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In Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks, News by admin

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PHILADELPHIA—Today, City Councilmembers Helen Gym (At-Large), Kendra Brooks (At-Large), and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) released the following statement reacting to the amended City budget for fiscal year 2022, acknowledging the addition of several funding priorities that they fought for as a step in the right direction. However, the three elected officials also criticized the budget agreement for its failure to adequately invest in the local jobs and public services that struggling communities depend on and for its inclusion of broad wage tax cuts that will not provide significant relief for low-income residents, while foregoing tens of millions in needed tax dollars.
“After months of advocacy from Philadelphians whose families, businesses and neighborhoods have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we won major community investments that are now reflected in a new budget. Working class people, movement groups, and union members organized to fight tax cuts that would primarily benefit suburbanites, millionaires, and CEOs while siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars away from needed city services. The amended budget demonstrates that Philadelphians refuse to be sold a repackaged version of trickle-down economics and shows the power of working people organizing for the common good. But we must also acknowledge the shortcomings of this budget, which ultimately fails to reflect the moral priorities that Philadelphians have made clear over this past year. A budget that spends more on police and prisons, while failing to invest in our parks and open our libraries 7 days a week, does not meet the needs of our communities and the demands of our constituents.
“This budget is far from what Philadelphians deserve, but we made important steps forward on the road towards justice. United with movements across the city, we won funding for anti-violence programs, eviction prevention, non-police first responders, grants for small businesses and artists, and enforcement of local labor laws. We cannot police our way out of a crisis. We cannot evict our way out of housing insecurity. We cannot tax-cut our way out of poverty. It is up to us as a city to build a new model for economic revival and public safety that meets the needs of our communities and the residents that call them home.
“We won $3 million for our city’s nationally renowned eviction prevention model. When the pandemic broke out, we introduced and passed the Emergency Housing Protection Act, which built alternatives to eviction that keep renters and their families housed while helping landlords get paid. That included Philadelphia’s eviction diversion program, which helped reduce eviction by 75 percent, and was cited by the New York Times as a best-practice that the country should adopt. With new funding in this budget, we can expand that work by piloting Right to Counsel, which provides a lawyer for every low-income renter facing eviction.
“Together with our colleagues, and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia, we called for massive investments in anti-violence programs to address the gun violence crisis, and support young people. We won major new funding for community programs and public services that will improve the lives of families, prevent spiraling violence, and begin to heal the devastating trauma that gun violence inflicts on families and neighbors. After a year of relentless advocacy, the Black Lives Matter movement made it possible to fund non-police first responders for people experiencing mental health crises. Together we are proving that we can partner with communities to build alternatives to policing through a new vision for safe neighborhoods.
“We demanded an equitable recovery through grants for small and local businesses, particularly those with Black, Brown and immigrant ownership, and investments in the wages and benefits of workers through a Quality Jobs Program. This budget now includes millions for a Black and Brown business recovery plan, and additional staff for the Labor Department’s Office of Worker Protection. This is only a start, but we shaped a new budget that makes larger investments in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, where they will have the greatest impact in building wealth and helping our neighborhoods flourish.
“Too many of our departments that provide crucial public services have still not even been restored to their pre-pandemic funding levels, much less given the resources they need. We won more funding for public services, but a budget that doesn’t allow Parks and Recreations to keep rec centers open until midnight is a budget that fails to meet the most urgent needs of our communities. We won $5 million for arts grants. But a budget that does not fund robust arts programming citywide, and does not create living wage jobs for artists across the city, is a budget that fails to support the vibrant communities that every neighborhood deserves.
“Our ability to make urgently needed community investments is limited by permanent tax cuts giving away millions and awarding less than $1 per paycheck to the average person. A crisis is a calling to help those struggling the most. It is unacceptable to cut taxes for affluent professionals while low-income homeowners lose shrinking income to rising property taxes.
“We cannot afford to simply recover, to revert back to normal, when normal was failing so many of our neighbors. Philadelphia needs more than a recovery — we need a revival.”
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