City Council to probe how Philadelphia will use federal coronavirus funding

By: - March 27, 2021 6:30 am

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADEPHIA — City  legislators aim to explore the use and effects of an estimated $2.7 billion in federal coronavirus stimulus dollars coming to city government and schools.

On Thursday, City Council passed a resolution to hold a hearing on those issues. The Kenney administration anticipates the American Rescue Plan, which President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this month, will provide $1.4 billion for the city’s coffers and $1.3 billion for the School District of Philadelphia.

A hearing has yet to be scheduled.

At-large Councilmember Allan Domb, the main sponsor of the resolution, said the federal dollars will offer Philadelphia a way to plan for its future and make significant investments to help reduce gun violence and poverty, and cut down on business taxes.

“This is a big opportunity for Philadelphia and conversations need to start now,” Domb said during the session.

The American Rescue Plan not only provides funds for municipalities and schools but is giving $1,400 stimulus payments for individuals earning under a certain income and boosts funding for several other programs.

Half of the anticipated funding for the city is expected to come within 60 days of the signing of the bill, while the rest is expected to come 12 months after that.

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The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the city’s budget. The Kenney administration is already faces a $450 million budget gap going into the new fiscal year, which doesn’t begin until July 1. Last year, the Kenney administration made cutbacks to plug a $750 million budget hole due to revenue shortfalls stemming from the pandemic’s effect on the city’s economy.

While the Kenney administration has said the anticipated stimulus will help, they cautioned the federal funding will not solve all the structural issues in the city’s short- and long-term funding plans created by the pandemic.

Mayor Jim Kenney will introduce his annual budget plan April 15.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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