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Coronavirus effect: What businesses will be open during this restrictive period?

An explainer on what is considered an essential vs. nonessential business, and how the city is planning to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Both locally and federally, businesses are going to operate much differently over the next two weeks - maybe more.

On March 16, Mayor Jim Kenney and city officials announced new restrictions on business activity across the city, lasting at least through March 27. 

This is all being done as an effort to help reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases in the city has reached 18 - double the number from 24 hours ago.

“These changes will disrupt life in Philadelphia, and we do not make these changes lightly,” said Kenney during a press conference. 

What is an essential business?

The City of Philadelphia designated the following businesses as essential businesses that will remain open:

  • Supermarkets and grocery stores
  • Big box stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Discount stores, mini-markets, and non-specialized food stores
  • Daycare centers
  • Hardware stores
  • Gas stations
  • Banks
  • Post Offices
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners
  • Veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet stores

In addition, the city also deemed commercial establishments that sell frozen products, non-specialized stores of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics, household appliances, hardware, electrical, plumbing and heating material, personal hygiene products, medication not requiring medical prescription and more as essential. 

What are nonessential businesses?

A similar announcement was made by Governor Tom Wolf, who previously urged non-essential businesses in Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County and Montgomery County to close.

This request has since expanded across the entire commonwealth. 

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) classified nonessential businesses as public-facing industries that include:

  • Entertainment
  • Hospitality
  • Recreation facilities, including but not limited to community and recreation centers; gyms, including yoga, barre and spin facilities
  • Hair salons and barber shops
  • Nail salons and spas
  • Casinos
  • Concert venues
  • Theaters
  • Sporting event venues and golf courses
  • Retail facilities

In addition, restaurants and bars have been ordered to close dine-in service. Carry-out, delivery and drive-through services will continue; however, it is being recommended that employees still employ social distancing practices. 

DCED also offers working capital loans that could assist businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Providing relief for small businesses and workers

This new, temporary, reality is sure to impact businesses of all sizes across the city and the state. 

As a result, the City of Philadelphia and PIDC will be launching a program to support Philadelphia businesses, help maintain payroll obligations and preserve jobs impacted by the spread of COVID-19. The program will be a tiered program that includes a mix of new grants and zero-interest loans for Philadelphia businesses that make under $5 million in annual revenue. 

While the details are still being finalized, PIDC will continue offering its existing lending programs for small and mid-size businesses. 

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