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November 13, 2020

Philly distributing more financial relief to renters, small businesses

New funding to benefit 4,000 households and 1,500 businesses

Government COVID-19
Philly Renters Assistance Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Eligible tenants can receive up to $9,000 in renters assistance through Philadelphia's COVID-19 emergency assistance program.

An additional $30 million dollars in federal CARES Act funding will be distributed to Philadelphia renters and small businesses feeling the economic strain of the coronavirus pandemic, city officials announced Thursday.

The funds mark another round of assistance being given to two groups city officials have identified as financially vulnerable. 

Many small businesses are still struggling financially — over 1,000 city businesses have closed since the start of the pandemic-caused shut down, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal. The city estimates financial need from Philadelphia-based small businesses sits at more than $300 million.

Housing officials instated an eviction moratorium last July that extends to March 2021, but renters must eventually pay up. 

"While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life, we recognize that some of our most vulnerable communities need more help to pay rent in order to stay in their homes and our small businesses need continued support to survive," Mayor Jim Kenney said in a press release. "That’s why this additional relief will be deployed as quickly as possible to prevent evictions and business closures, and to protect jobs."

The new funding brings the city's small business support to $38.7 million and its renters relief to $39.4 million. Other sources of funding, such as philanthropic and state funding, bring the support to more than $100 million for small businesses and $68 million for renters, the city estimates.

The new funding allocates $20 million in rental assistance to eligible tenants who applied to the city's emergency assistance program, PHLRentAssist Phase 2, but their landlords did not respond. The city estimates this money could serve up to 4,000 additional households facing housing insecurity.

"Direct rental assistance is critical to ensuring public health and housing security for thousands of Philadelphians," City Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez said. "I am particularly encouraged that City Council, the administration, and the courts collaborated with renters and property owners to simplify this program. I look forward to continued public-private partnership as we chart a new normal."

If approved, a tenant could receive up to $9,000 in assistance. Each eligible tenant that applies gets a one-time payment of up to 6-months of assistance, though monthly rent is capped at $1,500.

Under CARES Act funding, the city could provide two phases of rental assistance to tenants and landlords. Nearly 13,000 Philadelphians applied for rental assistance last May under Phase 1, and 4,000 households received up to $2,500 in aid.

In Phase 2, rental assistance was made available to 10,000 more households through the state's PA CARES Rent Relief Program.

The remaining $10 million will be distributed as grants to approximately 1,500 city businesses through the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program. This brings the total relief given to small businesses to $30 million, including a commitment made by the city in September. 

"Philadelphia’s small businesses are crucial to the health and well-being of our communities, providing tens of thousands of jobs for residents, along with countless goods and services," said Sylvie Gallier Howard, the city's acting commerce director. "We’re proud to commit more funding to provide much needed relief to small businesses that have been struggling during the pandemic."

The Department of Commerce said there is significant need from applicants of the small business program and is working to distribute funds quickly.

This money will be given in grants to the most-impacted Philadelphia-based businesses, focusing on low to moderate-income neighborhoods.

"This additional $30 million is essential to help small businesses and renters struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," City Council President Darrell Clarke said. "We need to do everything in our collective power to help keep businesses open, employees working, and renters and residents safe in their apartments and homes. This added funding is welcome news."

Previously, the city committed $13.3 million to more than 2,000 small businesses through the Philadelphia COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund. It said it will advocate for further funding from the state and federal government.