Schuylkill County businesses in the hospitality industry – bars, restaurants, and hotels, for example – once again have a chance at getting some financial relief for losses they took on during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a report from the Times-News, Schuylkill County gets about $1.6 million from the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP). And every dime of this money MUST go to businesses hurt by the state government’s shutdown orders associated with the pandemic.
Money from CHIRP comes from the federal government and was approved to go to counties by the Pennsylvania legislature. Overall, CHIRP is funded with $145 million. Counties were given money based on population.
Schuylkill County Getting $1.6 Million in CHIRP Grant Money to Aid Small Businesses from Pandemic Losses
This funding represents another chance for Schuylkill County to help the small businesses most affected by government restrictions since the start of the pandemic.
In 2020, the county bungled the distribution of nearly $12.7 million from the CARES Act. That money was supposed to go toward offsetting costs associated with the pandemic. While many Pennsylvania counties quickly set up grant programs similar to CHIRP for all small businesses, Schuylkill County lagged behind. Finally, in late-August, the county almost begrudgingly established a grant program and then failed miserably at promoting it.
Rather than use much of that money to help struggling small businesses, the county spent much of the money on its own needs, including a multi-million dollar upgrade to the Schuylkill County 9-1-1 system. The county had to reverse that decision in a manner of speaking – took out a loan for the 9-1-1 upgrades – and used the CARES Act money to plug a deficit hole in this year’s budget.
The rules around CHIRP are different than the CARES Act funding. And there’s really no room for loose interpretation of what constitutes a COVID-related expense. The money is explicitly designated for hospitality industry businesses.
Another rule change is that Schuylkill County must select a Certified Economic Development Organization or Community Development Financial Institution that will divvy the funds to needy businesses that apply for grants.
According to the Times-News, Schuylkill County officials haven’t decided which CEDO or CDFI they’ll use. They have until the beginning of March to pick one.
COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) Grants for Pennsylvania Bars, Restaurants and Hotels
CHIRP grants start at $5,000 and increase in $5,000 increments up to a maximum award of $50,000. The money is designed to offset revenue losses and operating expenses related to the COVID pandemic.
Schuylkill County is obligated to start taking applications by March 15.
Here are the businesses eligible for the CHIRP grants:
- NAICS 721 (Accommodation) and NAICS 722 (Food Services and Drinking Places)
- Fewer than 300 full-time employees
- Maximum tangible net worth of less than $15 million
- Business was operating on Feb. 15, 2020, remains open, and plans to be open a year from application date
- Affected adversely by COVID pandemic
Pennsylvania Dept. of Community and Economic Development says priority will be given to certain businesses, like those forced to close due to the Governor’s pandemic-related orders. Businesses that haven’t received any help so far through the pandemic will also get priority treatment.