Philadelphia Bar Foundation Announces Release of Emergency Funding


Philadelphia Bar Foundation Announces Release of Emergency Funding

More than a quarter-million dollars in financial relief for civil legal aid nonprofits

PHILADELPHIA, PA (April 24, 2020) – 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 will deliver these unrestricted grants in April 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. 

The entire Philadelphia civil legal aid community is working nonstop to ensure that individuals, families, and communities have access to necessary information, services, and resources needed during this stressful time. They have engaged in critical collaborative efforts, which include: 

  • Providing instructions on how to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order (aka a restraining order) while the courts are closed from Women Against Abuse, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Women’s Law Project, and SeniorLAW Center. 
  • Drafting a guide of Pennsylvania-specific resources for helping students experiencing homelessness and students in the foster care system to adjust during the COVID-19 outbreak from Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center in collaboration with The Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice & Research, The Hope Center, and Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. 
  • Delivering information on evictions and other housing issues from, a collaborative project by AIDS Law Project, Community Legal Services, HELP: MLP, Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Philadelphia Legal Assistance, Philly VIP, Regional Housing Legal Services, SeniorLAW Center, and Tenant Union Representative Network.  

In addition to providing financial support, the Bar Foundation takes seriously its obligation to tell the stories of the unfolding programs, services, advocacy, and pandemic activities of Philadelphia’s public interest community. A resource page for civil legal aid services can be found here and contains helpful materials for the public as well as information about organizations' intake and operations.


The Philadelphia Bar Foundation is dedicated to promoting access to justice for all people in the community, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse, and discrimination. We accomplish this mission by providing grants and technical assistance in support of quality legal services, addressing unmet legal needs, and providing education on matters in the public interest. Through our various programs, services, and partnerships, we remove barriers to justice, engage the community to support legal aid, and build system-wide capacity.