We need a People’s Bailout to get through the crisis

We are calling our city leaders to put people ahead of corporations at every step of the COVID-19 public health response and long-term recovery. We need a People’s Bailout for Philly.

A Philly People’s Bailout

While what we are facing is genuinely historic, it is clear that the depth of precarity we are met with is not just due to the pandemic, but is rather a direct consequence of decades of disinvestment in our communities. Our communities have been in crisis – COVID-19 has sharpened this reality for more and more people.


Over the past several weeks, the organizations signed below have been on the front lines, supporting community members with the information, resources, and rapid response needed in the face of this current crisis. 

This crisis is far from over. There is much still unknown about containing the coronavirus, meaning social distancing measures and stay at home orders could be necessary for weeks or months to come. Beyond these immediate measures, we are left to ask: what will recovery look like? Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the U.S. Will “recovery” continue that fact with even more of us living in poverty, underemployed, and not knowing how we will get by? We demand that this city’s recovery invests in righting the wrongs of inequality and discrimination that have made this current crisis all the worse.

City Council and the Mayor’s administration need to craft a new budget for the next steps of the public health response and long term recovery. The current federal response and stimulus prioritizes the bailout of corporations over everyday working people. We are calling on our city’s leaders not to make the same mistake. We have come together to propose the “Philly People’s Bailout.”

We have seen through this crisis that our communities are not getting what we need because of a lack of political will, not because our demands are impossible. We are counting on bold action from our elected officials to meet our needs head on – both in this time of crisis and beyond.This requires that City Council immediately return to regular meetings that are accessible to the public and vote to support the critical legislation outlined below. Meetings should be accessible to the public and interested members of the public should also be able to participate virtually during the COVID-19 crisis and address the body.

We believe that every Philadelphian deserves a response that is accessible for all – made available to every resident regardless of immigration status, criminal legal status, or accessibility needs.

We believe the City of Philadelphia should prepare to address the long-term economic devastation from COVID-19 by developing a stimulus plan that tackles the economic, social, and environmental problems that preceded the pandemic in our city.

Now is the time to work with leaders from labor unions and community organizations to prepare a plan for investment in unionized green jobs, robust public healthcare centers, free public transit, community-governed renewable energy, green social housing, and localized healthy food systems. Now is the time for corporations in our city to pay their fair share. It’s the time for our local elected officials to fight tooth and nail for the state and federal funding that will support this future. Now is the time to bail out people instead of profits. 

Work: Paid sick leave, expanded unemployment, and safety precautions

In this time of crisis many are unable to work from home. We are losing work or being laid off as small businesses shut down. Low-wage workers and small business owners are experiencing income loss, impacting our ability to access food and supplies, make payments on utilities and rent, and support family members abroad. It is difficult for us to access unemployment benefits, and many are afraid to collect unemployment because of immigration status or because of not reporting enough income.

Some will have to continue to put ourselves at risk on the front lines of this crisis, including healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers, and truck delivery drivers. Others, such as caregivers, continue to work in close quarters despite the risk because we feel they have no other choice to survive. Front line workers are vital and deserve protection from our government.

We Need:

– An executive mayoral order that creates a higher level of safety for workers. In addition, workers also need meaningful enforcement of basic workplace standards during this crisis. Even during the best of times, the Office of Labor lacks the resources to monitor and correct violations at every workplace, but their capacity has been strained severely during this pandemic. We urge Mayor Kenney and the City Council to authorize impacted workers and trusted community organizations to bring suits on behalf of the Office of Labor.

– An emergency mayoral fund to give direct assistance to workers who will not qualify for state and federal relief.

– Mental health supports for front-line healthcare workers and first responders.

– Emergency paid sick leave legislation for all workers of at least 14 days (112 hours), with an expanded definition of what qualifies as “sick”, and that is available to all Philadelphia workers, regardless of number of employees at the workplace, immigration status, full or part time status, or union membership. This legislation should also include investment in education about existing protections.

 Uphold laws supporting labor peace, so that any City money put into private enterprise to address this crisis requires those companies to respect the right of those workers to form a union.

– Reopen the Commerce Department/PIDC Loans and Grants program, prioritize applicants who are ineligible for other public or private support, and streamline the application process, to make it more accessible to business owners.

– Accessible whistleblower program to empower employees, regardless of documentation status, to report employers who are not safeguarding their employees or the public good, and additional, proactive training and resources for employers regarding how to safeguard their employees during the crisis, and aggressively investigate and reprimand (including fines as necessary) irresponsible employers who are putting their employees and the public at risk.

Food, Transportation & Information: Widespread communication, food distribution, and basic needs

Households are struggling to make ends meet and ensure steady access to food and other essential supplies. With children home from school, there is an added burden on parents to provide more food for their families. Our neighbors are experiencing food budgets doubling, or even tripling, with children home from school. For those who use food stamps or WIC already, there is concern that stores will run out of appropriate items or they won’t be able to be delivered. 

Also, not all communities had access to the same information about the crisis response and subsequent restaurant closures, especially if they have limited English proficiency, so many were not able to stock up on food. We need to remove all barriers to food, transportation, and information by ensuring that these resources are available to all, and that information is translated in multiple languages by the city, including sign language/s.

We Need:

– To use & employ pre-existing neighborhood leadership by investing in a grant program for community organizations & leaders to educate communities about COVID-19, to support neighbors to access accurate information about government response to COVID-19, to safely distribute resources & supplies, and to run virtual programming & activities for the sake of mental health and public safety. The grant program should not require legal nonprofit status to receive funds, as many funding sources during COVID-19 disqualify neighborhood leadership without legal status.

-To support residents to reduce trips to grocery stores and reduce bottled water usage as a limited resource by providing water filters to Philadelphia households.

 SEPTA to continue to waive fare payment throughout the duration of the epidemic to account for widespread loss of income and the necessity of travel to purchase essential supplies, care for loved ones, and to protect the health of operators. 

 Immediate increase of the capacity of all food distribution sites to fully meet the food access needs of all residents with regard to overall number of food distributed and adequate amounts of food per box, and monitor sites regularly to respond accordingly to need. 

– Fully transparent communication with the general public about the state of and future plans for food distribution sites. 

– For those that have people in the household that test positive or have symptoms, create a system where the household can receive food without needing to leave the house in order to limit exposure of others in the community. 

– Communication about the City’s plans for addressing summer cooling needs– with immediate opportunity for public input in the event that social distancing continues into warmer months and cooling centers like libraries, pools, and other facilities remain closed. Lack of advanced planning on this issue has the potential to drastically increase deaths from heat, put further burden on hospitals and healthcare workers, and interfere with management of COVID-19.

Housing: Rent and mortgage relief and protected housing

Homeowners and renters are losing our livelihoods under the stay home order, and our housing is now at risk. Many of us who are housing insecure or experiencing homelessness are the most vulnerable to exposure of COVID-19, as we are unable to shelter-in-place at home and are often the last to receive important updates and information about how to stay safe. Shelters are also highly overcrowded, making it impossible to safely engage in social distancing. 

We Need:

– An emergency relief fund to provide immediate rental and mortgage assistance to people who risk losing their homes because of sickness, inability to work, or any other factors related to COVID-19. This fund should launch immediately, and should be accessible to all, without any means-testing, and without barriers to entry, such as lengthy paperwork or application fees. To address the housing needs beyond the immediate crisis, the fund should invest additional money to the shallow rent subsidy.

– A citywide rent cancellation and debt forgiveness for tenants who cannot pay rent during the crisis.

– A continued bar on all eviction proceedings. The City must also halt declarations of foreclosure and sales of foreclosed properties for the foreseeable future. The moratorium should last through the duration of the declared state of emergency and the entire recovery period. 

– Landlord education campaign about benefits and mortgage freezes available to them and how to pass that benefit on to tenants. 

– Tenant education campaign about their options and rights, regardless of immigration status, and city-endorsed practices on how to communicate with landlords about rent. 

– A requirement that landlords create and distribute a clear COVID-19 response plan for multi-unit dwellings that address health, safety and rights of tenants. 

– The City to determine and implement severe penalties for banks, corporations, and individuals in violation of the eviction moratorium, including but not limited to fines and/or loss of license to do business.

– An end to encampment sweeps, closures, and vehicle tows. Sweeps and other practices that criminalize homelessness pose a serious health risk, as they disrupt consistent access to services and ability for outreach and health workers to provide continuous care. The city must remember that encampment sweeps, closures, and vehicle tows are not legal or viable solutions.

– Identify suitable PHA and city-owned buildings to use as permanent housing for people who need it, including people experiencing homelessness and people living in unsafe/unsanitary conditions now.

– PHA to suspend evictions, recertifications, and notices of termination not just for 30 days but for the duration of the crisis. PHA should implement a rent holiday or targeted programs that will have maximum individual impact.

– Massive investment in PHA to ensure personnel and processes to address immediate needs that may jeopardize residents’ health and safety and invest in much needed ongoing capital repairs. 

– Emergency sanitation sites near homeless encampments and major public transit hubs to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, for people who will not or cannot move indoors. Sanitation sites should be wheelchair accessible, include 24-hour ADA compliant restrooms and showers, laundry, and free hygiene supplies, as well as information on COVID-19 testing, case worker availability, and disease prevention in multiple languages, including sign language/s. 

Education: Student digital access and school cleanups

Closing public, parochial and private schools has been a necessary step to implementing social distancing, but has come with immense challenges for students, caregivers and educators. Students now need to learn online in a manner that is equitable, culturally sustaining, and meets a wide range of learning needs. Teachers are being asked to develop new curriculum appropriate for online learning, while often caring for their own children now at home due to closures. Parents and caregivers need to navigate a quickly changing situation, including disruptions to move up days and graduations.

We Need:

– Young people, their families and school staff kept up to date across multiple platforms and languages on timelines, decisions the Board of Education is making, and resources available to families.

– A drop off option for educational chromebook distribution, and a citywide protocol for safe in-person distribution that lays out care guidelines to parents for the devices and expectations for device usage and return.

– Access to the internet for all students.

– To ensure the continued learning of all students, including those with disabilities, English Language learners, those living in poverty, students of color, students in foster care, and students experiencing homelessness.

– All needed lead and asbestos remediation to happen during the closure so students can return to safe building conditions at the end of this crisis.

– Control returned to the Board of Education to ensure public input and oversight over the governance of our public schools. 

Internet Access and Technology: Close the digital divide

The coronavirus outbreak has changed our way of living. Schools have closed and transitioned to online classes, workers who can are being asked to work remotely, and even athletic and artistic courses have moved to online platforms. To stay connected with friends and family members, we’ve been facetiming and emailing. To remain up to date on local and global news updates, we’ve been refreshing our favorite news websites and checking the city’s resource pages. We’ve been using the internet as a main form of connection, communication and livelihood. This is why now more than ever we truly need reliable, affordable and accessible internet access and technology for everyone.

We Need:

– Council to provide funding to support all residents who currently do not have a computer to purchase one.

– The City to advocate for Comcast and Verizon to provide free internet to low-income households, people with disabilities, seniors, furloughed workers, and households with public-school students who have been sent home due to school closures. The City needs to advocate for Comcast to waive past balances and other barriers to the Internet Essentials program.

– Require Comcast to open up xfinity wifi hotspots in all residential neighborhoods, in addition to the public hotspots concentrated in Center City.

– The City to identify and support free virtual tech support so all Philadelphians can learn how to access online programs and use devices during this time.

– The City to identify and provide funding for cell phones so that those who are unhoused or without access can receive essential city text message updates.

Elder Care: Provide key services and information

In everyday life as well as under special circumstances, the elderly are usually the last to be taken into consideration as those that require “special attention.” Many seniors have families that are there and are very attentive, but there is a senior population whose families are not there for them and may be vulnerable and in need of attention. Elders are most at risk of losing their lives from COVID-19. With social distancing, some elders who could get outside are now confined to their homes and are facing increased isolation. Elders need trained support from individuals, who have taken proper health and safety precautions, to meet their needs where technology is inaccessible. 

We Need:

– Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging (PCA) to partner with healthcare and insurance providers to employ individuals to provide needed services such as shopping and cleaning for the elderly.

– More robust notifications, reporting and information sharing with elders through 311, mail, and other offline programs.

Jails and ICE: Free our people from detention

Jails are incredibly crowded and unsanitary, even when we are not in a global pandemic. Over $100,000 has already been paid by our bail funds to help community members held in jail return home to our families and communities, where we are much safer from COVID-19 and its impacts. 

ICE has continued making arrests in many places, despite the fear communities are already facing in this health crisis and despite the unsafe conditions we would face in immigration detention at places like the Berks County Detention Center. A community in crisis is no time for ICE enforcement.

We Need:

– Council to appropriate money to pay for supportive housing, treatment options, and cash stipends for those returning from jails.

– Council to call on Philadelphia court leadership to take immediate action to release as many people as possible from the City’s jails and juvenile detention centers.

– Council to continue to limit any city support to ICE, and to pressure ICE to halt all immigration detentions, proceedings, enforcement of detainers, and the transfer of people between facilities.

– Council to establish a comprehensive plan to decrease arrests and entrance into facilities statewide by issuing a moratorium on new arrests, bookings, and carceral sentences.

– Commissioner Blanche Carney and the Department of Prisons to mandate screening for all staff, contractors, and official visitors entering Philly jails for COVID symptoms including temperature checks, after they have released as many people as possible from jail. 

– Commissioner Blanche Carney and the Department of Prisons to provide access to soap and hot water and other sanitation products for all incarcerated people, those held in detention and staff, along with immediate measures to secure beds, medical care, and ventilators for incarcerated people. 

– City Council and the Mayor to call on Governor Wolf, as well as Richard Rocha, Assistant Director, Office of Partnership and Engagement, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Simona Flores-Lund, Philadelphia Field Office Director, Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to require that ICE immediately review cases and release our family members who are currently detained in county jails and detention centers so they can rejoin their families. 

Discrimination and Violence: Condemn Anti-Asian racism

Stirred by “yellow peril” stereotypes and further amplified by racism from the president and the media, anti-Asian violence is on the rise around the country and in Philadelphia. Young and old are experiencing harassment, threats of violence, and actual beatings as public fear and blame for the failures in our healthcare system and national response to COVID-19 are misdirected towards mistreatment of members of our Asian communities. Fearful of being targets of anti-Asian violence and discrimination, our community members are afraid of wearing masks in public, going to work, or even just walking around outside.

We Need:

– Swift, strong, and consistent condemnation of racism, bigotry, and violence against our communities of any kind from our elected leadership

– Create an online city-monitored website for victims of all types of hate crimes. That way victims can confidentially input their encounters on the new reporting site, so the city can monitor the situation and provide support to those impacted.

– Financial support for City and service organizations that offer resources for victims of harassment, hate crimes, and violence. 

Land and Environment: Stop sheriff sales, support farming, & regulate air pollution

When the urban agriculture community hurts, so does food security in our neighborhoods with the least food access. Many of our farms are community gathering spaces that have been severely impacted by physical distancing and the non-essential business shut down, and are now unable to operate or generate income. This is a crucial time of year for urban farmers. Land has been cleared and tended to, seeds are going into the ground, crops and seedlings are beginning to sprout and require daily care. So much of our ability to grow food for our communities is already stressed by displacement from development and barriers towards land ownership. The compounded impact of COVID-19 further marginalizes Black and Brown farmers in the city, jeopardizing food security as well.

Additionally, as the federal government relaxes enforcement of air pollution regulations the City of Philadelphia must step up to protect residents most vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their proximity to polluting industries. Research has shown correlations between air pollution and rates of mortality from the virus, so the City’s regulation of local polluters is as critical as ever.

We Need:

– Immediate moratorium on all sheriff sales of land & community gardens.

– Clear pathways to collective ownership of city gardens:
– Fix the broken EOI system 
– Give ownership of land to organizations who are currently growing food on land – such as One Art Community Center, Urban Tree Connection, and Urban Creators – who have been feeding their communities for over a decade and must become land secure in order to continue doing so
– Support community-led Community Land Trust trainings and initiatives.

– Immediate support of farming infrastructure for the growing season including but not limited to funding for seeds, personnel, refrigeration, irrigation, and the improvement in accessibility of our spaces to be ADA compliant. 
– Prioritize hygienic equipment & infrastructure such as washing stations, water access, tool sanitation, and PPE for safe harvesting, packaging, and distribution.

– Air Management Services (AMS) to enforce air pollution regulations to the agency’s fullest power, obtaining additional funding from the City government if needed during this time. AMS should hold a virtual public meeting to communicate about its work during COVID-19, given the connection between pollution and vulnerability to the virus.

Harm Reduction: Support for services, housing, and income

People who use drugs (PWUDs) and the people in our lives are more likely to have weaker immune systems, respiratory problems, and other conditions that place us at higher risk of being infected by COVID-19. The recommendation to physically distance puts PWUDs at risk for fatal overdose because no one is there to respond in case of overdose. Harm reduction organizations and institutions such as the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine have issued guidelines and recommendations specific to PWUDs and individuals engaging in sex work. These demands are based on those recommendations.

We Need:

– Funding to support harm reduction supply delivery directly to PWUDs. If individuals feel that they are getting sick, it is not advisable to go to harm reduction centers or syringe service programs because they may expose other clients and staff to COVID-19. Organizations doing harm reduction work need funding to purchase and deliver harm reduction supplies. 

– Funding to purchase cell phones for PWUDs who are using alone in order to call a friend or a hotline so that someone can call 911 if the PWUD becomes unresponsive. Cell phones are also crucial for maintaining contact with healthcare professionals and to call organizations to request deliveries of life-saving harm reduction supplies such as Naloxone. 

– Funding to assist COVID+ PWUDs experiencing homelessness to have access to withdrawal management, which is also in the public’s best interest as the patient needs rest in order to recover from COVID entirely. Mandate that any PWUD should be allowed to get inducted on the opiate replacement therapy of their choice via a telemedicine appointment and to receive prescriptions that can be filled at any pharmacy for 14-30 day supplies.

– Direct cash assistance for PWUDs and sex workers who are not eligible for unemployment and other financial relief programs due to their work being a part of the gray economy. 

Arts & Culture: Fund small arts organizations, arts education for youth

Community-based arts organizations are essential to the health, safety, and well-being of our communities. Through our direct relationships with communities we promote social-emotional empowerment, safe spaces for vulnerable populations, community building, the preservation of cultural traditions & identities, self-advocacy & civic engagement, professional development and the creative economy. The arts help us make sense of the world, connect to collective memory, solutionize our future, and have a positive impact on health, schooling, personal security and economic revitalization – with lower income neighborhoods demonstrating the strongest relationships between culture and social well being.

We Need:

-Preserve, protect and invest in the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF). A uniquely equitable funding source for arts organizations in Philadelphia, the PCF is immune to political whims and is peer reviewed, with funding is specifically weighted to support small organizations; nearly 50% of orgs that receive resources from the fund have an annual operating budget of >$150,000. Small arts organizations need to be protected from the precarity of political whims.

– Access to arts education for all Philadelphia Youth, including those with disabilities, English Language learners, those living in poverty, black students and students of color, students in foster care, and students experiencing homelessness.

Voting: Ensure equal access to mail-in ballots

Our democracy is more important now than ever, as the many massive flaws in our structures and systems come to light. We are pleased that the City has moved the April 28 primary to June 2. However, given the current crisis and need for social distancing that we know will continue for the foreseeable future, voting in person on shared machines with touch screens puts Philadelphians at high risk of exposure.

We Need:

– A city-wide campaign to ensure all Philadelphians are aware of the new date to register and vote in our primary election as well as mail-in/absentee ballot options rather than going to their polling place on election day. Resources must be available to all, and that information is translated in multiple languages by the city, including sign language/s.

– City commissioners to provide enough paper ballots and stamped return envelopes, for both the primary and general elections, including Braille and large print. 

– Enough workers at the City Commissioner’s Office to process all paper ballots and do so by midnight on Election Night so that results are promptly reported and actually counted.

– An estimated cost for these ballots and workers from the city to ensure that funding is adequate to meet these needs. 

Endorsed by

The Philly People’s Bailout was developed by members of the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia. We came together because we know our issues are connected. Our fates are tied. We need solutions that work for the greater good of everyone.

215 People’s Alliance
350 Philadelphia
Almanac Dance Circus Theatre
Amistad Law Center
Applied Mechanics
Asian Americans United
Be the Change Philadelphia
Black And Brown Coalition PHL
Black and Brown Workers Cooperative
Black Lives Matter Philly
Caucus of Working Educators
Coalition to End Death by Incarceration
Disabled In Action
Earth Quaker Action Team
Faculty and Staff Federation of CCP
HIAS Pennsylvania
Human Rights Coalition 
idiosynCrazy productions
IfNotNow Philadelphia
in.site collaborative
Indivisible Philadelphia
Movement Alliance Project
Mutual Aid Philly
Neighborhood Networks
Neighbors Against the Gas Plants
New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
Northwest Philadelphia Climate Action Network

One Pennsylvania
PA Domestic Workers Alliance
PA Working Families Organization
Pennsylvania Debt Collective
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance
Philadelphia Assembled
Philadelphia Climate Works
Philadelphia Community Bail Fund
Philadelphia Drivers’ Union
Philadelphia Ethical Society
Philly Childcare Collective
Philly Power Research Collective
Philly Schools Unifying Neighborhoods
Philly Student Union
Philly Thrive
Philly Transit Riders Union
Project Safe
Reclaim Philadelphia
Red Umbrella Alliance
Soil Generation
Spiral Q 
Stadium Stompers
Sunrise Philadelphia
The Center for Carceral Communities
Tikkun Olam Chavurah
TUFF Girls
Up Against the Law Legal Collective
Women’s Medical Fund

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