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Covid-19 Resources

Pennsylvania Resources for Business and Economic Relief

May 6, 2020
Written by Amy Lee
May 6, 2020 | Written by Amy Lee

This article was updated on June 25, 2020.


What is Pennsylvania Doing to Help?

Pennsylvania has made efforts to provide assistance programs aimed at offsetting the effect coronavirus is having on the local economy. The state government has drafted guidelines on receiving assistance for both businesses and individuals adversely affected by the pandemic. 

Business Assistance

Pennsylvania offered zero-interest loans of up to $100,000 to local businesses with less than 100 employees.

However, due to a fast influx of applications, the program ran out of funds by April 2020.

Individual Assistance

Residents of Pennsylvania can also benefit from state efforts to limit the economic effect of COVID-19. 

  1. Paid Leave Options – Pennsylvania is permitting residents to collect unemployment insurance benefits even if their employer is offering paid leave due to coronavirus. Any worker that contracts the virus is also eligible for Workers’ Compensation. 
  2. Healthcare Coverage – Individuals who have lost their employment health insurance coverage—due to the pandemic—can access Medicaid or COBRA through the state’s insurance website.
  3. Food – The state is extending SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for low-income families struggling to buy food during the pandemic. Contact the Department of Human Services for immediate assistance or food stamp information. 
  4. Utility Bills – The Pennsylvania Utility Commission has banned utilities providers from shutting down services due to late payments. Residents can access emergency assistance at the commission’s website.
  5. Property Payments – Guidance is available for those who are having difficulty making rent or mortgage payments through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

More information on Pennsylvania relief programs can be found on the state’s COVID-19 Resources and Assistance website


What Type of Programs are Being Offered by the Federal Government? 

The federal government is also providing certain assistance programs that benefit residents of Pennsylvania through the CARES Act. 

This assistance was signed into law at the end of March, and is intended to mitigate some of the economic pressure that the outbreak is putting on local businesses and individuals throughout the country. This was then further extended on April 23, with a secondary relief fund.

Pandemic Assistance Programs for Businesses

Any small business that has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic can access two assistance programs from the CARES Act. 

  1. The Small Business Paycheck Protection Program offers up to 24 weeks of paycheck coverage for businesses with less than 500 employees, including assistance for benefits coverage, mortgages/rent payments, utility bills, and interest fees. This direct assistance does not need to be repaid if 60% of the funds are used for direct payroll payment.
  2. Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $10,000 are also available to small businesses with less than 500 employees. These loans aid any business that has been forced to close or limit operations due to COVID-19. Like the Paycheck Protection program, these funds do not need to be repaid. 

Both programs are being run by the Small Business Administration, which is currently processing applications through its website.

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

The CARES Act is also expanding unemployment insurance to include previously excluded groups. 

This expansion directly affects local business owners, independent contractors, and other self-employed individuals who are traditionally not eligible to receive any unemployment benefits. 

Applications for pandemic assistance through the federal government are being accepted at the state level. Pennsylvania has already begun accepting applications online. The program offers the following benefits:

  • $600 a week in addition to state unemployment insurance rates (50% of previous weekly income) 
  • For a period of 13 weeks until July 30, 2020

This coverage is available to anyone who has lost their job or experienced reduced income due to coronavirus. 

Stimulus Payments

The federal government is also providing a one-time stimulus check to individuals across the country. This is in order to help cover costs during this difficult time. The program is being run through the IRS, with many Americans already receiving their payment through direct deposit or a mailed check. 

Check whether you qualify and when you can expect to receive your check through the IRS website


How Has COVID-19 Affected Pennsylvania?

All 67 counties within the state have been affected by coronavirus. Current case numbers can be found through Google’s tracker. The state government is providing county-specific numbers on its coronavirus website.

Access to Coronavirus Testing in Pennsylvania

Testing is available for residents in Pennsylvania through the Department of Health and commercial laboratories. 

On June 5th, Walmart and Quest Diagnostics joined the state’s efforts, providing tests to Pennsylvanians living in areas with few testing sites. For more information on Pennsylvania’s testing protocol, reference the Department of Health’s website or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

Safety Measures 

During the initial outbreak, Pennsylvania implemented several safety protocols to decrease coronavirus transmission within the state:

  • Safer at home guidance and mandatory social distancing
  • Closure of all non-essential businesses throughout the state
  • Protective coverings for hands and face
  • Residents recommended to only shop for essential items once per week

Travel within Pennsylvania has not been restricted, although the state advises that residents keep travel to a minimum. 

Reopening Businesses in Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf has introduced a phased reopening plan. Individual counties can progress through phases as they meet state-mandated health and safety criteria, as well as individual county regulations.

  • Counties in the red phase will remain under a stay-at-home order through June 4th. In this phase, restaurants and bars are limited to take-out, and only essential businesses can remain open.
  • Counties that meet all criteria may enter the yellow phase and begin opening in-person retail. Schools will remain closed, and businesses will be encouraged to continue telework. Personal services businesses (i.e. salons and spas) will remain closed. Restaurants can offer outdoor dining.
  • In the green phase, businesses will be able to reopen while taking continued steps to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

By June 16, the majority of counties had entered the green phase, reopening the following businesses with reduced capacity:

  • Childcare facilities
  • Personal services businesses (50% capacity)
  • Restaurants and bars (50% capacity)
  • Gyms and fitness studios (50% capacity)
  • Malls and casinos (50% capacity)

Retailers and other yellow phase businesses can increase capacity to 75%. Other counties are expected to enter the green phase throughout the summer.

The Governor’s office has released guidelines for businesses that are permitted to open. Regardless of industry, they must:

  • Establish a plan for cleaning, disinfection, tracing, and communication in the event that the business is exposed to COVID-19
  • Provide employee access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations
  • Provide free masks and require all employees to wear them
  • Ensure social distancing (or they cannot reopen)

While 2.1 million Pennsyvanians had filed for unemployment in March and April, there has been a decrease in applications as counties reopen in accordance with these guidelines.


Nextdoor: The Neighborhood Hub

For local updates on how coronavirus is affecting your Pennsylvania neighborhood, take a look at Nextdoor, your neighborhood hub. Check out all the info related to your local community, like real-time updates, customer recommendations, discussion boards, and news on how the pandemic is affecting your neighbors. Businesses can join by claiming their free Business Page.

Stay safer at home with Nextdoor and support your community as the pandemic unfolds.


Additional sources:

Internal Revenue Service. Economic impact payments: What you need to know.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth. COVID-19 Resources and Assistance.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth. UC Eligibility + COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program.

Pennsylvania Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pennsylvania Department of Health. How to Get Tested for Coronavirus.

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Homepage.

Philadelphia Inquirer. Gov. Wolf sets May 8 target for first moves toward a Pa. reopening — but that likely won’t apply in Philadelphia.

Small Business Administration. Coronavirus Relief Options.

Small Business Administration. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance.

Tauber, Eugene. MAP: Where coronavirus is in Pennsylvania.

United States Department of the Treasury. Small Business Paycheck Protection Program.

Harrisburg Regional Chamber. COVID-19 Working Capital Access Application.

Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania. Process to Reopen Pennsylvania.

Patriot News. As More Counties Reopen, Pa. Unemployment Compensation Numbers Begin to Dip.

Harrisburg Regional Chamber. COVID-19 Working Capital Access Application.

Office of the Governor of Pennsylvania. Process to Reopen Pennsylvania.

Patriot News. As More Counties Reopen, Pa. Unemployment Compensation Numbers Begin to Dip.


If you are a local business, claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. Resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers during coronavirus, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, are available in our Small Business Guide for Coronavirus Relief.

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