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WEEKLY REPORT: COUNCIL ADAPTS AND EXTENDS KEY PANDEMIC-ERA EFFORTS TO PREVENT EVICTIONS, SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES

In Allan Domb, Cherelle Parker, Council News, Helen Gym, Jamie Gauthier, News by PHL Council

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CITY COUNCIL GIVES PRELIMINARY APPROVAL TO BILL THAT EXTENDS PHILADELPHIA’S EVICTION DIVERSION PROGRAM

City Council this week gave its first approval to legislation that would extend authorization for Philadelphia’s nationally-recognized eviction diversion program. Introduced by Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large), the legislation extends authorization to Philadelphia to continue operating the program in partnership with the courts and nonprofit partners. Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program has reduced eviction filings by over 75 percent in 2020, with over 93 percent of cases that participated in mediation successfully finding solutions without evictions.

“Philadelphia has proven to the entire country that with bold, smart policies, we can address one of the most pernicious impacts of poverty: evictions,” Councilmember Gym said. “Our commitment now is to a long-term process that protects renters and keeps our communities together. I am grateful for the support of my Council colleagues, partner organizations, city agencies, and municipal courts who have helped bring stability to thousands of families.”

“For far too long, there has been an imbalance of power in the eviction process,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Chair of the Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless. “Through extending the eviction diversion program, we can reduce the number of evictions filed in our city and restore power to the tenants who previously faced this battle all alone.”

“Before the pandemic, Philadelphia had over 19,000 eviction filings annually. These eviction filings overwhelmingly affected Black, female-led households — creating a cycle of evictions that forced many households of color into a downward spiral economically, educationally, and employment wise,” said Rachel Garland, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Services. “Just this past year, thanks to the success of the diversion program, there have been approximately 6,000 eviction filings. This is an incredible reduction, and has enabled households at most risk of harm, both due to Philadelphia’s high eviction rate and COVID-19, to maintain some stability during this very destabilizing time.”

“Eviction’s impact extends well beyond housing: children may be pulled from classes as their parents move, families may face greater food insecurity, and the health of the community is put at risk as those evicted find it harder to find new shelter and housing,” said Catherine Hicks, President, NAACP-Philadelphia.

“The Philadelphia Diversion program has been enormously successful,” said Daniel Hyman, Staff Attorney, SeniorLAW Center. “Philadelphia is leading the nation in distribution of rental assistance, in large part because of the support of Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program and the requirement that landlords access rental assistance prior to filing a case for non-payment of rent.”

COUNCILMEMBER JOHNSON CALLS FOR HEARINGS TO EXPLORE LINK BETWEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND GUN VIOLENCE

Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), who chairs Council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, introduced a resolution Thursday calling for public hearings that will explore any potential links or correlations between domestic violence and escalating gun violence in Philadelphia.

Johnson’s resolution notes that as of Monday, Dec. 6, the city had already experienced 521 homicides in 2021 – 13 percent more than in 2020 – and a new, all-time record in Philadelphia. It also notes that Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw recently highlighted an increase in both overall and domestic-related female-involved killings in 2021. A total of 40 female homicides occurred in 2020. In 2021, that number had already reached 60 female homicides through early November.

The resolution references studies that have found that in domestic violence situations, the risk of death is five times greater when a gun is present.  As instances of gun violence continue to rise, the resolution states, it is imperative that Philadelphia works to understand and identify trends and correlations to help create policies to interrupt cycles of abuse and to help provide resources to victims of domestic violence before they become another victim of gun violence.

COUNCIL GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO PAIR OF BILLS TO PROTECT SMALL  BUSINESS OWNERS

Council gave final approval to two bills introduced by Majority Leader Cherelle Parker (9th District). Bill No. 210670 builds upon legislation that was passed during the COVID-19 pandemic that limited the maximum fee which third-party food delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats could charge to partner restaurants. The legislation will maintain a 15% total fee cap for restaurants that choose it, but it will also allow restaurants to “opt out” of the cap and into a higher fee tier in return for additional services beyond basic delivery and marketing.

Bill No. 210917 protects commercial tenants by requiring property owners, or those authorized to lease a property on their behalf, to provide potential tenants with a City-issued guidebook containing important zoning information at least 7 days prior to a lease being signed.

Councilmember Parker spoke at some length following passage of the third-party delivery fee legislation on what it means for small businesses and restaurants. “With this legislation, restaurants will be guaranteed a 15 percent fee cap if that is what they choose,” Parker said. “Choice is the operative word here. I believe we can move forward in a way in which is beneficial for the restaurants, but also works for these third-party delivery companies.”

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IN OTHER NEWS…

Councilmember Domb Calls on Kenney Administration to Appoint Academic Expert to Study City’s $155 Million Investment in Violence Prevention. This resolution, offered by Councilmember Allan Domb (At Large), citing the city’s appropriation on violence prevention strategies in an attempt to stem the rising tide of gun violence, calls on Mayor Kenney to hire an academic expert to study and make sure the city was wisely appropriating these funds. Kenney administration officials already plan to spend close to $4 million to monitor and govern the administration of the city’s community-focused gun violence prevention grants, as well as to gather data to assess the efficacy of these grants. Through this week, the administration has awarded $16 million in grants to community-based organizations dedicated to gun violence prevention. The non-binding resolution passed Council today.

Councilmember Gauthier Introduces Resolution Recognizing National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. The resolution, introduced by Councilmember Gauthier, notes that homelessness is not just a local issue, but a national problem requiring a national response. It notes that the combination of COVID-19, an affordable housing shortage, the opioid crisis, and racism all are fueling an increase in homelessness.

National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is recognized on or around the first day of winter by the National Coalition for the Homeless and by more than 100 cities across the nation, and December 21st is designated as this date.

The Philadelphia Homeless Memorial Day Committee has planned a memorial event for Dec. 21st to honor and recognize homeless people who have experienced homelessness or who have died during 2021.

 

OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK

Committee on Finance 12-6-2021

Committee on Law and Government 12-6-2021

Committee on Streets and Services 12-7-2021

Committee on Rules 12-8-2021

Committee on Housing, Neighbohood Development and the Homeless 12-8-2021

Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 12-9-2021

 

PHILADELPHIA FACTS AND FIGURES

Source: The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting at Community College of Philadelphia

The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, December 16, 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: R. Rabena/Visit Philadelphia

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