‘Stop the flood’: Faith leaders, advocates tell lawmakers to save thousands facing eviction | Monday Morning Coffee

(Capital-Star file)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Welcome to the first Morning Coffee of 2021. We hope everyone had a peaceful and restful holiday. There’s plenty afoot, so let’s get right to it.

More than 800 faith leaders, spanning the religious spectrum, have called on Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers to step in to prevent a looming eviction crisis that could leave nearly a quarter-million of Pennsylvania families homeless by month’s end.

With a new legislative session about to begin, policymakers have the opportunity to “demonstrate the compassion, mercy, and justice that we claim across our religious traditions, as you serve the people who elected you. To ignore suffering in this time is an affront to our common humanity,” the advocates and faith leaders said in a statement.

The COVID-19 relief bill that President Donald Trump signed into law last month extends a federal eviction moratorium until Jan. 31 and it set aside $25 billion in assistance to renters, according to CNBC.

Now that the bill has been signed, “We implore the legislature to ensure that any available federal funding be allocated in Pennsylvania for rental assistance. It is clear that rental assistance will help both tenants and landlords and may prevent a more profound crisis than the one we are currently facing. Preventing eviction is a primary strategy that can mitigate the pandemic,” the advocates wrote.

The Pennsylvania House (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Renters and landlords missed out on approximately $108 million of an available $175 million in relief money because the state made it too hard to access the money, the investigative news website Spotlight PA reported last month. That money was used to balance the state budget, the advocates note in their letter.

Pennsylvania’s statewide evictions moratorium expired last September after Wolf declined to issue a new executive order extending it, the Capital-Star reported at the time.

The York County Democrat instead called on state lawmakers to enact more permanent assistance. The move was decried by majority Republicans, who had complained Wolf spent most of the pandemic sidestepping the Legislature as enacted restrictions on businesses.

In their letter, the faith leaders and advocates point out that women, older people, and Black and Brown Pennsylvanians are at the highest risk of eviction because they had the highest claim rates for unemployment compensation.

“We are watching a crisis unfold in the Commonwealth, as public health is threatened by Coronavirus, our economic system is unraveling, and our neighbors are facing eviction,” the advocates and faith leaders wrote.”We believe that in this crisis, we have an opportunity to work together to meet human need. The pandemic has shown just how interconnected we are. A willingness to prioritize the basic needs of the whole community and to grow more resilient are among the goods we could hope to gain from crisis,” they wrote.

During an 11 a.m. news conference today, Democrats in the state House and Senate are set to discuss their efforts to extend eviction protections statewide for the hundreds of thousands of state residents who are at risk of losing their homes at month’s end.

“To leave people without housing during a worsening pandemic is unconscionable and compounds the twin public health crises of COVID-19 and homelessness. Forcing people from their homes will lead to the spread of the virus throughout communities, and accordingly, cause unnecessary and preventable suffering and death,” a spokesperson for state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, whose office is spearheading the effort in the Senate, said in a statement

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of the Numbers RacketCassie Miller takes a look at the Americans who say they will — and will not — get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Elizabeth Hardison has this must-read analysis and visualization of how and what Pennsylvanians drank in 2020 (Spoiler Alert: It involves epic amounts of Tito’s vodka.).

Eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican U.S. House members say they will oppose the certification of Pennsylvania’s electors when Congress meets to count electoral votes this week. And U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.says he will oppose a similar effort by about a dozen of his fellow Republicans in the upper chamber, your humble newsletter author reports.

State Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmorelanddied Saturday, aged 42, from an apparent brain aneurysmReese tested positive for the coronavirus last month.

Our partners at Stateline.org explain how cap-and-trade, a landmark climate policy, is facing growing claims of environmental racism.

Journalists from ProPublica explain how COVID-19 hollowed out an entire generation of young Black men in America.

On our Commentary Page this morning, experts from Binghamton University, State University of New York say getting COVID-19 vaccines to rural Americans is harder than it looks. But there are ways to lift the barriers. Carol Kuniholm, of the good government group, Fair Districts PA, wants lawmakers to put Pennsylvanians ahead of special interests in the new legislative session. And opinion regular Jonathan C. Rothermel, of Mansfield University, has a few suggestions on how to really make America great again in 2021.

(Image via pxHere.com)

Elsewhere.
Pennsylvania’s indoor dining ban gets lifted today. The Inquirer runs down all the other stuff that’s reopening in Philadelphia and across the state.
More utility customers are in debt, and they’re using unemployment payments to pay their bills, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive sits down to chat with House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centreabout the new legislative session.
The Morning Call runs down the debate over Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to prosecute restaurants that reopened during the lockdown.
The Citizens-Voice profiles a local restaurant that’s working to keep its doors open.

Black homeowners refinance less often, and they pay more for new mortgagesWHYY-FM reports.
Mike Argento, of the York Daily Record, talks to people waiting in line at local food banks who never thought they’d find themselves there (via WITF-FM).
Erie County Community College has launched its search for a new home, GoErie reports.
Some pandemic protections for consumers could end up becoming permanent, Stateline.org reports.
Georgia’s two GOP Senate candidates have not distanced themselves from colleagues who plan to challenge the certification of electoral results on Wednesday, Talking Points Memo reports.
Politico profiles MAGA’s ‘last stand’ on Wednesday.

What Goes On.
Senate and House Democrats hold an 11 a.m. Zoom press conference to discuss their eviction prevention plans. State Health Secretary Rachel Levine holds an 11:30 a.m. online briefing to talk about the latest COVID-19 news in the state.

You Say It’s Your Birthday.
Have a birthday you’d like observed in this space? Email us on [email protected].

Heavy Rotation.
We dove back into “The Makarrata Project,” the long-awaited comeback by veteran Aussie rockers Midnight Oil over the weekend. This collaboration with aboriginal Australian artists finds the Oils at their agitated best. The lead track, “First Nation,” which features contributions from vocalists Jessica Mauboy and Tasman Keith, is an absolute rager of a tune that grabs you by the neck with an opening blast of guitar and doesn’t let go.

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Chelsea 
boss Frank Lampard, a Blues legend, has netted just 26 points from 17 games this season. Is he facing the sack? Managers at Stamford Bridge have been fired for less, the Guardian notes.

And now you’re up to date.