“The city has an opportunity for a smart restart and to reimagine our city and our neighborhoods,” the resolution states.
City leaders in Philadelphia are considering ways to help Black communities and Black-owned businesses grow after years of underinvestment, recent civil unrest, and the pandemic.
Earlier this month, councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez introduced a resolution for a “Black stimulus package” that would funnel $500 million on capital investments in poor neighborhoods that need more options for affordable housing and commercial corridors. It would also allocate money for on-the-job training, rent subsidies, and basic income support.
“The city has an opportunity for a smart restart and to reimagine our city and our neighborhoods,” the resolution states. “African American, Latino and other racial minority groups should not be further disenfranchised in our recovery.”
The council is expected to discuss the resolution on June 25.
Donavan West, who currently serves as the president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, told WHYY recently, that workforce development is key to uplifting the Black community. That, he continued, include teaching young people about finance and entrepreneurship.
“That kind of overhaul is kind of a significant one, and it’s going to take a lot of money,” he told WHYY.
The effects of the coronavirus, however, throws a wrench into plans to allocate that much money for community development. The city is currently in the middle of a $749 million revenue shortfall due to the pandemic.
Quinones Sanchez told WHYY that the council has to pass a “moral budget” to support Black residents who have seen renewed attention on their economic struggles as the U.S grapples with recent protests over systemic racism and police brutality.
She called the bill “an unprecedented movement to reinvest Broken Windows policing [funding] into a Black stimulus that provides real economic security for our neighbors.”
The resolution has received weeks of passionate debate from the public and protests over spending priorities.
“I will not vote for any budget that increases funding to the police but does nothing to support communities,” Kendra Brooks, an at-large city councilmember, wrote in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. “If we want a recovery that leaves no one behind, we need a real conversation about redistributing resources from the police budget into community-led programs that can keep us safe and cut down on gun violence.”
She explained that the time to change the way cities invest in communities is now.
“A black stimulus means investing resources back into communities that have been systematically starved of wealth. It means funding the basic necessities that have been withheld from black communities for generations: affordable housing, quality public education, fair and dignified work, and a livable environment with clean water and air,” she wrote.
The city’s budget has already been revised to include a $33 million cutback to the police department, which passed last week during a Zoom council meeting.
The council must approve a budget before its June 30 deadline.
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