Apply now: Pa. resumes unemployment for freelancers, self-employed and gig workers

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walks with a dog, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, in Northeast Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus walks with a dog, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, in Northeast Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) announced plans Friday to launch a $12 million grant program aimed at helping the city’s pandemic-battered restaurants and gyms.

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Restaurant and Gym Relief Program is designed to provide financial relief to small businesses in the city that have been among the most adversely affected by the latest round of pandemic-related restrictions enacted in November 2020.

Grant awards are estimated to be up to $15,000 per business.

If approved, businesses may use the funds as needed to continue operating, including for rent or payroll. But, investments in outdoor winterization, improvements in indoor ventilation, and other COVID-related indoor physical space expenses or personal protective equipment (PPE) purchases are encouraged. Grant recipients must maintain records of their grant expenditures for 12 months.

“With this funding, we’ll be able to extend a lifeline to small businesses in the most impacted industries — including restaurants and gyms,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

The online application for the program will open at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28. Applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9. All applications will be reviewed after the deadline has passed.

Applications will be awarded based on eligibility and alignment, with program priorities and preference, though not required, will be given to businesses that are located in low-income areas or on neighborhood commercial corridors. Additional preference will be given to businesses owned by women, people of color or people with disabilities, as well as those who provide jobs to Philadelphians, or suffered damage in 2020 due to civil unrest.

Due to limited funding, eligible businesses must be:

  • Operating as a restaurant that has indoor dining
  • Operating a gym, or a business whose primary activity is indoor exercise
  • Running an independently owned and operated for-profit business or franchise
  • Occupying a storefront, retail, or commercial space physically located in Philadelphia
  • Operating at time of application or have operated in the last 90 days and intend to be operating again within the next 90 days
  • Earning less than $2 million in annual revenue pre-COVID-19
  • Reporting at least a 25% decline in revenue from the 4th quarter of 2020 compared to the 4th quarter of 2019
  • Complying with all local, state, and federal taxes, or be on an approved payment plan or can prove they are in the process of getting on a payment plan. The Philadelphia Department of Revenue is offering flexible payment plans.
  • Possessing federal, state, and local licenses and permits to legally operate

The program was made possible through the latest allocation of funding for small business relief through a mid-year transfer of city general fund dollars in December 2020.

Extended PUA benefit payments on the way

Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier announced Friday that payments for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in the new federal CARES Act extension will resume.

The assistance helps workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and are not typically eligible for other unemployment compensation programs. This includes gig workers, freelancers, and self-employed workers.

“We know that more than 400,000 Pennsylvanians and their families are relying on these PUA benefits to get through this terrible pandemic and have worked as quickly as possible to complete the implementation and resume payments,” said Berrier.

Those seeking the funds can begin filing for the additional 11 claim weeks on Jan. 22. The deadline for applications is Jan 29. If an applicant misses that deadline, they’ll need to email ucpua@pa.gov to request backdating.

The original CARES Act programs, including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), expired at the end of December 2020.

L&I is in the final stages of the PEUC implementation and will be providing an update to those claimants very soon, officials say.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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