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Philadelphia Council OKs $85M for Coronavirus Fight

The legislation is scant on details

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Philadelphia will now have an additional $85 million to spend on fighting the novel coronavirus after the City Council gave final approval to transfer existing funds toward the fight Thursday.

The approval comes two weeks after Mayor Jim Kenney called for the cash, saying at the time that it would allow Managing Director Brian Abernathy to “quickly access additional services as conditions warrant.”

“Just as the stimulus plan at the federal level is believed to be the first of many steps on a long road to our nation’s recovery, what Council voted on today is just the beginning of what we will need to do to help our residents, small businesses, and other organizations rebuild after this pandemic,” council President Darell Clarke said in a statement.

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The appropriations bill will see money transferred from the grants revenue fund to the general fund. It allocates to the managing director $25 million for personal services; $25 million for the purchasing of services; another $25 million for materials, supplies and equipment; and $10 million for “contributions, indemnities and taxes.” Another $400,000 is allocated to City Council to purchase services, materials, supplies and equipment.

The legislation is otherwise scant on details.

However, it does require some measure of accountability by mandating that the city’s finance director, Rob Dubow, submit to Clarke a biweekly expenditure report with purchases and expected purchases, starting April 17. The finance director will also need to provide additional information on expenditures if requested to do so by Clarke or the council’s chief financial officer, Matthew Stitt.

Kenney also has said that the city may not end up spending the entire $85.4 million.

Like other cities across the country, Philadelphia has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and is currently under a state of emergency, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordering a halt to “nonessential services” across the state.

As of Thursday, Philadelphia had recorded at least 2,100 COVID-19 infections and 17 deaths. Meanwhile, more than 405,000 people filed unemployment claims in Pennsylvania last week as the economic fallout of the virus rippled across the state and country.

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