Wolf announces grant funding for gun violence prevention projects | Five for the Weekend

Philly Rep. Bullock: “We can no longer afford to ignore the very real human and economic costs of gun violence in the Commonwealth.”

By: - September 4, 2021 6:30 am

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, the chairperson of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, speaks during a Capitol news conference on 6/22/21 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Happy weekend, all.
Gov. Tom Wolf was joined by Philadelphia-based state lawmakers, Sen. Vincent Hughes, and Rep. Donna Bullock Friday to announce a $24 million grant opportunity to address gun violence in parts of the commonwealth experiencing high rates of crime.

The award, available to community-based organization, counties and municipal governments, and colleges and universities as well as district attorneys, ranges from $50,000 to $2 million for programs up to two years in length.

“Gun violence tears our communities apart, and we have seen far too much of it across the commonwealth over the past year,” Wolf said. “Families and communities across Pennsylvania have experienced far too much loss. This funding will provide necessary resources for effective, community-led programs that work to stop gun violence and group violence. My administration is proud to work with our legislative partners and leadership at PCCD to make this funding available to end the cycle of violence and loss in our communities.”

Interested groups can apply beginning Friday, Sept. 3 through Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Winners will be announced at the Pennsylvania Commission for Crime and Delinquency’s Dec. 1 School Safety and Security Committee Meeting.

“We can no longer afford to ignore the very real human and economic costs of gun violence in the Commonwealth. As a legislator and a parent, I am committed to not only reducing these costs but to also creating a safer Pennsylvania for our children,” Bullock said in a statement Friday. “This grant is a significant investment in proven violence prevention programs led by trusted partners with boots on the ground.”

As always, the top 5 stories are below. 

A Pittsburgh resident facing eviction holds up a sign during a rally organized by the Pittsburgh chapter of the United Neighborhood Defense Movement in February 2021 (Image via Pittsburgh City Paper).

1. Pa. Sen. Saval, Gov. Wolf, call on Pa. Supreme Court to halt evictions

A progressive, first-term state senator has called for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to halt evictions in the commonwealth, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal moratorium Thursday evening on landlords removing tenants from their homes during the pandemic.

State Sen. Nikil Saval, D-Philadelphia, said in a statement Friday afternoon that replacing the federal moratorium with state-level protections was needed to save lives amid rising COVID cases.

“In a nation as wealthy as ours, in which the essential right to housing is commodified as a toy for the wealthy elite, there can be no mistake: this decision places the property of those who have more above the very lives of those who have less,” Saval said in a statement, soon echoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Congress authorized $46.5 billion in rental aid for people struggling to make ends meet, to cover both current and past due payments.

But states have struggled to get that money in the hands of tenants. Just $1.7 billion — about 3 and-a-half percent — of the money has been distributed, according to the New York Times.

Even when the money is allocated, landlords have sometimes rejected the cash and opted to evict tenants instead.

Pennsylvania has followed this trend. The state has received $564 million in rental aid. Four out of five of those dollars still have not been spent.

Masks and temperature checks will likely be the norm for many U.S. school-going kids until a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under age 12 (NurPhoto/Getty Images).

2. Pa. GOP candidate says he’ll bring ‘strong men’ to intimidate pro-mask school boards

A Republican political hopeful from the Lehigh Valley has threatened to bring “20 strong men” into school board meetings and demand that elected officials who back mask mandates either “leave or … be removed.”

Steve Lynch, a personal trainer who is running for Northampton County executive, made the threat during a rally in Harrisburg on Sunday night.

The rally included a smattering of causes, from anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments and  right-wing militias to still-loyal supporters of former President Donald Trump.

In a portion of his speech noted by two independent journalists, Lynch told the crowd of roughly 200 people that he needed men to come “when we walk into those school boards” that approved mask mandates.

(Image via The Pittsburgh Current/Adobe Stock)

3. The wrong font, misplaced staples leads to unusual court rebuke of Pa. teachers’ pension fund

A state appellate court told Pennsylvania’s teachers’ pension system, and its well-paid outside legal counsel, to take a mulligan on a legal filing over the staples and font sizes they used in a brief filed last week.

The two-page order, issued by the Commonwealth Court in a case between a sitting state senator and the pension system over transparency issues, made legal observers scratch their heads.

“I have never seen it before,” Duquesne University law professor, and state court watcher, Bruce Ledewitz said. “That could be because lawyers comply with the rules.” Ledewitz also is a Capital-Star opinion contributor.

The order states that a brief filed on behalf of the Public School Employees Retirement System — a $63 billion fund that pays the pensions of hundreds of thousands of teachers — “does not comply with the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure because the lettering in the brief is smaller than 14 point in the text.”

The order adds that “the brief further does not comply with the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

State Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, speaks at a Capitol rally of anti-lockdown activists on June 5, 2021. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

4. ‘Tasteless’: Pa. GOP lawmaker faces backlash after comparing COVID vaccinations to sexual assault

A Republican state lawmaker who compared mandatory vaccinations to rape, is facing criticism from a victims rights and sexual violence prevention organization.

In an Aug. 23 post to his verified Facebook page, state Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, wrote that “What’s it called when someone sticks something into your body against your will? Or coerces you to let them?:

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam speaks at a press conference. Harrisburg, PA – February 17, 2021

5. Pa. Republicans eye constitutional amendment to restrict top health official, confine powers

One day after Republicans who control the state Legislature railed against a new statewide mask mandate in K-12 schools and childcare centers, a group of GOP lawmakers are again eyeing the constitutional amendment process to limit the authority of the state’s top health official.

Sens. Judy Ward, R-Blair, Patrick Stefano, R-Fayette, and Kristin-Phillips Hill, R-York, are leading the latest effort to do an end-run around Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent executive action. In a Wednesday memo seeking support from colleagues, the lawmakers announced plans for an amendment that would tie the state health secretary’s response powers to an existing public health disaster emergency declaration.

“We agree with the majority of Pennsylvanians that the most effective way to preserve public health is to encourage decisions to be made locally,” they wrote. “Our communities are not facing the same COVID-19 challenges, and to act as if they are, does everyone a disservice. We must be calculated and thoughtful instead of making wide-sweeping decisions.”

And that’s the week. See you back here next weekend. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.