Eight months after announcing a Poverty Action Plan to help lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty – unveiled right before the Coronavirus pandemic – City Council Thursday took an important next step, authorizing the creation of a non-profit Poverty Action Fund to direct the plan, and announcing a $10 million initial grant to fund it.
Council’s legislation was approved unanimously and goes to the mayor for consideration. It paves the way for a $10 million grant and creation of the Poverty Action Fund, to be governed jointly by City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), a key partner in the endeavor.
In March, days before the coronavirus pandemic descended on the country and Philadelphia, City Council unveiled its Poverty Action Plan, the result of a year-long effort involving members of Council, the Kenney administration, business and non-profit leaders to examine the causes of the deep poverty afflicting Philadelphia and make concrete recommendations to address it.
“We unveiled our Poverty Action Plan in March – our Moon Shot to lift 100,000 people out of poverty,” said Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “Then the pandemic hit. But we’ve never lost our focus. By creating the Poverty Action Fund, and making this $10 million grant, we’re poised to move forward aggressively on poverty and the economic and racial disparities revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no time to waste.”
Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), who co-chaired Council’s Poverty Action Plan last year and this year, pointed to the innovative, evolving collaboration with the United Way and the city’s philanthropic and business communities as vital to this effort.
“The Poverty Action Fund is a historic effort that will leverage the best of our public and private sector partners to measurably reduce poverty through direct investments in people and programs, creating family-sustaining jobs and entrepreneurship, education and housing to improve people’s quality of life,” Quiñones Sánchez said.
“Creating opportunities that put people and our City’s collective purpose first is critical to reducing poverty and increasing economic mobility with communities,” said Bill Golderer, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, which will lead the nonprofit effort to raise matching funds and implement programming. “Achieving an equitable recovery from the pandemic will be the economic challenge of a lifetime. But in challenge lies opportunity, and we are grateful to Council President Clarke, Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez and Mayor Kenney for the City’s leadership and look forward to bringing private sector resources to the table.”
The non-profit Poverty Action Fund will be created by the city, including board appointees appointed by City Council President Clarke, Mayor Kenney, and the United Way, and governed by its board of directors.
CITY COUNCIL AND KENNEY ADMINISTRATION APPROVE $30 MILLION IN FUNDS FOR RENTERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES IMPACTED BY COVID-19 PANDEMIC
City Council and the Kenney administration on Thursday announced a new commitment of $30 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to aid renters and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) that the City received from the U.S. Treasury. The CARES Act authorized payment of these funds to states, local governments with populations of 500,000 or more. Since May 2020, the City has utilized federal, state, and local funding to assist thousands of tenants and small businesses.
“This additional $30 million is essential to help small businesses and renters struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Council President Clarke. “We need to do everything in our collective power to help keep businesses open, employees working, and renters and residents safe in their apartments and homes. This added funding is welcome news.”
“While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life, we recognize that some of our most vulnerable communities need more help to pay rent in order to stay in their homes and our small businesses need continued support to survive,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “That’s why this additional relief will be deployed as quickly as possible to prevent evictions and business closures, and to protect jobs.”
This latest allocation of funds brings the City’s direct support for small business assistance to $38.7 million and for rent relief to $39.4 million. When combined with other state and philanthropic funding sources, small businesses and nonprofits in Philadelphia will have received over $100 million in support and nearly $68 million has been spent or committed for helping Philadelphia renters.
Of the additional $30 million announced today, $20 million is committed to providing rental assistance for tenants who were eligible and applied for PHLRentAssist Phase 2, but their landlord did not respond. These tenants will now be able to receive a one-time payment. This payment is the tenant’s rent amount (not to exceed $1,500 per month) for up to six months of assistance; maximum total assistance is $9,000. This new funding will help the City serve an estimated additional 4,000 households that are in need and facing housing insecurity.
“Direct rental assistance is critical to ensuring public health and housing security for thousands of Philadelphians,” said Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez. “I am particularly encouraged that City Council, the Administration, and the Courts collaborated with renters and property owners to simplify this program. I look forward to continued public-private partnership as we chart a New Normal.”
COUNCIL APPROVES RESOLUTION APOLOGIZING FOR THE 1985 MOVE BOMBING
In a 2020 year filled not only with the pandemic and death caused by COVID-19, but also widespread racial unrest sparked by police-involved fatal shootings in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Wisconsin, the lingering emotions in the city from a 35-year-old incident – the MOVE bombing – were brought back to the surface in Council this week.
Council voted unanimously to approved a resolution offered by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) in which the city apologizes for the tragedy, which left 11 people, including five children, dead from a fiery conflagration that was sparked by an incendiary device – a bomb – dropped by a police helicopter onto a West Philadelphia rowhouse.
The resolution also states that the anniversary of the bombing, May 13th, should become an annual day of reflection and observation in the city.
Councilmember Gauthier said publicly last month, following the police-involved shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., which itself sparked widespread unrest in Philadelphia, that “we can draw a straight line from the unresolved pain and trauma of that day (MOVE incident) to Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing earlier this week in the very same neighborhood. Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
The service looks a little different this year but Philadelphia always honors its #Veterans.
— Darrell Clarke (@Darrell_Clarke) November 9, 2020
IN OTHER NEWS…
City Council Praises City Commissioners for Counting Over 700,000 Philadelphians’ Votes for President & Other Offices. On Thursday, Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) offered a resolution praising the widely-scrutinized work of the City Commissioners, the agency in charge of conducting elections in Philadelphia.
With the eyes of the country and the world on Philadelphia, Commissioners Lisa Deeley (Chair), Omar Sabir and Al Schmidt presided over an election in which many Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians voted by mail for the first time ever. Nearly 360,000 city voters cast ballots by mail, and for over a week now, the commissioners and their staff have counted the ballots at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, under the watchful eyes of media from around the world – and attentive observers from the campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. On Saturday morning, the commissioners posted 3,100 counted votes that led all the national networks (led first by CNN) to call Pennsylvania for former Vice President Biden, tipping the balance and the presidency to Mr. Biden and his vice-presidential running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
“We’re a tough, blue-collar city,” Councilmember Jones said. “We worship Rocky, we boo Santa Claus, and throw batteries at J.D. Drew. But we’re also known for the Philly Special and winning the Super Bowl. Our Commissioners – bipartisan – proved last week that no moment was too big for them. In Webster’s Dictionary, under what it means to be a Philadelphian, their names should be listed.”
Councilmember Johnson Issues Statement After Voters Approved Office of the Victim Advocate. Philadelphia voters voted affirmatively on three ballot questions last week, and one of them was to create an Office of Victim Advocate. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), the sponsor of the reform, issued a statement last Thursday thanking voters for their approval.
“I want to thank all Philadelphians for voting overwhelmingly to approve Ballot Question #2, which will create a new Office of Victim Advocate in Philadelphia,” Johnson said. “Thank you for supporting the mothers, fathers and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence in recent years by approving the Office. I put this question on the ballot for them.”
Johnson thanked multiple advocates for families and individuals victimized by gun violence for their work on the issue, including Dorothy Johnson-Speight of Mothers In Charge, Chantay Love of Every Murder is Real, Stanley Crawford of Black Male Community Council of Philadelphia, and many others.
“I will now work with the Kenney Administration to fund the office, find it a home, select the new Victim Advocate, and assemble an advisory board of citizens to help guide the work of the Victim Advocate,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes the new office will be operational by mid-2021.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
Inside PHLCouncil Podcast, Ep. 15 – Councilmember Isaiah Thomas
released November 3, 2020.
NEXT WEEK IN PHILADELPHIA CITY COUNCIL
Monday, November 16, 2020
Committee on Rules 9:30am
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Committee on Law and Government 10:00am
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Committee of the Whole 10:00am
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 10:00am
Committee on Public Health and Human Services 1:00pm
Friday, November 20, 2020
Committee on the Disabled and Persons with Special Needs 9:30am
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Ch. 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.