PLA Releases 2020 Annual Report
This past year has shone a spotlight on what we have known to be true since our inception in 1996: that civil legal aid is a life-sustaining resource to low-income communities in Philadelphia. Unanticipated challenges interrupted all of our lives when we closed our office on March 17, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our dedicated staff pivoted seamlessly to remote work. PLA worked tirelessly to make sure that our clients continued receiving the timely, high-quality legal assistance they needed to protect income, family and home. While our office doors may have closed, our work never ceased.
As communities faced loss of income, barriers to justice, and threats to their safety, PLA stepped up to ensure that low-income Philadelphians continued to have access to critical legal aid during the crisis. The openness of community partners to new collaborations and the agility, resiliency, and creativity of staff ensured access to justice remained, despite the physical barriers that existed.
We ramped up our outreach efforts, collaborating with legislators, community partners, and other legal aid organizations to make sure people knew their rights and understood how they could get legal and financial support. Immediately after the lockdown, we created an unemployment compensation hotline to assist the thousands of individuals who found themselves, many for the first time, navigating the complex unemployment system in an attempt to receive benefits. We continued to advocate for the thousands of domestic violence survivors who found themselves unable to leave their abusers during lockdown. And we responded affirmatively when asked to be an integral partner in Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program, ensuring that no one lost their home during a global pandemic, providing services to tenants for the first time in PLA’s history.
This annual report reflects on 2020 by sharing how PLA used its strengths to develop creative and innovative solutions to overcome the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. While many things changed last year, one thing has not: your support. We could not have continued to ensure access to legal aid during this crisis without you. Thank you to all of our funders, donors, staff, volunteers, and community partners for supporting our critical efforts to enforce and protect the rights of Philadelphia’s low-income population and ensure their access to basic human needs to survive the pandemic. We look forward to continuing this work with you as we transition into a period of recovery with more resilience, understanding, and determination than ever.