federal Level to Support the For The People Act!

America is facing a crisis. We must act to protect our freedom to vote and demand that local, state, and federal officials reclaim sanity, reject extremism, and support our democracy.

“To me, this is simple: This is election subversion. It’s the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history. Never before have they decided who gets to count what votes count.. — Time and again, we’ve weathered threats to the right to vote in free and fair elections. And each time, we found a way to overcome. And that’s what we must do today… it starts with continuing the fight to pass H.R.1, the For the People Act.” President Joe Biden, Philadelphia, July 13, 2021

We are asking you to sign the petition asking our legislative leaders to support the For The People Act and defend our democracy! Please share this out within your networks far and wide!




Black Leaders Say Federal COVID Funds Have Passed Over Hardest-Hit Communities


“’This is leaving in place the same race and class and inequities that have been increasing during the pandemic,’ said Nthando Thandiwe, an analyst for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. ‘An alternative path would be to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and use these federal resources to address structural inequities.’”


State Rep. Wheatley wants Pa. to spend more to help build up Black communities

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

“Voters should remember this next year when they cast ballots for state offices,’ Mr. Wheatley said and should organize to pressure their local officials. ‘I’m glad, in a way, that Republicans showed their hand with this time and moment because just a few months from now, citizens can organize around the fact they are not happy we have placed $5 billion of money that’s meant for them — their money, their taxpayer money that the feds sent back to us — that the Republicans are holding hostage so they don’t have to do what they were elected to do,’ Mr. Wheatley said.”


The Expanded Child Tax Credit Rolls Out on July 15!


“Thanks to money from the American Rescue Plan’s expanded Child Tax Credit, families will be able to give their kids a stronger, healthier start on their path to a promising future. Child Tax Credit payments start rolling out July 15.”