REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — President Joe Biden said Sunday he is considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources to promote abortion access even though the White House has said it doesn’t seem like “a great option.”
He also offered a message to people enraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that ended a constitutional right to abortion and who have been demonstrating across the country: “Keep protesting. Keep making your point. It’s critically important.”
The president, in remarks to reporters during a stop on a bike ride near his family’s Delaware beach house, said he lacks the power to force the dozen-plus states with strict restrictions or outright bans on abortion to allow the procedure.
“I don’t have the authority to say that we’re going to reinstate Roe v. Wade as the law of the land,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision from 1973 that had established a national right to abortion. Biden said Congress would have to codify that right and for that to have a better chance in the future, voters would have to elect more lawmakers who support abortion access.
Biden said his administration is trying to do a “lot of things to accommodate the rights of women” after the ruling, including considering declaring a public health emergency to free up federal resources. Such a move has been pushed by advocates, but White House officials have questioned both its legality and effectiveness, and noted it would almost certainly face legal challenges.
The president said he has asked officials “to look at whether I have the authority to do that and what impact that would have.”
On Friday, Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council, said it “didn’t seem like a great option.”
“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple things: One is that it doesn’t free very many resources,” she told reporters. “It’s what’s in the public health emergency fund, and there’s very little money — tens of thousands of dollars in it. So that didn’t seem like a great option. And it also doesn’t release a significant amount of legal authority. And so that’s why we haven’t taken that action yet.”
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
The Tyler Public Library on Saturday held a pirate party in the form of a Sea Farer’s Faire event. The first-time event included performances, vendors, food trucks along with children’s activities.
The event was part of the library’s Summer Reading Club Programs, according to reference librarian and event coordinator Rozanna Bennett.
“This event is part of our Summer Reading Club Programs. The theme this year is ‘Oceans of Possibilities.’ To us that meant pirates,” Bennett said. “So we decided to do a mini renaissance fair at the Library. Local vendors are on hand to sell their wares and a portion of the proceeds come back to the Library for future programming.”
Bennett said the program is important to keep young readers on track during the school break.
“Summer is such an important time for young readers. The reading club itself helps prevent the ‘summer slide’ which can cause children to lose the learning momentum they had during the school year,” she said. “Programs like these help to engage the community and introduce patrons to the library and provide them the opportunity to do a free activity.”
“In addition, this event helps our local businesses. They get the opportunity to come and get their name out there. It also benefits the community by giving them a cool, free activity as well as the opportunity to support local businesses,” Bennett added.
Bennett said pirate and Viking costumes were encouraged.
“We wanted to create a little faire type vibe,” she said.
Bennett said there were a few more weeks to sign up for the Summer Reading Program which consists of logging your books and time which enters participants into a raffle to win prizes.
For more information, call 903-593-7323 or visit the Tyler Public Library Facebook page.
JACKSON, Miss. — When Antonio McGowan left the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman after serving 17 years, he was free for the first time since he was 15. But as an adult finally out from behind bars, he immediately found himself confined to menial labor.
McGowan needed stable work, for a paycheck and to keep busy, but temporary gigs were all he could find. Just as those around him counseled the importance of maintaining a routine, he became trapped in a cycle of odd jobs and irregular hours. He trimmed grass one week and painted a house the next. But he couldn’t land anything full time, and the unpredictability of his income proved challenging. Disconnection notices and unpaid bills piled up.
“Things weren’t in place,” McGowan said. “They weren’t where I wanted them to be as far as being an individual back in society. It was a struggle.”
After several years adrift, McGowan was finally able to regain his footing with the help of the Hinds County Reentry Program, a workforce training program for former inmates created in October. Reentry programs are one way employers are trying to fill some of the 11.3 million open jobs in the U.S. amid a dire national labor shortage. The practice of employing people with a criminal record is known as “second-chance hiring.”
In rosier economic times, many former prisoners faced steep obstacles to finding work. The labor shortage sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic now presents them with opportunities, said Eric Beamon, a recruiter for MagCor, a company that provides job training to people in Mississippi correctional facilities.
“We think the pandemic, in a sense, was a big help,” Beamon said. “If no one wants to work anymore or if everyone wants to work from home, employers are begging for employees.”
Some studies have shown that stable jobs are a major factor in reducing recidivism. Still, not everyone is willing to hire an ex-convict, and a lack of job opportunities for those with a criminal record is still stymieing workforce participation in the economy, Stephanie Ferguson, a senior manager of employment policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a May report.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, barriers faced by people with felony convictions were linked to a loss of at least 1.7 million employees from the workforce and a cost of at least $78 billion to the economy in 2014, the year that McGowan left prison.
The current desperate straits in which employers now find themselves could help spur a change. In a 2021 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM; the SHRM Foundation and the Charles Koch Institute, 53% of human resource professionals said they would be willing to hire people with criminal records — up from just 37% in 2018.
That’s where programs like Hinds County Reentry and MagCor step in, helping to make former inmates more desirable as candidates by properly training them to reintegrate into society and matching them with jobs tailored to their skills and interests.
McGowan said he’d like to work in air conditioning and heating repair, and the program’s staff members recommended him to Upchurch Services, a Mississippi-based company that allows workers to take classes in repair services while gaining experience in the field. McGowan was hired the second week of May.
He makes $15 per hour, working 40 hours per week with paid overtime. He said he has full health care coverage — and he loves the work.
“Summer, winter, spring or fall, you’ll need either heat or air conditioning,” he said. “So I found something I can help people out with. At the same time, it can keep me in the working class, so I don’t fall back into the things I used to do.”
Beamon, one of numerous recruiters staffing booths at a job fair for ex-prisoners in Jackson recently — other companies represented included Waffle House, Amazon and Columbus, Mississippi-based Lyle Machinery — said he has seen an influx of new jobs and wages that are rising precipitously, some to as much as $20 per hour. Mississippi has not enacted a state minimum wage, and the federal standard is still $7.25.
In addition to skills training, the workforce reentry programs can provide parolees with mentors who have firsthand knowledge about the travails of life after incarceration. For Savannah Hayden, who was released from prison in November after serving time for five felony convictions, that person was Cynetra Freeman. Freeman is the founder of the Mississippi Center for Reentry, an organization offering work readiness programs to inmates preparing to leave prison.
Freeman remembers taking a bus to an employment agency the day after she was released from prison. She said the agency told her she would never get a job because of her record.
“This crushed me and made me think about others who felt the same devastation,” Freeman said. “Employment is one of the toughest aspects for a person who is just returning home.”
Hayden thought she might string together temporary jobs to make ends meet. But Freeman encouraged her to think long term, specifically about a job in which she could use her experience as a formerly incarcerated person to help others reentering society. Hayden now works for Freeman as the mental health and drug addiction coordinator at the Center for Reentry.
“After so many doors are slammed in your face, you get tired of asking,” Hayden said. “But there will be a person who says ‘yes,’ and that will change your life.”
Hayden was adopted and spent years in the state’s foster system.
“It didn’t dawn on me that I might be able to help people who grew up in the same position,” she said. “I think I found my niche.”
McGowan, who had been convicted of violent crimes, said his work is more than just a job.
“It’s the look on someone’s face,” he said. “When you fix something of theirs that’s been broken, they just smile. I spent so many years hurting people. So I know the look people have when they feel hurt. To see the reverse of that, it’s enough to make me happy.”
Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mikergoldberg.