Capitol Roundup: ‘It’s On Us PA’ fighting against campus sexual assault

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf this week was joined by state and national “It’s On Us” initiative leaders to announce nearly $1 million in grants to combat campus sexual assault at 38 Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

The governor is a steadfast supporter of campus safety and nearly three years ago established “It’s On Us PA” — the nation’s first statewide campaign.

“We must never tolerate sexual assault on our campuses or a culture that allows it,” Wolf said. “Over the past three years, my administration has worked with students, schools, and communities to build programs to stop sexual assaults. These grants will help schools across the state to make campuses safer, and help stop sexual harassment and assault.”

“It’s On Us” is national initiative championed by President Barack Obama. The Wolf Administration has invested nearly $3 million in grants for the program over the past three years.

“Since launching ‘It’s On Us Pennsylvania’ in 2016, Gov. Wolf and his administration have set a new standard for states across the nation in combating campus sexual assault,” said Tracey Vitchers, program executive director. “Pennsylvania’s leadership on this issue should serve as a model for state governments across the country, and a reminder that fighting sexual assault in our nation’s educational institutions requires bold, forward-thinking investments that ensure safe learning environments for all.”

Colleges and universities can use the grants to create programs ranging from campus-wide training for students, faculty and staff, to institutional campaigns to raise awareness of the reporting process and the resources available to survivors of sexual violence.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently praised Wolf for the initiative and announced that his office is revisiting its latest performance audit on the issue.

DePasquale’s 2015 performance audit examined the State System of Higher Education’s ability to handle grievances and notices of discrimination related to sexual discrimination and sexual violence on campuses. The audit, which evaluated compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act, found the state system needed to make improvements in both areas.

“Title IX deals with a wide range of policies and procedures for preventing sexual violence and sexual discrimination in all aspects of college life,” DePasquale said last summer. “The Clery Act requires an annual report on campus crime statistics for each state-owned university.”

This follow-up special report will begin this year.

Rep. Meuser calls for border

security, end to the shutdown

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, this week made his first floor speech as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, calling on Congress to work together to provide resources to secure our border and end the ongoing government shutdown.

“This government shutdown needs to be resolved,” Meuser said on the House floor. “The people know it is up to this Congress to do it and to do so in short order. Despite the high level of political morass we must wade through in these first days of this 116th Congress, I continue to believe that this Congress can do things better and actually work together to get things done for the American people.”

He went on: “Politics has no place in this serious matter. The border agents, including Chris Cabrera of the National Border Patrol Council, emphasizes that a wall, or a barrier, is an essential tool. We, here in Congress, must provide the means so they can do their job. The people want us to work together for our country, not for ourselves or our political parties. Let’s not continue to let the people down, let’s show that this Congress can do things better.”

AG: Shutdown forcing some

to seek benefits from state

With the federal government shutdown lingering well into its third week, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale this week noted that federal contract employees who have no hope of getting back pay are facing dire choices, including applying for jobless benefits.

“An estimated four million people nationwide work for the federal government on a contract basis, many in low-wage or part-time jobs,” DePasquale said. “Unlike full-time employees who may eventually receive back pay, these workers have no chance of being paid for the time they were needlessly furloughed.”

The situation, DePasquale said, is driving some impacted workers to apply for unemployment compensation at a time when the state’s benefit system is already busy handling applications resulting from seasonal job market fluctuations.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry saw a huge surge in jobless benefit applications from impacted federal workers in the final week of December — up almost 850 percent from the same week one year earlier,” DePasquale said. “While I’m glad the state is ready to assist, the unemployment compensation system was not designed to handle what has turned into a hostage situation.”

DePasquale noted that small businesses that rely on federal contracts may not be able to sustain a prolonged financial hit or may face the loss of their workforce as employees look for other jobs.

“As Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog, it’s my job to speak up whenever a situation results in extra costs to taxpayers or a disruption to our economy,” DePasquale said. “The pointless federal shutdown is causing hardship for tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians and it’s time for Washington elites to stop playing games with the lives of hardworking Americans.”

Pa. asking banks, others

to help furloughed workers

Pennsylvania Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann this week issued a letter asking banks, credit unions, and financial services companies to extend their support to federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown.

“Many hardworking federal employees who live and work in Pennsylvania are being impacted by this shutdown,” Wiessmann said. “As they cope with the challenge of temporarily delayed income, I am asking financial services organizations to consider ways they can be responsive to the hardships these employees are facing.”

The letter was directed to all Pennsylvania state-chartered, licensed, and registered financial services companies, and federally chartered banks and credit unions.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.