In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation authorized the release of $254,745 to be distributed immediately in emergency grants. These funds are intended to alleviate some of the unexpected economic pressure on the public interest community and to provide support for future needs.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundation delivered these unrestricted grants to nonprofit partner organizations that represent the full range of vital legal aid services for those in need. Most of these agencies provide direct services to individuals with low-incomes who qualify for legal aid – those who live below the poverty line – which is almost 25 percent of Philadelphia's population. For these clients, legal aid helps secure housing, food, education, and healthcare assistance, among other critical services.
“The pandemic reveals very clearly what the legal aid community has long understood – that all of us are only as safe as our most vulnerable citizens. The Foundation remains committed to strengthening the legal aid system during this unprecedented time of physical distancing," said Philadelphia Bar Foundation Executive Director Jessica Hilburn-Holmes. "Our Trustees recognize that financial and technical support, communication, and unity are more vital now than ever and have taken decisive action during this time."
An immense surge in the need for legal services is anticipated once offices and courts reopen. The backlog is building in all Philadelphia courts, especially concerning family law, housing, and unemployment matters. The disruption in the U.S. created by the coronavirus pandemic is poised to have a significant and negative impact on the nonprofit sector in Philadelphia and across the state, exposing our economies to adverse long-term outcomes.