Although 2021 was a tough year for many, we want to acknowledge that there were countless positive things that happened too. From pools reopening over the summer to schools and out-of-school time programs being in-person again— there is a lot to be thankful for.

Enjoy this snapshot of Philadelphia highlights for 2021!

More than 10,000 children have benefited from free, quality pre-K

PHLpreK funds free, quality pre-K at over 150 centers throughout Philadelphia. This year the program expanded to 4,000 seats and has served 10,000 children since launching!

Communities are seeing the benefits of newly rebuilt and updated parks, recreation centers, and playgrounds

The Rebuild program, a historic investment in Philadelphia communities, has truly thrived this year with several ribbon-cuttings and groundbreakings taking place.

For example, on September 29, 2021, community members came together to celebrate the reopening of the Miles Mack Playground in Mantua. This project totaled over $2 million in investment.

Philadelphia has consistently been one of the first large cities to reach important vaccination milestones

Since December 15, 2020 (when we began administering COVID-19 vaccine in Philadelphia):

  • Nearly 2.5 million doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in Philadelphia.
  • Nearly 1.2 million Philadelphians have received at least one dose of vaccine.
  • More than 95 percent of adults have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.
  • Three out of every four adults in Philadelphia are fully vaccinated!

Philadelphia is consistently one of the first large cities to reach these important milestones. Learn more about Philadelphia’s vaccination milestones.

Catto Scholarship launched with nearly  450 students

In January 2021, the City of Philadelphia and the Community College of Philadelphia launched the Octavius Catto Scholarship, which provides free tuition and additional financial and social support for eligible students at the Community College of Philadelphia. In the last year, the program has grown from 133 to nearly 450 diverse students ages 18 to 50 working towards their career and personal goals. More information, including how to apply, is available through the Community College of Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office of Education.

20 nonprofits in Kensington received grant funding to help the community

In April, the Kensington Community Resilience Fund was launched. This is a public-private-community partnership between community members, the City of Philadelphia, and regional funders to explicitly address the community impacts of the opioid crisis in Kensington. The KCR Fund awarded its first round of grants, totaling $200,000, to 20 nonprofit organizations. A second round of funding will be awarded in early 2022.

PHL Rent Assist is a national model

PHL Rent Assist disbursed more than $240 million to support thousands of Philadelphia households, helping landlords and keeping residents in their homes.

We have seen a decrease in processing costs for waste and recycling disposal

The Streets Department is reporting less contamination of recycled materials at the curb thanks to residents and the passion many have exhibited for recycling right throughout the pandemic. These actions coupled with a greater demand by processors for cardboard, mixed paper, certain plastics and aluminum has led to a savings of $4 million in recycling disposal processing costs. Keep recycling Philly! It’s worth it.

The mechanical street sweeping pilot added six more areas

The Phase II pilot of Philadelphia’s Street sweeping program covered six additional areas from August to November:

  • North Central: Broad to 22nd Sts from Glenwood Ave to Diamond St
  • South Philly: McKean St to Oregon Ave from 4th to 8th Sts
  • Southwest: Woodland Ave to Kingsessing Ave from 49th St to Cemetery Ave.
  • Strawberry Mansion: Diamond Ave to Lehigh St from Sedgley to 33rd Sts
  • West Fairhill: 5th to 13th Sts from Glenwood to Susquehanna
  • West Philly: Parkside to Girard Ave from 52nd to 40th Sts.

More than 28,000 Afghan evacuees were welcomed into the U.S. through PHL Airport

Beginning in August, the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) helped to coordinate Operation Allies Welcome (previously known as Operation Allies Refuge PHL), a federally-led mission to help vulnerable Afghans safely resettle in the United States. To date, the city has served as a point-of-entry location for more than 28,000 individuals evacuated from Afghanistan.

More than 25,000 children and youth were offered school year and summer programming

In 2021, the City of Philadelphia provided a robust network of programming that offered opportunities to more than 25,000 children and youth in Out of School time programs, WorkReady, E3, Playstreets, Intensive Prevention Services and other school year and summer activities. Classes and resources that serve the whole family were made available in 2021 through our adult education programming.

PHLConnectED expanded to serve pre-K students and caregivers

PHLConnectED—the City’s initiative to connect pre-K-12 families to free internet access—has enabled over 18,700 internet connections since its launch in 2020. With two internet options—Comcast’s Internet Essentials or a T-Mobile hotspot—the program aims to help as many families as possible. This year, the K-12 program expanded in the spring of 2021 to include pre-K student households as well. Additionally, PHLConnectED launched two grant cycles to provide digital support for pre-K-12 caregivers. As the program continues into 2022, it will begin to focus more on digital skills building along with providing free internet access to those in need.  

2020 Census reported our city’s population grew

More than 1.6 million people call Philadelphia home for the first time since the 1980s. After decades of decline through the end of the 20th century, Philadelphia has seen consistent population growth for nearly two decades now, showing that our great city is a place where people want to live, work, and raise a family. A good deal of that growth has come from immigrants and their families who have chosen to call Philadelphia home, enhancing the fabric and cultural vibrancy of our communities.

The City of Philadelphia officially recognized Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the first time and observed Juneteenth

On January 27, 2021, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Executive Order 2-21, which made two changes to the list of City Holidays. The City of Philadelphia once again recognized Juneteenth (June 19) as a holiday; and, for the first time, the City holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October was recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. These changes, instituted via Executive Order 2-21, will be in place at least through the end of the Kenney administration.

Hundreds of small businesses received financial relief

The Philadelphia Department of Commerce partnered with PIDC to administer the Philadelphia COVID-19 Restaurant and Gym Relief Program (RGRP), which distributed $12 million to more than 900 small businesses. This program was designed to provide financial relief to small businesses located in Philadelphia that were among the most adversely affected by pandemic-related restrictions enacted in November 2020. According to self-reported demographic information, over 50 percent of awards went to minority business owners, while one-third went to women-owned businesses. Learn more in this report.

The Salon and Barbershop Emergency Relief (SABER) Program, a partnership of the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, Philadelphia Department of Commerce, VestedIn, and Entrepreneur Works, provided $5,000 grants to select businesses in the hair care industry that were among the most adversely impacted by the City’s pandemic-related restrictions.

Nearly 1,700 young people received vital cash assistance

COVID-19 left many current and former foster youth with new challenges. Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services established a financial assistance program, getting $800 cash payments into the hands of nearly 1,700 youth.

Philly was named “One of the World’s Greatest Places 2021” by TIME and a “Top Destination  in the World to Visit” by Condé Nast Traveler

This year, TIME Magazine recognized Philadelphia as one of “The World’s Greatest Places of 2021.”

Philadelphia was named One of the Top Destinations in the World to Visit in 2021 by Condé Nast Traveler.

In-person celebrations and special events returned

Last, but certainly not least we have seen the return of parades and holiday events! This year we celebrated the holidays with the all-new Visit Philadelphia Holiday Parade, which was a celebration of all of winter’s holidays including Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the Chinese New Year!

We also celebrated the lighting of our city’s 50-foot fir tree at City Hall!

These are just a few things that showcase the tenacity, resilience, and love that resides in the city of Philadelphia.

We’re excited for more great things in 2022!