The last few months have been some of the most challenging this city has ever faced. We’ve had to deal with a highly contagious, life-threatening virus, while simultaneously dealing with the life-altering impact of social distancing that has forced businesses to close and many people to lose their jobs.
But through all of it, I have remained prouder than ever to be your mayor. You have followed difficult restrictions to protect yourselves, loved ones, and neighbors. You have helped those in need, volunteered many hours, donated goods and money, and supported eateries by ordering take-out. You have stepped up in a way that will benefit Philadelphia for years to come.
Despite that, we face an economic downturn that will equal and probably exceed the worst of the Great Recession of 2008. Here’s a difficult fact: It has created an almost $650 million hole in our new budget.
We revised our spending plan by setting clear priorities: We will keep all Philadelphians safe, healthy, and educated while maintaining core municipal services that our residents rely on daily.
This led to a thoughtful, deliberate, and collaborative process of revising the Five-Year Plan that was guided by three core principles:
- Learn from the City’s experiences in the Great Recession. One such lesson was that funding cuts for essential services like public safety take years to recover from. Another lesson learned is that Philadelphians care deeply about their neighborhood facilities.
- Ensure that these decisions were made through a lens of racial equity. The budget limits the impact of service delays or cuts on people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by the virus and already suffering from decades of systemic inequality.
- Commit to leverage federal, state, and philanthropic resources. We intend to reduce our own spending by partnering with others in order to help fund or deliver services.
The result is a set of revised budget documents that address the unfortunate economic reality we now face. We are trimming City services down to the most essential, imposing layoffs on hundreds of workers, and reducing or eliminating some programs that are simply no longer affordable.
This is not what I want for our residents—but such drastic actions are necessary as we contend with both a pandemic and an economic catastrophe.
The budget reflects the priorities listed above by guaranteeing the following:
- No police or fire layoffs.
- No reduction in emergency medical services.
- All fire stations will remain open.
- All health centers will remain open.
- All recreation centers will remain open.
- All libraries will remain open.
- PHLpreK and Community Schools will be maintained at current funding levels for FY21 and expand over the Plan.
- Weekly residential trash collection and single-stream recycling will continue, with some adjustments.
- We will prioritize keeping Philadelphians in their homes with support for basic systems repairs, preventing mortgage foreclosure, and support for renters using local and federal funding.
- We will prioritize education including increased funding for the School District of Philadelphia and Community College of Philadelphia.
This budget is the result of our determination to address both the pandemic and the economic downturn with bold decisions so that this government operates within its means—while also addressing other challenges, like gun violence, poverty, and the opioid epidemic.
It transforms our priorities to meet the needs of Philadelphians, particularly our most vulnerable residents, under this new reality. I am confident that by focusing on core services and maintaining fiscal stability, we will rebound from the impact of COVID-19 as quickly and as safely as possible.