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Briefs: August 10, 2022

Philly native releases poetry book

Screenwriter Chris Courtney Martin, a Philadelphia native, has released The Book of I.P. (Idol Poems) – a short hybrid poetry and essay collection. Each work in the collection represents an “ode” to story concepts Martin finds screen-worthy. The 65-page work contains 30 poems and two memoir-style essays. The book is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B148JKLM. For more information, go to https://alienbuddhapress.wordpress.com/2022/06/16/spotlight-the-book-of-i-p-idle-poems-by-chris-courtney-martin/

Young applauds education spending

State Rep. Regina Young said she is satisfied that the budget includes a large increase in education funding, for the school districts in her legislative district and throughout Pennsylvania.

The School District of Philadelphia received an increase of $189.3 million, a 14% increase from last year.

“I’m happy to see that the budget prioritized education as a fundamental part of our budget,” said Young, a Democrat who also represents part of Delaware County. “Education is the building block to a sound future, and I’m thankful of my colleagues who helped pass this budget – taking children’s needs into account.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses convention focused on peace

Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are holding an online convention, with the theme Pursue Peace. The free six-part convention is available to people in 239 countries speaking more than 500 languages. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been holding global conventions for more than 100 years, the last three years featuring virtual events accessed through the free JW Library app or at jw.org. Prior to 2020, Jehovah’s Witnesses held their annual convention at the Liacouras Center. Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses began meeting in person for the first time in two years on April 1. The first five parts are available now. The final part will be available on Sunday, Aug. 15. 

Kenney announces $500K in funding for Abortion Liberation Fund of PA

Mayor Jim Kenney and City leaders announced that the city will provide $500,000 in funding for the Abortion Liberation Fund of PA, which provides emergency financial assistance to women seeking an abortion who are unable to use their insurance to cover and cannot afford. 

The funding will expand ALF-PA’s capacity to help remove financial obstacles for women to access abortion care.

“Abortion is healthcare no matter where you live,” Kenney said. “In Philadelphia it is legal, but sadly that does not mean it is accessible for everyone. Providing financial support for people seeking abortions is one of the ways we will support Philadelphians in their fundamental right to bodily autonomy. Even before the Supreme Court’s decision this year, anti-abortion restrictions have made it far too difficult for people to access safe and often life-saving procedures, because public insurance won’t cover it and the costs of the procedure – to say nothing of traveling to a clinic, taking time off from work, childcare and other financial considerations – are prohibitive. The Abortion Liberation Fund has a long and impressive history of dismantling barriers to abortion and reproductive justice, and we are proud to support their work and the people they serve with this historic and unprecedented commitment of funding.”

Founded in 1985 in response to the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminating Medicaid funding for abortions, ALF-PA has provided funding to thousands of women seeking abortions, including more than 3,200 in fiscal year 2021. In addition to abortion funding, ALF-PA also helps build community power and fosters community-based resources for mutual care and support.

ALF-PA’s 2019 needs assessment estimated that at least 6,300 women in the region need financial support to pay for their abortion each year, due to the Medicaid ban and being unable to pay out of pocket. The out-of-pocket cost of an abortion, roughly $400 to $3,000, can be insurmountable for many people, and does not factor in the costs of travel, childcare and other common barriers to abortion access.

Abortion is health care, is still legal in Pennsylvania, and ALF-PA is still providing funding so that anyone can get an abortion no matter their income, ZIP code or reason. In Philadelphia, there are a number of resources available for women who want to prevent unplanned pregnancies or need an abortion or counseling support. To learn more, visit the City of Philadelphia’s action guide at www.phila.gov.

Scanlon announces $22.8M for Philadelphia Works

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon announced the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is awarding a $22.8 million American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge grant to Philadelphia Works Inc. to develop The Coordinated Southeastern Pennsylvania Workforce Development System, a tri-sector workforce training coalition involving healthcare, clean energy and construction industries. 

Through partnership with leading employers, this program will create pathways into good-paying, union jobs with a focus on underserved communities in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I’m so pleased to see funding from the American Rescue Plan continue to flow into Pennsylvania to advance our region’s workforce priorities and accelerate equitable economic recovery,” said Scanlon. “This investment from the Economic Development Administration will have an incredible impact on Philadelphia Works’s efforts to design and launch an inclusive, streamlined and coordinated workforce development training program that will grow economic opportunities for all Pennsylvanians.”

This grant is funded through the American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge. The program is awarding grants to 32 worker-centered, industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country. The $500 million program is expanding opportunities for more Americans to access and secure good-paying jobs by investing in innovative approaches to advance worker-centered, industry-led workforce training partnerships.

Earlier this year, Scanlon secured $1 million in new federal funding for a workforce training program for formerly incarcerated Philadelphians through the Fiscal Year 2022 federal government funding package passed by Congress in March.

New playground coming to FDR Park

Construction for a new playground at FDR Park is underway. 

The Fairmount Park Conservancy, in partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Friends of FDR Park, officially broke ground on the Anna C. Verna Playground and will be a world-class destination play space that encourages nature play for all ages and abilities.

The playground will cover more than 2 acres (93,800 square feet) of the 34.8-acre park on Pattison Avenue in South Philly.

Utilizing community input, the project will include a mega-swing set with 20 swings of five different varieties, designed for all ages overlooking the Pattison Lagoon; a nature-based play equipment including spinners, log and boulder scrambles, and treehouses with tube slides; rolling hills with slides; barrier-free adventure paths; a natural cork-based play surface; dedicated picnic area with nine new picnic sites and a new picnic pavilion; seat walls located under shady groves overlooking the play area; and new landscaping featuring beautiful native and pollinator-friendly plantings.

The new playground surface is nearly 100-percent water permeable and the site has been graded to mitigate flooding and soggy conditions. Play equipment is custom-designed and built for this site, including two massive tree trunks incorporated into the tree houses. It is also close to new food, drink and bathroom facilities currently under construction at the Welcome Center located across Pattison Lagoon. 

Evans’ military-academy diversity legislation passes House 

Congressman Dwight Evans secured House passage of his legislation designed to improve diversity at the nation’s military service academies and his bipartisan legislation to reauthorize a Delaware River basin conservation program.

Both of Evans’ legislative initiatives passed the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, considered to be one of the few “must-pass” bills that Congress handles each year.

“The military service academies represent a tremendous opportunity for those interested in serving their country in that way – including a free four-year university education. So I have been working for several years to improve the diversity of the academies’ student population, particularly among applicants from the 3rd Congressional District. I’m very pleased that my amendment was accepted on a voice vote,” Evans said.

Evans’ amendment would modify the Department of Defense’s annual report on demographics of military service academy applicants to identify disparities in demographic categories and identify suspected causes of such disparities within the application or nominating process.

Evans represents the only Pennsylvania congressional district with a majority African-American population. He urged those interested in a service academy nomination to visit evans.house.gov, then click “Services,” then “Military Academy Nominations.” Those interested can apply now. Oct. 31 is the deadline for 3rd District residents to apply.

The 3rd Congressional District includes Northwest and West Philadelphia and parts of North, South, Southwest and Center City Philadelphia.

In the same bill, Evans also won House passage of his legislation that would continue the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, which benefits four states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. The program was created in 2016 and is set to expire next year. 

Evans said, “I’m proud to be lead House sponsor of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act. The restoration program provides invaluable support, through technical and grant assistance, to restoration and protection activities throughout the Delaware River Basin, a vital watershed covering over 13,000 square miles in four states and reaching over 7 million people. Maintaining the program is essential to protecting ecological diversity, improving water quality and flood damage mitigation, expanding public access and recreation, and generating economic opportunities throughout the mid-Atlantic.”

Scanlon secures direct benefits in National Defense Authorization Act

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to strengthen national security with investments in America’s service members, alliances and partnerships, diversity and technology. Language secured by Scanlon in the legislation will deliver direct investments in Pennsylvania’s District 5 in jobs, businesses and support for federal firefighters.

The NDAA maintains funding for the CH-47F Block II Chinook and V-22 Osprey programs. These advanced-capability aircraft are manufactured in Ridley Park, providing good-paying local jobs to over 4,000 skilled men and women. In addition to providing thousands of local jobs, the programs benefit dozens of suppliers throughout Pennsylvania. 

“I am excited to share that this year’s defense bill will once again deliver direct benefits for my district,” said Scanlon. “The over 4,000 hardworking men and women who build these aircraft in Ridley Park are incredibly proud to contribute to our national security and disaster relief efforts. I am equally proud our government is investing in these amazing workers. I look forward to seeing it put to good use as PA-05 businesses and workers continue to contribute to America’s national security.”

Additionally, Scanlon secured the inclusion of the Federal Firefighters Workforce Support Act, a bill she introduced earlier this year to ensure federal firefighters are not forced to operate with staffing levels below national safety standards.

“I am also pleased that this year’s NDAA will include my bill to support the federal firefighters in my district and across the country,” she said. “Federal firefighters have some of the toughest and most strenuous jobs in our communities, but budget mitigation efforts have forced them to operate with substandard crew sizes — making their lifesaving and fire suppression efforts all the more demanding and dangerous. The Federal Firefighters Workforce Support Act will require DOD to adhere to nationally recognized fire protection staffing standards at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and across the country. As the NDAA process continues in the House and Senate, I will continue to advocate for the inclusion of these PA-05 priorities as the legislation makes its way to the president’s desk.”

Home repair program funded in budget

State Sen. Nikil Saval announced a $125 million appropriation in Pennsylvania’s 2022–23 budget to establish his Whole-Home Repairs Program.

Saval issued the following statement:

“Every person has a right to a home that is safe — a home that is healthy. But right now, across our commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of households are denied this right simply because they don’t have access to the resources they need to repair their homes.

“For decades, urban, suburban and rural communities alike have suffered from disinvestment from their government at all levels. The creation of the Whole-Home Repairs Program in this year’s budget changes that.

“This is a hard-fought victory for every Pennsylvanian who is struggling to stay in their home. This program is a direct investment in our people and our communities, whose needs have been ignored, and whose voices have gone unheard. At this time of protracted hardship across the commonwealth, we have seized a historic opportunity to move the needle on our housing crisis — permanently.

“What we have done sets a new standard. Today we have a program to preserve housing across the commonwealth, to stabilize our communities, to prevent blight and abandonment and displacement, to build a skilled workforce to keep our state at the forefront of the industries of the future, and to protect the place that is most dear to all of us: home. I’m committed to fighting for every household to have what they need to make their home whole.

“The United States needs a model for how to preserve its aging housing stock and create new jobs, and with the Whole-Home Repairs Program, Pennsylvania has positioned itself as a leader.”

The Whole-Home Repairs Program is the first of its kind in the nation, creating a one-stop shop for Pennsylvanians to repair and weatherize their homes by providing up to $50,000 for habitability repairs and energy efficiency upgrades, allocating support staff to ensure applicants receive the help they need in the order they need it, and funding pre-apprenticeship and training programs to build a skilled local workforce capable of meeting the growing demand.

Pennsylvania has some of the oldest housing stock in the country.

Saval, who serves as minority-party chairman of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, introduced the legislation with the entire Democratic caucus and five Republican senators as co-sponsors.

New light lager available at ARS

Brewery ARS has released a new light lager can in collaboration with Spork & Wentz, an animated micro series produced by Maestro Filmworks.

ARS, which has locations at 1927-29 W. Passyunk Ave. in South Philadelphia and 2223 Frankford Ave. in Fishtown, will be sponsoring two episodes of Spork & Wentz, a series that follows two hapless musicians in their everyday struggles as they pursue fame.

In addition to the beer can collaboration, the ARS name and logo will appear at the top of episode 3 and episode 4 during the title sequence. Their logo will also appear within the animations themselves as part of the background art.

Spork & Wentz was created by Alex Reinhard, a screenwriter, director and co-owner of Malix Media, a South Philadelphia-based production company, and Pat Richmond, an illustrator from Emmaus. The series can be viewed on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

“When Sean from Brewery ARS proposed the idea of brewing a Spork & Wentz beer, we said it needed to be something two broke musicians would drink,” Reinhard said.

The 4.4% ABV Spork & Wentz light lager is available for purchase at both Brewery ARS locations. 

Summer of Wonder continues at library

The Free Library of Philadelphia has launched a new season of reading, literacy and activities for all ages that continues through Aug. 12 at libraries across the city.

The Free Library’s Summer of Wonder program encourages students to continue reading and learning throughout the summer. Free activities held at libraries across the city include writing sessions, introductory culinary sessions, story times and college and career prep for teens. 

“Summer is an awesome time for reading, learning, and exploration, and you can do all of that at the Free Library through the Summer of Wonder program,” said Kelly Richards, president and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “Stop by your neighborhood library or visit us online for free programs that will infuse literacy and fun into your summer months.” 

Summer of Wonder and Science in the Summer will be hosting virtual and in-person events throughout the summer. A full list of library events is available at freelibrary.org/calendar.

Activities at Academy of Natural Sciences

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, is hosting several current and upcoming exhibits.

Sea Change is running indefinitely.

The River Feeds Back, going through Oct. 30, is an immersive sound installation created by artists Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips. The exhibit brings visitors into the deep sonic environment of the Schuylkill River watershed through recordings and a layered sound map that captures glimpses of the river system including the life of aquatic insects, eels, fish and swirling currents.

Ocean Bound will run from Aug. 20 to Jan. 15, 2023.

South Phila. HS class of ‘68 reunion

The South Philadelphia High School Class of 1968 will hold its 55th reunion on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Waterfall Room, 2015 S. Water St. Tickets cost $60 and include buffet dinner and open bar. For tickets and more information, call Arleen Liberi [609-922-2419], Maria Leati [856-287-3734] or Stephen Michielli [267-252-2740].

Upcoming cruise

The Bristol Cultural and Historical Foundation is sponsoring a fully escorted Holy Lands & Aegean Majesty cruise that will sail Oct. 6-17, 2023, featuring 10 ports-of-call. Rates, including airfare, range from $4,198 to $7,998 per person, double occupancy. Call 215-788-9408 for information and reservations. 

Kimmel schedule

The Kimmel Cultural Campus will present Dear Evan Hansen (Aug. 16-28, Forrest Theatre). For more information, call 215-893-1955 or visit kimmelcenter.org

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