ABOVE PHOTO: Pa. State Rep.Darisha Parker and Pa. State Rep.Stephen Kinsey (Photos: Pa.House)
HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus recently commended the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on its first Equity Report, according to PLBC chairwoman, State Rep. Donna Bullock (D-195th Dist.).
“The report hits many points that we on the PLBC fight for every day,” Bullock said. “As Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller pointed out, this cannot be a momentary, singular conversation because we watched George Floyd be murdered before our eyes without cause. This needs to be addressed every day, for every person of color, in both the workplace and our living communities.”
“Every year I ask questions about racial equity at our appropriations hearings,” Bullock said. “I want to know, encourage and even urge our departments to provide diversity training, include employees of color in all aspects of managerial levels and decision-making, and ensure a healthy work environment for all at the highest levels of government. Our government agencies should, at the very least, ensure that they are representative of the people of our commonwealth for whom they serve.”
The report provides information on efforts that DHS is undertaking on diversity, equity and inclusion so they may be a partner in correcting systemic racism within their own offices. While the report covers many areas within the department and where it will provide this training, it is a starting point for efforts moving forward.
“In the wake of the global racial justice protests after the murder of George Floyd, countless organizations declared to be allies in the ongoing journey for racial equity,” State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, (D-201st Dist.), chairman of the PLBC subcommittee on Health Equity, said. “Sadly, for many, it was all for fake clout. However, the DHS’ efforts to enact real, meaningful change is commendable, and it’s setting a precedent that all organizations, especially government agencies in our commonwealth, should follow. I look forward to the DHS continuing to be proactive in correcting systemic racism. At its core, the DHS provides vital services that ensure all Pennsylvanians have a chance at success and we must do all we can to eradicate any latent biases that bar any Pennsylvanian from benefitting from these services because of the color of their skin.”
The department is responsible for administering Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
It also oversees Pennsylvania’s child welfare system and licenses long-term care facilities, behavioral health and intellectual disability/autism services programs, and residential care providers, childcare centers, and early education programs.
“This is not the defining moment of this conversation,” said State Rep. Darisha Parker (D-198th Dist.), chairwoman of the PLBC subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color. “Unfortunately, we keep coming back around to this issue because things are just not getting done to ensure equity for people of color. At an even more granular level, we will take a look at women and girls of color and how these issues affect them daily and how we can make legislative recommendations to enhance their lives. But having a state agency address this issue from the inside out, that is progress I hope to see across the board in Pennsylvania government. It is a good start, and we will continue to push these efforts until they are fully implemented.”
“From tragedies like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Walter Wallace Jr. to the evidence of societal racism exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that social inequities continue plaguing Black and Brown communities across this country and commonwealth,” said state Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-192nd Dist.), PLBC member and former chairwoman of the subcommittee on Women and Girls of Color. “I applaud DHS for being a model for all departments to mirror as they lay out their policy and budget priorities, recognizing the role that they play in creating more just communities.
Now, we must collectively expand upon these efforts using an equitable lens, each step of the way, as we rebuild our communities post-COVID.”