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As The Pandemic Continues, Advocates Say An Extended Ban On Evictions Is Needed

Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
A demonstration against evictions on the Greenfield Bridge.


On today's program: Pennsylvania’s eviction moratorium is slated to end this Friday, but advocates say an extension is needed; summer camps are closed, but experts say learning can continue outside the classroom; and a rural Pennsylvania town is addressing police brutality. 


**Late Thursday morning after the broadcast of The Confluence, Gov. Tom Wolf  signed a new executive order that protects homeowners and renters from eviction or foreclosure until Aug. 31. The residents will be eligible if they have not received assistance from a new program administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency  or are not already receiving relief through one of several federal foreclosure moratorium programs or judicial orders.

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians struggle to pay their rent
(00:00 — 6:28)

Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order banning evictions and foreclosures expires Friday.  The governor issued the order as 1.5 million Pennsylvanians lost their jobs during the pandemic-caused shutdown.

Now a group of 55 social justice, immigrant rights, labor and renter and housing advocacy organizations are asking the governor to extend the moratorium. Phyllis Chamberlain, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania says 200,000 households have been struggling to pay their rent during the shutdown.

Although the commonwealth’s unemployment rate has declined, it was still at 13.1 percent in May, according to the state Department of Labor and Industry.

“We’re fairly concerned that in the next several months there will be more households who are unable to pay their rent because they still haven’t been able to return to work,” Chamberlain says.


Earlier this week, 44 Democratic state legislators sent a letter to the governor urging him to extend the moratorium through the end of the year. 


Chamberlain says that she and other advocates are hoping that Wolf will continue the ban on evictions into the fall.  “There are a number of rental assistance resources that are about to become available that are not going to get into the hands of people in need by the time the eviction moratorium lifts.”


Applications began being accepted this week for a new $150 million rental assistance program that provides up to six months funding with a maximum of $750 dollars per month.

Summer learning options available during the pandemic
(6:32 — 12:07)

Most summer camps and school programs are closed for the summer due to the pandemic. Kids are stuck at home, and many have been away from their peers since March. Parents may be concerned about summer slide—the learning loss that occurs when kids aren’t in school—but experts say modified learning can continue outside the classroom.


Emanuela Grama is an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University; she’s also a parent who is introducing her step-kids to works of art this summer through a course in art history. 


“I wanted them to really take the time to look closely at a painting, notice details, colors, what people were wearing, why they were wearing what they were wearing so they would think a little bit in terms of class distinctions and status distinction,” she says. 


But the elimination of organized summer lerning programs could be most detrimental to students already lacking resources, says Dr. Tammy Hughes, a professor in the School of Education at Duquesne University and school psychologist specializing in helping children overcome adversity. 


“We should expect that there is going to be a learning gap,” Hughes tells The Confluence. “My concern really is about the inequities that we do see in education.” 


Hughes says that the best way for parents to close the learning gap is to keep learning fun and interesting for kids.


“Children are resilient,” says Hughes. “And with our support—with parent support—they are going to be able to adapt to this new normal and probably what they’re going to be facing next fall.” 


Rural Pa. joins the conversation on police brutality

(12:12 — 18:02)

The killing of George Floyd has pushed many communities across the country to rethink their relationship with police. Much of the push for change has been centered in cities, where demonstrators say police departments need to be overhauled or abolished. But rural America is having conversations about police accountability, too.


As part of theAmerica Amplified project, Keystone Crossroads’sMin Xian reports that in the northwestern Pennsylvania city of Bradford, a groundswell iscalling for the removal of the local police chief


The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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