Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2021 — As the Philadelphia market recovers from the pandemic, Chester County is positioning itself to continue to attract new residents while serving the current needs of the local community. Rent and utility assistance, addressing internet access and quality of life improvements characterize Chesco’s emergence from COVID-19.
Stabilizing unemployment rates are among the factors fueling optimism for a strong post-COVID future for Chester County. As of March, unemployment rates stood at 4.7%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. That is a far cry from a pandemic-high of 11.6% in April 2020 and just shy of the pre-pandemic 3.8% rate the county recorded in March 2020.
More than a year into the pandemic, community support underpins the county’s recovery efforts. In April, Chester announced support to embattled individuals and families via its emergency rent and utility assistance program. Administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the PA Department of Human Services, the county received $34.5 million in aid slated to help cover emergency rental and utility bills for individuals and families who have been severely impacted by COVID-19, the county reported. “The uncertainties and challenges brought on by the pandemic that have been faced by some of our county’s residents, can be overwhelming,” said Pat Bokovitz, Director of the Chester County Department of Community Development in a press release. “The emergency rent and utility funding lets those who qualify stay in their homes and cover the cost of basic living expenses, which is tremendous.”
In an ever increasing digital world, Chester County is keen on closing the digital divide that was further exacerbated by the pandemic. To that end, and particularly aimed at helping families and businesses in the southern part of the county, the PA Department of Labor and Industry has awarded a $200,000 grant to conduct a Southern Chester County Internet Access Study, the county reported. The study will analyze internet access to businesses and residential areas and the four southern Chester County school districts. “We’ll soon have a better idea of where we have weaknesses in our local broadband and cellular networks, and be ready to make improvements, especially as funding may become available through the proposed federal infrastructure bill being considered in Congress,” said Kennett Township Supervisor Whitney Hoffman in a press release.
To continue efforts to improve quality of life in Chesco, the county recently broke ground on the latest extension of the Schuylkill River Trail system. Phase II is a $6 million, four-mile paved extension that will take the trail from Linfield Road at Parker Ford, to the new Route 422 bridge crossing of the Schuylkill River, the county reported. “Our trails, parks and open spaces are such an important part of Chester County’s quality of place, and they are loved by our residents,” said Chester County Board of Commissioners Chair Marian Moskowitz in a press release. “In addition to providing recreational benefits that contribute to the positive health of those who live here, our trails, including the Schuylkill River Trail, are becoming an important component of the county’s multimodal transportation network.”
The recreational value of the Schuylkill River Trail project is important, but these types of trails are increasingly being used for commuting purposes, the county said. Based on the “Return on Environment” report, trails and open spaces increase residential property values on average by $11,000, the county reported.
“This four-mile extension of the Schuylkill River Trail is also important because it will complete one of the priority ‘puzzle pieces,’ helping to fill a gap in the nearly 60 miles of trail connecting Reading to Philadelphia,” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline in a press release.
The Schuylkill River Trail will ultimately run from Frackville in Schuylkill County to the Delaware River in Philadelphia, the county reported.
For more information, please visit: https://www.chesco.org/