The Kenney administration and City Council have announced a new commitment of $30 million dollars in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to aid renters and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding comes from the federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) that the City received from the U.S. Treasury.
The CARES Act authorized payment of these funds to states, local governments with populations of 500,000 or more, and tribal governments. Since May 2020, the City has utilized federal, state, and local funding to assist thousands of tenants and small businesses.
“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,” Kenney said. “That’s why this additional relief will be deployed as quickly as possible to prevent evictions and business closures, and to protect jobs.”
“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.”
This latest allocation of funds brings the City’s direct support for small business assistance to $38.7 million and for rent relief to $39.4 million. When combined with other state and philanthropic funding sources, small businesses and nonprofits in Philadelphia will have received over $100 million in support and nearly $68 million has been spent or committed for helping Philadelphia renters.
Federal CARES Act funding allowed the City to provide two phases of rental assistance to help tenants and landlords impacted by the pandemic-creating PHLRentAssist. Nearly 13,000 Philadelphians applied for Phase 1 rental assistance, which is serving 4,000 households with up to $2,500 in aid. Phase 2 rental assistance was made possible by Pennsylvania’s PA-CARES Rent Relief Program, which allows the City to serve over 10,000 additional households.
Of the additional $30 million announced today, $20 million is committed to providing rental assistance for tenants who were eligible and applied for PHLRentAssist Phase 2, but their landlord did not respond. These tenants will now be able to receive a one-time payment. This payment is the tenant’s rent amount (not to exceed $1,500 per month) for up to six months of assistance; maximum total assistance is $9,000. This new funding will help the City serve an estimated additional 4,000 households that are in need and 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.”
“We’re proud that we’ve been able to serve thousands of tenants and landlords through our rent assistance programs. But thousands of other tenants could not get help because of the requirement that their landlord also apply,” Greg Heller, senior vice president of community investment at PHDC, said. “We do not want landlords’ lack of response or participation to prevent these families from getting the help they need to keep a roof over their heads.”
Small Business Relief
Of the $30 million, $10 million is committed to providing small business relief through the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program. This new funding will be used to provide grants for some of the Philadelphia-based applicants who remained unfunded after the second round of grants announced by the Commonwealth.
This $10 million is in addition to the $20 million that was committed to the Commonwealth’s business relief program in September, which will also fund some Philadelphia businesses who were unfunded after the second round of grants from the program. This funding—$30 million dollars in total including the commitment the City made in September—is expected to provide relief to an additional 1,500 businesses in the city.
“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,” Sylvie Gallier Howard, acting commerce director for the City of Philadelphia, said. “We’re proud to commit more funding to provide much needed relief to small businesses that have been struggling during the pandemic.”
Instead of launching a new program and application process, the Department of Commerce opted to provide additional resources to the existing statewide program coordinated by the PA Community Development Finance Institution Network because there was significant unmet need from the applications to the state program and this approach distributed the money more quickly.
The CRF money will be used to make additional grants specifically to the most-impacted Philadelphia-based businesses—with a focus on those in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
This funding for business relief is in addition to the more than $13.3 million the City already distributed to more than 2,000 small businesses earlier this year through the Philadelphia COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund, administered by the Department of Commerce and PIDC.
Even with these various rounds of financial assistance, local small businesses are still in overwhelming need of more support—estimated at more than $300 million. The City will continue to advocate for the state and federal governments to match the level of local investment being made and to provide more flexible funding to help meet the needs of small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
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