The City’s economic reform agenda focuses on increasing investment in historically disadvantaged communities and supporting small businesses.
Increasing City investments in the community
The FY21 budget passed by City Council on June 25, 2020 restored some funding to the Housing Trust Fund, workforce development, adult education, Cultural Fund, African American Museum in Philadelphia, and Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Decreasing City investments in the Police Department
Small business and M/W/DSBE business rebuilding
Support for small businesses
The COVID-19 pandemic has had disparate impacts on small M/W/DSBE-owned businesses.
Equitably providing relief grants and capital
The City, along with its multiple partners, provided support to thousands of businesses, as listed below:
The City and PIDC launched the Philadelphia COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund on March 23, 2020, just one week after the City restricted all non-essential business activities. The program was designed to support Philadelphia small businesses, help maintain payroll obligations, and preserve jobs impacted by the spread of the virus. The City and PIDC ultimately distributed a total of $13.3 million in grants and loans to more than 2,000 business owners. More than 66 percent of grants went to minority-owned businesses.
Through the Philadelphia Restore and Reopen program, the City, in partnership with The Merchants Fund, distributed more than $1.5 million in grants to 186 businesses after civil unrest in June 2020. More than 90 percent of all awards went to minority-owned businesses.
The City announced a new Reopening with Care initiative with North Broad Renaissance to help local businesses on commercial corridors reopen safely when the first pandemic restrictions were slowly lifted. The goal was to support businesses and restore consumer confidence by letting people know that businesses are following recommended safety procedures to keep customers safe.
The City launched the Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program, a $7 million economic development initiative that expands the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridor cleaning efforts from 49 commercial corridors to 85 throughout the city. PHL TCB invests in people and small businesses by creating employment opportunities for residents and keeping Philadelphia’s neighborhood commercial corridors clean.
The City of Philadelphia committed a total of $37 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to aid small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This $37 million was directed to the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program to support Philadelphia businesses who were unfunded after earlier rounds of the program.
The City and PIDC launched the Philadelphia COVID-19 Restaurant and Gym Relief Program, which was specifically designed for businesses among the most adversely affected by the pandemic-related restrictions enacted in November 2020. Grants of up to $15,000 per business were will be awarded to more than 900 businesses.
The City, along with its workforce and economic development partners Philadelphia Works and PIDC, announced a renewed commitment to advance equitable workforce development opportunities and align resources to lift Philadelphians out of poverty, including a $1 million investment in innovative workforce solutions that address workforce challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and exacerbated by long standing racial injustice.
The City and PIDC announced a new $17 million grant program as part of the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP)—a $145 million statewide fund created by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses for certain businesses in the hard-hit hospitality industry.
The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity and Department of Commerce partnered with local CDFIs VestedIn and Entrepreneur Works to create the Salons and Barbershop Emergency Relief (SABER) Grant Program. SABER is a $1 million fund to support 200 businesses in the hair care industry severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on those operating in the Philadelphia zip codes with the highest poverty rates.
Providing economic resources and services to businesses
The Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Services has been on call throughout the pandemic, fielding over 10,000 calls from the business services hotline about COVID-related restrictions and financial resources. The Office of Businesses Services can help businesses navigate City services, understand regulations, as well as assist entrepreneurs through the process of opening, operating, and growing a business. They can be reached by calling 215-683-2100 or by emailing email@example.com, and virtual support sessions are also available for business owners
The City also launched a new resource tool that helps connect local business owners and entrepreneurs with organizations that offer guidance on starting, running, and growing a business. On the Business Resource Finder, users can search for free or low-cost services available to businesses, including funding opportunities, legal assistance, workshops, and more.
Identifying Workforce Solutions
$1 million Call For Ideas
On September 23, 2020, the City released a $1 million Call For Ideas, seeking workforce innovations to help unemployed and underemployed Philadelphians prepare for and connect to sustainable, living-wage careers. Proposals must clearly identify how funding would be used to address workforce challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and/or exacerbated by long-standing racial injustices.
Equitable & Inclusive Economy Recovery Plan
Respond, Restart, Recharge, and Reimagine
The City released its Respond, Restart, Recharge, and Reimagine Economy plan, which outlines its inclusive economic recovery strategy and initiatives. In part, the plan lays out three main projects in the works related to inclusive recovery:
- The Regional Recharge and Recovery Taskforce, led by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, PIDC, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
- Equitable Entrepreneurship Assessment and Strategy, led by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the City, and PIDC who are working are partnering on a comprehensive assessment of the existing local entrepreneurial landscape.
- Workforce Respond and Recharge Plan, led by the City and Philadelphia Works aimed at identifying and implementing strategies to address the unprecedented unemployment crisis spurred by the pandemic.