April 01, 2020
Pennsylvania courts will remain closed, with the exception of certain essential functions, through at least April 30, Philadelphia officials confirmed Wednesday.
All evictions will be halted during this period. Emergency matters, such as petitions for protection from abuse, will continue.
Courts will be closed through April 30th, with certain essential functions continuing. https://t.co/CXKN3As81H— Philadelphia DAO (@philadao) April 1, 2020
In the midst of the crisis, renters throughout the city are facing financial hardships at a time they would normally be paying a rent check.
Across the United States, tenants have begun organizing around the possibility of a rent strike. The movement has gained momentum from a broad and diverse coalition, but could have considerable economic ramifications in the long-run if a widespread boycott ensues.
In New York, state Sen. Mike Gianaris and others have proposed a 90-day moratorium on residential and commercial rent — not just evictions — to buy the nation's hardest-hit state some additional time.
The immediate message to renters and landlords in Philadelphia appears to hinge on what the courts decide to do beyond April 30.
"Our administration is committed to making sure that no resident faces the loss of their home at the very time when staying at home is imperative," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.
In the event that a landlord attempts to evict or lock out a tenant, residents are advised to call 911 to have the matter resolved. Kenney said several calls already have been made to prevent "spotty" attempts at evictions during the suspension.
Anyone with tenant-related questions may call the city's hotline at (267) 443-2500 and leave a message. Attempts will be made to return calls within 24 hours, if possible.
While the city's Fair Housing Commission is not currently holding hearings, tenants can still fill out an intake questionnaire to establish a filing date.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority has postponed evictions and court appointments through at least April 12.
Mortgage servicers have been directed by the federal government and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to halt all new foreclosure actions and suspend all foreclosure activities in process for FHA-insured mortgages. Evictions have been ordered to cease for people from FHA-insured single-family properties.
Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said commercial tenants should expect federal relief soon from the Small Business Administration and the CARES Act.
Mayor Kenney urged residents to complete the census, either by filling out paper questionnaires sent in the mail or by using the new online platform available throughout the United States.
"Were it not for the pandemic, we'd be spending much of the day reminding all Philadelphians of the importance of participating in the 2020 Census," Kenney said. "Outreach teams would be knocking on doors today and every day making sure that all households have the opportunity to respond. Unfortunately, that face-to-face outreach cannot take place."
The city plans to rely on email, social media and word-of-mouth campaigns to get the word out about the census.
"Our city relies on a complete and accurate census count to get the political representation and funding we need to support all of our residents," Kenney said. "The results will impact how much federal funding Philadelphia gets for the next decade to support community needs such as health care, schools, transportation, public safety and other essential programs and services."
Kenney also reminded residents of important upcoming deadlines for the Pennsylvania primary election, which has been delayed until June 2. May 18 will be the last day to register to vote ahead of the primary, while May 26 is the last day to apply for a mail-in ballot. Voters can go to apps.philadelphiavotes.com for information on applying for a mail-in ballot.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said announced 360 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the city's total to 1,675, including 15 deaths.
The high number of new cases is due in part to a backlog of 75 cases that were previously reported to the state health department and later confirmed to be Philadelphia residents.
Farley provided an update on the breakdown of race and ethnicity of COVID-19 in Philadelphia. The numbers are based on 528 case investigation forms that have been completed, representing about one-third of the city's total cases.
Among those 528 cases, 46% were black/non-Hispanic, 37% were white/non-Hispanic, 3% were Asian, 10% were Hispanic, and 4% were other races and ethnicities.
Regarding models and projections about hospital capacity and death tolls, Farley said it's still possible for the city to prevent the worst outcome.
"There's tremendous uncertainty to these models," Farley said. "They predict very different peaks and timings of those peaks. We need to be prepared for all of those. If we are completely successful, we won't see much of a wave. If we are not successful, we could see a wave that would exceed our hospital capacity."
Philadelphia has roughly 6,000 hospital beds, while the greater Philadelphia area has approximately 12,000 total.
Philadelphia also opened up another COVID-19 testing site in Center City that will follow the same criteria as the site outside Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia. Testing is available by appointment only with a physician referral for health care workers and individuals over the age of 50. Those who wish to set up an appointment can call (267) 491-5870 to receive information about the location of the site.