Small business owners in Philly are bracing for a tough year with rising utility costs, interest rates, inflation and potentially higher taxes. They’ll take any break they can.
The city’s Department of Commerce might be able to deliver that break with the Quality Jobs Program. This small business grant is meant to help both sides of the jobs coin by investing in Philly small businesses and incentivizing them to provide employees fair pay and health coverage. For a city that is still trying to recover from pandemic economic setbacks, every bit of assistance helps.
What is the Quality Jobs Program?
The Quality Jobs Program provides small business owners with grants when they create new full-time employment opportunities that pay a living wage, provide health insurance benefits, and have paid time off for Philadelphia residents. While the grant funding will cover new hires, an employer’s full-time workforce must meet the salary, health insurance and paid time off requirements — not just new hires.
For a living wage, employers must pay all employees at least $15 per hour as defined in the Philadelphia 21st Century Minimum Wage Standard (more on that later). Of course, employers can choose to pay their employees more, but this is the current minimum.
For health insurance benefits, the small business must provide all employees with employer-sponsored health insurance that covers at least 50% of medical costs. They must also help employees access healthcare, like giving a monthly stipend to pay for their health insurance.
For paid time off, the small business must provide a paid leave benefit that meets or exceeds the city’s paid sick leave requirement of employers providing one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
What businesses are eligible for the Quality Jobs Program?
For a Philly small business to be eligible, it must create new jobs (existing employees won’t count toward this grant). Depending on the business size, some business owners will have to hire more than others. Here’s that breakdown:
Small businesses with less than 25 employees will have to increase their full-time workforce by 20%. For example, a company of five full-time employees would need to hire one new full-time employee to be eligible.
Small businesses with more than 25 employees will have to hire five new full-time employees to be eligible.
Regardless of the size of the business, all newly created jobs will have to meet these requirements:
Be located in Philadelphia.
Be offered to Philadelphia residents.
Be a full-time, permanent position working 30 hours or more per week or 1,500 hours or more per year. The position cannot be defined as a temporary position or independent contractor.
Pay at least the minimum wage set by Philadelphia’s 21st Century Minimum Wage Standard, which is currently set at $15 per hour. However, keep in mind that the minimum wage standard is scheduled to adjust on July 1 based on the Consumer Price Index (this will most likely raise the minimum wage required, but that figure won’t be known until July).
Once accepted into the Quality Jobs Program, small businesses will have one year to complete the new hires and meet these requirements for grants to be awarded.
How much is the Quality Jobs Program grant?
The amount of money that small businesses are reimbursed through the Quality Jobs Program depends on how many new employees they hire. Each new full-time hire is eligible for a $5,000 grant, with a maximum grant total amount not exceeding $125,000.
Small businesses will submit a final performance report at the end of the one-year grant period. They will receive a grant of $5,000 per new job created if they meet the requirements of the grant and are above board business-wise, like not having any outstanding business taxes. The commerce department will work with businesses to make sure that’s the case.
How to apply for the Quality Jobs Program
The first step is submitting an inquiry form. This allows the Department of Commerce to screen for eligible applicants and invite them to apply for the Quality Jobs Program. After you complete the inquiry form, you should hear back from the commerce department in the following week.
If invited to apply to the program, you’ll receive an application. The application will ask you for info that should be readily available in business records. Here’s an idea of what info you’ll need:
Name and description of the company, and when it was formed.
Tax ID numbers.
How many jobs you project to create in the next year.
What those new job titles are.
Projected salaries or hourly wages for new employees.
Confirmation that the business is providing the minimum health insurance benefits and paid sick leave to all employees.
Information on the number of existing employees and their demographics.
If the application is complete and the review committee approves, business owners will be notified with a letter via email awarding them the grant and officially starting the one-year grant term to hire new employees and make sure that all employees meet the program requirements.
What else is there to know about the Quality Job Program?
This program takes place online through electronic applications and email communication. If you have questions, you can email [email protected]. If you need help with language assistance, call 215-683-2100.
Also, it’s not a one-and-done program. If small businesses complete a grant term successfully, they can reapply after the previous term is completed.
If small businesses are worried that they may have trouble finding people to hire, the city will help employers partner with city-sponsored workforce initiatives, like the Workforce Professional Alliance.
While a small business may not be eligible for the Quality Jobs Program, filling out the inquiry form can help the Department of Commerce see if a business is eligible for other grant funding or business assistance.