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Coronavirus in Schuylkill County

Schuylkill County CHIRP Grant Program Puts CARES Act Program to Shame … More Shame

CHIRP grants vs cares act grants (1)

CHIRP grants vs cares act grants (1)

A total of 73 small businesses in Schuylkill County recently got word they’d been awarded a CHIRP grant.

This grant was created specifically for businesses in the hospitality industry. Many of the businesses getting a CHIRP grant got the maximum $25,000 award. Others got grants ranging from $5,000-20,000.

It’s great news for the small businesses getting this needed money lost due to government restrictions against their operations over the past year. And the number of businesses getting a grant shows how widespread the need was for this relief money.

While the money is clearly welcome, it should further infuriate these same small business owners who, last year, watched Schuylkill County government officials fritter away most of the $12.7 million CARES Act money they got, with barely a drop spared for needy businesses.

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$1.4 Million in CHIRP Grants Awarded to Schuylkill County Small Businesses

Let’s look at how the implementation of the CHIRP grant program makes the county government’s dispersal of CARES Act funding look half-hearted, at best. The county government should be ashamed of itself but it isn’t:

Number of grants

First, it’s the number of grants. A swift 73 businesses in one industry, alone, were awarded CHIRP grants. When the county government finally awarded its CARES Act grant money, just 30 small businesses locally got a grant.

Many, including The Canary, sharply criticized the government rollout of the CARES Act grant program. Most businesses weren’t even aware the grants existed.

Seeing that more than twice as many businesses in just one industry applied for these grants shows there was clearly a need for grants to all businesses affected by government shutdown orders that isn’t seen in the number of grants awarded by the county last year. Sad.

Money awarded

The stingy county government kept most of the CARES Act money it got on its own needs. And it’s still unclear how that $12.7 million was spent last year. When the county was announcing several pet projects getting funded by CARES Act money, it was difficult to follow. However, at the end of the year, County Commissioners were rushed into a bond agreement to pay for a 9-1-1 project misleadingly labeled as a “broadband project” that was originally supposed to paid for using CARES Act money. Then, the county announced it was using an unspecified amount – likely in the millions of dollars – of its CARES Act money to plug holes in the 2021 budget.

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After all that was settled, a piddly $504,989 was eventually awarded to small businesses in the form of CARES Act grants. Non-profits and local governments also got grants from the $12.7 million in CARES Act funding but when all those are added together, the county government gave out just $1.09 million in grants. Very sad.

That’s about a half-million less than the hospitality small businesses got with CHIRP money.

Speed of grants

We reported on the CHIRP grant application process back on March 5. At that time, the program was supposed to open about a week from then. Then we got a call from Steve Ursich as NEPA Alliance, the non-profit picked to administer this program to say that the window for grant apps was open immediately.

NEPA Alliance sent out the information CHIRP grant award winners on March 31. That’s a little more than 3 weeks. Relative to typical grant program timelines, that’s practically an overnight turnaround.

Now, with the county’s half-hearted CARES Act grant, after a lot of arm twisting, a semi-public announcement went out in late August. The county was aware of how much money it was getting from the CARES Act back in early summer. And the window for applications was just 2 weeks.

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Then, small businesses who applied waited. And they waited some more … and more.

It wasn’t until Nov. 26 that businesses heard about their grants, nearly 3 full months.

Three weeks vs. three months.

Again, sad.

Publicity and puffery

With this CHIRP grant, it was hard to ignore the news about it. NEPA Alliance got the word out to Schuylkill County businesses quickly. And they, in turn, responded. You can see that in the number of grants awarded. In fact, 90 small businesses applied for grants but 17 didn’t get approved.

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With the county CARES Act program, there are some business owners who remain unaware the program existed. And the number of applications received was equal to that of the CHIRP grant. Remember, the CHIRP grants only went to businesses like hotels, restaurants, and bars. The CARES Act grant was open to any small business.

And when it came time to award the grants, NEPA Alliance didn’t spend any time patting itself on the back for the simple task of processing applications and cutting checks. In fact, in its press release on the grant awards, the group deferred to the Schuylkill County Commissioners who announced the grant awards.

That’s a familiar position for them when it comes to small business COVID-related grants, praising themselves.

Compare the modesty around getting these CHIRP grants to needy small businesses to absolute buffoonery that went along with the CARES Act program.

Normally artificially pressed for time during public meetings, the County Commissioners spent the better part of a half-hour or more praising themselves and a host of overpaid officials at the Courthouse for getting the work done to get CARES Act money to businesses. We even learned during this period of self-praise that some people even WORKED WEEKENDS to get it done.

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You’d have thought they split the atom in an executive session before the meeting.

Looking Back

At the time, the effort that went into the county’s CARES Act program looked obscene. If there was anyone unclear that small business priorities were second-class to the alleged needs of the county government, hopefully that’s all very obvious now.

Schuylkill County CHIRP Grant Awards

Here’s a rundown of the Schuylkill County small businesses receiving a CHIRP grant:

Schuylkill CHIRP Grants

More than $1.4 million awarded to Schuylkill County businesses in the hospitality industry through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP).
Business NameMunicipalityCHIRP Grant
123 CaféMahanoy City$25,000
3 C's Family RestaurantOrwigsburg$25,000
901 PubPottsville$25,000
A & C CateringMahanoy City$20,000
Bake Shop VIPottsville$5,000
Baymont Inn & SuitesPine Grove$25,000
Buddy's Log Cabin Family RestaurantPine Grove$25,000
Bum Rush RestaurantOrwigsburg$5,000
Carmelo's Roman DelightOrwigsburg$25,000
Charlies PizzaPottsville$25,000
Chill Out Ice Cream ParlorShenandoah$10,000
City Steak and SeafoodMahanoy City$25,000
Club 18Pottsville$25,000
Comfort InnPine Grove$25,000
Coney IslandPottsville$25,000
Country Squire Restaurant & MotelSchuylkill Haven$25,000
Crimson HousePottsville$10,000
D&D Grille & BarSchuylkill Haven$25,000
Downtowne TavernSchuylkill Haven$25,000
Forest and Field Hillside FarmhouseRingtown$5,000
Fountain Springs InnAshland$25,000
Friedensburg Country RestaurantFriedensburg$25,000
Gal's Sports BarAshland$25,000
Hampton InnPine Grove$25,000
Holiday Inn Express and SuitesFrackville$25,000
Hucklebucks Food and SpiritsPottsville$25,000
Jack Spot TavernPitman$15,000
JB Washington HotelMinersville$25,000
JT's Grill & CueAuburn$25,000
Kaier Mansion B&BMahanoy City$5,000
Knights InnPine Grove$15,000
LaDolce CasaTamaqua$25,000
Lazarchick CaféMinersville$25,000
Luckenbill's Family RestaurantSchuylkill Haven$10,000
Maids QuartersPottsville$10,000
McDonald's LunchGirardville$5,000
Miners TavernMinersville$25,000
Motel 6 FrackvilleFrackville$10,000
Nutty PearSchuylkill Haven$25,000
Palermo's Pizza RestaurantMinersville$25,000
Point DinerTamaqua$25,000
Pottsville PubPottsville$10,000
Ramada InnPottsville$25,000
Randazzo's PizzaTremont$25,000
Red Lion CaféPine Grove$25,000
Revere BreweryTamaqua$10,000
Roman's Lounge & CateringFrackville$25,000
Rut's CaféMahanoy City$25,000
Steve's RestaurantMinersville$10,000
Stokers BrewingTamaqua$25,000
Stonehouse B&BSchuylkill Haven$10,000
Subway PottsvillePottsville$5,000
Summit View RestaurantSchuylkill Haven$25,000
T&L WelshTamaqua$5,000
Tamaqua Station RestaurantTamaqua$25,000
The Brickhouse GrillOrwigsburg$5,000
The GooseMinersville$25,000
The McKeansburg HotelNew Ringgold$25,000
The VetteNew Philadelphia$25,000
TLB Lounge/Stikers PubPottsville$25,000
Toads BarLavelle$10,000
Vernalis RestaurantShenandoah$25,000
Wagon WheelRingtown$10,000
Wheel RestaurantPottsville$25,000
Who's PlaceShenandoah$25,000
Wooden KegSaint Clair$25,000
Total Awarded$1,435,000



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