COUNCIL DEBATES KENNEY ADMINISTRATION’S VACCINE DISTRIBUTION PLAN
A day after the Federal government arrived in Philadelphia and opened a mass vaccination clinic, with the goal of vaccinating 6,000 people a day, 7 days a week for 6 weeks, Councilmembers had another debate Thursday over the substance of the city’s vaccine distribution plan, and whether enough is being done.
The impetus for the debate in Council was a budget transfer ordinance at the Kenney administration’s request to transfer $50 Million into designated categories for future spending by the city to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which has infected at least 114,755 residents and caused the deaths of at least 3,145 Philadelphians.
For a month, Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large) has urged Mayor Kenney and his Health Department to embrace Domb’s idea of using Lincoln Financial Field as a mass vaccination site. The mayor and Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley have rejected Domb’s idea, citing concerns that out-of-state residents or suburbanites might flock to the Linc, using up vaccines intended for city residents.
On Wednesday, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, with U.S, Marines and other military personnel, as the federal mass vaccine site began administering vaccine to front-line workers and people over age 75 or with pre-existing conditions. On Thursday in Council, Councilmember Domb said he still believed using the Eagles’ football stadium would allow even greater numbers of doses to be administered, and he criticized the Kenney administration for not including it. Domb also cited concerns about the city’s capacity to distribute its own supply of vaccines, which is separate from the FEMA supply, as more doses become available through the Biden Administation.
Multiple Councilmembers rose in defense of Domb’s advocacy for the city’s use of the Linc and his concerns about distribution, even as they also made clear they wanted Council to work together with the Kenney administration to focus on fighting COVID-19.
“We’ll keep fighting for equity in the delivery of this vaccine,” said Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez (7th District), “but Council will not be the hold-up in the vaccination of Philadelphians.”
Councilmember Derek Green (At Large) said: “We need to work together. We cannot spend our time fighting each other – we need to fight together against COVID-19.”
Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) disclosed that Council’s leadership team has begun regular, virtual meetings with Mayor Kenney and top aides, to better coordinate the city’s delivery of the vaccine. The budget transfer ordinance passed Council by a 15-2 vote, with Councilmember David Oh (At Large) joining Domb in opposition.
MEMBERS APPROVE COVID-19 VACCINE PROCUREMENT REFORM LEGISLATION
As Council debated the administration’s vaccine priorities, it also approved procurement reform legislation designed to ensure whatever vendors are selected to administer vaccine have the appropriate experience and that data on the equity of delivering the vaccine is made publicly available.
The reform legislation, Bill No. 210082, was introduced by Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District) on behalf of Council President Clarke, following the January debacle involving Philly Fighting COVID, a group of young entrepreneurs who were selected to distribute vaccine in the city, and then terminated by the Health Department when news reports surfaced raising questions about their qualifications and practices – including the group’s founder taking doses home to vaccinate friends.
Under the legislation approved Thursday:
Contract Requirements. Any proposed contract must specify the terms and conditions under which the vaccines are being provided.
The contract must state explicitly that it is subject to the requirements of the Code with respect to Economic Opportunity Plans.
The contract cannot be awarded unless the City has (1) specified the amount and type of experience that the entity administering doses must demonstrate to be eligible; (2) evaluated an applicant’s responsiveness; and (3) determined in writing that the applicant has the necessary experience.
Notification of Council. Council must be notified of any such contract not later than 2 days after it is entered into. The notice must describe the contract terms, including the experience of the entity that will administer the doses, and the demographic information that the entity will collect.
Reporting Requirements. The Health Commissioner, or an official named by the Mayor, must submit to the President and Chief Clerk – and post on the city’s website – this information once every two weeks:
• The entities or groups authorized to distribute COVID-19 vaccine
• The number of vaccine doses provided to each group
• The number of doses administered
• The race, ethnicity and age of the people vaccinated, and
• The priority category (1A, 1B, 1C or 2) of the vaccinated persons
“There is no more important public health function in Philadelphia now than delivering COVID-19 vaccine safely, efficiently, equitably and transparently to Philadelphians,” said Council President Clarke. “Council has a legislative oversight role in ensuring that the city contracts with other providers in the right way, and this legislation is designed to tighten that process and make it more transparent.”
COUNCIL APPROVES NEW NORMAL JOBS INITIATIVE TO STIMULATE JOBS & EMPLOYMENT DURING PANDEMIC
Council approved another budget transfer ordinance today – the New Normal Jobs Initiative – appropriating $4 Million towards a number of employment programs across the city to stimulate jobs creation during the pandemic.
From funding a same-day-pay program putting people to work cleaning vacant lots to workforce development in environmental stewardship projects, a jobs training program to provide home health aides with nursing certifications, and an employment training effort involving neighborhood commercial corridors, the New Normal Jobs Initiative is the latest action by Council to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia. The budget transfer ordinance received unanimous approval Thursday.
The programs being funded are:
Same Day Work and Pay program. $500,000 to continue supporting a same-day-pay employment effort putting people to work cleaning vacant city lots, under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Nearly 200 people have already been hired by the program to part-time positions.
PowerCorpsPHL. $1 Million for the Philadelphia Energy Authority to run a workforce development effort for at-risk youth. PowerCorpsPHL supports environmental stewardship and furthers city youth violence prevention efforts. The program engages out-of-school or out-of-work 18-30-year-olds in living wage jobs in energy and green infrastructure.
Upskilling Home Health Aides. $300,000 to fund a partnership between City Council, Philadelphia Works and District 1199c’s Training and Upgrading Fund. Advocated by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large), the partnership assists home health aides, jobs often filled by women of color, to obtain training and certification to become nursing assistants, earning higher wages and opportunities with organizations offering better benefits.
Jobs Training by Revitalizing Neighborhood Commercial Corridors. $1 Million to support a program that provides job training through the revitalization of neighborhood commercial business corridors. This program was conceived by Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker (9th District).
Community Life Improvement Program. $1 Million for a city program under the Managing Director that focuses on quality-of-life issues in city neighborhoods.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA…
The Center City Vaccination Center will operate from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., 7 days per week until April 30. Please arrive on time for your scheduled appointment and bring a photo ID or utility bill to prove residency and identity. Don’t forget to #MaskUpPHL! pic.twitter.com/A7BoHZmQIo
— Philadelphia Public Health (@PHLPublicHealth) March 4, 2021
IN OTHER NEWS…
Councilmember Calls for Hearings into Police Department Memo Concerning Car Stops. The resolution from Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large), calls for hearings into a memo from a Philadelphia police official that surfaced this week in the press. The memo urged officers to make a certain number of vehicular stops, while noting the department is under an existing federal court settlement concerning its stop-and-frisk policies – a practice that disproportionately affects young Black men.
Councilmember Gilmore Richardson Calls on Pension Board to Create an Environmental Social Governance Investment Policy. The resolution by Councilmember Gilmore Richardson calls on the Board of Pensions and Retirement to create Environmental Social Governance as part of its investment strategy and to disclose climate risk in its investments. “We are obligated to consider the biggest risks posed to our financial system, and climate change remains a primary threat,” Gilmore Richardson said. “Even under the best-case scenarios for emissions reductions, we will continue to see disruptions to every part of our global economy. We have to understand those risks and actively develop strategies to drive investment into the sectors that will help us build a resilient economy and cleaner energy system.”
Council honors local advocate and organization that provides menstrual health products to women suffering from period poverty. The resolution sponsored by Councilmember Bass recognizes Lynette Medley and her daughter Nya McGlone for their group, The SPOT Period, for their ongoing work helping women in need.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
Committee on Children and Youth 3-3-2021
PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 10 a.m. The Meeting will be held remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
Featured Photo: FEMA