ISSUE 111 | June 16, 2021
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From Around the Region and the State
Economic and Policy News
Criminal record expungement gaining momentum in states, including PA
Over 70 million people have criminal records in the U.S., which presents barriers to housing and employment even in cases without convictions.

Several states have initiated and passed legislation to allow automatic expungements; Virginia’s law is the most comprehensive and includes built-in protections.

Pennsylvania passed legislation in 2020, allowing automatic expungements for arrests without convictions, summary convictions after five years, small misdemeanors after 10 years, and a few others.   

Commonwealth Financing Authority approves more than 130 new projects 
About $16 million has been allocated to community development and environmental protection efforts in 38 Pennsylvania counties.

Projects may involve:
  • well plugging
  • flood mitigation
  • sewage facilities
  • watershed restoration and protection
  • greenways, trails, and similar recreation areas

Seven initiatives have been approved for Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. 

PA among 20 states restoring voting rights to felons after release
Over 5.2 million Americans – more than two percent of those within voting age – cannot vote due to felony convictions.

Twenty-eight states do not allow these individuals to vote until probation and other stipulations are fulfilled, while people with felonies in two states and the District of Columbia never lose their right to vote.

In Pennsylvania, voting rights are automatically restored to people with felony convictions once they are released from incarceration – regardless of probationary status.

Research Spotlight: The Spring 2021 issue of the Quarterly Economy Tracker is available! It covers home value trends in NEPA, the region's labor market, the pandemics' economic effects on households, COVID-19 vaccination progress, and more!

From Around the Nation and the Globe
Economic and Policy News
Clean energy offers a pathway to higher-wage jobs 
The clean energy industry is growing, and offering lucrative employment opportunities in the process.

Due to the potential for skill gaps, however, unique partnerships with schools are critical to building a strong pipeline of workers.

For instance, one Colorado municipality is successfully harnessing education to transition from a coal economy to a clean energy economy. 

California may require mental health training for school staff
As a result of COIVD-19, K-12 teachers across the U.S. are facing growing populations of students with mental health challenges.

Some children have lost family members, others have parents who lost jobs, and many have struggled with isolation during the pandemic.

Teachers are largely unprepared to respond to these traumas, which is why California lawmakers are considering a bill to require 50 percent of the staff in every school to complete an “evidence-based mental health training program.”  

Step therapy signifies a failure of the U.S. health care system
Step therapy is a process requiring people to attempt cheaper alternatives to medications before taking those originally prescribed by their doctors.

Insurers claim that this process prevents wasteful spending when patients find less expensive yet effective treatments, but patient advocates argue that the process places financial interest above well-being.

Some laws aim to prohibit step therapy, but often fail due to various loopholes and poor enforcement mechanisms. 

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