In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Derek Green, Featured, Kenyatta Johnson, Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, Mark Squilla, News by admin

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PHILADELPHIA — City Council today gave its preliminary approval to a fiscal 2022 city budget that invests over $155 million in violence prevention programs to curb escalating gun violence, funds a $400 million program to create affordable housing, preserve neighborhoods and spur job growth, supports efforts to lift Philadelphians out of poverty, continues reforms in policing, and commits additional funds to revitalize the arts, culture and hospitality sectors of the local economy.

The $5.2 billion budget received favorable votes from City Council’s Committee of the Whole today, and then also received first-reading by the full Council in its regular Meeting. Final passage of the budget is scheduled for June 24.

The budget deal agreed to by Council and the Kenney administration comes at a time when Philadelphia is slowly beginning to re-emerge from the impact of a COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated the country and the world, and left Philadelphia with 153,724 infections and 3,705 deaths.

Large parts of the city’s economy were shut down by the pandemic and public health orders over the last year. But as the city’s vaccination rate rises and the number of new COVID-19 cases falls, officials have rescinded many of those mandates, and the city is re-opening. That has led Councilmembers to want to do everything they can do to help Philadelphians recover from the pandemic, find opportunity and jobs, and require more racial equity in how the city functions.

“Philadelphia residents have weathered multiple storms this past year,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), who led Council’s budget negotiations with the Kenney administration, with ongoing feedback from his leadership team and other Councilmembers. “We promised at the start of this budget process that whatever we did collectively would be focused on investing in the people of Philadelphia, and dealing with the significant racial and economic disparities revealed by the pandemic. We have much more work to do, but this budget agreement keeps that promise.”

Here are the key elements of the budget agreement approved by Council today:

The budget approved today invests more than $155 million in gun violence prevention programs and opportunity and jobs initiatives
– strategies to curb a wave of gun violence that has Philadelphia on a pace to set records in homicides and shootings this year. The city experienced 499 homicides and over 2,400 shootings last year.

Highlights of the added funding and ongoing violence prevention efforts include:

  • $30 Million in additional spending by the Kenney administration that includes 911 triage/mental health co-responders, group violence intervention, jobs initiatives, and restored funding for parks and recreation and the Free Library
  • $49 Million to community organizations, including $20 Million in healing, prevention, safe havens and community empowerment initiatives with input from City Council, plus $28 Million for out-of-school and summer programming for children, and $500,000 for targeted community investment grants
  • $7.1 Million for Jobs training & workforce development led by Commerce Department
  • $1.5 Million for two new Curfew Centers
  • New Normal Jobs Initiative ($10 Million in FY21)
  • Anti-Violence Resources Network
  • Enhanced security cameras at recreation centers
  • Stronger, commonsense gun laws – ongoing lawsuit against Commonwealth of PA.

The budget agreement supports financing for the Neighborhood Preservation Initiative (NPI), a $400 Million citywide program approved by Council to preserve neighborhoods across Philadelphia. NPI will:

  • Construct thousands of new affordable homes
  • More inclusive construction workforce – job training, apprenticeships
  • Expand contracting opportunities for Black and Brown businesses
  • Preserve existing affordable rental units
  • Keep homeowners in their homes with repair grants
  • Create homeownership opportunities for Philadelphians — provide down payments and closing costs
  • Assist disabled homeowners – adaptive modification grants
  • Prevent evictions — funding programs such as Phila. Eviction Prevention Program ($3 Million)
  • $6.5 Million to the Phila. Land Bank for vacant property and lot acquisitions
  • Stimulate small business growth – revitalizing neighborhood commercial corridors
  • NPI should generate 16,000 jobs & $1.5 Billion in economic activity over 4 years

The budget agreement continues investments in Council’s Poverty Action Plan, an ambitious, long-term strategy to address Philadelphia’s deep-rooted problem that includes a quarter of the city’s population living in poverty. The plan includes:

  • Invest $20 Million in Poverty Action Fund (FY21 & FY22 combined)
  • Spurring $5 Million in added private philanthropy
  • Obtain over $450 Million in federal & state benefits for Philadelphians
  • Create public-private partnership with United Way, with the goal of lifting 100,000 Philadelphia residents out of poverty by 2023

A citywide process led by Councilmembers Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Isaiah Thomas explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on artists and arts and culture organizations in Philadelphia, and led to recommendations by a special committee to invest more strategically in artists and arts groups – with a focus on neighborhoods.

  • The budget invests nearly $7 Million more in the arts & culture, hospitality and tourism sectors across all Philadelphia neighborhoods.

City Council consistently supports the needs of the School District of Philadelphia and the several hundred thousand children in city and charter schools. Council has continued to support schools this past year by:

  • Holding hearings and working with the District to ensure preparedness for after-COVID-19 career opportunities for graduates, based on labor market needs
  • Holding hearings to ensure the District is prepared to spend an added $1.3 Billion coming to schools through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan
  • The most COVID-safe schools exceed ventilation standards due to retrofits supported by the Philadelphia Energy Authority and Council, saving 38% on their energy bills, or $375,000/year per school. More retrofits are planned.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Council has heard the pleas from Philadelphians for necessary reforms in policing. This budget agreement includes:

  • Residency requirement for new police recruits
  • $14 Million over Five-Year-Plan to outfit Philadelphia police officers with tasers
  • $7.2 Million to fund behavioral health mobile crisis units & crisis hotline
  • $2.1 Million to operate Citizens Police Oversight Commission

Comments from Council leaders underscored Council’s historic commitment to reducing gun violence and requiring more opportunity and racial equity in how Philadelphia government functions for all its residents.

“I am proud that Council has spoken with one voice in affirming that this budget’s top priority is significantly reducing the highest levels of gun violence and homicides our city has ever seen by investing in our people,” said Council Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District). “We can achieve this by creating real jobs, real opportunities and hope in communities that have for years been beaten down by the toxic mix of poverty and systemic racism. This budget represents Philadelphia’s blueprint moving forward.”

A key aspect of the budget agreement is $2.1 million to operate the new Citizens Police Oversight Commission, a reform championed by Council Majority Whip Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District): “The city has prioritized police reform; and we are adequately funding the first phase of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission. We’re grateful. Governments expose various positions, but appropriate their true intentions.”

Council Deputy Whip Mark Squilla (1st District) focused on the budget agreement’s commitment to add nearly $7 million to supports arts and culture organizations and a hospitality sector hit hard during the pandemic. “I am pleased to have worked with my Council colleagues on a budget amendment to provide additional funding for gun violence prevention, workforce training and job creation, social service enhancements, quality of life improvements, and the arts. The future of our City depends upon a safer Philadelphia with vibrant arts, culture, livable communities and economic opportunities for residents and visitors. I believe the budget changes that Council is supporting will get us closer to those goals.”

Councilmember Derek Green (At Large), who as Finance Committee chair held a hearing examining gun violence and systemic racism, said: “In addition to our work to address gun violence, we want to ensure that Black and Brown communities and small businesses do not get left behind in the recovery, as we emerge from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. It is incumbent upon us not to squander the opportunity we’ve been given to meet this pivotal moment of racial reckoning, and give those who have been historically marginalized by systemic racism an equitable start.”

Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), Chair of Council’s Appropriation Committee said, “This has been the most difficult budget I have participated in.  Establishing new priorities and opportunities requires a realignment of our budget.  I believe this budget sets a different tone for how we want to invest in people and assure a more equitable recovery.”

Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), who co-chairs Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, said: “We have reached an emergency status when it comes to gun violence. I want to thank all members of City Council for working together to make the Philly PEACE Budget a reality, especially the hard work of Council President Darrell Clarke. I also want to thank Mayor Kenney for his support of the Philly PEACE Budget.”

Photo: C. Smyth/Visit Philadelphia

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