What You Need to Know: Dr. Levine is confirmed, American Rescue Plan money is coming, and a mayoral forum on LGBTQ issues

Written by on March 26, 2021

What You Need to Know: Dr. Levine is confirmed, the American Rescue Plan money is coming, and a mayoral forum focusing on LGBTQ issues 

By Brad Klein and Jen Rehill

March 26, 2021

Graphic from the Allentown LGBTQ Mayoral Forum event Thursday, April 1 presented by 91.3 WLVR, PBS39 and Bradbury-Sullivan LGBTQ Community Center.

In our regular Friday feature, “What You Need to Know,” WLVR’s Brad Klein speaks with News Director Jen Rehill about the week’s top local news.

They begin with the confirmation by the US Senate of former Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Rachel Levine to the number two position in the US Department of Health. Also, a review of the substantial amount of federal money already flowing into the region from the pandemic relief bill. And a look forward to the forum among Democratic candidates for Allentown mayor that will focus on LGBTQ issues. 

That event begins at 7 p.m. April 1, and will air on both PBS39 and 91.3 WLVR. Also live streaming on the PBS39 and WLVR News Facebook pages. Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, and WLVR’s Tyler Pratt, will moderate the forum.

Listen to the story.

Brad Klein

“Well, on March 24, Dr. Rachel Levine, who we all know as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, was confirmed to the number two spot at the U.S. Department of Health.” 

Jen Rehill

“Brad, it’s not often that Pennsylvania sends a leader up to the national stage that is breaking ground in this way. In fact, she’s the first transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation. And in a statement that she released on March 25, she said that she was humbled by that.” 


“It’s been fascinating watching her story in Pennsylvania and then having her move onto the national stage. And it was fascinating to see that U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a Republican of course, voted against her confirmation.” 


“You know, that wasn’t a surprise to people who have been watching Dr. Levine’s career for a while, even though she was well regarded as the leader of Pennsylvania’s Health Department through the Covid crisis. Not without criticism, but overall, she was seen as a calm leader who helped to steer the state through the worst of the crisis. She also has faced criticism, hate speech and bigotry because she is a transgender leader and we saw that echoed on the national stage.

“But I think one thing that’s really interesting about this is she did address that in the statement that she released about this confirmation. And she said in particular, she’s speaking to transgender youth and saying that she wants to do everything she can to support and advocate for them, even recognizing that they may be faced with hostility from some in the U.S. But, she said, ‘There is a place for you in America and in our government. Our more perfect union includes you, too.’” 


“On the subject of COVID-19, the pandemic relief money from this enormous relief bill has started moving into the Lehigh Valley. Can you start to see how it’s being spent already?” 


“The money is coming into the Valley quickly, and local leaders have stood up already a couple of programs to roll out funding to some really hard hit areas. Just this week a group of leaders got together to announce $7.5 million that’s going to be given out to local restaurants and businesses in the hospitality industry. These are for $10,000 grants and that they’re hoping that that’s going to help about 700 local businesses.

“Also, just in Lehigh County, Lehigh County got $24 million for financially strapped tenants and landlords. People can apply for grants for help with rent or paying mortgages on properties. And it was interesting, the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley has been very involved with housing issues, and they’re writing the checks on that program. The executive director there Alan Jennings, says he’s never seen resources like this deployed so quickly, or at this amount.” 


“It’s really interesting. And in a bigger picture, statewide, there’s actually $1 billion, that’s with a ‘B,’ in federal food assistance that will be eventually distributed throughout the state, aimed largely at students who are missing out on meals that would have been associated with their schooling.” 


“We’re keeping an eye on this, Brad, and I think we’re going to see more such programs coming through in the next couple of weeks, as well.” 


“We have a really interesting event coming up on April 1. That’s this Thursday. It’s a chance to hear from the Allentown mayoral candidates on LGBTQ issues.” 


“PBS39 and WLVR are partnering with the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. This forum is going to air live on TV, live on radio at 7 p.m., and it’s going to stream online on our Facebook pages as well. 

“That’s going to be moderated by our own reporter and All Things Considered Host Tyler Pratt and Adrian Shanker who is the executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, and it’s going to include the four Democratic candidates for mayor. The Republican candidate on the ballot, Tim Ramos, declined an invitation so people will be able to hear from incumbent Mayor Ray O’Connell and the other Democratic candidates who are on the ballot. And people can submit their questions, which may be included in the program.”


“It will be really interesting to see how and if these candidates differentiate themselves on LGBTQ issues locally.” 


“I was talking to Adrian Shanker a little bit about the scope of the program, and he said that it’s not just about LGBTQ issues, because LGBTQ issues in Allentown are everyone’s issues. Issues like housing, economic development, and policing. Those will be some of the topics that get raised next Thursday.” 


“Thanks for joining us, Jen.” 


“Thank you, Brad.” 

“What You Need to Know” is a regular Friday feature on 91.3 WLVR. Catch up with the least episodes HERE.

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