Philadelphia officials wait to see what’s coming from Trump

    City Finance Director Rob Dubow says around 10 percent of the city's annual spending comes from Washington. (Emma Lee/WHYY

    City Finance Director Rob Dubow says around 10 percent of the city's annual spending comes from Washington. (Emma Lee/WHYY

    As the days count down toward the Donald Trump administration, Philadelphia city officials have surveyed the federal funding the city relies on that could affected by new policies from the White House.

    While the city isn’t making contingency plans yet, some advocates think it should be.

    Finance director Rob Dubow asked city departments to figure out how much city spending relies on money from Washington. The answer: More than $400 million, around 10 ten percent of overall city spending.

    Trump has threatened to eliminate funding for Philadelphia and other “sanctuary cities” that don’t routinely fulfill immigration detainer requests.

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    And there are worries about the impact of the president-elect’s policies on health, education and infrastructure.

    “Some of the things they’ve said, you know, are concerning,” Dubow said in an interview, “but until you actually see an administration come in, and you see what legislation happens, you can’t really say what happens with specificity.”

    Dubow said much of the federal funding the city relies on now, such as money to care for neglected and abused children, comes through formulas in existing legislation that wouldn’t be easy to undo.

    And so, Dubow said, the city is taking “a wait-and-see approach” for now, not making contingency plans.

    Another take

    Robert Field, a Drexel University law professor and health policy expert, said there’s more to consider here than just federal funding streams for city services.

    One example is a gutting of the Affordable Care Act which reverses the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    “If that rug were pulled out from people, you’d have a lot of people who are way too poor to buy health insurance, who don’t have jobs that offer insurance, and would have no way to get it,” Field said in an interview. “A lot of those people would need to go to city public health clinics because they wouldn’t be able to afford private physicians.”

    Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said she understands the Kenney administration’s caution, but believes the city needs to think proactively about what might be coming from Washington.

    “I think it’s important that there are pre-emptive messages that explain to the public what’s at risk,” Cooper said, “so that the public can engage and make sure their elected officials, Sens. Casey and Toomey, [and] their house members, are protecting the city of Philadelphia.”

    Field said he thinks the prospect of reversing the expansion of Medicaid creates a natural alliance between cities and hospitals that would be burdened by providing care to far more uninsured people.

    Dubow said city officials will see what unfolds in the next couple of months.

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