Transcripts of full meetings of the council.

Good morning, President Clarke and members of Council. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. My name is Brendan Lynch. I'm an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. As you know, we represent low-income Philadelphians in a variety of civil legal matters.

I'm technically addressing Bill 130244, an ordinance which authorizes transfers in appropriations from the General Fund. The main point I want to make today is that Council has the opportunity when considering appropriations to appropriate a small amount that we believe will pay big dividends. There's a huge problem in the City of Philadelphia of people with criminal record being denied employment. As you may know, the Attorney General's Reentry Council has estimated that as many as one in three Americans have a criminal record. The number in Philly may be even higher.

Over 90 percent of employers now do criminal background checks. Just this past week, I've been assisting one of your constituents, a Philadelphia resident, who is desperately trying to find work, who has applied to multiple people and has been told by multiple employers in the healthcare field in the Philly region, You are qualified to work here, but we can't hire you until you clean your record. And this is a woman who has never been convicted of any charges, and she is being denied employment. She's not paying wage tax. She's not paying other taxes. We'd like to help her do that.

I'm sure you all remember the incident last week where 3,000 people showed up at a job fair because they're desperate to find work, and the reason they're so anxious for City help is that they're being turned away due to their criminal records.

Fortunately, many criminal records can be expunged. Arrest records can be expunged. Summary offenses can often be expunged, and the General Assembly in Harrisburg is considering legislation that might expand the number of offenses that can be taken off of somebody's record to include certain misdemeanors, and this can be a life-changing thing for the people involved.

We are, therefore, urging City Council to fund our office to do expungement cases. We do them regularly. We do them successfully, and we don't charge the approximately thousand dollars, which is the going rate for the private bar, but we can only do that if we have the staff to do it. And without getting into our financial picture, times are really tough and we need to be able to fund the work that we do.

We are asking Council to fund us to the tune of approximately a hundred thousand dollars. We believe based on data provided by the Economy League, solid numbers, people who have looked at the actual economic benefits of expungement, that a small investment could generate up to $6 million in tax revenue and savings. That's both wage taxes, that's reduced spending on people who have no alternative but to return to a life of crime. And we think that a $60 return for each dollar invested would be an excellent investment of taxpayer dollars, and we ask City Council to consider that strongly.

Thank you very much.

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