The following section lays out the concrete policies and laws that Nikil will help fight for when elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate’s first District.
Currently, a million and a half Pennsylvanians pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing and the number of affordable units in the Commonwealth is shrinking. Our remaining stock of public and subsidized housing is crumbling or has been demolished, as the population in need of these units is growing.
We need a Homes Guarantee.
A generational investment in housing and renters’ rights is necessary to not only reverse these trends, but to address unmet affordability needs. The magnitude and breadth of the current crisis requires a multi-dimensional approach.
The United States is alone in the developed world in its failure to cover healthcare for its residents, mandate paid parental leave, and adequately subsidize the cost of child and longterm elder care. The fastest growing section of the country’s workforce, home health care aides, are among the poorest paying and most insecure jobs in the country. As the father of a young child, and a freelancer who has struggled with mounting healthcare costs, Nikil knows the squeeze that the current system places on working people, and the staggering amount of debt that people are forced to shoulder just to make ends meet.
A dynamic and innovative society is one that cares. We need to plan for an aging society, to make childcare affordable, and guarantee healthcare for everyone.
Our state is suffering from a triple crisis of economic inequality, ecological devastation and climate change, and public disinvestment. Most Pennsylvanians’ wages have stagnated, and many communities across our state suffer from deep poverty and despair. The climate crisis threatens the futures of people all over Pennsylvania—none more so than frontline and vulnerable communities and young people—on top of the thousands of premature deaths and tens of billions of dollars of public health costs already caused by fossil fuel extraction and consumption. And our state government’s dramatic neglect of public services has led to toxic schools, unaffordable college, and crumbling infrastructure—all while working class Pennsylvanians shoulder far too much of the state’s tax burden.
Every day another story comes out in the Inquirer about how Philly schools are toxic. Serving a high proportion of black and brown students, members of our school communities from teachers to parents to children have to worry whether they’re going to get cancer from their school building. From mold control to heating and cooling, we need better infrastructure. That takes money. Yet Philly schools keep getting left in lurch. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is 47th in the country when it comes to public higher education spending. We need a new approach to education that focuses on infrastructure, facilities, and funding. Nikil’s Green New Deal for Schools is that plan.
Pennsylvania is one of the world’s leaders in mass incarceration. Our incarceration rate exceeds those of every country in the world, including our own. When that rate includes our fellow Pennsylvanians on probation or parole, we have the extraordinary dishonor of being the second most incarcerated state in the United States, lagging only behind Georgia.
It is past time to make Pennsylvania a leader in mass liberation, not mass incarceration. Pennsylvania has made progress in this fight, thanks to the dedication of organizers and social movements in our city, across the state, and across the country. But there is still much to be done. To get it done, we need senators in Harrisburg who understand we cannot solve our social problems with prisons; who understand and address the pain and suffering our system of criminal punishment has inflicted; and who take seriously the harms victims suffer by developing true mechanisms of accountability.
On Monday, April 6th, Rick Krajewski and Nikil Saval released their joint “COVID-19 Recovery Platform for Pennsylvania”. The campaigns have implemented programs to connect neighbors to mutual aid services through phone banking. Both teams have robust volunteer programs and have reached out to 62,000 voters so far this election cycle and 28,000 neighbors since the COVID–19 crisis ensued. The COVID–19 recovery platform follows the campaigns’ immediate response and proposes a larger vision for Pennsylvania amidst and after this crisis. None of the other candidates, including the incumbents in both races, have developed a recovery platform or launched mutual aid services.
COVID-19 is a crisis of public health. But it is also one of labor, housing, care, education, the carceral system and our environment. It is a crisis of a system that already failed to deliver safety and health for a majority of Americans.
Working-class people, already in crisis, will suffer the worst effects of the pandemic and our economic collapse. Last year, the Federal Reserve surveyed Americans and found that 40 percent—140 million people—would have trouble coming up with $400 in an emergency. COVID-19 is that emergency, and it has brought millions more into crisis. More and more people are being asked to come up with money they don’t have: for nursing home stays, medical bills, rent, food. More and more people are being asked to make choices among essential goods—even when they need all of them to survive.
Covid-19 is also an opportunity. Some features of the recovery plan have delivered versions of what organizers have wanted for decades: Expanded unemployment compensation; guaranteed paid leave; government reimbursements for hospitals treating uninsured patients; moratoriums on evictions; the accelerated release of elderly and juvenile prisoners. All of these, however insufficient to meet current and future demands, are signals that the government can do what we always wanted it to do. We could have always kept people in their homes; we could have always freed our people. We need to discern these signals from the noise around them—to turn those brief flares into durable sources of light.
As candidates for the Pennsylvania state legislature, we have heard from our future constituents about their needs. As organizers, we have also worked for years with social movements that have sought to lay the groundwork for an equitable and sustainable future. This platform draws on both kinds of work: we are amplifying the needs of our constituents and the demands raised by organizations such as Put People First–PA, Amistad Law Project, Abolitionist Law Center, and the Our City Our Schools coalition. It is a response to what we need now, and it is a plan to guarantee and save our future.
Love, health, solidarity,
Rick Krajewski & Nikil Saval
COVID-19 is throwing countless fellow Pennsylvanians out of work: over a million people have filed for unemployment compensation, the highest number in any state, accounting for 20 percent of all unemployment claims (even though Pennsylvania only has four percent of the US workforce). Though many will receive meager assistance in the form of this compensation, thousands more, such as undocumented workers, will not be able to file. Gig workers, misclassified as independent contractors, also face enormous hurdles in their ability to get assistance and have access to healthcare.
There are over 47,000 people held in prisons and correctional facilities in Pennsylvania. 1,900 are over the age of 60, and countless prisoners have health conditions that put them at high risk if exposed to coronavirus.
There are only four ventilators in the entire Department of Corrections. They are currently in use at SCI-Laurel Highlands, a state facility that houses inmates that are elderly or have several illnesses.
We do not know what resources exist in our local Philadelphia jails, which currently house 4,800 people. With the woefully inadequate resources currently at the DOC’s and First Judicial District’s disposal, anything that does not result in a mass release of people from prisons and jails would be a grave mistake. We are facing a public health hazard that will affect inmates, staff, and family members. We call on the Department of Corrections, Governor Wolf, and the First Judicial District to enact the following:
COVID-19 has completely disrupted our lives as many people lose jobs and income, businesses are closed, and many people struggle to figure out how they’re going to pay rent and mortgages. We know that our lives will be disrupted even worse by catastrophes caused by climate change. A stimulus plan that bails out fossil fuel executives will only put profits into the hands of the wealthiest and entrench our reliance on fossil fuels. Our lives will be greatly improved by enacting a green stimulus plan, laid out below, to counteract the economic downturn and ensure a just recovery. The question isn’t whether we’ll need a major economic recovery stimulus, but what kind of stimulus we pursue. A green stimulus will help make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead.
Pennsylvania needs a green stimulus.
COVID-19 is exacerbating our state’s already severe housing crisis. Already prior to this moment, 125,000 Philadelphians paid over half their income in homeownership costs or rent. That number is going to grow dramatically as thousands lose their jobs. We need immediate action to protect all residents. We also need to take major steps to protect housing insecure people in our city.
Rick and Nikil support the following measures on the state level to stabilize the housing crisis, as well as lay the groundwork for a more just housing future for all of us:
After the 2008 financial crisis, our government responded by making severe funding cuts to our public education funding while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. We have felt the aftermath of this austerity measure ever since– our schools are overextended, understaffed, and long overdue for repairs. Philadelphia’s public schools already have unsafe conditions due to exposure to lead and asbestos. Any cleaning of our local schools due to coronavirus must include remediation of our classrooms’ existing toxic conditions.
We must also safeguard against any widening of learning gaps because of economic inequality. This means ensuring that all children are given adequate resources and attention for continued learning.
Lastly, public higher education and technical schools have also been devastated by the coronavirus outbreak. Any safety net must be extended to their faculty, workers, and students.
The COVID-19 crisis is a crisis of care. Our healthcare system is a monumental demonstration of how the insurance companies and many hospitals worship profits over people. People seeking care for a potentially fatal virus are assessed thousands of dollars if they lack healthcare. Decades of understaffing have led to a situation in which there are not nearly enough nurses to care for a burgeoning population of the ill (to say nothing of protective equipment for those nurses, and hospital beds for those that are ill).The lack of a single-payer and public hospital system is glaringly apparent.
Meanwhile caregivers for children and the elderly are on the frontlines of the crisis. Essential workers lack the means to afford necessary childcare, while most caregivers are out of work for the near future. Home health care aides lack most job protections, and are among the greatest risk of . Our lack of a system for long-term elder care with an aging population is also glaringly apparent.
Nikil and Rick support the following immediate measures: