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The PA Politics Podcast
The PA Politics Podcast

Episode 15 · 1 year ago

The PA Politics Podcast: Episode 15 - Helen Gym and COVID Housing Insecurity

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Join us as we talk with Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym, on everything that city council has been doing to help Philadelphians during this COVID-19 pandemic, and her work on combating housing insecurity. 

Everybody and welcome back to anotherepisode of the PA Politics Podcast, as always on your host, Christina Diamico,and this podcast is brought to you by Bell Ofyou Strategies: Your TwentyFirst Century Government Relations, advocacy and strategic communicationsfirm today, we're talking with Philadelphia, council member Helen Gimabout what city council has been doing to help Philadelphians during this timeand her work on the housing crisis that is currently developing in Philadelphiadue to the pandemic of Covid Nineteen, how quarantine treating you? Oh, my God,yeah it's a lot, but it's been. It's been fun in many wayslike actually a'm, more I'm more C. So...

I started like this wine and wine, azoom conferencing with like women. I don't totally know super well, butwe're sort of like in the same world. So it's the kind of son, so fumy Goshyes, there's a lot oflot of wine all right. So I'd like to chat with youtoday about your work during this pandemic you're, focusing on insuringhousing rights for Philadelphians. So far the Supreme Court has suspendedafiction through May. First, Sherif sales and foreclosures have beenrescheduled and utility compaies have stopped the shutoff of necessaryservices like water, gas and Internet. You have tought for years to establishhousing as a human right. How has this fight ramped up during this pandemic,and can you give me a run down on everything you've been doing yeah? No,that's I mean, I think what this pandemic hasmade clear is that there are basic rights that every American, everycitizen, every resident of this country...

...is entitled to in order to insure boththe economic, health and economic prosperity of the country, and thosethings have become incredibly clear right now. So it's healthcare for all.It's housing is a human right. It's a basic income, it's access to educationand educational quality, and so I think you know, for those of us who've beenworking hard to have or a driven by a human rights agenda. This pandemic hascrystallized for the first time how to bring that declarity to the broader public, it'simpossible for us to obey day at homeorders. If we don't have a houseover our heads- or you know, house, to say in or a roof over, our heads, it'simpossible to inture the public health. If we ourselves don't have health careand it's impossible to ask people to forego, you know going to their jobs,because it's in the interest of the public health and not guarantee them abasic income. An order to put food on...

...the table, pay their rent and assure usthat we're going to come out of this, if you know not only a whole but ableto recover and beyond that path to economic recovery and prosperity. So this is making things crystal clear forus, and you know one of the things tha. I thinkI'm really proud about and what I hope people are encouraged by is that thecall on housing, especially on rental assistance or of you know, Forbearanteor forgiveness, of mortgage premiums for our landlords and small propertyowners, had started at the local level. So westarted out, and as soon as this situation hit issued a call, I helpedissue a call through council on a moratorium and all he fictionsforeclosures tax lanes, utility shut off. Those were very quickly moved onand in fact not only just moved on, but really embraced by the port...

...and and the movement has gone all theway up to the federal dialogue. So it's something that's been in discussion andwe certainly want want to see it ind federal stimulus package round three orfour, whichever one that they're currently on, but but that call started locally becausethe local issues are about more than just you know, you know more than just helping acertain subsection of the country, it's really about the foundations of what iswhat it means to be economically secure and truly healthy, and these times sure.So can you speak to what the city is doing to ensure that after thisemergency order has been lifted? How are these housing efforts going tocontinue to be of relief to rectors and property owners? We are trying to figure that out. Ithink I so I was on a national call with you know, hundreds of electedofficials all across the country at the local level, predominantly betsome atthe state of federal level, and the...

...message is clear: that housing must bestabilized. Housing is crucial to people maintaining jobs, stability,family unity, personal and public health and safety, but it's going torequire us to move away from what we saw. For example, in the last twotrillion dollar federal relief package. Where you know, half a trillion dollarswent to enormous corporations that had already been given a trillion and ahalf dollars in textcuts annually. So so we need to get a lot more gramular,and one of the things that we've been talking about is the importance of both mortgage, because those are ourlandlords and small property owners and rental protections. So whether that is,I mean in the most ideal sense, we would see the state and or federalgovernment forgive those so that we can...

...kind of clean the slate at the veryleast, will need long term refinancing or you know, payment plans that don'tpenalize people and allow them enough time to recover. I think, in themeantime, we're going to need to have a viction more toriums last a little bitlonger through the not only through the crisis, but a but a little bit after.So we don't, you know, start triggering waves of reactionary kinds of thingswhile we're trying to by US time to create enough plans. We want help toour landlords. I mean this is not just a one sided issue. We really need thehousing market to be staple, and that means that both landlords and aure andour renters need to have the help and immediate help that they need alsoassurancis, that this is going to look at a not just a two or three month,recovery period, but really probably like a twelve to eighteen month,recopery, because if you're talking...

...about you know the possibility of you know, people didn't have income inMarch. They definitely don't have it in April. We're hoping that this can end.But you know the public health matters more than ever, but you know there's alot of anxiety over may first front, there's going to be a lot of anxietyover the June ferst rant. So as soon as we start getting into three and fourmonth, long payment lags and wee really got to betalking about like twelve month or longer recovery, time periods forpeople sure so other than the housing issues. What has what have you and whathas councel been focusing on during this pandemic for the PhiladelphiansYeah? So I mean that you know I can say for myself. I know that every singlecouncil member is scrambling to we've, had consituent calls go throughthe roof. Everything from you know two sick children who are carring for asingle mom who is sick with covid...

...nineteen who are at home to runters to you know basic safety issues. Thosethings have absolutely gone through the roof. We've had a lot of issues aroundworker protections, so you know we are looking at tremendous disparity, an who was beingimpacted by covid nineteen who is suffering from it. So I've often youknow like today is Saturday April Web Tenth and we've got twenty six out of the twentynine deaths in Pennsylvania twenty four hours ago here in Philadelphia. We know that it'sdisproportionately represented by African Americans and we don't evenhave all the statistics. So we've been really active on demanding that boththe city and the state to Saggregate data by grace, ideally by Zipcode, sowe can understand how best to target oure efforts and relief, but the onething that I think has not been...

...discussed enough and that we spent alot of time. I spend a lot of time on counsel. Taking a look at is workerprotections, we've determined that there are essential workers out thereand they are amazing. You know they are a grocery storeworkers. They arestocking, shawls, theyre, transit drivers and bus drivers and senitationworkers who are picking up the trash. Obviously, our police officers, firefighters, those who are most strongly associated with being first respondersand a sucal workers, but we've got a whole new class of essential workerswho are insuring that there's food on the table that essential goods andservices are being able to mobilize delivery workers warehouse workers, butthey are not being treated as truly essential, and what I mean by that isis that they're working for companies that are not public, they're private?They are, they run the gammit in terms of protection, some don't even offersickly. For example, there aren't strict guidelines or inspections aboutthe help of, or the cleanliness of that...

...particular facility and we've had a lotof complaints. A LOT A lot. I mean that is a huge chunk of the calls that we'regetting from people who are working jobs. Trying to keep the rest of USalive, safe, bed and healthy, and they themselves do not feel like they arebeing cared for and taking care of. So I have asked that our Labor Departmentbeing used as a center for receipt of complaints, both private and public,from businesses that are deemed essential and that we're going to haveto you know, engage our employers to makesure that they are providing the kinds of workplaces that they need in orderto continue to operate as an essential business. And if they don't, then wehave to talk about what it means to say that this business is not safe tooperate, because these workers are traveling through our city, they'removing. You know, they're being directlyimpacted by exposure they're...

...interacting with a lot of people. Sonot only do we have to insure that they are safe. We have to do it because itmatters for the broader public good and we can't allow businesses that havebeen deemed essential just to use that category and to not take care of theiremployees in a significant way, not just in the general like everyday kindof wish, but like deep cleaning of their facilities on a regular basis,insuring that there's appropriate equipment and they have to pick up onaccess ing. Some of that. It's going to mean that some ex some expenditures,but look a whole sluw of our businesses, have completely shut down. The economyhas plummeted, and if these businesses are an operation, we need them to stepup and make sure that their folks are safe in order for the rest of us to besafe, yeah, safe. To say that I think this pandemic is going to change a lotof things. I think none of us who are listening or who areactive and anything should be naive to the fact that the world is going tochange dramatically and our economy...

...will change. Society will change, jobswill change, and the question that we really have to ask ourselves is: willwe pursue the broken practices of the two thousand and eighth recession whenwe practice austarity and Flashin of services and made it such thatgovernment was like helpless in the face of what I think was a dyou know, apurposeful and reckless crash by certain actors: Corporate Actors? Thisis much different. It is a major major estructuring, but the, but I am worriedabout tendencies that are very similar to twothousand and eight, which is like budgets across the board. Do not prioritizecertain things and what I think we're trying to do right now is prioritize.The essential needs that people have to pursue a pathports recovery and thathas got to be housing. It's got to be healthcare, it's got to be educationand it's got to be a basic income, so...

...those above all else, and then we cancharg the path forward. Definitely acounts a member. Thank you so much forall the work that you're doing to insure the safety and comfort ofPhiladelphians. We appreciate it so much and I wish you the best throughthe rest of this pandemic again. Thank you for your work and thank you forchatting with me. Thank you very much and stay safe. Thank you. You, Tom.

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