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Customers at Beck's Cajun Cafe in Reading Terminal Market on Nov. 3, 2020. Credit: Vanessa Huang

One year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia officials unveiled a new initiative to provide support to small businesses impacted by the pandemic and promote the city's cultural vitality. 

The $1.5 million initiative — "Ready. Set. Philly!" — is a partnership between the City of Philadelphia, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, and a diverse array of business organizations in the city. The initiative is expected to last for the next 12 months.

"Ready. Set. Philly!" aims to help employers safely return employees to work, promote the city through local events, coordinate with local transit lines, and provide locals with information about vaccines. Commerce Director Michael Rashid — who will serve as a co-chair of "Ready. Set. Philly!" — said the initiative marks the city beginning to see “a light at the end of the tunnel” after the pandemic.

Rashid along with Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia Chair Susan Jacobson and former Chief Executive of developer Liberty Property Trust Bill Hankowsky will work to fulfill the initiative's goals as its three co-chairs. 

During the shutdown in March last year, local shops and restaurants were forced to close, resulting in a city-wide loss of business for restaurants and shops in varying degrees. The Daily Pennsylvanian previously reported that Copabanana lost 90% of its business, while Smokey Joe’s lost 70-80%. Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market launched a GoFundMe in order to continue its operations. 

The city’s rapid vaccine distribution has fueled the initiative to look to the future and to the impending return of workers, shoppers, and tourists to the city en masse.

“This is our moment to get back on our feet together and to set ourselves up for success,” Rashid said.