The Update: What’s Happening in Harrisburg and DC – June 21, 2021



As we celebrated the designation of Juneteeth as a federal holiday for the first time, we still see structural racism being enforced in policies that the Pennsylvania Legislature is enacting today. We must call out all of the ways in which policies reinforce inequity and end those policies one by one if we want to truly celebrate the freedoms of all people in the Commonwealth.

Take a look below at the new report on housing which clearly shows the inequitable distribution of rental assistance, a new poll demonstrating Pennsylvanians’ hunger for economic policy that favors recovery for Black, brown, and white families most affected by the pandemic, and Marc Stier’s analysis of the ways white supremacy still clearly exists in policies that are being enacted today.


Stephen Herzenberg
Executive Director



Missing the Target: PA Emergency Rental Assistance Shorts Communities with Greatest Need

KRC’s new report shows that Pennsylvania misallocated $564 million in funds provided in December 2020 for the Emergency Rental Assistance program. The state distributed these funds so that each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties received the same per capita assistance from the ERA funds combined with the assistance that Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and 17 counties with 200,000 or more in population received directly from the federal government. Thus, the state-only assistance to our most urban counties was far below the average state-only per capita assistance.

Equal per capita emergency rental assistance does not work for two blindingly obvious reasons on which we provided numbers in the KRC report: 1.) the share of households that rent varies widely by county, 2.) and rental costs vary widely by county. The fact that the state reduced its allocations to urban areas with the greatest need—which not only have the highest shares of renters and the highest rents but the highest shares of Black people in the population—is nothing short of pernicious.

Read more.

PBPC-State Innovation Exchange Poll on Budget and Democracy Issues

The poll released on June 17th was commissioned by the State Innovation Exchange and the PA Budget and Policy Center. It is the third poll on tax, budget, and democracy issues sponsored by the two organizations. The poll is also part of a six-state public opinion survey effort by the State Innovation Exchange.

Topline findings:

  • As the Pennsylvania economy continues to reverse course from the pandemic, this poll shows clearly that PA voters have a big appetite for public investment and little appetite for austerity.
  • The poll shows that by a 3-1 margin Pennsylvanians prefer investing American Rescue Plan funds in people and businesses over using the money to pay down structural budget deficits.
  • The poll shows that Pennsylvania voters generally believe that the 2020 elections were administered well and administered fairly.
  • It shows tremendous support among Pennsylvania voters for preserving vote by mail and early voting as well as counting mail-in ballots postmarked by E-day and more funding for county boards of election.

Read more.

On Juneteenth: White Supremacy Survives in Pennsylvania

By Marc Stier, director, PBPC

On this first federal Juneteenth holiday, on all subsequent ones, and on every day between, let’s focus our attention not just on overcoming slavery in the past but overcoming white supremacy now and in the future.

Read more.


Defend the right to vote in PA – Stop HB1300!

PA House Bill 1300 is a new proposal that would make it harder for voters to vote in a secure, convenient, and accessible manner and would place barriers and additional burdens on parents, seniors, students, and election workers.

Creating additional hoops to jump through and confusion about the voting process will limit who is able to have their voice heard and hurts our representative democracy. What we need are policies that make voting safer, more convenient, and more accessible to all. To move forward together as a commonwealth, we must ensure that every Pennsylvanian can cast a ballot to elect leaders who govern in our interests, making the promise of our democracy real for us all.

Contact your legislator and tell them to reject HB1300 here.



Poll: Pa. Should Use Stim Funds To Help Low-Income Black, Brown & White Households

Pennsylvania Capital Star – John L Micek, Opinion

“But a new poll, released late last week by the Pennsylvania Budget Policy Center, points the way toward bipartisan support for a list of priorities that the progressive think-tank hopes that lawmakers will heed as the formal sprint toward approving a new state budget kicks off today.”


State Official, Centre County Rep. Conklin Push $15 Minimum Wage As Boost For Rural Counties


“Findings from Keystone Research Center say the highest percentage of workers who’d benefit from a raise live in rural counties. Berrier says a higher minimum wage could cut down on rural poverty in Pennsylvania.”


New study reveals economic benefits of naturalizing Pa.’s undocumented immigrants

Pittsburgh City Paper

“A recent study shows that if Pennsylvania’s undocumented immigrants received citizenship, the state budget would benefit from tens of millions of new dollars. The progressive think tank Keystone Research Center released a study in May titled ‘The Economic Contributions of Pennsylvania’s Immigrants.’ The study was written by Muhammed Maisum Murtaza and it quantifies the economic roles of both naturalized and undocumented immigrants in Pennsylvania and relays the fiscal benefits of authorizing non-citizens.”