Legislators cancel events, work remotely amid COVID-19 outbreak

Officials will be providing constituent services over the phone even if their offices are not open.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta's district office on Broad Street near Jefferson is closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak. | CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple-area legislators have canceled events and asked staff to work from home amid the spread of COVID-19.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, whose district encompasses Main Campus, canceled all public events, including his food distribution program for seniors through SHARE Food Program and an upcoming Women’s Resource Fair, in light of directives from Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf to practice social distancing, wrote Sheila Simmons, Kenyatta’s district office director, in an email to The Temple News.

SHARE will be delivering food directly to seniors’ homes and Kenyatta’s office will provide its constituents with a phone number they can call to request the food, Simmons wrote.

The office will work with constituents over the phone and online in the meantime, Simmons wrote. Staff members who are “absolutely needed” for operations have been working from home, she added.

Kenyatta is also alerting his constituents on social media about available resources during the pandemic, like whether they can apply for unemployment compensation, as well as decisions being made about state services amid the outbreak, Simmons wrote.

Council President Darrell Clarke, whose district encompasses Main Campus, has closed his district offices but is serving constituents by phone, according to his Facebook page.

City Council will meet this Thursday to give final approval to an $85 million spending bill to help the city respond to the pandemic, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans has temporarily closed his four offices and will field constituent concerns by phone and through his website, according to a press release.

“I want to make sure that we both maintain service to constituents and do our part in necessary social distancing to ‘flatten the curve’ of cases so that our hospitals and health-care system can treat patients,” Evans said in the release. “During this pandemic, phone calls, email and other methods will allow us to continue serving constituents while reducing risks to everyone’s health.”

Evans’ privacy-release form, which allows citizens to request help from his office, is available on his website. 

State Rep. Sharif Street will keep his district office open for services, but he will not allow walk-in appointments, according to a post on his  Facebook page. 

On March 18, the PA Senate approved a rule that allows its members to work remotely, Spotlight PA reported. The House passed a similar rule on March 16.

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