What's New

Philadelphia Government Offering Another Round of Rental Assistance Starting July 6, 2020

July 1, 2020

Starting on July 6, 2020, the City of Philadelphia will accept applications for the second round of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (“ERAP”) to assist tenants who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic to make their rental payments.  

Funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Tenants must have lost more than 30% of their income due to reduced work hours or wages because of COVID-19 or have become unemployed after March 1, 2020 due to COVID-19.  Tenants who applied for unemployment assistance must have done so after March 1st

Tenants approved under ERAP can receive rental assistance from the City for up to 6 consecutive months for up to a total of $4,500. 

The tenants’ income before March 1st must have been no more than 100% of the area median income, or $87,000 for a family of three. 

Payments under ERAP will be made directly to the landlord. 

To be eligible for this governmental program, a tenant must rent an apartment unit or house in Philadelphia pursuant to a current written lease signed by a landlord. 

Tenants who live in public housing, receive other forms of governmental rental assistance, have unpaid rent from before April, or are in the process of being evicted will not be eligible for assistance under ERAP. 

Under ERAP, the applicant must submit a copy of the lease and proof of income loss for all adult members of the household. 

Additionally, the applicant’s landlord must have a rental license and be current on taxes owed to the City.  If necessary, the landlord will be given a week to remedy any such issues with the City. 

The landlord must also agree to accept the rental payment from the City under ERAP, not pursue eviction for non-payment of rent while receiving such payments and for 60 days after the final payment from the City.

If you have a question about ERAP, please feel free to contact us at contact@nochumson.com and an attorney at Nochumson P.C. will immediately reach out to you to schedule a free consultation.

Philadelphia City Council Passes “Emergency Housing Protection Act”

June 25, 2020

Last week, Philadelphia City Council passed the Emergency Housing Protection Act (“EHPA”), a series of 5 bills designed to prevent or postpone evictions in Philadelphia.

The state directive staying the commencement of all eviction proceedings in Pennsylvania is scheduled to expire on July 10, 2020.

EHPA, which is expected to be signed into law by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, will extend that moratorium at least through August 31, 2020 as well as provide additional protections for tenants in Philadelphia.

The bills which comprise the EHPA are:

  • Bill Number 200295 extends the eviction moratorium through August 31, 2020 for residential tenants as well as small businesses which provide the landlord with a certification of hardship due to Covid-19.  The bill defines small businesses as “[a] person that employs fewer than 100 total employees, wherever located, whether within the City of Philadelphia or elsewhere”.  The bill provides an exception to allow an eviction “to cease or prevent an imminent threat of harm by the person being evicted, including physical harm or harassment”.  Likewise, during this time period, landlords are prevented from taking steps to regain possession of a property.
  • Bill Number 200305 provides residential tenants who provide a certification of Covid-19-related financial hardship and proof of income loss or increased expenses the right to enter into 9-month payment plans with their landlords to pay delinquent rent over that extended period.  The 9-month period of repayment would begin after the last day of the Covid-19 emergency period which is presumed to be August 31st.  The law forbids landlords from reducing such an agreement for a payment plan to a judgment by agreement, consent order, a consent judgment, or similar court order. Also, the landlord is prohibited from commencing eviction proceedings during the nine-month period unless the tenant fails to pay ongoing rent during that period or misses 4 installments of the back rent. 
  • Bill No. 200294 creates a mandatory residential eviction diversion program that runs through December 31, 2020, requiring both landlords and residential tenants who have experienced Covid-19-related financial hardships to participate in a mediation process designed to help resolve issues before they lead to formal evictions.
  • Bill No. 200302 waives late fees on rent for residential tenants from the beginning of the pandemic until 9 months after the end of Covid-19 emergency period for those tenants experiencing Covid-19-related financial hardship.
  • Bill No. 200304 provides a private cause of action for tenants who have been illegally locked out to sue their landlords and recover damages caused by the illegal lockout, as well as attorney’s fees and punitive damages of $2,000 per violation. 

If you have any question about the EHPA or require assistance with any legal matter as a result of the pandemic, we are offering consultations at no cost. To learn more, please visit http://covid19.nochumson.com/. We look forward to helping you and your business.

City Creates Grant and Loan Programs for Small Businesses Impacted by Covid-19 and Looting

June 15, 2020

Last week, the City of Philadelphia announced 2 new programs to assist small businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the recent rioting and looting.   

Both programs are targeted at businesses in historically disadvantaged communities to help them prepare to reopen and recover financially. 

These programs are:

$3 million Restart PHL Loan Fund. 

This new loan program, which is being administered by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PID), provides flexible low-cost capital to small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue for costs associated with improved business resilience or growth, including working capital, fit-up, inventory, technology, mobilization, re-hiring and employee training.

It is targeted to historically disadvantaged communities with a specific focus on Black- and Brown-owned businesses located on commercial corridors in low-income areas.

Later this month, the application for this new loan program will be released along with additional program details.

$1.4 million in initial funding for the Restore and Reopen Program. 

This new grant program is dedicated to helping businesses in historically disadvantaged communities that experienced damage or inventory loss from the recent civil unrest to cover expenses needed to recover and reopen.

The city of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department is partnering with the Merchants Fund to launch the grant program and is actively seeking to raise additional funds in order to reach more impacted businesses.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department solicited detailed information from Community Development Corporations (CDCs) about the extent and scale of the damage to businesses on the corridors they serve to inform the design of this new grant program.

This new grant program will be administered by the Merchants Fund, and application guidelines will be posted on merchantsfund.org and circulated to the Department of Commerce’s community partners once available.

If you have any question about the new loan and grant programs, require assistance with any legal matter as a result of the pandemic, we are offering consultations at no cost. To learn more, please visit http://covid19.nochumson.com/. We look forward to helping you and your business.

Outdoor Dining Permitted in Philadelphia As of June 12, 2020

June 12, 2020

As of today, outdoor seating will be permitted for restaurant and bar establishments in Philadelphia. 

Restaurant and bar establishments which already have patio areas on their properties or have sidewalk café licenses are authorized to offer outdoor seating as of today, provided they follow Covid-19 safety guidelines and have current, valid restaurant licenses.

The City’s current ordinance restricts sidewalk cafés to Center City and other specific geographic locations.

In order to support restaurants in every neighborhood, the City will allow all licensed restaurant and bar establishments that comply with basic requirements to offer outdoor seating through the end of 2020.

For the first time, restaurant and bar establishments will also have the opportunity to expand their seating area in on-street parking spaces, in front of adjacent businesses, and onto vacant lots, with the written permission of the property owners.

For those restaurant and bar establishments which do not already have patio areas or sidewalk café licenses, the City is offering the opportunity to apply for permits under the following 4 options:

  • Sidewalk Café — Allows for daily use of sidewalk area in front of the business for seating.
  • Streetery — Allows for curbside parking at street level (or platform built on street) to be converted into outdoor dining or take-away area for food and beverages.
  • Temporary Use of Private Lots for Dining — Allows restaurant and bar establishments to convert spaces in their parking lots into seating and to place seating onto vacant lots in most commercial and mixed-use zoning districts.
  • Temporary Street Closure — Pilot program beginning this summer that allows for temporary closure of certain streets for shared seating.

Business owners may use the same application to register for a sidewalk café or “streetery,” turning adjacent curbside parking into outdoor dining space.

Separate governmental applications will be required to participate in the pilot program for temporary street closures and to obtain temporary zoning approval for seating in their parking lots and on vacant lots.

All governmental applications will be available online late today, with processing thereof beginning on Monday, June 15th

Sidewalk café and most other governmental applications will be reviewed within 3 business days.

Street closure governmental applications are expected to have a turnaround of 5 to 10 business days. Street closures will not be allowed to last for the whole summer, but will be limited to 60 hours at a time.

All restaurant and bar establishments must strictly manage capacity limits and customers must be seated at tables a minimum of 6 feet apart. 

Physical guides, like tape lines on the floors, must be used to keep customers 6 feet apart while waiting to be seated.

Reusable menus are prohibited, and the refilling of food and beverage containers is not allowed.

Customers will be required to wear masks while entering, exiting, and otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant and bar establishment.  Face coverings may, however, be removed while seated.

Owners of restaurant and bar establishments must provide masks to employees and make it mandatory that they wear them at all times.

At least 1 employee at each restaurant and bar establishment must be assigned to frequently clean high-touch areas, like doors, bathroom surfaces, host stands, tabletops and check presenters.

The following rules also apply to all businesses operating outdoor dining:

  • Hours of operation are limited to 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • No heating, cooking, or open flames are allowed in the right of way, except approved outdoor heaters.
  • No food preparation is allowed in the public right of way.
  • Appropriate lighting is required at night.
  • Outdoor operations may be shut down if they are a nuisance to neighbors.
  • Moveable furniture on streets and sidewalks must be labeled as property of the business and must be moved inside or secured to the ground when not in use.
  • Tents are prohibited, except in private lots.
  • Establishments with fewer than 20 tables in total must make at least 1 table ADA accessible.
  • Establishments with more than 20 tables total must make 5% of its tables ADA accessible.
  • Deliveries and waste and recycling collections must be conducted safely and in a way that does not impact social distancing, ADA regulations, or safe circulation by pedestrians, bikes, or vehicles.

Restaurant and bar establishments that adopt outdoor dining must possess a Commercial Activity License and a Food Preparation and Serving License from the City.

Furthermore, they must also have insurance with a minimum $1 million insurance liability policy.

If you have any questions about these new rules and regulations for operating outdoor dining in Philadelphia, or require assistance with any legal matter as a result of the pandemic, we are offering consultations at no cost. To learn more, please visit http://covid19.nochumson.com/. We look forward to helping you and your business.

New State Grant Program For Small Businesses in Pennsylvania Impacted by Covid-19

June 10, 2020

On Monday, June 8th, Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Wolf announced new state grant programs totaling $225 million to assist small businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant business closure order.

These governmental programs will provide direct assistance to businesses to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and the transition to reopening and for technical assistance, including training and guidance, for business owners as they stabilize and relaunch their businesses. 

The funds from these governmental programs were earmarked from federal stimulus funds provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will distribute the funds to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which will then administer the funding in the form of grants. 

The CDFI network is a group of 17 community development financial institutions that provide financing options primarily for small businesses. 

A list of the CDFIs can be found at https://ofn.org/cdfi-locator.

The funds will be available through 3 different governmental programs:

  • $100 million for the Main Street Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the Governor’s March 19, 2020 order relating to the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses and have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19;
  • $100 million for the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the business closure order, have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19, and in which socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51% interest of the business and also control management and daily business operations.
  • $25 million for the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program, which will allow the CDFIs the opportunity to offer forbearance and payment relief for existing portfolio businesses that are struggling due to the impact of COVID, as well as shore up the financial position of the CDFIs that are experiencing significant increased defaults in their existing loan portfolios.

Any business with less than $1 million in sales or less than 25 employees can apply for help.

Grants are expected to be $5,000 to $50,000 per business, which must be based in Pennsylvania and be current on all taxes at least through 2018.

The CDFIs hope to have a standard website up for applications by the end of June and grants will be given out on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If you have any questions about these newly enacted amendments to the PPP, or require assistance with any legal matter as a result of the pandemic, we are offering consultations at no cost. To learn more, please visit http://covid19.nochumson.com/. We look forward to helping you and your business.