Law students spearhead pro bono projects for pandemic relief

The economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities cannot be overstated: small businesses have shuttered, thousands of workers have lost their jobs, and an indeterminate number of renters continue to face potential eviction. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the pandemic pushed many law students out of the physical classroom and their work into the virtual world of Zoom, it did not dampen their ambitions to use their skills and privilege and help their community get through these unprecedented times.

Selfie of a person wearing a face mask holding up a box of vegan pastries in their bakery
Meagan Benz, owner of the Crust Vegan Bakery and recipient of funding from the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund. (Image: Penn Law)

Shortly after Philadelphia—and the rest of the world—shut down, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students began to organize. Several student-led groups within the Toll Public Interest Center (TPIC) came up with creative, socially distant ways for law students to collaborate with local legal aid advocates who have been working hard to provide relief to those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, modeled after a similar fund in Virginia, disperses forgivable loans to small businesses across the state who were struggling to survive through income interruptions the pandemic has caused. It is almost entirely student run, aside from the advisory board, which is responsible for the fundraising. The Philadelphia Legal Assistance Unemployment Compensation Hotline was set up by three Penn Law students as an outgrowth of Philadelphia Legal Assistance’s unemployment compensation unit, and they also set up an Unemployment Compensation hotline through which callers could receive help navigating the unemployment compensation system. And the Penn Housing Rights Project set out to ensure that local renters facing eviction and other landlord-related disputes would be able to do just that.

Read more at Penn Law News.