The Survival of the Nation's Soul
Last Thursday, November 3, Project HOME's co-founder and Associate Executive Director Joan Dawson McConnon spoke at a rally in Philadelphia about cuts to the state Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). Here is the text of her remarks -- also see below for action steps you can take. The rally was held by Philadelphia Unemployment Project and Occupy Philly.
In June, at the urging of the Corbett Administration, our state legislature adopted a budget which shut down the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program to any additional Pennsylvania families. According to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which administers the program, “HEMAP is a cost-effective means to prevent homelessness among Pennsylvanians.” By giving assurance of steady mortgage payments, it allowed homeowners to seek alternate employment, job training, and/or education when they needed it most.
Since 1985 this program has been a life-line to over 45,000 Pennsylvania families who through no fault of their own were at risk of losing their homes due to a temporary loss of employment or medical emergency. The net discounted cost to the state to keep a family in their home is approximately $1,600. Today when over 500,000 Pennsylvanians are unemployed and parents are struggling to keep a roof over their children’s heads, our state government turns a blind eye to their suffering and says to its citizens, “You are on your own.”
In the last two weeks we learned that, at the same time this critical state support to prevent homelessness is being cut, Gov. Corbett’s Administration gave Janney Montgomery Scott L.L.C $11.5 million in taxpayer incentives to keep 550 relatively high-paying jobs in Philadelphia. We learned that Janney Montgomery Scott is owned by Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company which posted profits of $85 million last year. I would argue that it is this type of unequal treatment that brings people from all walks of life here to say we have had enough.
We are not satisfied that our veterans or anyone else are forced to sleep on our streets; we are not satisfied that families lose their homes because of medical bankruptcy; and we are not satisfied when a company who earns $85 million in profit is given tax-payer money to line their pockets.
We can let Gov. Corbett know right now that we get the importance of keeping jobs in Philly. We understand the concept of an economic multiplier effect. But we are here to tell the administration that keeping families in their homes makes as much economic sense as keeping 550 jobs in Philly. They both matter equally. And while Gov. Corbett claims that states have to compete for employer’s favor otherwise they’ll get fat and lazy; we are here today to raise our voices to let the administration know that we need to tie the economic well-being of the Janney Montgomery Scott workers to the economic well-being of middle- and low-income families who need HEMAP support.
We need to demand that our administration and legislature find an equal amount of money, $11.5 million, and reopen HEMAP.
We need to look directly at the leaders of Janney Montgomery Scott and ask them….Is $85 million not enough? In these struggling times, when families are losing their homes and children are going hungry, was your decision to take advantage of the struggling economy and use your jobs as a commodity, bidding them to the highest state, the moral and patriotic thing to do? We need to ask the leaders of Janney Montgomery Scott to do the right thing and return that money to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
In the early 20th century Justice Louis Brandeis stated, “We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Stay put, Occupy Philly! Continue to raise your voices and shine light on the inequities of our current and proposed public policies. If anyone asks what you are fighting for tell them it is for the survival of our democracy. It is for the survival of our nation’s soul.
TAKE ACTION: Please call Governor Corbett at 717-787-2500 and urge him to fully fund HEMAP.
You can see a video of Joan's remarks at the rally at our Facebook page -- Click here.