Philadelphia details business relief program as cases hit 175

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, if current trends hold, the city will run out of hospital space by Dec. 31.
PHOTO: Metro File

Philadelphia officials on Monday unveiled details of a program aimed at helping small businesses as the COVID-19 virus keeps most stores shuttered and the number of cases continues to grow.

Hours after the city’s stay-at-home order went into effect, Mayor Jim Kenney and other municipal leaders announced a $9.25 million fund that will be used to provide grants and no-interest loans to businesses with revenues under $5 million.

“We are painfully aware of the stress and potentially devastating impact that these closures are causing for businesses and workers across Philadelphia,” Kenney said.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said 79 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported, bringing the city’s total to 175. Farley attributed the big jump to a backlog of tests that came back from the weekend.

Farley said 14 patients are hospitalized, and 21 healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19.

Across Pennsylvania, six people with the coronavirus have died, and there have 644 cases. Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday extended the city’s stay-at-home order to six counties, including Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester. He also ordered schools to close statewide for an additional two weeks.

“Everybody needs to get used to this,” Farley said during a press briefing. “We’re going to be in this situation for a while.”

In addition, an employee at Shoprite of Morrell Plaza in Northeast Philadelphia has tested positive for the virus, the store confirmed on Facebook.

The supermarket’s owners said the associate is not at the store, and employees who had close interactions with them have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Grocery stores have been packed in many areas, but businesses as a whole have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Sylvie Gallier Howard, the city’s acting commerce director, said her department’s survey of business owners found that a large portion have revenue losses of 80 percent due to the virus. Businesses with under five employees and those in the hospitality, tourism, restaurant, retail and childcare industries have been hit particularly hard, she said.

Gallier Howard’s Commerce Department and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation are leading the city’s COVID-19 Small Business Relief Fund.

Businesses with revenue under $500,000 a year are eligible for a $5,000 grant, and those that gross between $500,000 and $3 million can receive grants of up to $25,000. Companies with revenues between $3 and $5 million are being offered zero-interest loans of up to $100,000.

Gallier Howard said businesses will be given priority if they’ve lost at least half of their revenue; developed a recovery plan; and commit to retaining employees for as long as possible.

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Businesses in the city will also have until July 15 to file their Business Income and Receipts Tax.

Real estate tax deadlines were also extended to April 30 for homeowners and commercial properties, though the city urged people who can afford to pay to file by Tax Day, April 15.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kenney said the Broad Street Run, scheduled for May 3, has been postponed to Oct. 4.

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