COVID has changed how city governments support businesses
COVID-19 ultimately altered city governments' relationships with businesses and how they dole out support, according to a new Pew study of 14 cities, including Philadelphia.
State of play: Businesses across the country have needed help during the pandemic, and many are still struggling to recover.
- The federal government has provided over $800 billion in forgivable business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program — at least $2.9 billion of which went to Philadelphia.
- But municipal governments also adapted to provide much-needed support, from making some regulatory processes more accommodating to improving communication with businesses, according to the Pew report published Tuesday.
For example: When Philadelphia made streeteries more accessible on sidewalks and parking lanes, it helped restaurants stay afloat.
- Before the pandemic, sidewalk cafe permitting outside specific commercial corridors was an arduous process requiring approval from City Council.
- Under a temporary relief program, the city allowed all businesses to be eligible for permits and reviewed applications within three business days.
Flash forward: The Philly City Council passed a law in December that allowed streeteries to stay in select districts.
- It ended up creating specific zones, which means some have by-right operations while others now need council approval.
What else: Philadelphia also dispersed more than $13 million to small businesses through a city COVID-19 relief fund, with half of that going to companies with fewer than 10 employees.
Zoom out: Other cities are also keeping pandemic-related accommodations around. San Francisco decided to keep the implementation of a 30-day review period for some business permits and expanded use of space in commercial districts.
- Nashville removed restrictions on home-based businesses, including audio recording and artisanal manufacturing, until 2023.
- Several cities adopted new measures restricting how much third-party delivery services could charge restaurants and requiring those services to disclose fees to customers.
Plus: The report also points out that most cities ramped up data collections for businesses, became one-stop shops for updates for guidelines and resources, and coordinated both federal and state programs.
Of note: Philadelphia was the only one among the 14 cities to enact a commercial eviction protection program in December 2020. It prevented certain small businesses from being forcibly kicked out for 180 days.
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