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President Amy Gutmann announced a series of new initiatives that total $4 million to support communities, small business, and the workforce impacted by COVID-19. 

Credit: Chase Sutton

After widespread student activism to help workers laid-off due to coronavirus restrictions, Penn has dedicated $4 million to supporting Penn employees, contract workers, and community organizations facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

The funds will be given to workers "in need of emergency assistance," according to a Penn Today post on Monday. Part of the grant will also be distributed to the PHL COVID-19 Fund, which is helping local nonprofits stay afloat during the pandemic. This donation follows the previous $1 million Penn Medicine contributed to an employee assistance fund earlier in the month, bringing the University's total investment in alleviating COVID-related financial stress to $5 million. 

Any full-time or part-time Penn employee, including contracted campus workers not directly employed by Penn, who earns $70,000 or less a year is able to apply for a $1,500 grant from Penn's emergency fund, while local independent businesses can apply for grants between $1,000 and $5,000. 

The University also announced it would provide wages for the approximately 140 workers who will be laid off March 31 by Bon Appétit, Penn's dining provider. These staff operated Penn retail dining stores as well as Falk Dining Commons. Because they were not not employed by Penn, these workers were not guaranteed the full pay and benefits afforded to residential dining hall staff until the end of the semester.  

In response to Bon Appétit's decision, many Penn students advocated for the university to ensure that these unemployed workers would have the financial stability to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. A petition started by the Student Labor Action Project garnered over 8,000 signatures imploring Penn to take action to help laid-off workers. The recent announcement ensures that retail staff will receive compensation through the end of the semester. 

This is a developing story that was last updated at 10:41pm. Please check back here for updates.

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