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Law School students playing integral role in Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, helping small businesses during COVID-19 crisis

May 21, 2020

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School students are helping small business owners receive money through the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, designed to provide aid to businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic.  

When real estate developer Jeff Bartos, co-founder of the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, asked Theodore K. Warner Professor of Law and Professor of Real Estate Michael Knoll for assistance in getting his project to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic moving, Professor Knoll knew that University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s JD/MBA students would be a perfect fit.

In particular, three recent graduates of the Law School and the Wharton MBA program jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, which is modeled after a similar program in Virginia that provides $3,000 forgivable loans to small businesses in need. The JD/MBAs developed a system to track and process the applications that came pouring in, organized a group of fellow law student volunteers to review applications and have made an incredible impact on the Fund’s efforts.

“The Penn Law students have been incredible and indispensable members of the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund team,” said Bartos. “The student coordinators recruited a dedicated and talented group of volunteers who have made the application and review process run efficiently, professionally, and seamlessly. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to help so many Pennsylvania-based small businesses, and our teammates from Penn Law have quite literally powered the process from start to finish. Put another way, we would not have a Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund without the student leaders and volunteers from Penn Law.”

Bartos, a native of the Reading-Lancaster area who now lives in Lower Merion, was inspired to create the fund by a childhood friend who began the Virginia program. The Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund launched on May 6 and has already raised over $250,000, received more than 800 applications, and provided funding to nearly 50 businesses.

One of those businesses is Meagan Benz’s Crust Vegan Bakery in Manayunk, which has continued to pay full wages to any staff member who hasn’t received unemployment – this even though Crust is seeing only 10% of its normal sales numbers. Benz called needing financial assistance “a scary place to be” and is grateful for the Fund’s assistance.

“This money is going to help us make sure our staff and the business can pay rent, buy food, and not have to worry that they can’t pay a bill right now,” said Benz. “No one is going to go without income, and we couldn’t do that without the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund.”

For small business owners, the process is straightforward: Fill out an application on the PA 30 Day Fund website, verify that your business is Pennsylvania-based and in operation for more than a year, that you have between three and 30 employees, and that you are in need of immediate funds to keep you financially afloat until you can either get back to business or can access funds from larger programs. Applicants are also required to submit a three-minute video about their business.

“Lawyers don’t have a lot of opportunities to be of service during the current crisis,” said Professor Knoll, “but working with the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund has enabled our students to make a real difference for small business owners – and it’s also been rewarding for them as well.”

Pro bono work is an esteemed Penn Law tradition, with law students required to complete 70 hours of law-related pro bono work supervised by an attorney. Read more about pro bono opportunities at the Law School.