Carbon County has $5.8M in PPP grants for small business, nonprofit and others that ‘fell through the cracks’

Melinda Rizzo, Contributing Writer//July 20, 2020

Carbon County has $5.8M in PPP grants for small business, nonprofit and others that ‘fell through the cracks’

Melinda Rizzo, Contributing Writer//July 20, 2020

About $5.79 million in Covid-19 Relief (Carbon) County Block Grant money up for grabs in Carbon County.

Distributed through the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development grants are open to small businesses, certain nonprofits and municipal organizations, many of whom “fell through the cracks” of previous federal CARES Act stimulus finding.

Pennsylvania received $625 million to make available to its 62 counties through the CARES Act.

“The funding is to help small businesses pay for pandemic related costs” to prepare, prevent and respond to coronavirus, said Kathy Henderson, director of economic development at Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation in Lehighton.

The focus of the county grants is to help shore up funding for those who missed out on Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan program benefits, Henderson said.

Grant applications are open until July 31. Funding is not expected to release until late September, and the size of grants has not been determined, officials said.

Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevitch said grant amounts would be determined upon demand, determined through vetting applications received through the process.

“Based upon the amounts [received and requested], we’ll be able to do 100 percent or some proportion,” he said.

Applications will be vetted through committees based upon companies with less than 100 employees and must meet criteria for assistance.

Those eligible to apply include municipal governments, nonprofit assistance programs, behavioral health services and broadband service improvements or implementation in underserved areas of the county.

Henderson said the grants aim to offset costs needed to reopen or make accommodations to continue doing business during the pandemic such as paying for PPE, installing or adding safety and protective barriers, additional disinfection supplies or professional cleaning services.

“The grants [may also] pay for pandemic related costs such as tents [or canopies] for moving business outdoors,” Henderson said.

Michelle Keil opened her new business, Uncommon Grounds at the Mill in Weissport in February. Six weeks later, she was forced to shut her new business down.

After quitting her full time job to open the brick and mortar Uncommon Grounds at the Mill “knowing it takes a while to get up to full speed, we closed the doors on March 19, and those [mobile café] events got cancelled, too,” She said.

“We already had an entire year booked for the trailer. One after one the events for the trailer got cancelled,” she said.

Keil said because the Uncommon Grounds Mobile Café had been operating on a part-time weekend basis and was serving and events as coffee house on wheels, she hit roadblocks for PPP and EIDL funding after coronavirus shut businesses down.

Though she was unsuccessful in obtaining money through the Paycheck Protection Program – her business would only qualify for one week of employee salary benefit, she received a small EIDL grant as well as a $1,000 grant from Carbon County.

“We’re a unique situation because we’re new, but we’re not new. We expected to get PPP to pay ourselves, some employees and keep operating, but that didn’t happen,” Keil said.
She hopes this round of county grant money will be different.

“The Carbon County grant, if we get it, will allow us to bring on more staff to support creative opportunities we’re exploring,” Keil said.

Keil is not open full time yet, and she has set up at the Lehighton downtown outdoor farmers market, and is exploring others.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development website, the Community Development Block Grant conditions have been revised to provide relief through the CARES Act to organizations impacted by coronavirus through financial grants and technical assistance.

The provision allows business and municipalities to apply to offset money they spend to “prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus,” the Pennsylvania state website said.

Carbon County Commissioner Chris Lukasevitch said 501 C 3 and 501-(19) organizations such as U.S. Armed Forces posts or auxiliary organizations, would be eligible to apply for grants through the county’s offering.

“We will prioritize those who did not receive PPP or EIDL loans,” Lukasevitch said.
He expects demand will be a factor in driving grant award amounts. “We don’t have any numbers yet” for individual grants, Lukasevitch said.

The Pennsylvania website said expenses must be dated from March 1 through December 30, 2020 to be eligible.

Signed into law March 27, 2020 the CARES Act was an historic economic package worth more than $2 trillion.

The small business grants open to business owners like Keil, will help offset expenditures to reopen and recoup some of the money they’ve spent “just to survive this.”

Keil is grateful to Carbon County officials and agencies for supporting her fledgling business during the pandemic.

“A whole team of people by my side, sending me grant applications and different funding sources. “There have been a ton of silver linings, which is what has kept us going,” she said.