As Pennsylvania moves into the recovery era from the COVID-19 pandemic, some $225 million of the $2.6 billion in federal coronavirus relief money the state received will be directed to help small businesses get back on their feet.
“Businesses will be able to use the grants to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and to help them in their transition to reopening,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in announcing the program during a televised news conference on June 8.
He said the grants also can be used to cover technical assistance and training to help business owners stabilize and relaunch their businesses.
Some $100 million will be set aside for the Main Street Business Revitalization Program, to help small businesses that experienced loss during the governor’s ordered business closure that began March 19, or need to make changes to their operation due to COVID-19.
Another $100 million will be specifically set aside to help historically disadvantaged businesses recover. Businesses fall into this category if socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least 51% and manage and control its operation.
The remaining $25 million is earmarked for the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program, which will offer forbearance and payment relief for existing portfolio businesses that are struggling.
The funding will be distributed through Pennsylvania’s community development financial institutions, which are expected to receive the money by the end of this week.
Gordon Denlinger, state director for the NFIB Pennsylvania, which represents the interests of small businesses, said the sooner those institutions get the money into businesses’ hands the better.
“We know a lot of businesses are right on the ragged edge at this point,” he said. “Timeliness is in line with what we’re hearing about the needs of small business owners so that timing is a very positive thing.”
While Denlinger was uncertain how many businesses are past the point of having the ability to reopen, he suspects it will be many. But he applauds this move to provide grants to help those who haven’t yet reached that point.
James Burnett, vice chairman of the network of financial institutions that will be distributing the money, said they recognize how important it is to “support the smallest, most vulnerable businesses throughout the commonwealth” affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.