Mayor Kenney asks Pelosi for flexible funding, more resources

Philly health commissioner says current COVID-19 trend is ‘sign of hope’

KYW Staff
April 13, 2020 - 2:12 pm

UPDATED: 4:16 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As Congress considers its fourth COVID-19 relief package, Mayor Jim Kenney asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “direct and flexible funding” and more resources for local governments.

In a letter to Pelosi, Kenney asked the federal government for funding for personal protective equipment (PPE); testing resources; housing; programs like Medicaid, SNAP and other homeless services; small business and pension relief; and unemployment benefits.

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Kenney also called for fair elections, emphasizing a vote-by-mail system will be critical to controlling the spread of COVID-19.

“Cities and states cannot effectively address and recover from this pandemic without a robust federal partnership and response,” he said. “While I am appreciative of all that has been done so far, much more is needed to ensure that Philadelphians can safely survive the crisis and thrive beyond it.”

Since one-quarter of Philadelphians live below the federal poverty line, Kenney said the city will face “unique challenges” when it recovers from the pandemic, with a greater impact on vulnerable populations.

“As we work to protect our local residents, businesses, and economies by making significant financial investments towards COVID-19 response efforts,” he said in the letter, “simultaneously, we are experiencing increased costs and massive and unprecedented declines in revenue as a result of the economic downturn.”

The mayor said the city is still calculating expenses and lost revenue and will present a new budget to City Council on May 1.

“Without this, we will be forced to make drastic cuts, which will deprive residents of needed services, exacerbate the damage to our local economies, and lessen the possibility of a speedy economic recovery,” he added.

Virus trend offers 'hope'

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced 427 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the citywide total to 6,813. In all, 190 have died.

Of the total deaths, 66% were of people over the age of 70, and 49% were long-term care facility residents.

Cases appear to cluster in places like nursing homes, behavioral health facilities and prisons. To date, 66 inmates have tested positive.

Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley noted that some labs do not report results over the weekend, and some results are still backlogged.

However, he said the overall trend of COVID-19 cases is down, offering “a sign of hope.”

“After many days of rises in cases of coronavirus infections, the numbers are looking like we may be at or near the peak of the epidemic,” he said. “We’re seeing a stabilizing in our daily case count and a stabilizing of the number in hospitals.”

Although hospital cases were up, Farley said there is still plenty of capacity, so the city may have avoided being overwhelmed the way New York was.

“Those of you who are following the stay-at-home order, give yourself some credit for protecting yourselves and each other,” said Farley. “The numbers I’m seeing, I think, give us solid evidence that that stay-at-home recommendation is working, flattening the curve and protecting people from this infection.”

But the crisis is far from over. Despite the somewhat positive news, Farley stressed that the virus is still in the city, and people should continue to stay home and practice social distancing.

Kenney added that the stay-at-home order must remain in place to prevent a new surge.

“What I worry about is when the numbers start to look better and we’re getting signals from the national government that they want to move quickly, people start believing they can stop the social distancing, go out and do what they used to do,” he said, “and if they do that, we’re going to be back in the same situation we’re in today.”

Testing and hospitals

Starting Monday night, the Liacouras Center — which has been outfitted as a temporary hospital overflow facility — will now be open 24/7. It will open for coronavirus patients later this week.

The Center City testing site is continuing to see patients who are over the age of 50 and are displaying symptoms, as well as health care workers who are displaying symptoms. The site is available by appointment only and a referral is required. Call 267-491-5870 to obtain a referral.

There are also more than 20 private testing sites across the city run by hospital systems and other organizations. Remaining testing supplies from the now-closed Citizens Bank Park drive-thru testing site, now closed are being redistributed to other sites.

For resources regarding COVID-19, visit phila.gov/covid-19 or call the Greater Philadelphia Coronavirus Helpline at 1-800-722-7112.

KYW Newsradio’s Rachel Kurland and Pat Loeb contributed to this report.