By Michael D’Onofrio
PHILADELPHIA —Mayor Jim Kenney wants $85 million in additional funds for the city’s coronavirus response, though his administration has not said how it will use the funds.
On Thursday, City Council introduced a transfer ordinance on behalf of the Kenney administration that would make the money available from surplus funds.
Council President Darrell Clarke did not have specifics about how the funds would be used. Those details would be revealed during a Council committee hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. The earliest the bill could pass is two weeks.
“When you have this type of appropriation, you may need to be nimble, you may need to be flexible because you’re responding to some levels of uncertainty in terms of where you need to have that money in response to a very, very difficult challenge for us,” Clarke said.
Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the mayor, said the funding was requested “out of an abundance of caution, given the uncertainties the city faces as a result of COVID-19.”
If the appropriation is approved, City Manager Brian Abernathy would use the money to “quickly access additional services as conditions warrant,” said Dunn, who avoided saying what departments or programs would get the extra dollars.
According to the legislation, “personal services,” “purchase of services” and “materials, supplies and equipment” would each get $25 million while “contributions, indemnities and taxes” would received $10 million.
On Tuesday, Philadelphia confirmed its first “presumptive positive” case of the COVID-19. At least 39 people were under investigation for the virus as of Thursday, according to the city’s Public Health Department.
Pennsylvania had 22 cases of coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
Philadelphia’s Council members have put forward a handful of non-binding resolutions responding to the virus, yet Clarke decided to punt on any vote until next week.
At-large Councilwoman Helen Gym offered a resolution calling for a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility shut-offs. The resolution targets the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, First Judicial District (the city’s court system) and utility companies.
“We believe that housing is a human right and no one should have to choose between their own safety, their health and the ability to keep a roof over their heads,” Gym said.
At-large Councilwoman Kendra Brooks introduced a resolution that would call on the city to develop an action plan and guidance to support service workers and health care workers from the impacts of the coronavirus.
Another at-large Council member, David Oh, proposed a resolution asking the Philadelphia School District to temporarily suspend the requirement for a student to provide a doctor’s note after three days of consecutive absence during the coronavirus outbreak.
Precautions to prevent the further spread of the disease were in effect inside the Council’s chambers.
Every other seat in the public seating area was blocked off as part of a social distancing measure. During the public comment portion, speakers were asked to stand no closer than 3 feet from the microphone. Reporters also were kept at least 3 feet away from the Council president when interviewing him.
Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.