Good morning, Mr. President and members of Council. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. My name is Nadia Hewka and I'm an attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, which represents City residents from throughout the City. I live in South Philadelphia myself in the 1st District.
I'm speaking about Bill 120054, entitled "An ordinance amending Chapter 19-1300 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled 'Real Estate Taxes,' by providing for installment payment agreements and requiring commencement of enforcement action, all under certain terms and conditions."
I'm here today to say that many Philadelphians would be more able to pay their delinquent real estate taxes if their criminal records were expunged, removing a barrier to employment. According to Attorney General Holder's Reentry Council, about one in three Americans have criminal history records. The percentage in Philadelphia is probably higher than that.
According to the Society of Human Resource Managers, 90 percent of employers do background checking. The result is that many people with criminal records have severe employment barriers that limit their income. The employment barrier that is represented by a criminal record was vividly demonstrated here in Philadelphia a few weeks ago when 3,000 persons with criminal records showed up at a job fair and were turned away because of the record crowds. But some criminal cases can be expunged and, most notably, those include arrests, summary convictions, and perhaps more as the Pennsylvania General Assembly considers a bill to allow some misdemeanor convictions to be expunged.
We urge City Council to fund Community Legal Services to handle expungement cases. We believe that an investment of $100,000 would generate $6 million annually in savings and tax revenues for $60 return for $1 invested, as well as improve lives here in Philadelphia.
Thank you very much.