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The Post  
PHL Council Prelim Approves Budget; Council Passes Housing Act; Terror Behind Walls Suspended
  by: iradioal - Philadelphia, PA
started: 06/18/20 5:21 pm | updated: 06/18/20 5:21 pm
Philadelphia City Council preliminarily approved a FY2021 budget during a late night virtual session on Wednesday night, 6/18. City officials now predict there will be a $749 million budget shortfall due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The $4.9 billion budget will be voted on for final approval during City Council's regular stated meeting on Thursday, June 25.

This budget reduces funding for the Police Department by $33.3 million. That is a combination of a reduction on planned increases as well as transferring services to other departments. The funding for crossing guards and public safety enforcement officers will be transferred to the Managing Director’s Office (MDO). There will be a $5.8 million reduction in funding for the Fire Department. $25 million will be spent to address healthcare needs, healthier food options, affordable housing, anti-poverty efforts, job training and other measures. $20 million will be invested into the 'Housing Trust Fund.'

City Council did not fully restore the $4.4 million funding for the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy. They voted against a budget amendment presented by Councilman David Oh that would have funded the OACCE and others. Council did put $1.35 million back into the arts sector, $1 million to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and a full restoration of $350,000 to the African American Museum.


Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed the Emergency Housing Protection Act, comprised of five separate bills, on Thursday, 6/18. The act is meant to keep people safe in their homes and avoid eviction during the pandemic while also giving landlords options to keep recouping rent. The bills include: "a moratorium on eviction of residential renters and small businesses until August 31st; an eviction diversion program to achieve mediated resolutions; a hardship repayment plan for back rent; a waiver of late fees during the pandemic; and remedies for renters who are victims of illegal lockouts."


Eastern State Penitentiary announced that it will be suspending the popular "Terror Behind the Walls" Halloween haunted house for 2020 due to coronavirus COVID-19 concerns. "Preparations for Terror Behind the Walls had been underway for months; however, modifying the haunted attraction to comply with anticipated COVID-19 guidelines would have presented significant operational challenges and financial risk," the organization said in a new release. The former prison and now museum also says that it will have to layoff 40% of its staff and cut salaries of those that remain. It has been closed since mid-March. The month-long Halloween fundraiser brings in 63% of its operating budget for the year. The prison, built in 1822, functions as a museum and host tours, educational programs, and special events year round. "This was the absolute last resort," said President and CEO Sally Elk. "After months of financial losses, and with such uncertainty ahead, we are simply out of options. The strength of this organization has always been its dedicated and ambitious staff. We are heartbroken." They hope to be able to resume evening tours sometime in July.

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