Kenney promises new budget accounting for coronavirus impact

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Looking back at this year’s city budget as if it were a distant memory, Mayor Jim Kenney on Monday said that, because of conditions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, his office would be submitting a significantly revised budget to City Council by May 1.

The city will face a substantial increase in expenditures and a substantial decease in tax revenue, he said. There will be “painful” changes in spending that will negatively affect city services and employees.

Unlike the federal government, municipal governments cannot run a deficit, Kenney said. So he promised a budgetary focus on the most-needed city services for the most-vulnerable citizens.

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“We all must make sacrifices in the months ahead,” he said, citing for example the sacrifices already made daily by the city’s health care workers in the fight against COVID-19.

In honor of April 7 being World Health Day, Kenney said three-dozen Philadelphia buildings and landmarks will shine blue on Tuesday night.

For the city’s Tuesday media briefing, the mayor spoke via video conference from his home, rather than his usual place at City Hall, in perhaps his strongest demonstration yet of the importance of social distancing.

He said going forward, the briefings would continue to be as virtual as possible.

Also speaking from home was Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, with another report on the continued growth of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the city. 

Farley reported 544 new COVID-19 cases since Monday, and a resulting total of 4,272. He said 20 more people had died since Monday, and that the citywide count now stands at 65.

Of those 65 people, Farley said 26 were living in nursing homes, and 43 of them were over the age of 70.

Farley said health officials continue to see clusters of transmissions occurring in settings where people live together, such as nursing homes, mental health facilities and jails and prisons.

He noted four new inmates in the city had tested positive since Monday, for a total of 58 COVID-19 cases in the prison system, adding that the city is working to make sure those inmates get the care they need.

There are 554 people hospitalized with the virus, Farley said, noting also that 40% of the city’s hospital bed capacity is still available, and intensive care units in the region are not yet overwhelmed.

“We hope it stays this way,” said. 

If the city’s medical facilities do get overwhelmed, Farley said, the city is welcoming retired doctors, nurses and physician assistants to volunteer for the city’s Medical Reserve Corps.

In the not too distant future, Farley said, we may see the rate of infections plateau, but he warned deaths will continue to rise for weeks after that as the sick succumb to the virus.

He said the testing site at Citizens Bank Park will be open through Friday and encouraged testing for anyone over 50, and any health care worker, who is showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Resources for testing and a host of other concerns are available online.

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