Philadelphia’s Legislation Changes Amidst COVID-19

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The impact of COVID-19 has become insurmountable in large metropolises that need governors to step in and issue orders on new legislation for businesses and citizen requirements to prevent the spread of the virus. As of March 20,2020, Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has restricted certain businesses and workplace activities to minimize the contagious outbreak, and it’s working.

Philadelphia was way ahead of the essential changes prior to the federal government stepping in and issuing more ‘stay at home’ orders. Because of the proximity of community involvement and businesses around the city, there have been numerous updates to COVID-19 and the cases are continuing to be documented while the risk is high.

For instance, following are the current statistics for Philadelphia:

  • Number of cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia: 4,272
  • Number of negative test results: 13,655
  • Overall COVID-19 deaths in the Philadelphia area: 65
  • Risk of community transmission: remains high

The above numbers were documented as of April 7, 2020, which indicates the death rate and the negative test results are fairly low for a large city such as Philadelphia. 

A notable positive step is that the Philadelphia Department of Health is sending texts and emails to contact individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, or who may have come into contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19. These measures in place serve to keep the city abreast of who, when, where, and how, and to take the necessary protocol to ensure more aren’t infected down the road.

The New Act in Place

The “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act” has been established to mitigate the grey areas around whether employers can offer sick leave pay to workers infected with COVID-19. Covered workers can use their paid sick leave related to the virus symptoms and preventative care thereforth without facing retribution during time away from the job. 

A covered employee under this new act in place is allowed the following retaliation measures: 

  • Mandated business closures in Philadelphia
  • Caring for children during school or childcare closures
  • Official quarantine or self-isolation time
  • Illness and treatment of a condition for you and a family member

During this COVID-19 crisis, employees aren’t required to obtain a medical clearance from their doctor in order for them to use consecutive paid sick leave time. Due to the severity of the risk of contagion, these laws are enacted immediately.

Protecting each other and saving thousands of lives is the ultimate goal, and the city of Philadelphia is at the forefront of closing non-essential businesses, schools, and advising everyone to stay at home. 

The Service Industry

Perhaps the hardest hit throughout the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent fallout of the virus is the service industry. This includes restaurants, retail, real estate, hospitality, transportation, travel, information technology, sports, media, entertainment, healthcare, wellness, finance, insurance, consulting & staffing, and design. It almost seems as though every niche is included that provides the public’s means of survival.

Therefore, Philadelphia has mandated strategies in place to offset several of the challenges the service industry faces, which primarily include food distribution. You need to eat to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world of health and regulation. So, the social distancing requirements have been set in place for the service industry within the Philadelphia communities and Pennsylvania as a whole. 

For example, the following strategies have been mandated for food distribution:

  1. “Stay six feet apart” are loud and clear signage that’s posted at distribution sites.
  2. Mark off six to eight feet of space between customers standing outside in lines where the food stores won’t allow more than 20 people inside. The use of tape, cones, or chalk are sure to send the message to the customer, not only for the food industry, but for those establishments where large groups tend to congregate and shop.
  3. Have an employee stand outside and instruct all customers of the rules of social distancing while providing informative practices once inside the doors.
  4. Place tables lengthwise so families can receive their pickup and deliveries outside while abiding by ‘the six feet apart’ rule.

When other prominent industries are involved in the COVID-19 equation there’s a natural slowdown to the sales curve and oftentimes, the net income simply vanishes. Businesses are poised to rise up and meet the challenge however they need, yet it’s up to the state government to regulate and legislate how employees will be compensated during times of layoffs or termination due to the economic downturn.

Philadelphia is ahead of the curve, and has been since the onset. The stay-at-home order, the shutting of businesses not deemed ‘essential,’ and the likelihood that schools will terminate regular sessions until next Fall are what the city has in place until further notice.

Resources and Workforce Information

Career seekers, businesses, and regular workers are flocking to resources and information sites within the Philadelphia area to maintain the continuity of services for businesses and local residents during COVID-19. 

Businesses are posting job opportunities on the PA CareerLink website, and also offering direct contact by phone to those interested in open positions or needing guidance on specifics of job postings. As the Senate has passed the Coronavirus Relief Tax Bill, which frees up Congress to pass legislation constituting one of the largest spending packages in modern history, the bill also grants the following for workers:

  • Expand unemployment benefits and provide grants for states to process and pay claims
  • Employers are required to paid sick leave to all employees
  • Establishes a federal emergency paid leave benefits program to provide payment to employees taking unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 outbreak

As a federal response is needed, the city of Philadelphia also enacted its legislative measures that helped the worker who is impacted by the spread of the virus. The city is working hard to receive feedback to a community survey in order to better understand and respond to the region’s workforce. 

Bottom Line

Like any other large metropolis in America, Philadelphia is strong in their resolve to minimize the spreading of COVID-19 by keeping the local citizens aware and promoting safe and secure protocol.

It is imperative to continue supporting small businesses and the local Philadelphia institutions that provide service and care to those in the region. Some businesses don’t succumb to the hibernation of self-quarantining, as evidenced by Philadelphia's real estate market. Although most people are reluctant to invest during a pandemic, it’s also important to note that in a typical seasonal shift such as a crisis, the prices are a well-suited investment. 

Prices can spike or drop by as much as 10% when people are faced with fear and challenging situations, yet real estate never goes to sleep. The bottom line is, during the COVID-19 quarantine months, it’s always essential to have a solid home to rest, to play, and to call your own whenever self-isolation is warranted. 

Let’s hope we are gearing for an upward trend that is flattening the curve of COVID-19 and restoring a sense of new normalcy to all industries within the Philadelphia region. It is, after all, the “City of Brotherly Love.”

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