COVID-19 pushed me to a ‘breaking point.’ Philly’s strength keeps me going.

Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy speaks during the daily coronavirus update at City Hall, joined by (from left) Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Mayor Jim Kenney. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy speaks during the daily coronavirus update at City Hall, joined by (from left) Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Mayor Jim Kenney. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed Philadelphia and communities across the world into uncharted territory, with new and evolving challenges emerging every day, and many still to come.

As Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia, the pandemic has personally pushed me to a breaking point. Every minute brings a new obstacle, a tough decision and a pace that is unrelenting.

But faced with this unprecedented uncertainty, I’m a witness to awe-inspiring unity and that instills in me the strength to drive forward. A feeling that we are all in this together runs deep among all of our essential staff, whether working at the Emergency Operations Center, in our health centers, or our accountants and HR administrators working to ensure essential businesses, nonprofits and City staff get paid.

Sudden school closures required City and School District leadership and staff to immediately mobilize to make sure our children and teenagers have access to meals. I’m proud that last week alone, the District distributed 47,290 meals and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation distributed 6,099.

This week, the District, charter schools, and Philadelphia Housing Authority began distributing meals to children and youth at 80 sites citywide. Together these partners are all working together to ensure food access for vulnerable children and families.

But the government cannot do this alone. City government, philanthropic partners, the business community and citizen volunteers are joining together — uniting in a manner we’ve never seen before — to protect our city’s vulnerable residents and support those affected by the tremendous disruption in everyday community and economic life.

One piece of evidence: The city’s partnership with philanthropy, businesses and nonprofits to meet urgent needs.

Announced on Thursday, PHL COVID-19 Fund was created to support nonprofits that are on the frontlines of the pandemic and provide critical services throughout the Philadelphia region.

Led by the Philadelphia Foundation and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the PHL COVID-19 Fund will complement the work of regional public health officials and expand local capacity to address the outbreak as efficiently as possible. In just 48 hours, we’ve collectively raised close to $6.5 million to kick start the fund. You can support your community and donate here.

As nonprofit organizations on the frontline of the pandemic face increasing demand for their services in response to the crisis, the fund will move quickly to provide resources so they can continue to meet urgent needs, especially for vulnerable and disproportionately impacted populations such as seniors, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness and those who are economically disadvantaged. Over time, the fund will adapt to serve the evolving needs of our region’s nonprofit organizations and impacted populations.

To help government and philanthropy better understand the needs of nonprofit organizations and the people, we encourage nonprofit organizations to complete an online survey.

The City is also working to address the acute new challenges faced by residents and businesses in this time of crisis.  Philadelphia officials working with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) rolled out a program on Monday to support small businesses in Philadelphia by helping them meet payroll obligations and preserve jobs

Luckily, small businesses and eligible nonprofits in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania are able to apply for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration right now.

Philadelphia residents are also playing their part in responding to this crisis. Most Philadelphians are heeding restrictions on activity, staying home whenever possible, and maintaining social distance. Our city’s health care, food, retail, delivery, and cleaning workers are carrying out their essential work to ensure residents can meet basic needs.

We know many people are also out of work. During this difficult time, we encourage workers impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 crisis to learn more about the resources available.

Times of crisis bring the best out of people and our residents have asked what they can do to help. We have many ways that residents can support each other during this time that includes donating time, money or food.

Philadelphia has a proud history of rising to all kinds of occasions — from hosting the Constitutional Convention to winning the Super Bowl. Today, we face the greatest challenge of our time united. We are all in this together, and in the weeks and months ahead we all have a part to play. And we will emerge from this crisis as a stronger Philadelphia.

Brian Abernathy was appointed Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia by Mayor Jim Kenney in January 2019. He leads the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.